Studio Tips: Bus Mixing
Posted on September 28, 2010
We use a lot of tracks for our productions. And with a lot of tracks things can get very busy. Sonically but also visually. A great way of fine-tuning your mix, but also of enhancing your workflow is to introduce an extra stage into your mix-down. So instead of routing our tracks directly into our main output, we always route them to a bus channel. This way we can group all different elements into sub-groups.
We created a Logic template song and already added a few subgroups for Kick, Drums, Bass, Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals, Percussion, Keys, Effects, and so on. Now if we want to solo our percussion, we just press solo on this sub group instead of having to solo several channels. Or if we want to make a bit more room for our vocals and this string section sits in the way, we just grab an eq and lower the clashing frequencies of the strings sub group without having to eq every cello and violin again.
Throwing it together
People often ask us how we mix our drums. We always layer a lot of different drum sounds for our beats. First we choose the best sounds we can find. To create more sonic depth we tend to use analog sounds, dusty sampled sounds and live recorded drums at the same time. We eq them, compress them, smack them, filter them. Anything goes.
The danger of this is that it can sound disjointed. By routing all these drums to one bus and by putting (parallel) compression on the bus we can glue them together and make our beats sound much more cohesive.
Another benefit is that we have greater control over the dynamics. This is very effective in the loudness war, as we now can ‘pre-master’ our sub groups, so the compressors and limiters on our master channel have less to worry about, which gives us a more open and dynamic mix which is still very loud.
One of the joys of working with a modern DAW is that we can automate everything. And we use automation a lot! One of the cool things in Logic is that you also can create an arrange track of a bus channel. This way you can apply automation on your bus channel. So instead of filtering 14 synths in your breakdown, you just put a filter on your synth bus and automate the cutoff.
This is an article we wrote for Future Music Magazine.