Mixing 101: Use your buses
As this is the first post in the tips and tricks section I thought I would start off with one of the basic rules I try to follow which I find can have a huge affect on the overall outcome of your project: using your buses.
Time and time again I’m surprised at how many engineers I witness ignoring the benefits of appropriate signal routing within a DAW. Obviously I’m not Dave Pensado or some shit-hot multi-platinum producer in a multi-million pound studio, take from that what you will, but i have some knowledge/experience and have always seen appropriate routing as a key element to gaining a clean and spacious mix.
What do I mean by appropriate routing? I mean grouping your instruments by their place within the frequency spectrum and instrument type then sending their outputs to a bus which feeds an auxillery track. This auxillery track can now be used to control the overall level of the group of instruments/FX while retaining the balance/level between the individual instruments. I also mean placing your modulation and reverbs on an auxillery instead of on a channel strip, opening the door for a whole new world of signal manipulation techniques with much greater precision, and a lighter load on your CPU.
A good rule of thumb, as mentioned, is to arrange your grouping by the type of instrument and its place in the stereo image. Generally speaking there aren’t really any concrete rules to follow other than your drums going on one bus, delay on one and different reverbs on different busses.
Personally I like to group my widely spread instruments (like strings/long synths) into a bus and then add the Waves S1 Stereo Imaging plugin to set the output of the bus to be as wide as possible. By doing so, I find, you’re really able to fill every little pocket of space with those long and dramatic strings while keeping their seperation from the rest of the mix.
The other obvious benefit of routing your project in this way is the fact that when you wish to bounce stems you already have your auxileries ready and all you have to do is the their output to a new track and press record.
Give it a try and let me know if you find this article useful!