It’s been great to get back to working on some music with Tom Smith. He’s motivated and excited about finishing the current set of songs, and that in itself is motivating to me.
We got together to start mixing a couple weekends ago. After years of mixing and trying out all kinds of different methods, I think I’ve finally hit on a methodology that works for me. I think it’s a pretty standard practice, but it’s taken me a while to get around to it.
The setup is pretty straightforward for Tom’s tracks. Generally we are dealing with a set of eight or so drum tracks, 1 – 3 acoustic guitar tracks, several electric guitar tracks, occasional percussion and keyboards, and lead and harmony vocals.
I set up a bus for each group of instruments: drums, acoustic guitars, electric guitars, lead vocals, harmony vocals. I can then route the outputs of tracks to their appropriate bus. I’ll send all the drum tracks to the drum bus, which allows me to control the whole drum mix volume with the bus fader while still maintaining the relative levels and any automation.
I can also run effects on the bus tracks as well. For the drums, for example, I’ll apply a little compression to the whole kit to give it some punchiness. I may have already tightened up the kick and snare with compression, so there is an element of parallel compression going on, but usually the bus compression is pretty light. I can also add a little overall reverb if the song calls for it.
I’ve gotten into the habit of using multi-band compression (Waves C4 is a nice plug-in for that) on drums and sometimes vocals. That allows me to focus on managing certain frequency ranges that need more aggressive control.
Considering we cut the drums for all of these songs in one long session, it’s been nice to be able to transfer the settings from the first session we mixed to the subsequent sessions. That has saved major amounts of time because we can get a baseline mix up and running, and then make changes to tailor things to the song we’re working on.
In the span of six hours or so, we nailed down the preliminary mixes for two songs. I imagine the rest will go pretty quickly now that we’ve got some basics dialed in. More to come!