As a follow-up to last week's episode on bus processing, we want to introduce and explore the idea of top-down mixing today.
Top-down mixing can make your mixing workflow more efficient, intuitive and creative.
It's less destructive and leads to decent results quickly.
Book a free feedback call with Benedikt, the host of the show!
It helps you not overthink things, and you'll find yourself mixing with your ears more than reacting to meters and graphics.
It's dangerous if not done "correctly".
"Top down mixing is probably the easiest way for beginners to get started, but beginners also will probably really overdo it since they haven't trained their ears for what they SHOULD change, not CAN change. So it's also a great way to fail fast., haha." -Malcom Owen-Flood
In this week's podcast episode we're gonna explain how we implement top-down mixing it in our own mixing workflows every day and also talk about potential downsides and things to watch out for.
Here's what we're discussing in the episode:
- What top-down mixing is and how it works
- How top-down mixing differs from traditional "bottom-up" mixing
- Examples of common top-down mixing techniques, such as starting with a rough mix, using bus processing, and focusing on the big picture first.
The benefits and downsides of top-down mixing:
- Top-down mixing can help you create a more cohesive and balanced mix.
- Top-down mixing can help address common mixing problems, such as over-processing individual tracks or losing sight of the overall mix.
- Top-down mixing is fast, fun and intuitive.
- Top-down mixing can help you develop your listening skills and forces you to focus on the music and the context.
- Top-down mixing can also help foster creativity and experimentation in your mixing process.
Be careful, though! If you start on the busses, a lot of elements in your mix will share the same processing. So you're heavily coloring your mix and things will add up. Positive, as well as negative.
Make sure you don't overlook things and still address important details!
There's actually a benefit to combining "bottom-up" and "top-down" approaches in one mix, especially when it comes to balancing.
How to implement top-down mixing in your mixes
- Practical examples
- How to approach a mix from a top-down perspective and how to prioritize elements in the mix
- Advice on using bus processing and other techniques to shape the overall mix (listen to previous episode)
- The importance of referencing to make sure that the details are correct, as well. It's easy to overlook things and to be content too early in the process.
- Do a quick "bottom up" rough mix first to really learn the song and arrangement.
- Compare your bottom-up and top-down balances. They will likely be different and hearing both will help you get things in the ballpark.
Now go and try out top-down mixing in your own mixes and experiment with different techniques!
Remember that top-down mixing is just one approach to mixing. It should be used in conjunction with other techniques to achieve the best possible results.
For some people this is their main approach, others can't seem to make it work.
But almost everyone can benefit from switching perspectives, seeing the big picture again and re-balancing a mix with a different focus and approach.
Mentioned On The Episode:
#166 - How Bus Processing Can Help Your Mixes Sound More Cohesive & Polished
#120: These Are Our Mix Bus Chains
#119: Why We Mix Into A Mix Bus Chain (This Is Not Mastering!)
Benedikt: Hello and welcome to the Self Recording Band podcast. I'm your host, Benedictine. Today we are doing sort of a follow up episode to last week's episode on bus processing, and we want to introduce and explore the idea of top-down mixing today. So if you are new to the show, thank you for joining us on this topic. If you are already a listener, thank you for coming back. Maybe listen to last week's episode first, first because, uh, yeah, it makes kind of sense to listen to the two, uh, together. We covered a lot of things already in that episode, but today we're gonna explore it a little further, dive a little deeper into what's called top-down mixing, uh, because this is a technique that can help you achieve, um, a more efficient. Intuitive and creative workflow for your mixes. It can be less destructive, lead to decent results pretty quickly. It helps you not overthink things. You'll find yourself mixing with your ears more than reacting to meters and graphics. At least that's true for me. And, um, as always, we're gonna explain how we, how we implement this in our own workflows every day, and also talk about potential downsides and things to watch out for. So, um, as always, please welcome Malcolm Owen Flood, my buddy and co-host. How are you?
Malcom: Hey, Benny. I'm doing good, man. I gotta say I'm a little sore because I recently went on a run with one of our SRB community members, Richie, uh, Richie, I don't know if your last name's Edwin or Jackson. Hopefully you don't mind me saying on the podcast either of those, actually, I should have asked, but, but,
Benedikt: I thank Jackson, but I might be wrong, but I
Malcom: I think Jackson too, but, uh, Richie's it too.
But, uh, rcis very active in our Facebook community as well. Um, great guy. But yeah, he lives on the, on Vancouver Island where I live, and he, uh, convinced me to go up for a trail run and kicked my butt. It was a long, lots of elevation run and, uh, I'm feeling it.
Benedikt: Awesome. That's good to hear. That's good to hear. I didn't realize, I mean, I know that, uh, Richie was running, I saw him in Strava when I was still on there. I kind of, I deleted my profile because I didn't want another social thing that I'm addicted to. But, um, uh, but I, I saw him there and, but I, I saw him mostly hikes and like walks and I wasn't aware that he's actually running a lot
Malcom: Yeah, he, he's, he's been training hard and, uh, yeah, he, he was definitely outperforming me. I haven't been doing, like, I've been sitting around five or six kilometer average runs for a long time now. Haven't been pushing it past that. And this one was 11 kilometers and like tripled the elevation. So it was like, oh God, this is tough. But had a really good time. It was fun meeting up. Um, and yeah, in other News, pro Tools finally has M one support, so that's cool. Slow clap. Okay. I, I worded that wrong. It's, it's at M one support for a while, but now it's finally M one native.
Malcom: so it can really take advantage of those benefits.
Benedikt: Yeah. It's probably to give them, like, to be fair, it's probably hard, uh, for them with all their, like native and different systems that they have and whatnot. It's probably easier to, to, you know, part a doll. I don't know. But they're always the last one to adapt
Malcom: the last one.
Benedikt: I don't know.
Benedikt: Glad you have it now though. Does it work? Is the other
Malcom: Uh, yeah, I, I did do some testing. It seems to work. The, the problem I'm having is that Plug-in Alliance isn't yet compatible with, uh, the Silicon version. So there's, there are plug-ins that I consider crucial that I can't quite use yet. So, um, but they, you know, you can still launch it using Rosetta instead, and it's essentially as if you're running the last version then, uh, so I'm just kind of waiting for a couple more plug-ins to be compatible, which isn't their problem. It's the plug-in manufacturer's problem. Um, so I'm not gonna rag on Pro Tools too hard for it, but I do think that if they had been a little quicker at getting the M one version of Pro Tools out, these plugging companies would already have the job done too.
Benedikt: Maybe, yeah, it's, it's also, but it's also fascinating to me that Plugin Alliance still didn't pull it off because like for how long do we have these processes now? Two years or something? At least. And, uh, I think it's late 2020 or so where the MacBooks came out, the first ones. And I don't know, that's a long time to make that work. And I, I also still have to use Cubase, uh, with Rota because, uh, there's no other way, uh, because of those plugins. So get your shit together.
Malcom: Hopefully they're close. Hopefully
Benedikt: Yeah. Of, yeah, exactly. Um, okay. I got a little, uh, story too, or like something I wanna share. I have to share with you, Malcolm. And that is, uh, another member of our community actually in the self recording syndicate the coaching program. A student of mine, Avaro, he says the following, he was asking or he was saying, A thought that came to me, uh, while driving to work this morning. I know in one of the episodes you and Malcolm were asking for podcast ideas during your time in Canada for Malcolm's wedding. I got two ideas. One crazy and one less crazy. And so I'm Malcolm. These are his ideas and I'm happy, you know, whatever you wanna do. So, so the crazy one, you guys should do a podcast episode while doing a trail run. Malcolm should, and then he says Malcolm should have the stamina to keep up while carrying all the gear. I dunno if that is true, Malcolm, but Yeah, you should. I assume you could do that. That's what you do all the time, don't you?
Malcom: That's so funny. Um, you know, that'll be, let's do it. Let's make it a YouTube exclusive episode because we're gonna get some GoPro strapped on some POV footage of us running. Um, and it'll be a disaster.
Benedikt: yeah, yeah. He just assumes you do that all the time anyway with your, like shows that you're doing so you can carry that stuff around, you know, carry it.
Malcom: Why not? I could wire us up, I guess.
Benedikt: Yeah, whatever, whatever mobile rig you would use for that, you carry that around. Welcome. And we're gonna run. Uh, so the last crazy one is you guys should find an awesome spot in nature on Vancouver Island and use Malcolm's field recording gear to make the episode. I'm picturing you guys sitting super comfortably around a campfire with birds singing and a river gently flowing in the background. It could be legendary.
Malcom: Classic Canada,
Malcom: an elk in the background.
Benedikt: Yeah, that's what my, that, those are my thoughts. Yeah, that's exactly what I expect. By the way, if I come see a place, Malcolm, I hope it, I hope I'm not disappointed.
Malcom: I mean, you're coming at the right time of year. It should be pretty nice. Um, I, uh, I, I gotta say, uh, Seth Goden had an episode where he recorded just like, in his rowboat, just like paddled out into his little pond or something and recorded an episode. It was like my favorite episode he is ever done. Just, uh, free line of speech, like, just like right from just winging it, you know, in a, a rowboat and it was just like, really good.
Benedikt: I didn't ha I haven't listened to that on the Akimbo podcast or
Malcom: Yep. Onna. Kimbo.
Benedikt: Ah, cool.
Malcom: It was a long time ago. Years ago.
Benedikt: Oh, okay. Okay. I have to find that. Cool. Yeah. So Malcolm, um, before we decide what we're gonna do, people feel free to send us more suggestions like that. There's a little time until I go there and, uh, we'll eventually maybe pick a winner. Maybe not, maybe we don't do anything over there. I can't even promise that we're gonna record anything, but maybe we do something and we'll see. Maybe, uh, let's,
Malcom: two ideas are so far in the lead because they're the only two ideas. Um, oh, one more thing though, actually. Um, this is, uh, credit goes back to Richie, who I mentioned earlier, uh, was talking about doing a community meetup. Well, you're here as well. So if any, um, people that are located near enough to Vancouver Island, which I realize is a hard place to get to. Um, but I know there's also quite a few listeners on the island. Uh, we could, uh, try and get a little meetup going, which would be really fun as
Benedikt: That would be cool. There's Greg, I know from our coaching program as well. There is, uh, Greg, Greg Bohen, the, the bluegrass artist. Um, at least he's there now. I think he's moving to the other side, to the, uh, east coast at some point, but he's still there. But then there is Richie and then there's a few listeners. So yeah, that will be cool if you could do that. And also, um, we can actually, oh, wow. Can't believe I haven't thought about this. We are actually allowed to announce something now. Um, there is an event in Germany happening this fall where I can't give you all the details yet, but I can tell you the following. It's called. Um, it's a German word. It's called studio. Studio scene. The English word would be studio scene. It's in Hamburg. It's on, let me check the date real quick.
Malcom: about this.
Benedikt: Totally, totally. This is gonna be awesome. It's, uh, October 17th to 19th this year, 2023 in Hamburg. Um, it's a big event similar to Nam, uh, the NAM show in the us. Not that big, but like the same type of event. So you have, um, the trade show where there's a lot of manufacturers of audio gear showing their latest gear. There's workshops, there's um, speakers talks, um, networking opportunities, 40 different masterclass, uh, discussion panels, um, 50, uh, top audio brands with gear that you can try there. And so it's just like a legit big event. There's also like a partner event that covers like live sound and lighting and that stuff if you're interested in that. So that's gonna go down in Hamburg. And we are partners with those who set up that and organize that event, which means that some of those speakers there who give the masterclass and do the workshops and stuff will appear on the show eventually throughout the year. I can't tell you any names yet, but it's. Pretty, pretty
Malcom: It's a big deal. It's a real big deal and I'm so excited.
Benedikt: So they're gonna come on the show. We're gonna get the chance to interview those. We're gonna be there. Um, I'm gonna fly over and like Malcolm and Wayne and the whole team, if it happens. Like I can promise anything until we are there because you never know. But if all, if everything works out, we plan on being there, like the whole surf queen band, crew, Thomas gonna be there. And so if you are, you're listening from somewhere in Europe, Germany, France, um, the uk, Netherlands, anywhere close, basically just, uh, go there and, um, join us, meet us, and let's hang. This is the opportunity. It's gonna be a European meetup in the middle of Europe, basically. We are also gonna do a giveaway this summer. So before, I mean, feel free to just buy your tickets, but sometime this summer we're gonna do giveaway and we're gonna give away a, I don't know, How many exactly. But uh, before I say something wrong here, a few, give a few tickets. We're getting a few tickets to give away. Uh, we're gonna do that this summer too, so you get a chance to get free tickets and, but even if you have to buy them, it's not crazy expensive. We're gonna be there. Let's hang, let's chat. Uh, we're gonna do some cool stuff there. There's a couple of ideas about the things that we can do there as well. There might or might not be like a panel episode recording on, you know, the location. Uh, more details soon, but it's gonna be epic and we're gonna do, um, a real life meetup there. So marketing your calendars. October 17th, 19th, 2023, Hamburg, Germany will be there and we can't wait to see you.
Malcom: Oh, so excited. Yeah, I, um, in couple interesting things. I thought it was studio zine, so got that wrong,
Benedikt: Yeah, it's a German word, but it's the same thing.
Malcom: yeah. Yeah. That, that's awesome. Um, and yeah, I, I can't kind of explain how excited I am there. There's one guest in particular that, I mean, I'm still crossing my fingers that we actually get the interview with them, but I would say they are beyond my bucket list, you know, of, of people I could interview. I, if, if you would ask me, who's your bucket list, I wouldn't have thought they're possible, so I wouldn't have said them. And I just like, if can't wait. I'm so excited.
Benedikt: Totally. Totally. And I mean, there's a, we can, we will put the link into the save the date sort of page that they have in the show notes of this episode. And we can tell you some of the confirmed speakers without telling you who's gonna be on the podcast, because that's not confirmed yet. So I don't wanna promise anything we can't do. We talked about it and I hope it all happens, but I can tell you some of the speakers and then you can guess, uh, who's gonna come on. So there's gonna be Warren Heer produced like a pro. Most people will know him. Warren is a big deal. He is one of the biggest audio YouTube channels out there. Uh, has done amazing productions, of course, worked with like big artists. Then there's gonna be Katherine Marks worked with the Killers. There's gonna be Morritz Enders, one of the Germany's most successful like producers, engineers. I worked with a couple of very big German bands like SIL Mode and others. There's gonna be Jill Zimmerman worked with Alex's on fire. There's gonna be, um, a couple of German, like big names. Then there is, I don't see him on the safe, the date page, but I. I'm pretty sure I can say it because they told me to. I'm just a little confused. He's not on that page again, but who apparently is also confirmed is Chase and Joshua. Chase and Joshua, I don't know if you know him, he's worked with, like, his credit list is like incredible JayZ, Mariah Carey, Justin Bieber, Snoop Dogg, um, like crazy names in the pop world. Um, he, he's, he's worked with all of them and, uh, he's gonna be there too. He's just, um, he's just announced Nicki m uh, Nicki Minaj. Um, he did Chris Brown, Missy Elliot, r Kelly, uh, Nelly, like all these hip hop pop artists. Um, he's worked with all of them. This discography, like totally in Sano, totally crazy. Uh, he's gonna be there too. And so pretty, pretty cool lineup and yeah, and, and us.
Malcom: So excited. Yeah. And us. Yeah. Can't wait. Um, yeah, 2023, man. The year that you and I get to hang out in person two times in the same year. Incredible.
Benedikt: It's gonna be so cool. Yeah. All right. Uh, you're gonna hear more about that in the future, on future episodes. We're gonna keep, uh, promoting that for now and, uh, for a while now. And, uh, yeah.
Malcom: Yeah, and I'm, I'm feeling much more optimistic that that trip is gonna be when we actually get to do stuff. Because when you come out for my wedding, there's also a wedding going on. It's gonna be like, if we can fit in an episode, if we can fit in a meet out, we will. But like, kind of no promises, it's gonna be a little crazy. Probably more work to be done for a wedding than I anticipate.
Benedikt: Yes, and those are exactly my thoughts. Uh, I want to be, I want you to hang out there, but I also want you to prepare properly and enjoy it all. And I know from experience how stressful that can be and what, what needs to be done and all those things. So, um, yeah, we'll see. We'll see. I, I'm happy to just be there. Celebrate with you, hang out there, chill for a few days. That's something I rarely do anyways, so we'll see. We'll see how that goes. Cool. Um, now to today's episode, man, both of these were long bans, but um, this one, this one was necessary. Absolutely. So, top down, mixing
Malcom: Yes, yes. So, like you mentioned earlier, uh, you should really listen to the previous episode. I wouldn't say it's a part two of that episode because this is, uh, you know, an isolated technique is more about a, a specialized technique, uh, an approach to mixing. But knowing everything you need to know about buses is kind of mandatory, um, as well. So please do go back and listen to that if you haven't already. Um, but yeah, top down mixing is really just. As it sounds, instead of what you might instinctually do if you were to start a mix. And, uh, to be honest, many people do and it's totally fine, is like solo one instrument. So a lot of people start with a kick drum. They solo that kick drum and they get to work on making it sound better. And then they solo the snare drum and they're starting from a very granular, specific track by track process. Building up to a full mix, adding one track at a time, one instrument at a time, where with top down you do the opposite. You start with everything going and you're hearing everything, and you start adjusting levels so that you are making like a, a balance just with what you have without solar, wind, anything. And then say you want the guitars to be a little less boxy sounding. Instead of soloing the guitars and EQing those guitars, you throw an EQ on your mix bus. So again, at the top, this is the end of your chain. Uh, and you make the change there. You, you carve out some myths and that's going to, of course, clear up your guitars, but it's also gonna affect everything else because it is on your mix bus where all of the tracks are going. So we are working from that finished point backwards, which is really interesting cuz it's, it's very quick. Every change you make affects everything. You are making decisions in context, which is also very positive. Um, but you maybe lose a little granular control. Now you don't necessarily lose it because you can't of course just go into it on individual tracks, but you can get somewhere pretty good really quick by trying this out.
Benedikt: Absolutely. I wanna say something. The, the only real way where you can do a, um, top-down makes a true, like true top-down makes without ever working the other way around is, or where you can start really objectively with the whole song and not have to do to go into the details is. When you start from a finished rough mix, basically. So that means that either if you're tracking it yourself, it's kind of hard to do that unless you track like, um, with the, the sort of final levels in mind and everything you track is already where it's supposed to be. And when you hit, then you have your rough mix. And when you start mixing, it's already kind of there or you create a quick rough mix doing tracking. But I have the luxury of actually getting to do like the purest form of top-down mixing because when I sit down to mix a song for somebody else, Thomas, my partner here, has prepped the mix for me and created a rough mix so I don't have to create that initial balance. And I've never heard the song before, ideally.
So I sit down. Hit play. The song plays, everything is imbalanced, sort of. And I can start at the mix bus. I can set my, like the game staging is done. I can set my mix bus compression, I can do some, you know, um, sweetening some I can, I can set my frame and my canvas that I'm gonna be mixing through, and then I can work my way backwards to, to the mix. I don't always do that. Sometimes I. Undo that basically, and start and recreate my balance. Sometimes I go straight to the kick drum, solo it and go from there. But oftentimes I just listen to the song before I solo everything else. And before I even go into any sort of detail, I might do a little bit on the guitar bus, a little bit on the drum bus, a little bit on the mix bus. And when I feel like everything's kind of, kind of makes sense and, and feels right, then I start soloing things and going to individual tracks. So that is really fascinating. And it's feels, it feels really different compared to having to build that rough mix first and then do the top-down thing. Because I oftentimes feel like I already know too much about the song and the individual channels and problems that are there, because if I don't know that I can make unbiased different, um, decisions, but if I know that there's this nasty ring on that one drum mic or whatever, then I don't know. I, it's, it's different. It's just different. So,
Malcom: Yeah, it is different. Um, so to, to really, like, if you were really purely doing a top-down mix, you would do what we said, you'd start on your mix bus, make changes there, and then if you couldn't accomplish something from there, you would go down to your group, like buses. So say you had a, a group bus for your drums and one for your guitars and one for your vocals. And make the changes on those group buses. And then you would go down to the final tracks, kind of, you would like work in that order. Um, opposed to, again, the opposite way around, which is the way I think most people do it. Most people start with individual tracks and, uh, Something I really wanna make clear in this podcast is just because we're talking about top-down mixing, and Ben just said that it's something he sometimes does, doesn't mean that we're saying it's the right way, uh, or that it's better in any way. It's just a different approach. Um, and, and, uh, yeah, there, there, there's no right or wrong. It's just a different approach and people have different ways of getting to the finish line. So to be very clear on that, we're not saying.
Benedikt: Nope. No, absolutely. It, there's no right or wrong. It's, there's pros and cons and we're gonna talk about the benefits as well as the downsides, um, of that whole thing. And I. Don't do, like I, what I do is a mix of both actually. I start with one approach, then switch to the other, and then go back to the other one again. So, and I'm gonna explain that later and why I do it that way. But I, I don't do fully top down mix mixing, but I also don't just work my way up from individual channels. And then the last thing I do is the bus processing. Like, you know, it's, uh, somewhere in between. So, um, let's discuss the benefits and also downsides of toptal mixing. So I think it can help you create a more cohesive it, it can help you. Doesn't mean it, it does, but it can help you create a more cohesive and balanced mix bec. And that is because I think, um, if you do it, you. Um, think about if, I think it just helps to think about groups of instruments rather than individual mics and tracks. Sometimes I just think about, I think just think it helps to think about the guitars, the drums, the vocals and everything else, or whatever. And I think that that just makes it easier and that just makes you, you know, make fine, like balance adjustments. And I think it, it really matters that you get these macro, these big groups working together and then if there is like one element within that group, but tiny bit too quiet or whatever, that doesn't really matter as much as long as overall the guitar level seems to be correct. The drums in comparison to whatever the vocals that this is, right? The symbols and the guitars and you know, these, these big picture things that really matter. And so I think if you focus on that and if that is what you start with when you have fresh ears and what, when you are still objective and when you still new to the song, that can lead to good, intuitive, quick decisions that you might keep, even though you might work your way towards the individual, um, channels. But those initial decisions that you make based on this macro level can be good and can lead to, to cohesive, natural sort of result. Uh,
Malcom: Yeah, absolutely. A lot of the benefits we talked about in our last episode of, of bus processing are that you, you get this cohesive sound, um, by applying the same processing to multiple tracks. It's, uh, the example I gave was recording drums in a room. The, the room is gonna impart a character onto each of those recorded tracks for every mic that's set up in that room. There's gonna be similarities caused by the environment. And when you put processing on a bus, it's the same thing. You're applying processing that will touch everything that goes through it. And that to our ears sounds like glue.
Malcom: That is the, the term glue to me is that characteristic is these things have something in common, even if we can't put our finger on it.
Benedikt: Yeah. And, and what what's important to me is also the. The fact that it's the first thing you do in the mix, the the, because, and it's not so much about top-down mixing, but whatever is the first thing you do when you start mixing, it's pretty important because you'll never be that fresh and objective again. So it really matters what you do during that first half hour or so of your, of your mixing. And if that, if you f if you spent that first 30 minutes on a, on just the kick drum, it might, that might not be as good for the whole result for the whole song. Uh, versus like, um, spending those 30 minutes on the, on the song as a whole, balancing out the big groups and like making musical decisions based on the song and the mix. You know, it's like you can easily waste that fresh energy and that objectivity and those, uh, ears that are not fatigued yet by working on some minor granular detail that doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things.
Malcom: Absolutely. Yeah. It, it's, it's at a very effective 80 20 rule kind of approach to mixing where you're, you're just making. The, the, the biggest changes that make the biggest difference. Um, and you're not doing the nitty gritty thing, like you're not gonna be able to adjust how long the gate of your kick drum is open, or your snare, like the length of the decays and stuff with top down mixing. You have to do that on the granular side of things. Um, but that's really not important compared to just the volume of these different groups and, and the balance and the overall curve. If there's a huge buildup of some mid-range frequency, dealing with that is more important than how long one drum sustains.
Benedikt: 100%. Exactly. Yeah. Now, um, that is a great segue because, uh, the next thing would've been top, top-down. Mixing can help address common mixing problems such as, um, overprocessing individual tracks or losing sight of the overall mix. So, um, When there is this huge buildup that you're talking about, instead of doing that on every single track or like dozens of individual tracks and possibly overcooking it because you can, you feel like you have to take out a lot and you scoop out like that certain frequency on like a couple of tracks and, and then at the end the whole midrange is kinda lost and, and you kind of overdone it and you don't know where to put it back or where you went in the wrong direction. If you instead of like overprocessing the individual tracks, if you just deal with that on a bus or multiple buses with like two or three AQ moves on different buses might lead to a more transparent result and might prevent you from. Yeah, from, from scooping out 12 db of 500 hertz on 16 different channels. You know, um, maybe a more gentle approach we'll do, um, and, and the overprocessing in general is one of those things that, especially unexperienced, inexperienced mixers do a lot is they, they feel like they have to use every plugin on every channel. And, and so many, many amateur mixes are way too processed actually, but still sound don't sound right and top-down. Mixing can be the cure for that. It can introduce other problems, but it can be the cure for that a little bit. But because you deal with the biggest issues with a few, like a handful of plug-ins, instead of doing a lot of things to a lot of channels.
Malcom: Yes. Yeah. It's harder to like over brighten a mix, for example, with top down I think because you're gonna grab that, your mix bus and, and boost the top end and find something that sounds good and make that decision once rather than doing it over and over again on every track and, and going too far as a result because you're not necessarily checking context with everything, um, or worse yet. You do both.
Benedikt: yeah. And you'll notice, I think people, when they have the context, they'll notice when it sounds off. Um, now, like it's just, it's still, it's still hard, uh, or like, it, it still takes time to really learn to listen correctly. But just to give you an example, I think most people, even if they don't know anything about mixing, most people, if they put a song on the, on their car stereo and they play around with the EQ in the car, they will be able to tell when it gets too bright because it like hurts you yours, it's just too piercing, too it, or it's, doesn't sound balanced anymore in a way they won't be able to maybe put the finger on it, but they will probably notice when it's just too much or when you boost low end and, and all of a sudden you can't really hear what's going on anymore. It's just this. Boom thing, you know, way too much low end and it rattles and you know, it's just out of control. They'll notice that, they also notice when it gets too thin, you know, so most people will be able to, to tell when you overdo it. And this doesn't happen when you do like a 30 DB boost or something, but this happens after 5, 6, 7, whatever dbs people will start to be able to tell a difference and, and be able to tell when it's clearly too much. If you do, if you give those same people control over a lot of different channels and let them do the, that, then they might boost 10 db of, of, of top end on the overheads and then another five on the guitars, and then another 10 on the vocal and then, you know, all these things. And they might not notice that it's wrong and then it all adds up and the, the end result is like crazy harsh. Um, so, so I think it helps to do it in context because it's easier to tell when you're clearly off.
Malcom: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That's definitely a a good point. I, I think I want to issue one warning in that it's, it's hard to explain top-down mixing is kind of like faster and easier in a way. Um, because you're not having to like, look, you're not having to treat as specific problems maybe. Um, like you're probably not gonna notice a guitar whistling in top-down, mixing the same way you will when you solo the guitars individually, right? Or symbols. But it's really hard, and I mentioned this in the last episode, it's really hard to differentiate when you're getting started for years. That's why we. Talk about how hard it is to get good at mixing quick because it takes years and years and it never really stops to learn what changes are good versus what changes are just different. And with top-down mixing, unfortunately everything sounds different. Every little change you make will sound vastly different because you are affecting all of the tracks in the song. And it's really easy to convince yourself that every change you're making is good, but it's not necessarily the case at all. Um, so my first attempts at top-down mixing usually ended up being very scooped and very bright.
Benedikt: Yeah, yeah, yeah. True. That's also true. That's why I said there's other, it introduces other problems. Um, I mean, it's, it's hard. It takes a while to be able to listen properly. But, um, yeah, there's, as you said, there's pros and cons to everything, but I think there's almost always a benefit to having context and making decisions while listening to a song versus making a decision while listening to just symbols, you know, or whatever. So,
Malcom: Yeah, but also learning the skill to hear it in context and know that you should fix it
Benedikt: Mm. Oh yeah. Yeah.
Malcom: that's another skill in itself. Um, and ultimately why we want to even talk about top-down mixing is because we want people to know about both approaches. And, and the, the ultimate answer is of course, in between. It's like Benny described. It's using both of these tools for, for their strengths and, and combining those workflows is gonna get you the best result.
Benedikt: Yeah. And don't confuse top down mixing with bus processing in general, because those EQ examples that we just gave or like processing the whole thing versus symbols. This is actually bus processing topic, which is what exactly what we covered in the last episode. Um, so, so top down, mixing the difference is really, um, You can use bus processing with both approaches. That's not the difference. The difference is that you start with the group and the big picture, and then you go, you know, granular, more, more granular over time until you arrive at the individual track. When you do top-down mixing versus, so you apply the bus processing first versus like the bottom up uh, approach where you start with the kick drum and the stand and then the toms and the bass or whatever your order of things is, and you treat those and balance those individual pieces first, and then at the end you apply your bus processing. That would be the opposite approach. So you, you use the same techniques. That's not the difference. You use the same tools and techniques, but the order is different
Malcom: Yes. The
Benedikt: you would. And you would think that it should lead to the same results. Right? But it doesn't, that's the fascinating thing. It doesn't, it leads to completely different results. So you could, in theory, um, you, you would think that there is one way to mix a song. There is a correct setting for the kick drum in the correct setting for the mixed bus and the correct setting for the drum, for the guitars and stuff. But the reality is you start with the individual tracks and work your way to the buses. You're gonna end up with a mix that you like. And that's probably gonna good if you know what you're doing, but it's gonna be different to the mix that you create when you start at the mix bus and work your way backwards. And both might be great or fine or work for the song, but they will be different. There's no one setting that just is right for that mix because it all depends on. The context, you, you make your decision based on, and then the, the canvas that you are painting on, like the frame that you're mixing through, basically, that's a big difference. Um, fatigue. What's the first thing you, you do when you start the mix? What's the thing you do when your ears are already tired? Like there's a lot of different components, uh, how things interact and react and, and, and stuff like that. And again, both if you do both with the same song, you might get two mixes that you both like, but they will be different.
Malcom: Yep. Yeah, and I think what you mentioned earlier, Benny, about how you get to start your mix with a. Kind of already balanced, um, is really important because it's from that point that you can kind of make your decision about how you're gonna approach it. You get to hear the song in a, a good enough version that you can decide which approach you need to take to mix the song. Um, and I think most top-down mixers, uh, and actually just pro mixers have templates that do enough of a good job of that to be able to make a decision. Um, having the benefit of somebody like Thomas prepping your mix is, is huge. That's awesome. I would love that.
Malcom: Um, but, but like, yeah, I, I, I always make sure it's kind of at a rough balance and then ideally that's done like the day before, I actually wanna mix the song. So then I open it up, I'm fresh, and then I make a decision. Like, and it's come with just years of experience and listening is like, do the things that immediately stand out. Do I need to tackle that on the mix bus or am I gonna go and get to work on the tracks individually? And it varies from song to song for sure. For me.
Benedikt: Yes, yes. Ex. Yeah, for me too. And most of the time it's like, uh, somewhere in between. So, yeah. Um, Okay. Uh, it, it's, as I said, it's fast, fun, fun, intuitive. Um, it can help you, help you develop your listening skills. Um, forces you definitely forces you to focus on the music and the context. We also said that, and, uh, it can, this is interesting too. I think it can help foster creativity and experimentation in your mixing process because I think that, When you have, when you start with the whole song and you're still fresh and excited about it, and you hear how things interact, you hear like call and response parts. You hear, um, a groove that, not that, not just drums, but drums plus space, plus rhythm guitar or whatever. You might get different ideas of things to try. You might even do things that you wouldn't do if you started the other way around, or you, the song will tell you what to do and might inspire you. So sometimes I feel like starting that way helps me, um, come up with a, a, a vibe overall or some cool ideas right in, at the beginning. And I might not execute them all right away, but I might make notes and I, I will listen to the song as a whole. Do some tweaks on the buses, make sure that those macro things are right. And I might make notes for myself of like, oh, here a d throw would be really cool. Or if I could automate this to go from left to right here, and then after that this happens, this would really make that transition work or whatever, you know, things like that, that the song just tells me. Um, I feel like I get more of that the more time I spend with the whole song in the, at the beginning of the mix versus diving right into, you know, EQing the kick drum. And then before I know it, I'm so deep into all these individual tracks that I, that I don't even think about those transitions and, and big picture things anymore.
Malcom: Yeah, it, it makes sense from a production standpoint immensely, because by the time you get down to the granular drum tracks and like choosing drum samples for example, you, you know what you're looking for. You know, cuz you've, you've got a mix happening by the time you're, you're there and you're like, okay, we need a room sound. Cause there's, there's just not a big enough room sound on the snare, so we're gonna grab that sample, you know, specifically that opposed to if you had started with the snare drum soloed, you have no idea how big it's gonna sound in context we get,
Benedikt: Exactly. It can be more
Malcom: it's very clever for knowing what you're looking for.
Benedikt: Yeah, you can be more, uh, pretty intentional. It's similar to, um, a good analogy would be you can mic a drum kit and mix a drum kit using the overheads as symbol mics, and you can, you know, and then you start with the kick drum, the sna drum, and then you just add the symbols. Or you can start with the overhead as your kit mics. That's the whole kit, and you make it as sound as good as possible. And then you just add whatever is missing. A little bit of kick and a little bit of snare, and a little bit of Tom's gonna make different decisions based on which approach you're gonna choose. And, uh, but you definitely, if you start with the overheads as kit mics, which is not the correct approach for all situations, but if you do that, um, you, you can be very intentional and you pretty much know what, what is lacking and what you wanna get out of your close mic, versus when you start with the close max, you have. No idea how bright it actually needs to be, how much attack it needs, or whatever, until you have some sort of context. So that's a, that's a similar thing. And context is everything. And, and still not saying one is better than the other, totally depends on the song. I'd say a very technical death metal song. Um, you can still make some big picture decisions and listen to the whole thing, but it's gonna be a mess and pretty hard to know what to listen to, you know, and it's probably easier to get to clean things up first so that you can actually hear everything and, uh, you know, there's, everything has enough punch so that you can hear the fast drum beats and all of that, uh, before you get to the, the big picture things more when compared to like a sparse arrangement of only a piano and a vocal, uh, where it makes, it makes sense to listen to the whole thing from the beginning, right? And, and everything's clearly there and nothing is hidden. Everything's audible and you can make good decisions right at the beginning. So, Again, be careful because if you start on the buses, a lot of elements in your mix will share the same processing. You, you, uh, said that before Malcolm. Uh, so you heavily coloring your mix. Things will add up positive as well as negative. And you also make sure you don't overlook things because we talk more about that on the, on the house section, but there is still details that are important. But you might get too stoked on your mix too early and think it's done when it's actually not, because you just didn't hear those details that are still relevant. So that can happen. Um, you can overdo it when you start with the individual tracks, but you can also do not enough if you do the top down thing, um, because you never really get to it or you, you think it's not important anymore. So there's actually benefit to doing both, um, in the same mix. I mean, because especially when it comes to balancing, and again, more on that and the house section later when we talk about how, how we actually do it, uh, there's. Situations where I intentionally do both. I've built my, especially balancing, I've built my balance from the ground up and then again, top down and compare the two for a specific reason. Um, so yeah, let's get into how we, how to implement it and, uh, how we, we use it to our advantage and, and what we, what we personally do in terms of top down mixing.
Malcom: Yeah, that, that's interesting what you just said about you do, uh, a quick mix from bottom up and then another one from top down. Cause I think I kind of do that as well now that I think about it, because I'm gonna get the tracks for mixing from, from somebody emailing them to me. I'm gonna throw them into my mixing template, which has the roughest of levels, but it's not very reliable. And then from that point, I'm gonna do a very quick balance of it, everything kind of as is. And then often there will be a top down pass from that point. And that's kind of like my, like I said, day one. Ideally I could do that before I, um, actually mix a song. So it's like, that's done a day before and then the next day or even a couple days later, I can open up the mix and really go at it. But it's like, I just want to, as quickly as possible, get it to somewhere. That seems like it's what they were working with when they finished recording. Which is usually like, uh, this is kind of, we, we've done the, to the best of our ability. Take it from here, you know?
Benedikt: Yeah, that, that's a good point. Yeah, exactly. And, and that's important that you, you don't, that you remember this, maybe you saved that rough mix or you print it and import it back into the session so that you can always go back. Back to what they actually heard when they were tracking it, uh, because there was a reason why they made this rough mix, why they, um, had this balance and, and you wanna, uh, not completely like miss the mark there, basically. And so, yeah. Yeah, that, that's, that's very, a very important perspective. It tells you a lot about their vision and what they want actually, even though they might not be, even if they not, they, they're not, they're not able to do it properly. But, uh, it still teaches you something about what they wanted to do.
Malcom: It can be very helpful. And that, that bottom up mix, initial bottom up mix, uh, it, it tells you so much. Cause you're, you might discover tracks that weren't audible in, in their rough mix. Um, if they didn't provide, or if they provide a rough mix that's not very good or they didn't provide a rough mix, you, you get to check what you have.
You're kind of like assessing the materials you have available to build with. Um, so that, that crucial bottom up mix, and again, this is very quick. We're not, we're not actually doing anything. We're just listening and, and leveling. That's really all I'm doing on that way up. Um, a and then now you've got something to actually do a top, uh, top down mix from.
Benedikt: Yes, exactly. So here's, glad you touched on that. Here's what I do in that regard. I, again, different situation a little bit because I have the luxury of like opening up, opening up the session, hitting play, and there's my rough mix. Um, there will also be the rough mix that the band made. We always request that. Um, some bands don't export it, but most do. So there will be one track that has the band's rough mix. That I can quickly switch to, like I have a hot key where I can switch between my mix and the rough mix and um, it's in the session. Or you can use something like metric AB for quick switching back and forth. And then there will be our rough mix that Thomas created for me through my preferred, you know, mix bus chain and my template. And, um, I will tell in which template we use and which there's certain parameters that I tell 'em before each session based on the genre and the vibe I'm going for. Because I have a conversation with the band beforehand, so I don't have one mixing template. I have a couple of different ones that are pretty similar, but some things might change. But I have, um, uh, um, a rough mix going that is, um, that has a balance and it goes through the right. Pieces of gear that I think are right, I might change 'em, but that I think are right. There's not much processing going, if anything, there's, it's just running through those pieces so that I have my can, my canvas basically. So that's what I'm starting with. And so the first thing I do is I hit play, listen to the song, and I react to the song. And I will go to, I'll quickly switch back and forth between thereof mix and hours just to make sure that Thomas is not way off with his decisions. Um, and I, I will quickly do that. I will listen to the song, I'll react to the song. I'll grab the drums, fader, pull it down, pull it up, see it, you know, overall drum level where I feel like if I agree with what Thomas did and how, how I perceive it, I will grab the vocals and turn 'em up and down a little bit and play around. With that. I will quickly go to the mix bus and adjust my, and check the game staging and adjust my mix bus compression just to get some move just to kissing the needle, get some movement going. Um, I'll. Do some transient control. If it's completely crazy, maybe, and I want it a little louder, or I will do some basic, you know, making the guitars a little brighter, making you know, the vocals a bit brighter or whatever. Adding a low end, if the, the kick drum is really lacking, I might add, I might just boost low end on the drums. If I feel like overall it needs more weight, just broad strokes, and it's within the first one or two passes of playing the song, like really quick reacting to the, the, those things that jump out at me immediately. Basically. I will do that first, but then after that I will. Immediately go to actually a bottom up approach. Real quick, just because of that, what you just said, Malcolm, I want to learn, I want to really learn the song and the arrangement. So now I've heard the song from the rough mix. I know basically what's going on, but there might be things that I haven't heard. They are not audible, they are very quiet in the mix. They are masked by something else. They might be there, but I haven't noticed them. Oftentimes, you know, there is, um, a lot of guitars plus a Rhodes piano, plus an organ, plus some sort of synth. And one of these things at least, is probably not audible in the first pass because it's masked by all these other mid-range instruments. So I really wanna learn what's there. And so after this quick initial pass, I will start over mute. All my, I leave the balance the same, but I mute all my buses except for the drum bus. And then, uh, and I do this on my controller here. It's very neat. So I just hit mute on additional production vocals, guitars, bass, drums or leak guitars, rhythms, space, drums, uh, no, not drums, everything else. And then I can only hear the drums. And then I go to all the way to the left of my, of my controller. And then I start soloing, kick drum, um, and I hear what's going on. I start soloing the snare drum, listen for like weird resonances, odd things, you know, whatever. And I go through and I build and I play around with the balance a little bit and basically rebuild it from the ground up. And I will gradually, like unmute all those buses again. Starting from the bottom now, and, uh, I want to discover what is there. So I want to discover what goes into the, what we call the additional production bus, like that has keys and synths and all of that. I wanna know how many guitars do I do I actually deal with on my rhythm bus? Which of them are left and right and center? And do I agree with those panning decisions? And so I, I'm discovering things and I'm learning the arrangement, and I wanna make sure that I've heard everything, every shaker, every tambourine, everything that might be hidden somewhere. And, uh, so I'm, I'm rebuilding the balance, or I'm at least listening to it track by track a little bit from the ground up. And then, um, I kind of switch back and forth. I now know the individual problems. I know the song as a whole, and now my brain. Goes to like prioritizing what, which of those informations are most important right now? Do I need to fix that nasty ring on the sna run first or that resonance on the guitars? Or is it a big picture thing that, you know? And then I go back and forth a little bit and I don't know exactly how I do it, but it's a matter of prioritizing and doing the things first that bother me most. And most of the time it's drums for me because in the genres that I work with, I can't get a real feel for the song until I have punchy drums. As long as the drums feel like, um, jam space, amateur drums, I'm ha I'm having a hard time making good decisions and really feeling the song. So I tend to do that first. I tend to compress my kick and snare, um, at the amount of attack and body that I want and make sure that I have like, pumping whatever I want, punchy drums going, and that plus just. A little bit of treatment on the guitar bus and a little bit of on the vocal bus might actually sound like a song in a mix. So that, that's my approach. And then I just go back and forth. So again, just to sum it up real quick, one or two passes of the whole song, intuitive, broad strokes decisions. Then going like adjusting mix bus and everything. Then going back to individual channels, learning the arrangement. Then probably tweaking the drums so that I get my groove and then it's back and forth.
Malcom: Yeah. Now I would say like you and I, we were pretty similar in that approach. Um, like that all sounds pretty spot on to what I usually do as well. And that is all to say that you and I aren't really true top-down mixers at all.
Malcom: Um, but. It is a tool that we kind of use, um, like, like we kind of switch modes sometimes. It's just like, okay, this decision needs to be worked out from the other half the side of the mix and, and approached from the mix bus opposed to, um, the granular tracks kind of thing. So we, it's a tool we can use. And I will say that I have done true top-down mixes before where it's just made sense to start and, and really go, all right, I'm gonna try and solve this at the mix bus. Um, and, and worked as long as I can there before moving down to the next set of buses and then so forth. Um, it's just not how you and I tend to do things normally, it seems.
Benedikt: Yes, totally agreed. And I think one important thing though that I think we both do and that a lot of pros do, I think, which is kind of a top-down approach, and that's the, the, the most crucial one actually for me is the. The fact that we mix into a mixed bus chain rather than applying that chain at the end. We have a whole episode on that, by the way, on, on our mixed bus chains. And I think that is the one thing you could call that a top-down approach that I really think is a, is better for most people because you make different decisions when you do that. And when you don't have mixed bus processing going, when you don't have mixed bus compression and mixed bus eq and you just do it all on individual tracks, then you. Make it sound as good as you can and you get your compression on whatever the drum bus or the individual drums or I don't know, and it might work. But then at the end, when you compress that, after you are basically done mixing, you are changing all the balancing decisions that you made and like a lot of the dynamics decisions that you made. And you have to be very careful to not ruin everything. And, and it's like you'd also, you'd almost have to pause and then approach it from the perspective of mastering engineer, which is very hard to do if you mix it yourself. So this is hard to do and oftentimes doesn't work versus. Creating that frame first and that canvas, um, for the whole song styling in a type of compression that works for the groove of the song and the genre and everything. And then mixing into it and seeing how, how it reacts when you push into it. And that leads to different mixing decisions because then you can play with that compression on the mix bus and with the, the brightness that you've added there and all of that, which leads to less processing on individual tracks. And you are mixing just this before, but you make different decisions. But when you're done mixing, you're actually done mixing and you don't have to then apply additional, an additional step that you can't really do objectively anymore. So I think that is the one thing that to me at least matters. I absolutely want to mix into my bus and not do it at the end.
Malcom: Yeah, I, I a hundred percent agree. And, and again, I do think that's usually how most people approach it, even if they're not top-down mixers as well. Um, but what, what's I think we're really advocating for is understanding top-down, mixing, trying it because you will learn and have fun with it. Like it's a, it's a cool way of doing things and you really discover a lot of stuff cranking EQ around on a mixed bus. Yous, things will jump out and you'll be like, wait, was that really, is that frequency really like that loud when you bypass and you're like, okay, I do hear that still it's ringing kind of thing. Like, stuff jump jumps out. It's, it's great for that. Um, as I said earlier, it's like a great way to fail fast and learn. Um, but what we're really advocating for is understanding the concept so you can switch that. Way of thinking on while working. Um, even if you're not doing a true top-down mix, and just take advantage of that mindset because like you said, if you can just make one EQ curve on your mix bus and it solves all of these problems earlier in the chain, that's great. You don't have to go and, and do it to each track individually and over process. So it's a really powerful mindset and technique rather than, uh, like actually happen to live and die by just going in that order.
Benedikt: Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. Same thing as we said about in on the bus processing epi. Out. It's, um, for some people the step main approach. Others can't seem to make it work. You know, it's almost everyone though can benefit. I think from switching perspective, seeing the big picture, again, rebalancing a mix maybe with a different focus and approach. Uh, but it's just another approach. It's just one approach to mixing should be used in conjunction with other techniques to achieve the best possible result. Um, and, and on quickly on the whole switching perspectives thing, that's one other place where I, I use this and I, that's again, not true top down mixing, but I switched to this sort of mode and this perspective again at some point in the mix. And this is when. When I feel I've gone, I, I went into, in, in the wrong direction for whatever reason. It doesn't happen too often these days. I'm pretty confident that I rarely undo things, but sometimes I wanna know if there is a better way or I feel like, yeah, it sounds good, but it's not. Something is just not working. And instead of like doing everything from scratch, thanks to my bus structure and everything that I have, most of the time it's just enough to just grab my five final buses, pull 'em all down and rebalance the mix without touching individual faders, but just pull 'em all down and then not start with the drums, but maybe start, I've said this in another episode, um, start with the guitars. I just mute it all, leave everything the same, uh, pull down the faders, and then I bring up my guitars. First I have this block of mid-range. Now focus on something entirely different. Usually I focus on the groove and the vocals. Now I turn up the bass because I wanna hear and see. I use an analyzer oftentimes to do that also. I want to hear and see how the bass adds to the low end of the guitars and how it adds to the grid in the mid-range. And I want to get the balance right without drums and, and vocal vocals or anything like that. Then I might bring up the drums and see, okay, do the symbols, the top end blend well with the top end of the guitars? And I might do some adjustments there, and I might, I, I see like, is my kick drum in sn drum working with the bass and the low end and all of that. Does that make sense? If I turn it up, do I have to turn it up way too loud until I can actually properly hear it? Um, you know, these types of things. And then I might add the vocal or I'm bringing the vocal early, whatever, some, something that is different to what I have done before, starting on the buses. And, and that helps me a lot when I have to rebalance a mix. Or sometimes I just do it because I wanna know sometimes I, uh, remember where my fades were. Or you know, in cubase you can just undo those changes anyways in the mixer. But, um, I just because I'm curious, I just pull 'em down and rebalance them, and then I see where I end up and I compare that with what I had before. And sometimes this teaches me something about my mix that I've overlooked before. And, and, uh, it's not really a top down approach, but I kind of restart the mix top down and I try to make any necessary adjustments just on those buses. Um, and, and the main reason for it is just to switch in perspective and just starting with something else. And definitely with a big picture. How do my main groups sort of work together? Perspective?
Malcom: Yeah, that, that's a great technique. And uh, the amount of times when I was getting started with mixing that I should have restarted a mix. Um, it's too many. And, and eventually I always would, but it, I would just struggle along, struggle along and try and get it happy. And anyway, I was hating it, and then eventually I'd just be like, all right, let's just start over. And, and it, it works. You just start over, take a different approach. And sometimes that's the only answer. Um, it's been a long time since I've had to do that, but like, I would say at least once a year, I probably do still restart a, a mix just
Benedikt: Yeah. Yeah.
Malcom: it's just not working. I just, I took a wrong turn somewhere. Got to try coming at it from a different angle. Um, and I might try what you're talking about, not completely scrapping and just R zero up my bus, like my, my master buses and, and start from that spot maybe. Um, that's, that's a good idea. Uh, now one, to tie this into people that aren't mixing, um, I think there is an advantage for this mindset, even for production and making creative choices. Because when you think of it from, okay, I'm, you're, you're not thinking about the individual parts that you have to play or your band mates have to play, and you think of it from, uh, what's coming out of that stereo master bus, you start realizing there, there may be holes in it. Like, there's like, okay, there's no excitement happening at the top end in this part. What, what can we add there? You know, like that's kind of top down production. It's like it's, we gotta fill this frequency hole. It doesn't sound balanced and there's nothing to put there, there's no instrument that will do that. What can we do? Like, could it be a tambourine, could it be a weird high synth? Could it be a octa up guitar part? You know, uh, like figuring out production choices from. Uh, a top-down approach is, is just a really cool way to do it. And that's something that, uh, traditional producers are really good at because that's how they hear it. They just hear what's coming outta the speakers, not no preconceived attachment to guitar parts or anything like that. It's just what is, what are they hearing as a whole? What's missing?
Benedikt: Yes, so much. Uh, and, and again, yeah, the context, um, it does, it doesn't matter what anything sounds like on its own. All that matters is what, at the end, what comes out of the speakers as a whole, the whole song. And, and uh, and, and that's why it's so invaluable to have the traditional producer if you can afford that. And if you wanna do that, that's, that's so cool to have someone in the room who just focuses on that, on the song, who doesn't care about the kick outside Mike or whatever. It's just what does the song sound like? And, and as you said, are their production choices to be made. Um, and if you can try to put yourself in that, in those shoes and, and view it and listen to it from that perspective every once in a while, even in the mix, that's so super helpful. Um, because that's really at the end, all that matters. And that's not to say that you can cut corners or like you can, uh, ignore tiny details that matter sometimes, but at the end of the day, all those details also just matter because of what they do to the song as a whole. It's just the end result that, that people hear and that they care about. And so that, that's just why top-down, mixing, bus processing, all of that is even a thing. And it's so important. It's because we, we are mixing music and not signals. Individually in a vacuum. Yeah. Cool. So, uh, one last trick here that I wanna add is the importance of referencing, and I don't know if you are the same there, Malcolm, but I think that to make sure that the details are correct, even if you do a top down approach, um, referencing is, is key for me because it's easy to overlook things and to be content too early in, uh, the process. What I mean by that is I might, I can start a true top-down mix, start at the mix bus work my way through the, the main buses and then down to the individual tracks. But at some point on that journey before I've. Probably before I've done everything that's necessary, I might be like, yeah, that sounds cool. And actually I might leave it there because I'm stoked about how fast it went and how fun it was and how creative it was. And I've listened to the song all the time, and I might just stop somewhere. I've, I've, I've got, I've gotten used to it. I like it. And if I do that without referencing chances that my mix still sounds amateur and not punchy enough, not clear enough, are pretty high. And then when I use references, I realize, oh, there's probably more I need to do to that kick drum and that snare rum. And I can only do that if I solo it quickly and, you know, or I, there's this or that. It's just not as refined and my low end is a mess compared to this detailed low end and all of that. And then, and then you see the necessity to just, to still go in on a more granular level and do all the things you would've done had you started bottom up, you know, so that this check is, is necessary because you just get used to that sound that you're creating and you'll, you love it and you don't realize that it's still not done.
Malcom: It's the great irony of context working against you in that you are only have the context of the tracks you're working with in a top down. You're like, oh, this sounds better. So I've done a good job. But it's like, is is that better? Even in the ballpark of professional? Maybe not.
Malcom: So like you gotta, you gotta pull up some, some really great mixes and see how you really stand against them.
Benedikt: yeah, exactly. And, and I run into that more often with top-down mixing, I think. Um, because yeah, if anything I would overcook it if I do it bottom up, but I would really miss a thing. And if I do top down, I'm too content too early and, and not go far enough
Malcom: Yeah. Yep. Yeah, it's, it's fascinating. I have the same, same findings on, on my attempts.
Benedikt: yeah. Cool. Alright. So, um, yeah. It's basically it now, go try top down, mixing on your mixes and experiment with different techniques. And if it doesn't work for you, that's fine. You don't have to do it. It's just another tool in your toolbox and it's an advice buffet. Uh, and as always, both of those episodes, like mix plus processing and uh, top down mixing, let us know your findings and your results. If you experiment with that, like send us a message or go to the self recording ben.com/community, which will send you straight to our free Facebook group, uh, post results there, maybe, I don't know, maybe someone wants to do two, two quick mixes and let, let us hear the results so that we can compare top down or, or bottom up. Um, we can discuss this, you know, uh, just let us know. We, we are genuinely curious and, and wanna hear what works for you and what doesn't. So don't be a stranger Connect.
Malcom: Yes, please do.
Benedikt: Awesome. See you next week. Bye-bye.
Malcom: a lot guys. Bye.
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