Are your mixes static? Chances are, things are not moving enough.
And by "moving" we mean automatic changes in volume, pan, or plugin settings throughout your song.
This is called "automation" and it is a technique that is absolutely essential for creating exciting mixes.
And even if you don't mix, understanding this concept will definitely help you make better engineering decisions and communicate better, because you will understand what is (hopefully) going to happen in the mixing stage.
Using automation, you basically tell your DAW (or desk with built-in automation) to make automatic real-time changes in order to bring certain parts up or down, highlight or hide things and create or enhance the dynamics from part to part, as well as within a part.
With automation you can guide a listener through your song, put the focus on the most important element at any time and turn a static mix into an emotional, dynamic experience of an artistic performance.
As always, there are best practices and common methods but there are no rules. Automation opens up wonderful creative opportunities and we're talking about all of that on this episode to help you make more exciting, less static mixes.
Let's dive in!
This episode was edited by Thomas Krottenthaler.
Benedikt's voice on this episode has been recorded with the Antelope Axino Synergy Core.
TSRB Podcast 81
[00:00:00] Benedikt: If you're listened to really great mixes, you hear things like a certain base leak. Suddenly get louder a little bit, just to feature that moment. And I would go in and automate the tiny lick up. I would do all these little moves you make whatever is the voice in this moment, shine. This is the self recording band podcast.
The show where we help you make exciting records on your own. Wherever you are. DIY let's go.
Hello and welcome. Self recording band podcast. I am your host then at a time. And I'm here with my friend and cohost Malcolm Owen flood. How are you, Malcolm? Hello? I'm great. I'm doing fantastic. I had a wonderful weekend and uh, I heard so did you?
[00:00:44] Malcom: Yeah, man, you got to go paddle boarding, stay in a cabin on a lake.
It was fantastic. I wonder
[00:00:50] Benedikt: what people are thinking when they listened to our bachelor. Like we have the most, I don't know. It sounds like we're on vacation all the time. All the time. Sometimes. [00:01:00] Living
[00:01:00] Malcom: the dream, you know, maybe we are living the dream. I think we are.
[00:01:05] Benedikt: Yeah. Yeah. I think we, I think so, too.
And also that happens when you record podcasts on Mondays.
[00:01:09] Malcom: Yes. We're always just talking about what we did on our days off.
[00:01:13] Benedikt: Yeah, totally. Like I wonder what it would be like if we did it in Fridays, like we be stressed out and depressed and
[00:01:20] Malcom: total opposite.
Yeah. We're much more excited about music on Mondays.
[00:01:26] Benedikt: Okay. So I'll ask a different question this time. What is this week going to look like for you? What are you planning to do? And
[00:01:32] Malcom: audio wise, you know, this is actually a very on audio week for me. So bad week to choose this question. I've got a little bit going on today.
Um, I've got, I've got two more podcasts to do this week, so that's going to be three podcasts total. And then I've got to edit a patch of songs that I engineered last week, but I'll be done that today. And then I'm probably taking the rest of the week off from the studio. I'm going to house sit for my brother and look [00:02:00] after his dog.
And I was like, ah, I'll just time that was taking some days off. Um, so, so not a lot, not a lot. It's a mixed review. Mixed revisions, finishing up some stuff like that, but for the most part I'm off for the week, baby.
[00:02:14] Benedikt: That's awesome. Yeah. I mean it's so I think every everybody's a little slower, this not
[00:02:20] Malcom: just going to take, take advantage of the good weather while it's still here.
[00:02:24] Benedikt: totally. Totally. Yeah. Um, how about you? Yep. Pretty much the same. I mean, I have, I have some exciting work to do, but it's not the most stressful time of the year. And we're doing, we working a lot on like behind the scenes stuff, improving our processes, getting faster with things, um, improving our client portal or artists portal that we built for the studio, bringing in Christina, my wife, uh, on the team.
Like she does a lot of things now, and there's a full, like a full team member now and, um, stuff like that. So we are ready when it gets stressful. And then there's like some mixed revisions, a lot of printing [00:03:00] stems and exporting instrumentals and extra versions and stuff like that. Stuff that sometimes I get a little behind on when other things are like stressful and it's not urgent, you know?
So I caught up on all that. Stuff's awesome. Do some of that this week as well? Yeah, but some mixing, I think like three or four songs we told
[00:03:17] Malcom: her. Yeah, I know that September is gonna be. One of the craziest buttocks I've ever had. So I'm Zen out as much as I can before that
[00:03:25] Benedikt: hits. Exactly. And rest is part of it.
Like without rest we can't deliver. Absolutely. Absolutely. So talking about mixing, um, this, this week, we are doing another mixing episode, which we've done like we've, which we started to do lately. And this week we are talking about something that we also started talking about a little bit last time when we were talking about.
Vocal chains. And we said that we should do an entire episode on a certain part of mixing vocals or anything for that matter. And that is automation. [00:04:00] So this week it's automation talk. And what automation is, is that. When you do a mix, you can make a static balance. You can create, um, a volume balance, like balance out the levels of everything you can set the panning, you can set accuse and compression, all that.
And then you have a static mix, but that's not where it ends usually or where it should. Yeah. Because yeah, you need to change things throughout the song. Oftentimes all the time, all the time. And that is because that's that it makes us just not enough. We need to feature certain things. We need to turn down other things.
We need to add excitement and movement. We need to change scenes sometimes throughout the song, or like follow the scene, changes that the song makes, um, we need to guide the listener through the song. So aesthetic mix is just not enough and how you do it is there's different ways. You can do volume automation, you can automate the pan.
You can change. Plugin settings, you can do clip gain, [00:05:00] which is I've U S kind of an automated, it's not automation, but it does a similar thing. So you can use clip, gain, uh, you can automate channels, groups, parallel stuff, all that. And that's what we're going to talk about this episode. So we're going to go, in-depth, we're going to talk about things we like to do.
I'm curious to hear what you do in your mix, and we hope that after listening to this episode, your mixes will be less static and we'll move a little. More exciting. More exciting. Yeah.
[00:05:29] Malcom: Yeah. Yeah. It's, uh, it's such an important part of a good production because, I mean, I think we've all, anybody that's been in a band has played with a musician that's full blast all the time.
Um, like, especially like a drummer, that's just always at 10, when the song needs to go down to a three before it goes to the course or something, and it's just like, oh my God, this isn't working. The same thing happens in the studio where you need dynamic. Uh, different instruments become lead instruments at different times.
So the volumes have to compensate to, to match [00:06:00] for that. And I think a lot of this conversations probably probably going to be about volumes because that's the first thing that comes to mind when we say automation, volume automation, um, going back to, you know, mixing on the console, people just grabbing the faders and moving them as things happen.
Um, In the modern world. We also are going to be talking about automating the frequency balance, um, in the stereo field and, you know, down to things like little effects that how, how they change over a word or a part that could pull the, make the song come to.
[00:06:33] Benedikt: Totally agree with everything. And I'd say automation for me starts with like starts before the static mix sort of.
And then I do a bunch of it after I do my static mix. What I mean by that is like, I do a little bit of it before my actual chains. So when I do my initial balance, my rough mix, um, I will do my rough mix, but I will also make sure that I will clip, gain and maybe use volume automation like [00:07:00] automating the, the little gain knob the Cubase has at the beginning of every channel or automating a game plugin before everything else in my chain, so that my static makes just make sense.
Like my rough mix makes sense because sometimes things come in with weird levels or you record very quiet parts and very loud parts. And the static mix just doesn't work at all. And I want to make sure I can have a fader balance that just works so I can listen through the whole song and I need less compression to even out things and stuff.
So the first thing I'm going to do usually is automate, um, levels or use clip, gain to even things out and then maybe automate pan in case something needs to move from left to center and back to left or something like that. I don't know. Sometimes that happens just to make sure that when I set my fitters to zero and I hit play and I have my initials.
Rough mix. That that makes sense. That's the first thing for me, it's not about feeling vibe or enhancing anything. It's just about getting a rough mix that works,
[00:07:56] Malcom: right. It's a, a logical solution. [00:08:00] An overly dynamic recording by exam, for example. Uh, yeah. Now I think we should just quickly clarify that clip gain is actually adjusting the gain of specific parts of the wave form.
So it comes before any plugins that are going to be in the chain. It's like pretty automation. Pre fader automation,
[00:08:21] Benedikt: I guess. And I don't know about other DAS. Um, it might not be called clip gain in the dye you're using. So what we basically mean is you can cut the, the, the audio event or the clip, or like even this is called different in different tasks, like the square block thing where you see the wave form in like, on your ecologic track.
You can cut that and then you can grow. Usually with most dollars, you can grab the way form with that blog and just move it up or down. And that increase or decrease the level of volume of this clip without moving the fader. That's what we mean by clip gain. And again, this could be totally different than your doll.
Um, but that's what we talking about here. If you [00:09:00] can't do that, then you would have to automate again, plugin or a gain knob or anything like not the fader, but anything in the beginning of the.
[00:09:08] Malcom: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So I guess maybe let's give some examples of, of stuff that would need to be adjusted with clip gain.
[00:09:17] Benedikt: Um, definitely vocals almost all the time for me. So sometimes a singer, um, will sing quietly, but, and be very close to the mic and it will be a very. And full and loud sounding vocal, although it's actually pretty quiet and then they will yell or scream or belt, or like be just louder and like go away from the mic and it should sound more powerful and louder, but it can actually sound more quiet or it's this weird thing where I would turn down.
The quiet part and turn up the loud part. For example, that's a classic or sometimes just certain words are a little hard to, to hear, or it's the way people sing or move in front of the [00:10:00] mic. Sometimes you just have to, uh, take a word or a part of the sentence and make it louder or quieter. I, at this point it's such a, I don't know it comes with experience, I guess, but at this point I just look at, I listened to the song, look at the wave form and I know.
What I, what I have to grab and turn up and down, it's almost a visual thing. And I, I have a feeling for what I need to do. Um, and I'm very, very quick with this stick. It's the first or second pass, and then I quickly do all those moves and then it will just
[00:10:27] Malcom: totally. Yeah. Another example with vocals, I think in particular is that often they're recorded at different times.
So you, the vocals that were recorded on day one, maybe they did leave vocals and then. You can tell that they're doubles, we're recording a different day because the volume is just like totally different. Like they've said, they've changed the game set up or something. So I might compensate for those and get things closer.
Or sometimes you'll find that they've done a dub. That is a like, so there's a part of one track. That's just way quieter. They just recorded the verse again or something, but it was probably done on a different day or done. They changed the [00:11:00] knob for some reason. So even that out, um, especially on harmonies, I find the harmony.
Uh, the different parts of the song are dramatically different volumes, so I'll try and level all those out so that anything I throw on that chain like onto the harmony bus, uh, is going to be fed a more consistent
[00:11:16] Benedikt: volume. Totally. Yeah, absolutely. Um, yeah, that's basically it like anything else? Where do you do similar things with drums or, or completely?
[00:11:26] Malcom: Sometimes. Yeah. Sometimes there'll be like, Just a week kick hit or something like that. And it's like, okay, I'm just gonna try and bring that up. I think I can pull it off without it being like a big bleed problem. Um, and, and then like, yeah, you just have to use your ears and make sure it's transparent enough.
Um, so yeah, I think I do, I do like if I have like three different keys, so there's like a piano and organ and like a sense pad or something. And if they're not all kind of similar. And this is like, literally just visual. If they're not all similar, like wave [00:12:00] sizes, all level them out because they're all going to be going to the same bus for my mixing template.
And I want them to kind of be approaching it pretty evenly. Um, and then I'll have control of the volume from there. Um, and, and then I also just like things to kind of hit my plugins, decently. So like, like if they're way too quiet and I'm, you know, I'm going to have to slam L one all the way to the bottom to get it, to even limit anything.
That's just, oh, that's a waste of time. So I might as well just turn up the clip game while I'm doing my initial clipping
[00:12:28] Benedikt: balancing. Absolutely. I think it's, it's essential for the sound sometimes because if you have a standard rum or a kick drum and you set the compressor a certain way, um, not to even things out, but to increase the attack to make it hit harder.
Um, then it just doesn't work. If hate is too quiet or a couple of hits are too quiet. So if you want a consistent sound, you need to make sure that the hits, especially if the drummer was not so consistent, that it hits the compressor with about the same level, because otherwise it will not only be a level difference, but the sound will be totally different because the [00:13:00] louder hits will get all the smack, like the punch you want.
And the quieter hits will almost be not, not affected. By whatever you're doing. So I think it's essential. And then of course, gates and stuff like that, don't work at all. If you don't do it properly, like everything that has a threshold, a threshold basically needs this consistent hot level. Um, yeah. So, and sometimes I also need to do like the other way around.
Sometimes I want to transition or something like that to be more. Um, yeah, I w I want to enhance the dynamics at the drummer, and I want to turn things down even further to increase like a buildup or whatever. And I sometimes do that first before, before the chain. I just think about correcting the performance in a way, like, or.
Yeah. Making is as dynamic as the drummer intended it to be, but maybe wasn't able to pull off and then yeah. Things like that. And I do that with every, with every track basically. So we're just correcting the performance and making sure that our chains are hit properly. Yeah.
[00:13:57] Malcom: Yeah, in tools anyways, when you're adjusting the clip [00:14:00] and you literally see the wave change as you make the adjustments.
Yeah. It really feels like that. It feels like you're changing the performance more so than just moving the volume fader. Uh, another example of like reductive clip game would be, you could go after. And the vocal and duck that down so that it doesn't grab get grabbed by the compressor or, or whatever you want.
Um, so that that's an option for you. You can pretty much remove it entirely if you want it. Yeah.
[00:14:24] Benedikt: Yeah, absolutely. And I think we should, I think there are so many things that you can do at this stage that will save you processing later. That will save you gating and like, or compression. And yeah, like a lot of the things we do later are just to even things out or to get rid of stuff we don't want.
And you can do a lot of that manually with clip gain. There's this trade-off though, like you can go crazy and you can manually cut out everything and like mute all the stuff you don't want to have. And like that that's tedious. So there is this. Yeah. Yeah. It's, it's a balanced, it makes sense up to a certain point.
And after that I would rather use a plugin. Um, yeah, it's [00:15:00] quicker. Yeah. Okay. So there's that then, um, let's, let's just give, uh, give people a couple of examples because automation is so, uh, there there's so many different ways you can use that in so many different reasons to use it to me. There's technical reasons like the clip gain thing in front of the chain, but there is also more than anything.
When I think of automation like fader automation and rides and doing stuff like that. It's more of an artistic thing. It's about, um, making an artistic and also an kind of an arrangement thing almost because it's partly about making space for certain things or features certain things. Or, and it's also about creating excitement and movement and groove and, uh, subtle.
Yeah. I don't know. Things are static mixed, just doesn't have, and this is a very, very artistic thing. It's almost like. I think Michael Brower was the guy that I heard this say this. He said that other people were playing the drums and the [00:16:00] bass and the guitar. And like he was playing the console. So it's just like almost playing an instrument.
Like he has his hands at the faders and he just makes moves with the music, which is not so easy to do. And a lot of people, these days, myself included, we draw automation more than we actually do it in real time. Yeah. Um, but there are people who like perfected this art form. Grabbing a fader hit hitting play, and then moving it in real-time with the song and it just works.
Um, yep. So yeah.
[00:16:29] Malcom: Yeah, it takes some practice. Totally. For sure. Yeah, I, I, we should touch on the static mix thing a little bit, just to give people a common mindset for how this usually goes. So a common technique for mixing is you find allowed us one of the loudest or the loudest part of the song, and you do a rough balance and.
That kind of, and then you might even start doing some mixing like Q or whatever compression stuff. And then you've kind [00:17:00] of got like your rough mix built in from the loudest part of the song. Um, and that it could be considered like a static mix. Now, if you jump around, hopefully it sounds decent, but you're going to find that different parts of the song don't sound as good as that one, one spot where you to spend a bunch of time getting it to sound right.
So that's how I kind of work. Usually I do my like first static little thing, and then I jumped around and start making like these macro adjustments with automation often to make the other parts fit. Cause it's like, okay, this little static template is nailing it for this part, but sucking on the verses.
So what has to change to make the vs good. And now I don't want to just change. Everything, because now the part that I just mixed would suck, so I can use, uh, automation to get things closer. That way that's, that's like not an exact, like, don't do that, but that's kind of like a dumbed down way of approaching how to get to the [00:18:00] automation stage.
[00:18:01] Benedikt: totally like that. And this is one of the things where the more I think about it, the more I hear you talk about it, the more, yeah. Clearer. It becomes, you know, how, how I actually do it or how we actually do it, because this is something we just do. We don't think about it as much. And once you have to explain it, um, it becomes more of a, of a process that I don't know.
And so that made me, that made me think there's actually four automation steps. The first one is the one we talked about with like gain staging, getting the static mix, right? Like everything before we touch plugins or our faders, the second one. This, what you just said, they, the static makes up from the loudest part and making that work and the other parts as well.
This is like also like broad strokes. This is turning the guitar, the whole guitar part down, or the whole vocal part down or up or whatever. Um, just
[00:18:51] Malcom: on one spot, which is like, yeah. And there's the verse down
[00:18:53] Benedikt: at DB. Exactly. So still pretty broad. And like from bar beat one to the last beat of that [00:19:00] section, for example.
So, um, that's the second part then? The, the third part. Is then making tiny, like artistic moves, like the individual channels buses and all that. And we get to that. So, uh, riding things throughout a part or enhancing a certain hit or making things grow or pump or whatever can be anything. And then the fourth thing is broad strokes.
Again, at least for me, because the last thing I'll automate is maybe I'll when I'm done with the mix. Maybe I'll bump up the chorus half a DB, the whole chorus on the mix bus, or maybe yeah. Go to the downbeats, uh, the first down beat of every chorus and or of the, of a bridge or to break down or whatever.
And it just increased the first hit half a DB just to make it hit a little harder, like these tiny adjustments that are not on a single track or bus, but like on the whole thing, when a certain part comes in. So that will be the last and final thing I would do sometimes that's not necessary, but sometimes it just works and it's a very easy move, but it's, I can just work sometimes if the court.[00:20:00]
Doesn't hit it hard enough. Having to be up and it
[00:20:03] Malcom: works. Yep. Yep, exactly. Um, and then, yeah, they're like the last step for me is like automating, like the verb decay to last longer. And she's like, just like the, the smallest little stuff that nobody actually hears.
[00:20:17] Benedikt: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And that's also the most dangerous thing because okay.
There's that if you are. Doing this for yourself. And you don't have like a lot of pressure and like, and a lot of products and people waiting for you, then you, in theory, you can do this forever and tweak stuff, but still you want to get it done in the end, right? You want to get, you want to just finish the song.
And this is, this can become very, very dangerous because it's never really finished. You will always find something that you could automate and change and make even cooler. And so you have to. You have to, to finish at some point you have to call it done. And, um, yeah. So there is something to be said about going into all the details and doing that sort of stuff.[00:21:00]
But you also know when it's just, you have to know when it's just enough, even if you do it just to yourself, I think, but yeah, we'll, we'll get to that. Okay. So writing each track and bus to make space, that's something I wanted to talk about. Do you do that? Like, do you. Do you move things out of the way when a new guitar comes in or an important new element that hasn't been there before, and then you bring it back up when that element is gone and stuff like that, like to help you arrangement.
[00:21:25] Malcom: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. It, it depends on the arrangement though. Cause sometimes the arrangement doesn't for you. Um, which is awesome. So I it's, automation is not a rule for me. Um, it's like, uh, the result of the arrangement not providing it itself and which is pretty common in, in like rock music these days where it's just like, we always want to add more and make it thicker.
And it just keeps getting thicker and thicker and like, so it's like big guitar and now there's another big guitar and they're both there, you know, it doesn't, it doesn't swap. So it's pretty common for me to be like, okay, that first guitar ducks, well, this new one becomes the focus on top of it. For example, um, I'll often [00:22:00] do like the kick and snare might dock on the verse, um, rather than just being like full and big there as well, so that the vocals kind of take over because often, you know, The riff and then the verse.
So the vocals like enter and I want them to become the center channel focus, uh, really clearly. Um, and then, you know, those drums can come back on the court, for example. So lots of, lots of the macro adjustments for me, where it's like, okay, verse goes down for this course, goes up here kind of thing. Um, big moves like that.
I think maybe, uh, I would mention that it's rarely, I don't know if it's the same for you, Benny, but it's rarely like just two points on the automation line. It's like normally four and there's a ramp in and out, uh, or like down and up, but it could, it, depending on which way I'm boosting or cutting volume automation, but there's always like a gradual transition in and out of it for me.
[00:22:55] Benedikt: Yeah, same here. It's almost always, yeah, [00:23:00] sometimes works, but if you just go down to be, as soon as the part starts as something, but usually, and the more drastic the changes are, the, the changes are, uh, the more I find it necessary to make these gradual changes and building these ramps. Uh, it's just, yeah, it's just distracting and weird.
If somethings all of a sudden. A lot or increase a lot. So yeah, we totally have to do that. And you, you have to, sometimes I make sure that the overall level sort of stays the same. So I will increase something by a couple of DB and that will decrease something else the same way. So the overall level kind of stays the same.
Totally depends. But I think it's important for you to know. Um, that if you want to, uh, if you're not familiar with the whole concept of automation, uh, that there are different ways you can do this, so you can grab a fader and just pull it down and then how fast you pull it down or up, um, that's your gradual or not so gradual curve and your automation curve that you're writing, but [00:24:00] you can also just make two points.
That's what you just said. And I'll come, you can just make the automation line visible and then use your mouse and make two points and then just drag it down. And then you have. Um, the volume chump, or you can make it like a ramp gradual thing, or you can make it like a smooth curve and curve with different shapes and like all these things.
So, and the fader or the plug-in or whatever you are automating will follow that line. That's what we'll talk about. So you write that on the track and then whatever parameter you or you're automating will follow that line. And when you hit play, you can watch your fate or move move, or your gain knob or.
A band or whatever, and then, yep. That's what we're talking about here, but yeah, I think musical changes is the key here. You want to make it musically? You want to do it in a way that doesn't distract the listener. Exactly. Yeah, exactly. Okay. So helping the arrangement sometimes I think. That as you said, some songs [00:25:00] do it because just because the arrangement is already good and I have to, I don't have to do anything.
And sometimes I need to do very drastic. You need to make very drastic changes. That totally depends on the song, but this stage is still about what I call the macro dynamics. This is still about like big picture stuff, making it work from part to part, making sure that when new stuff comes in, other stuff gets out of the way.
Now the next thing on our list, Uh, well, the next thing is basically like riding parallel buses effects, um, enhancing the groove of the song, automating your cue, moves all, all the other stuff that we've written on. Our outline here. This is all not big picture stuff. This is detailed work, and this is the most musical and artistic thing.
Um, when it comes to automation. So I don't know what you do there, but I think it's safe to say that most people. Will ride a vocal fader or we'll ride the drum bus, or maybe a kick drum or a bass or whatever, like individual tracks that [00:26:00] change volume throughout the song. I think most people will also. Um, ride effects, returns like reverbs delays, stuff like that.
It's not always the same volume throughout the song, but then there's stuff that, where I don't know if other people do that as well. Um, and I certainly didn't invent it I guess, but everyone does it differently. Probably I have some flavors or some like attitude buses and stuff that I like in certain parts, but not always.
And I rarely just turn them on and off, but yeah. Right them. I I'll have my drum crush that I mentioned in another episode, um, or a vocal crush, like a parallel distortion bus that I use on something. And I might turn that fader up in a very energetic, aggressive part, but then when a more quiet bridge comes in or something.
Um, ambient part of that's just not aggressive. I will bring that down. Uh, and then on a breakdown, I'll turn it up full volume or I don't know, like I'll just have these flavors, these attitude buses basically, and I'll ride them throughout the [00:27:00] song and it's almost like you make a drum. Uh, hit harder or softer in a certain part.
And you can do the same thing with a vocalist. You can, you can make him or her seem to get closer to the mic and further away and like scream a little harder. You know, you can just enhance the natural dynamics and, and add some attitude and aggression to the whole thing. Do you do something
[00:27:22] Malcom: I don't really do parallel crushed stuff like that.
And if I do, I guess this is a form of automation. Yeah, it totally is. Um, if I do, I usually end up committing whatever that is. And then I actually just. The chunks that I want to like write on the wave form. So, uh, like example will be, uh, like an added width bass track where I've like, just split the bass into high frequencies, added a Weidner and some distortion on it.
And it's this weird sounding thing. I just commit the whole track. And then. All of the chunks of that way for him that I don't want it to be. And [00:28:00] then it comes in and the volume is just where I kind of, and I guess I could automate the volume on that sometimes. Um, so just a different process for the same thing, I think more or less.
Um, but for as far as like, These small automation, things that are adding flavor, tons of them, tons of them. So like, I might add, uh, like a dynamic IQ that's adjusting the attack on the bass or the guitar just on the courses so that they become, they become heavier there or, and designer kicks in that kind of stuff.
All the time.
[00:28:34] Benedikt: Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's totally automation. I would like, yeah. I mean, automation sounds like a robot doing something automatically. So maybe it's not automation if you like commit stuff, but it's, it does. It's the same purpose. It's the same. Why behind you doing this, these things. So, yeah, totally.
I mean, that's almost almost the same thing that I do. I just make a fader move and you commit things. And I sometimes do that as well. Um, bottom line is we make things, sound different [00:29:00] in different parts for similar reasons. Yeah.
[00:29:03] Malcom: Actually, you know what, uh, I think last episode, you mentioned that your delay throws are just a copy of a wave form with the plugin right on it.
And I did that for the first time or not. I don't know if it was the first time, but I definitely did it because you mentioned it. Uh, just on a mixed last week and it was like, this is awesome.
[00:29:18] Benedikt: Thank you. Cool.
[00:29:21] Malcom: Yeah, no, that was great. Yeah. Cool.
[00:29:23] Benedikt: Totally. Yeah. That's a great point because that's also something you could do with automation.
Like whatever you prefer, you can, if you want to add a delay, throw on a certain word or a certain part of the sentence, then you could. Automate you CA you can have the send to the delay at zero. And whenever a work comes in that you want to send to that delay for the lay fro you could just automate the send up and then down again.
Yep. That's one way of doing it. You could have to send all the way up and automate the return up and down. That's tricky though, because then you might get the, the, um, The, the delay on the word [00:30:00] before the actual delay throw and stuff. So I, I, it's hard. Yeah. So I I'd prefer automating the send and not the return.
Um, or you do what I do. And you just copy the duplicate the track only move the, the words on the new track that are supposed to go to the delay and then just. Put the delay sand there and that's it.
[00:30:23] Malcom: Yep. Just like a charm. It was awesome. I think we should highlight that, uh, bands requesting delay throws in very specific ways.
It is very time consuming. I want you to know how hard your mixer is working to make those delay throws happen. It's one of the most tedious things. And especially with cause vocalists always have like vocals or there was this one weird thing where you can be so ahead or so behind the beat and it still sounds good.
You know, it's like, it's like style with vocals for some reason we don't mind it. Yeah. But with delay throws, which are normally sinked to a tempo, it becomes a nightmare to make your delay throws sound good. If you have one of those styles where you're really ahead or behind, [00:31:00]
[00:31:00] Benedikt: I know exactly what you're talking about.
Yeah. That's a nightmare. It sounds totally fine until you enable the delay throw and then you have to edit the actual vocal or. Delay the delay or something like that to make it work. Sometimes I have to throw a delay plugin, like just a, a sample delay in front of the delay or something like that, just to make that work, but not touch the vocal because it was fine the way it was and like weird things like that.
Yeah, absolutely. And also if people want to delay throw on a certain word or sometimes just a certain part of a word. And then you make that happen. And it sounds totally weird because the beginning of the word always sounds cut off no matter what you do, because it's just part of the flow. And then when you isolate isolated and cut it out, it just doesn't sound like a word anymore.
So that can happen. Sometimes you think something's a really good idea until you try and then you figure out it's not.
[00:31:49] Malcom: Yeah. You know, this is actually a unrelated, but very good trick that I learned from recording a rapper. He insisted on recording his own delay throws. So he just did them verbally without a real plugin.
And [00:32:00] then I added reverb to make him sound more like a delay throw. And they were the best delay throws I've ever had. I think, just do your effects manually.
[00:32:08] Benedikt: Why not? I mean, it's not so much work. Like usually those things happen a couple of times throughout the song, if at all, sometimes just once. And so why not just record it?
Yeah, totally. Or if you record multiple takes anyway. Just grab the, maybe from another take rubbish from another take and like put those things in or I dunno, um, whatever, whatever works, but totally. Yeah. Okay, cool. Um, I don't know. Do you, do you do like the really granular, like detail stuff, like a certain hit or a certain down beat?
Um, or like things like that? That's one thing I wanted to mention, like I saw Andrew ships, uh, and then a couple of other people ride the whole drum group, for example. With the groove of the song. So he would just have the fader and would with every kick drum, he would turn it up and like pumping and pumping it a little bit, which required.
[00:32:58] Malcom: I haven't done [00:33:00] that move. I don't think I've done that move, but I definitely do some like, very detailed, mostly like I would say EQs. Lots of little EEQ stuff. Like maybe I'm taking off a little bit of high end, like a very gradual high shelf is cutting on the verses and the opening back up on the courses and stuff like that on individual buses.
Um, and this is, I feel like I spend. Way too much time on this stuff actually, it's I get the bulk of the mix down and then I spent four hours just doing these stupid tweaks, but like they, they all add up. Um, and, and they really make me happy. And it's also some of the funnest parts about mixing. So I'm kind of willing to spend the extra time doing it.
Um, but it's always a result of something I'm hearing, you know, like, just like, okay, this is not this dynamic shift from the verse of the course. It's just not what it needs to be. What can we do to make that happen? Yeah. Maybe it's like the compressor crushes a little bit harder on the [00:34:00] drums for the course or something, and it just gets dirty or there's unlimited, uh, things to try really.
And, and you'll, you'll just have to develop an instinct for how to make that happen. I think we should mention that pretty well. Every plugin, every parameter should be automateable. Um, so whatever you can do with a plugin in static mode, you can do. So w with automation and kind of tweak it gradually if you need to as well.
[00:34:27] Benedikt: Absolutely. Yeah, totally. You could there's I don't think there's any plugging these out there these days. That is not automateable.
[00:34:35] Malcom: Um, there are plugins that. In, at least in pro tools that don't have the automations labeled. So you go to enable it and it just comes up as like control one, control two. And you're like, well, which one's, which there's a way around that if you know some shortcuts.
[00:34:49] Benedikt: Yeah. Um, there's two things to unpack here, um, that I want to talk about in what you just said. The first one is. Uh, compressors might a compressor might react [00:35:00] differently, uh, in different parts or you make it react different differently. That's an interesting conversation to have, because I think there's two ways usually of automating things you can automate.
After the chain, or you can automate it into a chain which leads to different results. So, especially with drums, if you process the individual drums and then the drum bus, the drum group, and then you grab the drum bus fader and automate that the sound will stay the same, um, except for the mixed best processing.
And then you will just change the volume of the whole drum kit, right interest. It gets interesting though, if you automate the input of that drum, Into the drum bus compressor, because that way and same goes for vocals because that way you might increase the volume, but it doesn't get as loud. It just gets a little more dense and energetic.
Yep. And that's a cool thing. Sometimes. Same with vocals. Sometimes it's cool to automate into the compressor because you get, you get a level change, but usually not as much because the compressor compensates for that. But [00:36:00] you get an increased yeah. Density and energy and attitude and everything. And so it's just worth knowing that these are two completely different things and the results will be drastically different sometimes.
[00:36:12] Malcom: yeah. I'm, I'm glad you said that. Cause we, we kind of talked about clips. Almost as if it was only something you did at the beginning, but it's totally not. It's totally a Sonic decision once your plugin chains are in place and you've kind of fine tune to your mix. Like once you're really close to a finished mix, you're going to go back to some clip game for sure.
Because it's like, kind of. Just at a different Sonic Lynn turning up the volume. And, uh, I think it often, especially with the vocal clip gain in the vocal up into its plug-in chain often sounds more natural than turning up the volume of the whole thing. I guess it kind of depends what you're going for, but it's like more in the flavor of the mix.
[00:36:51] Benedikt: Yeah. I agree. I agree. And because it's not only this. Yeah. I think just the volume change in that, in the, in real life. I [00:37:00] think nothing is just the volume change. If you change the volume, the, I dunno, the room sounds different. Um, your, the, the hearing curve is like different. Like everything changes with volume, the perceived energy and how close something is changes.
So I think. Um, if you automate into a chain and it does not only the volume change, but also the other things change with it. It's, it's more musical. Uh, it's hard to explain, but it, it, it feels the same to me. Yeah. And then the other thing, oh, sorry, sorry. Yeah, go ahead. I just went okay, well, yeah, go ahead.
[00:37:30] Malcom: that a lot of our listeners are really into trying to make guitar Sims work for them because it's just such a convenient way to get guitars recorded and clip gaining your performance into that. Absent is. An entirely different thing than turning up the volume, uh, after that amps in plugin that like your whole app responds to how hard it's hit.
So I use that clip clip, gain into a guitar amp all the time. Um, uh, like. It's not like vocals where it's like kind of the same thing. It's just totally
[00:37:59] Benedikt: [00:38:00] different. It's like turning your volume knob on the guitar up and down. Yeah. It's,
[00:38:04] Malcom: it's more of a tone thing than a volume thing. If you have a distorted amp SIM going on, it probably won't get louder at all.
Actually it'll just get a totally different distortion vibe going
[00:38:11] Benedikt: on. That's like a booster pedal or like a clean booster pedal in front of an amp that you can turn up and down, but that's basically it and it will drastically change everything. Yeah, definitely. Totally. Uh, before I forget, the other thing that you mentioned before that I wanted to, to talk about a little bit is I think you said that certain, like the detail work pays off and it's like, it seems like very tedious time consuming things at the end of the process, but it really pays off.
And I think we've often talked about the. 80 20 rule and the how, how a good balance, a good static balance, right? Panning right levels, getting your queue, right. Getting your basic, the compression, right. And stuff, how that gets you like 80% of the way, which is true. And, but I also think that these [00:39:00] final 20, or maybe 10 or five or 2%, I don't know, can be the difference between a great sounding mix and a.
Amazing professional sounding sort of mixed, like a lot of people who are not as experienced can make good sounding mixes these days. And that's the 80% that we always talk. We always talk about. And that's cool. And, um, yeah, it's an accomplishment. It's an accomplishment in and of itself. If you can get there, but.
The final details in the end. That's what really makes the difference between an amateur and a pro mix, because with experience and with the, like, if you're willing to put in that amount of, um, I don't know, care and like this attention to detail into it, then, uh, you can really. I don't know that this is, this is something that not a lot of hobbyists are willing to do or think is necessary.
And I think if you're listened to really, really, really great mixes, you hear things like a certain bass lick or sometimes a note or some [00:40:00] cool thing happening on some track on some instrument, suddenly get louder a little bit, and then. Dalen again, just to feature that moment or like we would do stuff like that all the time.
Like, especially with like baselines, I love to do that. Sometimes there is a hidden gem in a base, a recording and a bass track. That just feels awesome. We're a little lick that supports the vocal melody or whatever. And I would go in and like automate the tiny lick up and sometimes with multiple points, like with the musical curve and then down again, uh, or I would bring up a certain ghost note on the stair, but the next one, not so much, maybe you are able to make a filter.
Roll a little more. And like I would do all these little moves, these tiny moves to make whatever is the voice in this part. And this moment shine. Like there's always, I always think about like every part has where every, every short moment even has a voice has one really important thing that I want to feature.
And I always listened for that. And I have to listen multiple times through some because I can only focus on one thing, but whenever I [00:41:00] discover something and whenever I think that should be the voice in this moment, I'll feature it and I'll maybe turn something else down. So I might listen to a song five times and I might listen to the drums the first time, the bass, the next time, the guitars, the next time, and then the vocals.
And every time I listened through the. I'll listen for those things and feature them. And what I'll end up with is a mix that has all those little ear candy things and all those little features in it that otherwise would have gotten lost. And I know for a fact that this is also something. Artists that my mixing clients really love when I do that, because they feel like somebody's put care into it and paid attention and featured what they came up with.
Right. And if you don't do it, you'll get revision requests. Like, Hey, there's this one basically in this part. And there's this one breath that we really find really cool. And the vocals or something. Can you turn it up please? So that's what you get. If you ignore it. Um, so yeah, you
[00:41:56] Malcom: end up doing it anyways.
Yeah. Yeah. But [00:42:00] also I was going to say like, getting those notes is also, uh, a good thing in itself. It means that you got everything else. Right. Usually if that's all there is, and your notes is just like the little, Hey, we need this little lick louder that shows that the band's like, oh yeah, Our vision is so close.
You just need to know our personal insight into it. So hopefully you're at least there, but hopefully you're already getting it and you've just like spotted them already preemptively you're you're in tune with what they're trying to achieve. Yeah.
[00:42:25] Benedikt: Yeah, exactly. So, yeah, there's always, I think there's this balance here because you don't want to mess around with it forever, but you also want to.
Did the time necessary to just to just get it right. And we all love these records where you put headphones on and every time you listen to it, you discover something, use something new, interesting and exciting. Um, that's, that's what automation can do at this, at this point. So automate
[00:42:49] Malcom: your, uh, your master bus
[00:42:51] Benedikt: or mixed bus.
That's what I meant before when I that's the last thing I do, like the very last thing after all that, you can do stuff, all the details, oral, the individual buses and [00:43:00] channels, and the effects that the very last thing before I finished the mix and send it to the client is. When I, uh, I will, I will listen to the transitions from part to part and I will make sure that everything hits just right.
And sometimes, and often it does, but sometimes. I don't want to change an individual thing and it just works, but maybe the course is a tiny bit too quiet, as I said, and then I'll just bump it up half a DB or 0.3 DB, or maybe there's this breakdown at the first kick drum hit. No matter what I do on the individual channels, it's just not hard enough.
And sometimes what I do is just built this little ramp on the first beat of this chorus and just do it on the first hit, you know, just make that a little harder. And that does the trick, or totally automate very rarely do this, but sometimes, sometimes I'll automate a Weidener on the mix bus where I would make the chorus a little wider and then, um, narrower, um, after the chorus again.
Uh, but these, these tiny volume bumps, these are usually what I do and [00:44:00] then not only increasing stuff, but sometimes I'll have to bring down a part just because it got too loud with all the bus compression going on. And the mixed bus compression sometimes are very quiet. It's not really quiet anymore. So you have this loud song and then there's this, this break.
And then an acoustic guitar is playing for example, and that acoustic can get really loud compared like it can be perceived really loud compared to the rest of the band, which is not really natural sounding. And then when that happens, uh, because there will be less compression because the drums are gone and all that.
So when that happens, I'll have to either bring down. Channel quite a bit, or sometimes in addition to that, I'll just bring down the mixed bus and the quieter section, and then let it go up again in the louder section to compensate for the dense mixed bus. This happens when, when I'm I'm master and mix at the same time.
And when I really make things loud, then I need to compensate for that in order to not make it sound flat. So I don't want everything to be the same loudness.
[00:44:55] Malcom: Totally, totally. And sometimes you have to get really clever with how to get around [00:45:00] that that makes bus process. Because maybe you want it to all be hitting that same sound, you know, like, like the Sonic of it is nice.
So you don't want to change how your mixed bus is being hit. So you can automate like the, uh, the output of your bus compressor, for example, and use that as your volume so that the same compression is happening. It like, it all depends on what you want to hear. And, uh, you just have to kind of pinpoint that, that spot in the chain that you want to make the change.
[00:45:26] Benedikt: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, totally. I think this is the key to making loud mixes. Sometimes allow it masters, um, to work around that stuff and yeah, it's just part of it. That's just how you have to do it. So, yeah. I don't know what to say. I think, uh, this is even more than I thought. Like we, we even mentioned more things than I thought we would because a new, I know that automation is very important, but now after this episode I realized.
But how much of it is actually automation and how yeah. Important it is for the, for the whole mix. Like [00:46:00] how much of it wouldn't ever work, if, if, if it wasn't for automation and I sometimes wonder, think back a couple of years when I started out, I didn't do, I didn't use any automation. And in the beginning, in the very beginning or very little automation, I had to learn what it is.
And all my first mixes were pretty static mixers. And I just wonder how that worked, because I can't imagine that anymore. Not at all.
[00:46:21] Malcom: Right, right. Yeah. Uh, yeah. I'm glad that we're not doing that anymore. I was the same. You're just too caught up on the other stuff, but yeah, I get to the automation phase pretty quick these days, you know, and I think that's an advantage of just experiences that it allows me to get to this stuff quick and still have fresh ears when I need them on this really micro adjustment stuff.
Yeah. Now, I think what we could end this conversation with is talking about building automation into your recording, into your engineering, um, which removes a lot of these steps. Like we said, like the arrangement is so important, like a [00:47:00] good song that is arranged really well, pretty much automates itself.
Um, which is just fantastic. But. Machine mixer that I'm just an engineer producer, who I'm just obsessed with one of the best. I think, uh, he, I know that he's really into just grabbing guitar. From part to part as a recording, I'd be like, all right, morbid range on the course, less mid range on the verse or whatever it is, you know, like, uh, just literally changing the sound of the amp as each part comes.
Um, and that is, that's like building the automation into your song. It's like, okay, we've got more attack for this part. Um, you know, uh, doing it with drums, I've done where we, we throw like a big damper on for the verses and pull it off and punch in the courses now like that the snare sound just pops in the court.
That kind of stuff. You can pretty much anything that we did can be done on the way in if you work hard and are clever about
[00:47:54] Benedikt: it. Yeah, totally. I mean, you have to be willing to just. Do it over and over again until [00:48:00] it's right, because you will mess it up at first, but, um, totally. Um, um, you could, like, I would often have my, my, my fingers, my hand on the, on the gain knob of a preamp while a person is singing and they will move the gain up and down, depending on if we're in a loud part or quiet part of it.
Um, the vocalist is close to the mic or far from the mic, and I would increase the saturation and decrease it. And that takes experience. And you don't want to mess up the, the, the person's take. So maybe leave enough headroom that even if you mess it up, you can still correct afterwards if you really want to use to take.
So maybe don't go to the extremes in the beginning when you don't know what you're doing, but I would often like automate my pregame. Uh, compressor thresholds, uh, or the input of a distressor or, um, the guitar, as you said, the gain knob on a guitar amp sometimes. Um, it's funny how we call that automation or we say that's something like automation because that that's the manual work.
It's not, nothing is automated in this case, but like, it helps [00:49:00] to, to think of the whole concept like that. It's, something's something is not static, but changing throughout the day.
[00:49:05] Malcom: Yeah. Yeah. Well, and that's why we're w this whole podcast is primarily been about engineering and not mixing actually intentionally not mixing.
And we're finally introducing mixing, but the reason we're bringing it up is to help you become better engineers. Yeah. So you're learning about our processes as mix engineers. And hopefully going to reverse engineer that into your productions.
[00:49:28] Benedikt: Totally. Totally. All right. This has been great. So I have two final questions that just came up.
I have two final questions for you. um, first of all, do you ever make some time. Albums like entire records in one session. I do
[00:49:41] Malcom: not. My computer would light on.
[00:49:46] Benedikt: Okay. Because I love it, do that. I mean, my computer doesn't like that at all as well, but it can take it most of the time. So I, I will do that and I love it. But this is turning sessions into an automation nightmare [00:50:00] sometimes, or like, it looks like these, I don't know what the, what the English word for this is like the undergrads.
Uh, maps or whatever, subway, subway, uh, I don't know what the, you know what I mean? When you look at all these colors, colored lines that go in all sorts of directions, that's what my sessions look like. When I do that, um, I was just interested. I was just curious, because that brings up a whole new level of RMO, having to automate things from song to song.
And back in the day I started, I even mixed entire records without automation in one session, so that every channel will be the same throughout the whole record. I would just use clip gain, and then it doesn't even make sense. No, not at all. I would, I don't know how I, I, I don't know how I did it, but.
Definitely didn't work as well, but it just that's. That's how I did it. Um, yeah. So that was question number one. And then, um, I forgot about question number two. So it was probably not as simple and I wanted to know another thing from you, just that acute curiosity anyway. [00:51:00] Yeah. Let's let's, uh, let's leave it with that.
Um, I think that, that has been plenty, I think
[00:51:06] Malcom: about it. Yeah. Yeah. That's a good overview of automation. There's we didn't mention that wasn't exhaustive at all. Like we said, there's like unlimited things. You can do any parameter on any plugin and any controlling your dog as well. You know, the pan knobs, we didn't even really talk about panning things.
Yeah. And that happens a lot too.
[00:51:24] Benedikt: So you talked about that in the panning episode? Not long ago, so yeah, we sure did. Yeah. There's that. Oh, I remember my question. Uh, I never asked you or maybe I have not. I don't remember. But do you like using an actual fader hardware controller for automations? Or do, are you like mouse only?
[00:51:41] Malcom: most only because I don't own a fader. Uh, faders are actually great. I think, um, the studio that I interned at, uh, the woodshop recording studio has like a. Um, I think he's got like 16 or 12 channels to faders. I can't remember now. Uh, he's got like a pretty big fader bay in front of them, and I really enjoyed that.[00:52:00]
Generally, I would only grab him one fader at a time, honestly, in the mixing phase. It's great. We'll tracking. Um, but in the mixing phase, it's just like, okay, grab the lead vocal and do a move. And I really did enjoy that. He also had this little handy button called back in play right above the fader. So if you screwed it up, you click this and it just like jumps back to bars and you get to take another swing at it.
Uh, so that was handy. Um, great for learning how to do it by hand. I still do though. Often grab, uh, throw a, uh, a track into a touch automation mode and then grab the fader in the computer with my mouse. Yeah. So I'm doing like a fader move by holding the mouse, um, and holding the fader with my mouse. And, uh, so I still do those moves, especially on like my reverbs and delays sense of step west
[00:52:49] Benedikt: stuff.
Absolutely. And I have to say, if you have a track ball, I think that works very well better than with a mouse, at least for me, because the track will act similarly for me, at [00:53:00] least to a fader, I can just click the thing and then I can move the ball like a fader. And it's, it's better for me than having to move the whole mouse thing.
Yeah, no, that's that seems great. Yeah, that's that works. And also, um, part of the reason why I asked was, um, if you are thinking about. The controller now, folks, then I would say, save yourself some money and just buy one fader. That was what I wanted to say, what you already said, because I ex I tried everything.
I tried eight channels. Um, I tried 16 channels. I tried, uh, I wanted to have two faders, like 16 faders. I wanted to have two faders, but there's no controller out there really. That just has two faders. Um, and the reason is I thought it would be cool to have 16 faders, and then I could grab all the faders and do everything in real time.
It doesn't work. Like our brains are not designed to do that. Like you can focus on one thing and you can move that one thing and pay attention to it. And then you move on to the next thing, what these multiple faders are useful for us balancing, as we said [00:54:00] in another episode, like if you want to put things in context and you want to bring a certain group of tracks up and then balance it against another group of tracks for that, it's great.
But I don't think it's worth spending so much money in these controllers just for that. Two fighters would be awesome because you could balance two mikes or two groups against each other. Like that. That's pretty cool. Um, but if it's just for automation, if you're thinking about getting a controller, just to just so you can ride faders, I would just get one.
That's all you ever need. Like you focus on one thing, write it, and then focus on the other thing. And you can also, if you want to write multiple channels, you can always create a VC. In your software and have it control a bunch of feeders and then write that VCA. This is the same thing has been done on analog consoles all the time that if they have like automation and VCAs built into them, just because.
W you, you just have to focus on moving that one thing and listening to the music.
[00:54:53] Malcom: Yeah. Much easier to re recall
[00:54:55] Benedikt: as well. Yeah, exactly. All right. There's that? I think [00:55:00] that's it. Um, I want to mention one more thing today and that is. If you go to the website, the self recording band.com, there is a new button that says, apply for a free coaching call.
And what that does is you click it and you choose a slot a day in the time and you have to fill out a little forum so that I know a little bit about your music and about your background and what you're trying to do. And I will like check out these ads. And if I think I can help you. And, um, which is, I hope so at least the case, most of the time, if I'm sure I can help you then.
Schedule a free coaching call with you full hour free coaching. One-on-one we create a roadmap for you. We talk about what the things are that would help you most at the moment we will. Um, I will listen to your songs. I will give you feedback. We will together improve your recordings immediately and come up with a plan for you, steps for you to follow next.
And there's no strings attached. Like you don't [00:56:00] have to do anything after that. You can just take what I gave you and run with it. Or you can take the next steps and work with me, whatever you do apply for the free coaching call. Um, and let's talk about your music. Go to the self recording band.com and there is a big ass button.
You can't miss it. It's all over the website hit it. It says apply for a free call. And I can't wait to hang and talk about it.
[00:56:20] Malcom: Yes, do it. This is a good idea. Yeah.
[00:56:23] Benedikt: Awesome. Thank you so much for listening or watching. If you're watching on YouTube and Facebook, I hope that I hope that worked. Thank you, Malcolm for hanging with me again.
Yeah. See you next week. My
[00:56:32] Malcom: pleasure. See you next week.
[00:56:34] Benedikt: Bye.
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