Once you've acquired on your project all the tracks you need, it's time to Prepare the Project for Mixing, a process that can be divided in four steps (Click Here for a dedicate article about Project Preparation): track disposition, group channel tracks, editing and autotuning, and then pass to the "Balancing Phase", which is the phase where you must try, just by moving the volume faders, to reach a good balance between the tracks, taking note of the faders that feels "unstable": those those are the ones in which you can't find a stable position throughout the whole song. After the Balancing Phase is time to Pan the tracks (Click Here for a dedicated article), in order to create a stereophonic Soundstage.
Moving onto the Mixing Phase, a suggestion is to use as less effects as possible before entering in the DAW, and to use the real time VST effects (unless you have a very expensive external piece of hardware that you need to use for some particular purpose), in order to be able to change "on the fly" the settings we need to fix, without having to record the track again.
This topic brings us to the "effects chapter".
Vst is the standard used for the plugins on most of digital multitrack softwares (other standards are Direct x, Audio Unit, Rtas), and they can usually work real time, which means that you can insert-modify-delete them while you're listen to the track, hearing the changes live.
There are many freeware vst suites of good quality, if you don't want to use too expensive software (although WAVES does incredibly good and professional plugins): my suggestion goes to the complete KJAERHUS CLASSIC SUITE, which comprehends Chorus, Delay, Compressor, Limiter, Reverb, and everything else you might need, on an interface that resembles the classic rack devices, and, specifically for the guitar, Here you can find a collection of the best Amp Simulators, both free and commercial.
About the effects, this blog offers a dedicated article for every type of effect, also all the modulation ones, with a selection of free Vst for each type, you can find them HERE.
These plugins can be used also entering with the guitar directly into the audio interface or mixer, the effect is applied real time, or on the playback (according to if the software supports real time effects and the computer is fast enough).
Once you have balanced volumes and panning (the spatial disposition we've seen earlier), you'll find yourself with a (hopefully) decent sound, but since the sound of all instruments will be pretty "natural", there will be some frequency that will "fight" between the instruments, and the strongest sound will cover the weaker ones; this is not just a matter of volume.
You will have to work with the equalization and compression, which are the two main sound sculpting tools, click on the two links to learn more.
Once you think that every sound is intellegible (volume levels, equalization, compression) and you've applied all of the plugins that you wish, you can polish even further the sound using a noisegate on the tracks that need it, to get rid of the noise, the hum, and crackle, and once done, we're heading toward the conclusion of the project.
You can pass to the MASTERING phase, or just set the "beginning" and "end" markers on the project, and export, in Wave, or Mp3.
I'd say we have briefly touched all of the arguments, in a very superficial way, and surely I've left out something, or used methods that not everyone will agree, but the idea behind this guide was to create a small tutorial for beginners, with the tips and suggestions the experience has taught me, with the lowest budget possible, and under this point of view I'd say I've succeeded.
Let me know what you think about it, and keep in mind that experience is the best teacher: try, experiment and believe your ears!
CLICK HERE FOR THE PART 1/3 OF THIS TUTORIAL
CLICK HERE FOR THE PART 2/3 OF THIS TUTORIAL
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