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Saturday, December 7, 2013

MIX ALL SONGS IN THE SAME PROJECT (and track routing)



Hello and welcome to this week's article!
Today's post is an addition to our Project Preparation article: we talk about an alternative way to mix an album, that is possible only with the latest computers, now that ram and cpu are commonly enough to manage a high amount of tracks and plugins.

Instead of creating a single project for each song, we can create a big project in which record (or import) the takes for all songs.
Obviously the amount of tracks will be much higher (I have finished mixing a 10 songs / 101 tracks project just a few weeks ago), but this will also give us the advantage of setting levels that will affect the whole album and give to all songs a homogeneus feel.

First off we must se the Tempo Track, since our songs will probably not be all on the same click (here is a dedicated article about the tempo track).

Dealing with so many tracks forces us to organize the workflow in the most rational way possible, which means that the channel routing becomes crucial: we'll need to reduce as much as possible the processing of the single track, and focus in dividing the tracks in group channels, e.g. we have 8 rhythm guitar tracks, we can route all of them to the same "rhythm guitar" stereo channel, same for the 6 vocal tracks, and so on, so that in the single tracks we only set the volume level, the panning and load in the insert (only if strictly needed) the plugins that are specific for that single track (e.g. a "lo fi" eq effect).
Sub groups (like for example "rhythm guitars" and "lead guitars") can also be routed to another stereo group ("all guitars") for further common processing, like adding a compressor: we could surely use the compressor in the 2 sub group track inserts, but if we use it only in the "all guitars" group track, we will run just one instance of the plugin instead of 2 with the same result, saving some cpu.

Now it's time to think about the effects: we must rely as much as we can on the Fx Tracks (click here for a dedicated article), which are crucial to save cpu and ram. The Reverbs, in facts, especially the convolution ones, are some of the single most cpu hungry processors around.
We should find a few good effects (delay, reverb) and use them, when needed, on the fx sends of all the tracks of our project that needs some, instead of opening a new instance of each effect in the insert of the single tracks.

Last, once all levels of the tracks are stable, the editing phase and the sound sculpting one are over, we will find that we're still gonna have to do some adjustment in terms of volumes in the single songs, for example on a ballad the drums should probably be less violent than on an uptempo, therefore we will need to Automate the tracks in order to fit them better in the mood of each song.

Once we have done we'll be probably ready for the Mastering Phase, with a bunch of coherent songs and having spent less time than mixing each one on a separate project.


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