Saturday, September 5, 2015

How to make pre-productions - rough mixes super fast! (with free plugins)

Hello everyone and welcome to this week's article!
Today we will focus on how to optimize the routine as best as we can to realize rough mixes to pass to the bandmates, in order to explain them the songs or the riffs we're working on.

Let's start by saying that everyone has his own method: Kirk Hammett of Metallica just records his doodles on the Iphone and then explains them to the others in the rehearsal's room, others use Guitar Pro or Tuxguitar (the open source version), to write down the midi parts of all instruments (with the upside that it can also generate you the pdf with the tablature of those parts), while others still prefer to cure their rough mixes a little bit more, but without wasting the time necessary to make a full record, and I am one of those, because this way I feel like I can understand better wether some part will work or not in the final version.

Important: when recording real instruments, as always, set the input gain on our daw to a point that the peaks does't surpasses the -10/-12db!

First off we should create a template on our favourite Daw with a decent relative mix, so that we will lose time only the first time, and for all the songs we'll use the same template.
After loading up the Daw, we must go to "create new project" and start by creating on a Midi track our favourite virtual drum vst, for example MT POWER DRUMKIT 2, which is a very good FREE vst drum sampler; from there we can adjust the Tempo Track and write down our drum part.
If we feel like our drum sound needs a bit of extra edge, instead of working on the single sounds, just add a single band compressor on the whole drumset and fiddle with it until you find just that small sprinkle that adds some body without making it too squashed.

Now we must add 2 guitar tracks (one for the left side and one for the right one, plus a third track if we want to add a solo or some part that we specifically want to keep in the middle).
In these tracks we can load some free, lightweight vst guitar amp simulator, for example Grindmachine Free
If we want to equalize the guitar tracks a little bit we can route all of them on a group track and give them all the same Eq adjustments.

Now it's time to create a bass track, and we can just slam there a good T.s.e. Bod plugin, which simulates a Sansamp, and a compressor to keep the wave on its place.

For the vocal track, same thing: we can add all the tracks that we need and route them (if they are more than one) on the same group track and add some compression, reverb and/or delay.

Obviously we can add also other vsts, for all the synth/orchestral parts we need, or take out from our template the tracks we don't use.

Once we have tracked down all the parts, it's time to create a mix: just set the volumes to a way that each track doesn't peak above -10/12db, and use the few vsts we have loaded to stabilize the most dynamic tracks.
Then, in the master track, just add a limiter to bring the volume up to a level that is easily audible (remember that this is a pre production, though, and its purpose is to be as understandable as possible, so don't push it to the limit or make it distort, otherwise it will become even more useless than an overly pushed final master).

If everything goes according the plan, you should have obtained a very simple and stable mix, so you can save the template, and the next times you will have to record a rough mix of a song, just load this template and record over it, you will save a lot of time!

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