Mixing Template

Below is a mixing template for Pro Tools. The following are already completed in the session:

  • Tracks have been grouped, colored, and routed to appropriate submasters.
  • FX sends and returns have been created.
  • Typical channel strip plug-ins have been inserted (appropriate to the instrument), but no settings are enabled.
  • The master fader includes metering plug-ins.

The intended purpose is to speed up your workflow by taking care of the setup/housekeeping step in the mixing process, so that you can start the creative flow sooner.

Feel free to replace the Avid/Digidesign plug-ins with your favorites.

  • Leave the settings flat or bypassed so there in nothing affecting the sound initially.

Once you have the session the way you want it, there are two ways to use it:

  1. If you have a session already in progress (i.e. from a recording session), you can import the tracks from the template using the Import -> Session Data command in the File menu. You can then move the audio clips onto the appropriate tracks.
  2. If you are given raw stems to mix, you can save the template using the Save As Template command in the File menu. (The template file will be saved in your applications folder.) The next time you create a new session, choose Create New Session from Template, and you’ll find the template there. You can then import the raw stems into your session on the appropriate tracks.

Download template here.

Pro Tools Mixing Template Screen Shot

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Reverb Plug-ins

(In no particular order)

On a Budget

PSP Audioware

These plug-ins can be purchased as part of an effects bundle.

Lexicon

Valhalla DSP

112dB

Wave Arts

IK Multimedia

This plug-in can be purchased as part of a larger bundle.

SoftTube

This plug-in can be purchased as part of a larger bundle, and it is the entry-level version of the TSAR-1 plug-in.

Apple

Arguably the best included reverb plug-in of any DAW.


Up a Level

Waves

It is definitely more cost effective to buy these as part of bundle, however all three are not part of the same bundle until Gold.

Eventide

Softube

This plug-in can be purchased as part of a larger bundle.

McDSP

This plug-in can be purchased as part of a larger bundle.

2CAudio


Higher End

Sonnox

This plug-in is more cost effective as part of a bundle.

UAD

There are many UAD reverb plug-ins, ranging in price from $149 to $349. All require UAD-2 hardware.

Lexicon


The Demo

All of these plug-ins can be demoed before purchasing. So, take advantage of this to avoid buyer’s remorse.

Good Credit = Lots of Gear

Keep your credit clean. Retailers like Sweetwater or Musician’s Friend offer 0% interest financing for periods of time to serious buyers. Suddenly, a plug-in bundle costing $500 dollars becomes a more manageable $21/month payment.

Social Media

Follow a company whose products you are interested in buying. Many companies put items on sale for a very short time and only announce the sale with a tweet or a post.

Educational Discount

As a student, you can get an educational discount on most software, including plug-ins (usually 50% off). Take advantage of this while you still can.


(Prices last updated: 10/2013)

The Master Meter

During mixing, it is recommended that you leave the master fader alone, and avoid using any processing on the stereo bus. It’s mixing then mastering; don’t try to do both at the same time.

However, the master meter is still critical when mixing. Look at the meter often. Treat it the same way you would an input level during recording; strive for a good, strong level but avoid clipping.


There should be several plugins on your master channel; all to assist you in the mixing process.

High Resolution Meter

The view of the meter in the DAW is relatively small. Increase the view with a plugin like the Massey High-Resolution Meter.

Dynamic Range Meter

Dynamic range is the difference between the loudest and the softest values of the audio. The TT Dynamic Range Meter is a large meter that also displays dynamic range and RMS values.

RMS Meter

An LED meter displays peak values useful for recording and preventing clipping. However, slower meters, like a VU meter, display average levels which are more representative of perceptual loudness. The Pro Tools PhaseScope plugin includes an RMS meter. Both the Massey High-Resolution Meter and the TT Dynamic Range Meter show RMS as well as several plugins from Waves.

Spectrum Analyzer

A spectrum analyzer displays the spectral content of your mix, which can help identify problems. Examples include Blue Cat Audio FreqAnalyst and Waves PAZ Analyzer.

Correlation Meter

A meter that displays the phase relationship of a stereo signal (i.e. left v. right). The Pro Tools PhaseScope plugin includes a correlation meter as well as the TT Dynamic Range Meter and the Flux Stereo Tool.

Phase Scope

A phase scope is a graphical display of the relative amplitude and phase characteristics of the stereo signal. Pro Tools includes a PhaseScope plugin and the Flux Stereo Tool is also good


Master Meter

Professional Organizations

The Recording Academy

An organization of musicians, producers, recording engineers and other recording professionals dedicated to improving the quality of life and cultural condition for music and its makers

The Producers and Engineers Wing (P&E Wing) is a part of the academy made up of producers, engineers, mixers, and other technically involved professionals.

  • Addresses various aspects of issues facing the recording profession
  • Support music and recording arts education
  • Advocates for the use of professional usage of recording technology
  • Advocates the preservation of recordings

Audio Engineering Society (AES)

Draws its membership from amongst engineers, scientists, other individuals with an interest or involvement in the professional audio industry

  • The membership largely comprises engineers developing devices or products for audio, and persons working in audio content production
  • Also includes acousticians, audiologists, academics, and those in other disciplines related to audio

National Association of Broadcasters (NAB)

A trade association, workers union, and lobby group representing the interests of for-profit, over-the-air radio and television broadcasters in the United States

National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM)

A not-for-profit association that promotes the pleasures and benefits of making music and the music products industry

  • Serves as a hub for people wanting to seek out the newest innovations in musical products, recording technology, sound and lighting

Local

Washington Area Music Association (WAMA)

A regional music industry not-for-profit organization based in Washington, D.C..

  • Activity centers around highlighting the area’s cultural contribution by assisting regional musicians with becoming recognized on a national scale.

The organization offers its members a variety of professional development services, including seminars, directories for networking, assistance with obtaining barcodes for recordings, and the production of live music events.

Songwriters Association of Washington (SAW)

A non-profit organization to benefit aspiring and professional songwriters.

  • Strengthen the craft of songwriting
  • Foster the talents of our members
  • Provide an active forum for songwriters and their work
  • Celebrate the power of music

Performance Rights Organizations (PRO)

Provides intermediary functions, particularly collection of royalties, between copyright holders and parties who wish to use copyrighted works publicly in locations such as shopping and dining venues.

Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI)

American Society Of Composers, Authors And Publishers (ASCAP)

Society of European Stage Authors and Composers (SESAC)


Other

Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)

A trade organization that represents recording industry distributors in the United States. Its members consist of record labels and distributors. RIAA has its headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE)

An international professional association, based in the United States of America, of engineers working in the motion imaging industries.

  • An internationally recognized standards organizations
  • SMPTE has more than 600 Standards, Recommended Practices and Engineering Guidelines for television production, filmmaking, digital cinema, audio recording, information technology, and medical imaging
  • In addition to development and publication of technical standard documents, SMPTE provides networking opportunities for its members, produces academic conferences and exhibitions, and performs other industry-related functions

Acoustical Society of America (ASA)

An international scientific society dedicated to increasing and diffusing the knowledge of acoustics and its practical applications.

Mixing Process

The following is a guide through the mixing process. It’s not the only way to mix, but if you’re having trouble getting started, this could help you. Mixing is an individualized process; what ever works for you is the right way to go about it. But, at some point it will be a good idea to write down your plan so that you can mix efficiently. The following is what I do currently, but it’s always evolving.

Organization

  • Track names
    • Scribble strip
    • Short names, capital letters – easy to read
  • Mix order
    • Drums on left. Vocals and Masters on right.
  • Color coding
  • Groups
    • Submasters

Monitoring

  • Volume
    • Not too loud, not too soft
    • Use master bus meters to gauge loudness of mix
      • Try to peak around -6 dBFS
  • Mono
    • Helps determine level balance
    • Shows phase problems
  • Source
    • Console v. Print

Mixing

  • Levels
    • The most important instruments are the loudest, but not by much. Everything should be heard; nothing should get lost.
  • Panning
    • Instruments are arranged as if they are on a stage, performing live
      • Get them out of each other’s way
    • The focal point is in the center
  • Nothing too extreme

Reverb & Delay

  • Front to back positioning of instruments
    • Similar to panning
  • More important instruments are up front
    • Longer pre-delay times
  • Holds the mix together
    • Puts the instruments in a real space

Equalization

  • Adjusts timbre of instruments
    • Instruments need to sound good in the mix
    • What they sound like by themselves is irrelevant
  • Cut offending frequencies rather than boosting weaker frequencies
    • Instruments are puzzle pieces that all need to fit into the limited space of the mix

Compression

  • For controlling loudness levels
  • Use clip gain before using compression
    • Signal level needs to be relatively even going into the compressor
  • The attack, release, and threshold MUST be adjusted appropriately

Automation

  • Automate the vocals so they are intelligible the whole song

Master Fader

  • Watch the master meter to accurately judge the loudness of the mix
  • Use master FX (EQ, Compression/Limiting) later in the process after establishing a good mix without them
    • Don’t over use the master FX

Reference Mix

  • Check the mix against published songs (the competition)
    • Stick to the genre closely

Metering

  • Check headroom
  • Check frequency content
  • Check dynamic range

Bouncing

  • If the mix is to be exported to CD quality, dither is required
    • Last plug-in on master fader
  • If the mix is to be mastered, dither is not to be used
    • Print to track within current session