The eMasterSound Mixing Workflow
A Mixing Audio Workflow Step by Step Guide
Choice of Plugins Matter
The professional quality, and order of plugins matter. Our engineers know how plugins affect the sound, know how to shape audio, and troubleshoot problems. Our DAW templates are set up to import tracks quickly, and predefined inserts that perform admirably for a vocal or instrument or any sound you send us.
Every mix treatment is different that’s why we know which out of 100s professional plugins to apply to fix the mix.
Below is one possibly plugin processing order, and a list of recommended plugins for each category. Not all steps are needed for every sound worked on; “let your ears determine when a sound requires processing”.
Refer the workflow “Channel Strip” plugins:
Note: If your song has issues you can’t resolve, then please talk to us about Mixing before Mastering your project. We want to ensure your satisfaction with our work.
Listen to Your Tracks
Our engineers listen to every individually track for glitches, then color code them, add markers at song-section boundaries, and set up your files and folders in an organized manner. All problem frequencies are solved with Restoration software tools.
Step 2 Quick Workflow:
DAW mixer template has separate bus and effect sends for subgroups; vocal, drums, instruments, etc… Starting with channel faders -3 to -6db dB, to minimize problems with headroom and distortion. Leaving the master fader at 0 dB.
Refer to the workflow image of “Sub Group Mixing” plugins:
Create a Rough Balance
We create a rough balance of the track levels, and pan vocal, string, keyboard, and other instruments to give them their own space and define transparency. Keeping backbone elements like kick drum, bass and lead vocal either right up the middle or just slightly off-center, for example, doubled vocal tracks. Note that not all stereo sources have to be fully left and right.
EQ Tone Shaping
Deductive EQ where needed, subtle, and cut rather than boost whenever possible. To help keep your mix from being muddy, use a high-pass filter to roll off unnecessary low frequencies.
Our engineers work equalization magic on the mid or side channels in a stereo signal, as well as left right channel processing. We get truly surgical with your stereo frequency-shaping on a band-by-band basis.
Integrated Dynamic EQ adds the ability to raise or lower the Dynamic Range ring around the Gain knob to apply smooth compression or expansion to that band.
While some frequency overlap can be beneficial to a mix, phase issues can be identified through a vector scope, and stereo correlation meter. Ultimately, a pair of trained ears are the best tool for identifying what sounds good.
EQ Types Static: The EQ curve stays the same.
Reference A de-esser is a dynamic EQ that responds to transients around 5-8kHz.
Frequency Tracking: The EQ curve follows the fundamental frequency of a monophonic instrument such as a bassline. Sound Radix Surfer EQ is an example of this.
Refer to the workflow images of the “Reductive EQ” plugins:
Refer to the workflow image of “Waves Reductive EQ” Plugins:
Refer to the workflow image of “Fabfilter Reductive EQ” Plugins:
Refer to the workflow image of “Universal Audio EQ” Plugins:
Brainworx bx_digital V3 EQ (mixing, mastering, and post-production engineers with its precise, in-depth tone shaping and powerful M/S (mid/side) processing)
Use Fabfilter Pro-Q3 Dynamic to drop instruments down during vocals or
Sound Radix Surfer EQ(pitch tracking for shaping bass lines)
Automation to Control Volume
We use automation to reduce peaks that seem to jump out of the track. Anything that makes us want to reach for the volume knob and turn it down, needs to be addressed. Also, use automation to compensate for spots in tracks where volume drops (especially with vocals). We don’t want transient frequencies triggering the compressor.
Dynamics & Sidechain Compression
Then we go to compression for overall dynamic smoothing, level, punch and to add character to sounds.
Our engineers know what compressors are transparent, in design, purely for controlling dynamics, whereas some —especially vintage emulations — add a specific sonic vibe, as well.
The reason for compressing after EQing is because the frequency changes you make when you EQ (especially to the low end) can affect the way a compressor reacts to the signal.
Some compressors are great on instruments as well as on a bus. We’re comfortable adding them, and on occasion do so early in the mix so, rather than waiting until the end, which could cause us to have to redo some aspects of your mix.
Compression is an art that can take years to fully grasp and utilize properly. Experimenting with different compressors and manipulating their settings is the best way to learn how they work.
The magic of “Sidechain Compression” reduces the level of an audio signal based off an external input. Sidechain compression can be used to make space for competing elements, such as a kick drum playing at the same time as a bassline. The compressor will duck the sub out of the way when the kick plays. Sidechain compression can intelligently make elements flow with the groove of the track, or be used with extreme settings to infuse rhythms in otherwise static, sustained elements.
Refer to the workflow images of the “Universal Audio Compressor” plugins:
Refer to the workflow images of the “Waves” plugins:
Diamond bundles have external sidechain capabilities.
Here is a comprehensive list:
Refer to the workflow image of “Waves Diamond Compressor” Plugins:
Enabling the sidechain on each compressor is done through your DAWs GUI, for example, the Sidechain button in Cubase:
Additive EQ, to add to Both Sides of an Equation
Sometimes you want to highlight a certain frequency range after you’ve compressed a signal; additive EQ can often be the answer. Although stock EQs and ‘surgical’ EQs work fine for boosting frequencies, this is typically where “character enhancing” EQs are chosen for their unique tonal quality. Dynamic and frequency tracking EQs can be useful for emphasizing certain elements.
Recommended Additive EQs
We use subgroup sends to reverb, delay, and other special processing effects (FX) channels, and then control the level of FX in the mix. To dry tracks sound more “in your face,” while wetter ones tend to recede into the back of the mix. FX creates “Ambience”, a sense of space for all of the elements of the soundtrack to bond, to meld… The ideal dynamic range and frequency balance with FX is the icing on the cake, “Sweet”.
Be creative and trust your ears!
Compressor & Limiter on the Buss
Our engineers use “Limiters” to ensure a signal doesn’t exceed digital maximum amplitude (0dbFS) and for setting output gain levels. This includes limiting the groups (busses) as well as the master track.
Limiting groups with gentle gain reduction so, only the loudest passages of your song triggering the limiter. This will help tighten up your groups and make mixing the levels of groups glue together reasonably easy.
“Cascading Compressors” for some instruments, and vocals gently pulls down peaks first, then into the next compressor to slow tube the tone while charming the event upfront.
Recommended Buss Compressors
Saturation of Analog Tape
What is the end game, thicken, glue tracks together, or a nostalgic sound? We know saturation applies a combination of tube or tape distortion and compression. Appling saturation can help generate additional harmonics within certain frequency ranges.
Saturation works well on busses to help glue sounds together, and it can also make sounds appear louder.
Tape Recorder plug-ins for a select sound can provide the final “analog polish” to your music, turning songs, into albums. “Analog Tape” faithfully captures the unique dynamics, colorful frequency response, and tape saturation of the original nostalgic hardware from the 60s thru the 70s.
A/B the Mix
Our engineers A/B the mix with the reference song you provide, a similar song, listening to both at the same volume. See how your mix stacks up. If we notice big differences (like your bass is way louder than on the reference), then we’ll adjust yours to match. Doing this kind of A/Bing also helps compensate for any weirdness in your room acoustics. A great tool for A/Bing is Sample Magic’s Magic A/B plug-in.
Take a Break
Leaving it overnight is best, but at minimum, “take a break” for a few hours.
Then “Listen with fresh ears” for:
- is there enough space in the mix?
- does it sound cluttered?
- Is the lead vocal or lead instrument warm or too loud or perfect?
- How’s the mono compatibility of the mix?
- How does it sound on small reference monitors compared to the large studio monitors and other systems?
If you’re not ready please refer to the links below.
You Are Ready for Mastering!
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