Setting Up Tracks for a Mix Session


Pro Tools Essentials


Lesson Info

Setting Up Tracks for a Mix Session

We sort of focused this two day course on the two sides approach tools, the edit window and the mixed window, which is sort of two different beasts, so yesterday we jumped into really understanding how to use some of the edit features and pro tools on how to manipulate loops, using elastic audio how to use elastic pitch to sort of manipulate polyphonic and money mano phonic parts to be able to fly them into different songs. We looked at a whole bunch of work flows around, setting up a new session on pro tools and talking about tracking vocals and different record modes, using playlists to be able to create cops. Today, we're going to focus really on the mixing side, which is the other side of the pro tools equation it's all going to be mixing and setting up for mixing and using the mixed window. So this first section is all in mixed prep, and I like to talk about this a little bit in advance just because a lot of people jump right in t mixing without sort of spending the amount of time...

tio really set up a mixed session, and I think it's really valuable we haven't instructor who's awesome on creative live a levee, and he often spends a good portion of time setting up the mixed session and talking about how how important that is. And I realize that a lot of people don't think about that. The biggest reason is that when you start mixing, you want to be thinking entirely about musical decisions, you don't want to be going through some of the technicalities of building your mix session and getting ready for the other side of it is kind of an organizational thing. You want to think about how you're sort of laying out all your tracks where they're at, and when they're in sort of a familiar place you can actually start toe buildup, you're mixed session, you know where everything is. This is especially important if you're mixing tracks that have come from another studio or mixing something else that you haven't done yourself recorded yourself. You, khun often get sessions from other people that have a completely different way of thinking about how they lay out their sessions and where on the tracks are, and it looks really comfortable to them and you pull it up and it looks just crazy. You can't find anything, and it gets really frustrating, so it's important to spend the time to really go through and set it up exactly how you want it. On the flip side, if you are mixing your own stuff, you've recorded everything yourself it's equally important to spend the time to set it up to sort of reframe your mind. I really liked another, of course we had a couple weeks ago with ullrich, wild who's, just a phenomenal producer and engineer, and he often what he does, which is really interesting, is he actually takes everything out of pro tools and mixes and logic on, he said. One of the biggest reasons he does that is it sort of mirrors the work flow of the old analog tape days where you would take your sessions, you'd have to go through everything you've recorded and figure out what needs to be printed, what outboard here using that you want to capture and you need to prepare those rials to send off to a new studio in a mix and then you pull it up in a new studio as a completely blank session, what completely blank, but all the settings they're totally flat favors or down and you get to start from scratch and that sort of mentality of, like going back to the beginning on dh starting over when you're mixing is really important because it gives you a fresh perspective gives you fresh years on you start off mixing thinking, ok, like let's now focus on the mixed session, so we're going to talk about that today, we're going to talk about how you can set up a mixed session um setting up tracks for mixed session going through which tracks don't need which ones am I going to need in which ones do I want to look at? Yesterday, we talked about how often sessions could get really, really big as you start to build and build and build, and you get to the point of mixing, and you want to be able to narrow that down toe on lee the things that you need to look at and keep the stuff hidden that you don't need to look at because it becomes distracting. The next thing we're going to talk about in this first segment is the master bus settings and levels this is a really important topic, especially approach was eleven approaches switched over from a thirty two bit to sixty four bit architecture on dh really understanding gain, staging is really important and mixing you often hear that what's what's gain staging all about, so we'll talk a little bit about the master bus and some common theories and ideas around mixing and just some good work flows and practices to think about unlock some of those secrets about what you know, some of the really great mixing engineers have have shown. So we're gonna jump right into setting up for a mixed session I want to really quick show this diagram again that I showed at the end of the day yesterday so if you weren't here if you need a refresher, I just want to jump right into this little diagram and this basically is sort of a layout of a really big session it's an example of how you could set it up that sort of dotted line that's right in the middle of the screen is movable and it basically decides where you're gonna put which below the line is everything that you're going to see in the session and above the line is everything that's hidden? I remind everybody again when we pull it this session where you khun hide tracks and where you can show tracks in the track status window but it's really important to sort of keep keep that that really managed and organized so that you know what you're looking at and you know what's hidden that everything above the line right now. It's actually this is usually what I do with the very end of mixing, so sometimes I'll actually move that line that dotted line closer to the top and as we get farther along the mixing session of move that lower and lower and look att less and less tracks is I'm focusing on the end of the mixed session bullishness started the top, the very top are all the many tracks, and once you are finished recording, you often want to keep those tracks. They're feeding virtual instruments inside your mixed session, and you want to keep those obviously feeding that some people talk about printing the actual audio of the mini track, and I think now in pro tools with so much processing power that's not as necessary as it was in the past, sometimes virtual instruments can get very heavy as far as what you're, what you're mixing and how you're pulling this off and what you're keeping continually re processing in real time, but a cz we've gotten with so much better processing power. A lot of times you don't need to print those, so you want to keep those there in case that you want to make any changes at the very last second, I can't tell you how many times have mixed a session and we've got to the very last, like we're printing the final mix and we decide way we what if we went and pulled this note out of this section? Or what if we change this cord and being able to go back to the mini track and pull that out is really important? And so I always try to keep those there but keep him hidden below the many tracks you have your audio tracks and those air every single individual recorded track including your kick in and you're kicked out in your compressed kick with you you printed some compression to tape on a lot of times even with guitars you'll have multiple mikes on the same amp for the same part and then duplicates of those and so it starts to get really unwieldy so all those sessions all those tracks are actually hidden when I usually set it up and I set up the sea a masters to be able to manage each of those sessions andan I usually bus all those audio tracks too the brown layer if you look at the third layer down or the I'm sorry the fourth layer I mean those are all your group's s o I create sort of groups or buses for each of the main sections of the song and it finally those go down to your master bus so it's important to think about that be thinking about the work flow of what you want to look at where everything's laid out we're going to jump in and do that um ok so let's go ahead and open a pro tools I'm gonna actually open up a session this is going to be a good example I'm gonna open up a session we pulled up yesterday this is a track by really cool band has been around for decades called bloodgood and this is a session that I didn't have anything to do with. It was produced and engineered and mixed by a friend of mine mark pacific studios who's, a great engineer and producer on, gets a great example to pull this up because I haven't really spent much time with this session, so it's almost like I'm getting a session from somebody I've never mix before and we're going to pull up his mix exactly as he pulled it up and then prepare it for mixing that's what we're gonna do today in this first segment so we're gonna go and open it. The song is called lamb of god and as you see is we're pulling up the track already I'm getting some session notes it's asking me for plug ins that I don't have this is something if you're preparing your mix to send out that it's really important to be cognizant over to be to be an open communication with who you're sending your session off to mix with all these plug ins are not going to be able to use now probably that's not going to be a big deal I'm looking at these in the plug in I mean, I don't really think there's anything special about that you plug and then I'm specifically gonna need is an engineer but I don't know extra long delay, I probably have delay that I can use that matches that the ml four thousand is the tsp multi bus or multi band compressor, which I also have a multibrand compressors that probably won't be a big deal, and same with the slap delayed, but if I was going to see in this list a plug in, that might be more essential to the actual tone of the song, like a camp modeler or virtual instrument or something that I don't have, I could be second situation where I'm trying to mix a track, and it sounds very different from what the band of the producer really wanted it to come across this, and that could be really scared. You can start to see the song in a completely different way, which could be good, but could also be detrimental until you get to the final stage of mixing and you send back your first mix, and they're saying, where is the since sound that we love so much of? Where is that? You know, why does the guitar sound so different? So it's, really important? If you're preparing your session to send off to somebody to mix, to think about which tones are really important to the song and which ones you could do without which tracks in the mix do I feel like these need to stay this way because it's it was it was supposed to be that way versus which ones do I need tio remove and let them let them knicks how they want, so we'll talk about how you do that, but we're going ahead and said, no, I'm not going to say the report, I'm not worried about these these plug ins, so the track pulls up and I'm looking at the session and right away the session, I mean there's, not a lot that I can see or understand about where everything is I'm already going, like, if I was just to dive in and start mixing right here, I would be fumbling around trying to find everything. Um, the first thing I'm gonna do is I'm actually not even to talk about the session itself. I'm going to change the settings back to how I like to make so if you look over here the way that the session is laid out, I can't actually see the region list that's hidden are the tracklist. I'm sorry, I can't see the groups which there are quite a few groups and all of the inserts and buses air actually set up with the eye o in in the edit window, I'm not going to worry a ton about the edit window until you get to automation. But I want to be able to set this up on how I'm used to looking at it this is coming from a different studio, so first thing I'm going to go up to view and I'm going to change um the mixed window to see just the things that I want to see, so I'm gonna pull off the inserts I'm gonna pull off the sends troops, those were in the mix window, not in the attic window edit when no pull off the inserts and poor persons, as you can see, this little button right here hides the tracklist. This is going to be an important thing, especially if I'm getting this session is set up to make so I want to look at the tracks and look at the groups also, the groups will often give me a good idea of how the parts are segmented right now, I can see that there's some guitar parts, there's, a vocal parts, the tom's air group, there's, um drums some of the stuff I'm not going to use, but this is a little bit better now thie other thing I'm gonna pull up is look at the memory locations so if I look at these memory locations, almost none of them are named they're all just location number, whatever, which doesn't really mean anything to me, um some of them say snare phil andi I'm sure that mark when he was producing this those were valuable locations for what he was using them for but for me is a mixing engineer if I was pulling this up I really don't know what any of these means so I'm actually just gonna go through and delete all these locations and we're going to build some custom locations specific to mixing as we get set up um and before we go any further so changed a couple settings the first thing I'm gonna do and I talked about this a little bit yesterday is I'm gonna go to save as and I'm gonna call this lamb of god created live mix that way already if I ever need to go back to how it was set to me I can pull up the original file and it's not saved or changed it's important to keep keep that progress in mind I'm also noticing that there's some muted regions like for example, the ride cymbal is muted until about halfway through the song and it's only brought up and then muted after that. So what I'm guessing this is is some automation that's important to how they wanted it to sound? It looks like this is probably a course part repeats and three times and the rest of it they don't want to don't want to use and the fact that they used the region to be able to mute it and not right automation was awesome because if they had written automation, I probably would delete that automation to do it myself, and I wouldn't have known that they wanted to keep that they're so if you're preparing the session for mix and there's parts of a track that you intentionally want to automate, like meeting something until the chorus, for example, this is a great example it's really good idea to go ahead and separate that part out and mute the region instead of writing the automation on the fader because it tells the mix engineer that this is something that I want to keep. If they go in clear automation and start from scratch, that isn't lost, that still stays there. You see, I click on this region command, which mutes it, and it shows the color, and if I hit and again, it means that needs to track and now it's great out. So I'm not going to hear that tracker that excuse me, that specific region so it's going to start looking at where these tracks are sort of how these tracks are laid out? One thing that it's important to know is that the there's sort of different philosophies and different ways engineers lay out their tracks in a session. The old school tape way was always start with the kick drum on the left channel on the very first channel on channel one and that's still a really common practice. And the reason a lot of people did. That was because the first track on the tape often would lose a little bit of fidelity in the high end because it was at the very edge of the actual physical antolin deep. Eso putting the kick drum on that track allowed there to be a little bit of a loss because most of what they're using is the low end in that in that track, so typical you start with the drums on the left side of the of the consul. If you're imagining it of an analog mixing console and work your way through kicks, their tom's, high hat overheads or symbols, room mikes and then you moved to bass, guitars, keyboards, vocals, there's, really, no specific way of doing it. Everybody sort of has their own way. So we're gonna start to move that set that up how we want it.

Class Description

Learn the ins and outs of Avid's Pro Tools HD, the recording industry’s most comprehensive DAW, with Zach Varnell. Zach is an industry veteran, who has worked in dozens of studios throughout Seattle. In this comprehensive guide to Pro Tools, he’ll share the best practices he's picked up over the years.

In Pro Tools Essentials, Zach will walk you through the entire mixing platform including the intricacies of bussing, VCA groups, key input, HD functionality, and notable plug-ins. He’ll also show you how to create custom impulse responses from time-based outboard gear and rooms.

You will learn about Elastic Audio and Beat Detective along with a comprehensive workflow and track management process and how it can be applied to a studio session with a band or film scoring with triple-digit track counts.

If you are ready to take your Pro Tools game to the next level or just want to brush up on some time-saving techniques, don’t miss Pro Tools Essentials with Zach Varnell.