In the first part of Preparing a Session I spoke about cleaning up tracks, eliminating unwanted tracks, organizing tracks into track folders and editing the volumes of tracks. These all lead into what I’m going to be speaking about today.
Naming Your Tracks
Usually when I receive a session or multitrack wav files, everything is not labelled to my satisfaction. Sometimes the producer names things so that they can recall where they got the sound. But once the session comes to me, I need to be able to recall that sound in an instant and having a really long name or no name at all, does not help. So I think you can see where this trend is going. Keep your labelling as simple as possible. What I normally do is I just make a best guess as to what I think it sounds like. My first initial guess is usually how I am going to think of that sound for the rest of the mix. For example, if the sounds is really a pad but it sounds like strings to me, I will label it, you guessed it “strings”. I will also name multiple parts based on how I hear the texture. So if I have 2 kicks and one is really “bassy” and the other one is kind of “clicky” then I will name the first one “Kick Sub” or “Kick Lo” and the second one “Kick Click” or “Kick Hi”. You have to associate the sounds with what you think they sound like so when you need to find that fader it’s easy to recall. Another tip for naming multiple tracks is when you have multiples of the same take, like a lead that was doubled, I sometimes will name them “Lead”, “Lead L” and “Lead R”. Or instead of using “L” and “R” (for left and right) you can choose to use “1” and 2″. The reason I choose L and R was to give myself another reason not to think. As soon as I see that “Lead L” I know is the left panned vocal. Now if I have to make an adjustment its done with out much technical thought.
Generally a good practice is to colour code the faders in the console portion of your DAW. If you have a DAW that will allow you to put tracks into folders, a good suggestion would be to colour code all your tracks with respect to the folder they are in. So if your kick, snare, hit hat, and crash are in a “Drum” folder than colour those 4 tracks together (ie blue).
Arranging the faders
So this part absolutely NEEDS to be a habit. This will also help you eliminate those pesky technical thoughts when you are mixing. If you need to make a 1dB boost on the kick drum and you don’t know where the kick fader is then you’ll be spending more time looking for the fader then actually moving it. I suggest you come to a conclusion of what makes sense to you and in what order you want your faders to come up in your DAW. Here is a partial, but accurate, list of how my faders are ordered in my DAW.
– Tom toms
– any extra percussion and sounds
5) Strings or Pads
6) a) Vocals
– Chorus Lead
– Chorus Doubles
6) b) Harmonies
– Hi Harmonies
– Mid Harmonies
– Low Harmonies
So if you want to start with my list, go right ahead and then you can refine it on your own to what makes sense to you and to what feels natural. Good Luck.
Another way to help eliminate the frustration of multiple tracks is to group your instruments. Grouping instruments just makes things a lot simpler and more musical in my opinion. So instead of processing each part of the drums individually it just makes things sound more together if you can process them as a whole. Now that being said you still may have to process parts individually, but processing a group definitely simplifies the process of mixing. Not only does it simplify it but it also makes you focus on BALANCE which is very critical to a great mix.
An example of grouping (for those who don’t know) is basically just taking all your instruments (or tracks) you consider group worthy (ie Drums, Harmonies, Orchestra etc..) and instead of routing each part to the master fader you would route each part to a new stereo bus. Now that stereo bus effectively becomes the total output volume of all the parts combined. So you are free to tweak that group all together adding a whole new dimension to your mix.
YouTube Video Source: Preparing a Session for Mixing PART Deux