Recently when listening to the Home Recording Show – Episode 120, during the rapid fire segment I heard something that I thought was really intriguing. Randy Coppinger, when asked the question “How do you mix?” had a very cool answer. He said, “all faders up.”

What did he mean by that? Well, there a million ways to mix a song. And no one way is “right or wrong,” but you need to experiment with the different methods if you want to find a particular method that works best for you.

Now I’ve mentioned here on HSC lots of different methods for mixing. Recently I posted something about two different ways to approach a mix.

The first was to start with drums, get those sounding good, then bring up the bass, and bring up the guitars, all the other instruments, etc. That’s a great way to mix, and that’s the way a lot of people will do it.

A couple problems there, if you start mixing the drums too loud, once all the instruments are in the mix there’s a good chance you might be clipping your master fader, and that’s not good.

Another way to approach mixing is similar to the first method, but instead of just starting with the drums by default, you start with the most important element of the mix. This could be the lead vocal, the guitar sound, a glockenspiel, I don’t know. 🙂 But you start with that, get that to sound how you want, and then bring up all the other instruments around and make them fit with that sound.

Now this approach has the same problem as the first in that if you start with the first track too loud, by the time you add everything in, you’ve got a mix that’s too loud and is clipping.

The third way, and the way that Randy refers to, is what he calls all faders up.

Now this approach simply means you start your mix with all the faders up. You set your levels for everything in the mix without any plug-ins or any processing. You get all the fader levels at an appropriate level first.

This is important for a couple of reasons. First off, it gives you the big picture. When you’re mixing, you’re listening to the entire song, not a particular instrument. That’s really important so that everything you do is done in context of the entire mix.

This is also important because you will immediately set the level appropriately. Since all of the tracks will be turned up and at a listenable level, you can immediately see if it’s too loud at your master fader and you can turn things down at the beginning before you’ve spent three hours setting levels on your drums and bass. That’s huge.

And finally, this allows you to add bus compression through your master fader at the beginning of the mix rather than adding it at the very end, when it can really mess things up. My buddy, Graham Cochrane, posted a video last month about this specifically where he shared how putting a bus compressor on the master fader at the beginning of a session is the best way to properly gain-stage things.

So now you’ve got a couple new approaches to try on your next mix.

How do YOU approach your mix?

  • Huub

    Putting bus-compression on the masterfader right from the start…
    It works when you know exactly what your doing I think.
    The real pro’s still have a decent sound when they bypass the bus-compression from time to time.
    For me it would just be a way to cover up a wreckless and jumpy mix.

  • Raphael Cassis

    Very nice post Joe,

    I and a group of co-workers here in Brazil use this technic too… Translating word by word we call it “rough mix”… and for not loose this first set, I work a lot with the mute button, get all sounding good, and than I do some fine adjustments on the faders again… 3 big steps… 😀

  • Ben

    Interestingly the latest mix I’ve got (2 songs), the most important element is the bass in one and drums on the other. Vocals are up there as well OF course. Might have to try it with all the faders up instead of going by each different element. Also, that LF fader might be worth a go too!

  • James Enchelmaier

    Hi Joe,

    I’m not sure that level and clipping is as big a problem as you’re suggesting in this article. If you use the additive approach and find things are getting too loud as you add instruments then you can either turn down a master fader or group your tracks and lower them as one – problem solved. I find its also a good idea to set your volume control loud enough that you’re not pushing elements too high in the mix just so you can feel them – let your monitoring system do this for you and save a bit of headroom in the mix.

  • I’ve definitely mixed with the kick and bass first but I’ve never thought to bus them to one fader.  I’ll have to try that sometime soon, pretty neat.

  • Ray Traynor

    All faders up is a really great way to start a dynamic mix IMO. Apart from the reasons stated you can also get a sneak to the elements of the song that create “a little something special”..you can then build on these hidden dynamics.

  • I like the idea of having one fader for all the LF in the song. Cool stuff.

  • Toby Baxley

    I’m still experimenting with different ways. I’ve tried the “all faders up” approach and end up with a loud, over-compressed mix. Probably just my problem.

    I’m now starting to mix from vocals down; mixing around the main “instrument” of the song. We’ll see how that goes.

    Great post as usual!

  • Makes sense to me.  Begin with the end in mind I guess.

  • This makes a lot of sense to me.

  • I’ve always found the ‘all faders up’ approach to be difficult unless you have enough real faders in front of you for each track. Its much more difficult to work this way ITB especially with just a mouse.
    Absolutely a valid approach though and worth a try for those times when your usual method is falling short.

  • I love to mix this way. You get the mix happening big picture before you go microscopic on the parts. Nice post!