school busDo you run into walls in your computer-based home studio? Do you get that dreaded “increase buffer size” message long before your mix is over? Do you wish you had thousands of dollars to spend on a top-of-the-line computer, or maybe a Pro Tools HD system?

Don’t we all.

The truth is that recording is a hobby for most of you. You can’t justify dropping thousands of dollars on this hobby, so you’ve got to make the best of the system you have.

I don’t know the actual statistics, but if you buy a computer today, it’s probably “old hat” within two or three years. Does that mean it’s useless? Not at all, but it does mean you’ll have to work a little harder to get the most out of your machine.

Over the next couple of days, I’ll be sharing different ways to preserve your computer’s processing and get more accomplished with your DAW.

Bus Similar Tracks Through the Same Effect

Most recording software out there will have some way for you to route your tracks using busses and aux tracks. How can you use these routing options to conserve CPU power?

I’ve got three suggestions.

1. Bus similar tracks through an aux and process them together.

I do this all the time. For example, let’s say I just recorded 6 tracks of background vocals, a bunch of Ooh’s and Aah’s. To keep these from being overpowering, I want to EQ out a lot of the low frequency information and also compress them quite a bit.

Your first instinct may be to put an EQ and compressor on each of these tracks. There’s nothing technically wrong with this, but that means you’ll have twelve plug-ins activated…just for background vocals?

You can cut the computer processing down to only two plug-ins by simply routing each of the tracks through an aux track, and applying your EQ and compression only to the aux track. Here’s how:

  1. Set the output of each BGV track to a bus. (Ex. “Bus 1-2”)
  2. Create a stereo aux track and set the input to “Bus 1-2.”
  3. Insert EQ and compressor plug-ins directly on the aux track.

Now, when you roll off everything below 250 Hz on the EQ, it will be applied to all of the background vocal parts combined.

2. Don’t use lots of reverb plug-ins.

This is a common mistake that beginners make. They want a reverb on the vocal, so they put a reverb plug-in on the vocal track.

Then they want reverb on the snare drum, so they put a reverb plug-in on the snare drum track. Then they want reverb on the lead guitar, etc. etc.

Rather than instantiate 5 or 6 different reverbs in your session (which, by the way, will eat up your available processing power), just set up one reverb plug-in on an aux track, and use individual sends on the various tracks to “add them” to the reverb.

For a step-by-step guide to this, check out this video – How to Create a Reverb Track in Pro Tools.

This step alone could free up tons of processing power.

3. Use a cheap/simple reverb.

While we’re on the topic of reverbs, there are a lot of very expensive reverb plug-ins out there. These things sound amazing. But do you need them?

You might, you might not.

However, I would challenge you to try a basic, simple reverb before reaching for that super processor-intensive convolution reverb. If you’ve got a huge mix with lots going on, you may not be able to tell a difference at all, and Digidesign’s stock “D-Verb,” for example, uses much less power than a fancy convolution reverb.

Alright, those are my “bussing” tips for the day. Do you have any? Leave a comment!

Other Articles in the Preserve Processing Series:

[Photo by Bill Ward’s Brickpile]

  • Misc Audio Man

    You mentioned running the tracks through a compressor set up as an aux track. This will not work. Compression is not a one size fits all deal, and running a track to the compression aux will only create parallel compression, as the original uncompressed audio would be present, it would just be blended with the compressed audio from the aux track. So, you WOULD need multiple compressor plug-ins activated if you wanted compression on multiple tracks!

  • You can delete the OTHER comment, sorry I didn’t check the email box..

    When you say “Output to a bus” do you mean I CANNOT use a “SEND?” It has to be set as the output?

    Then you wouldn’t be able to hear the tracks, correct? Or would they PLAY through the AUX track??

  • When you say “Output to a bus” do you mean I CANNOT use a “SEND?” It has to be set as the output?

    Then you wouldn’t be able to hear the tracks, correct? Or would they PLAY through the AUX track??

  • Pingback: How to conserve your computer’s processing power()

  • Chris Weatherly

    I agree that this will reduce your processing power, but will you not also lose the individuality? I guess you can also single out the one track you are concerned with and have only two effects running. Good post!

    • Good question, Chris. I'm not suggesting you do this on all of your tracks,
      but if you have 8 background vocal tracks, and you want to EQ them
      all…chances are you'll EQ them all the exact same way, so use one EQ on an
      aux rather than 8 individual EQs.

  • I’ve always insisted on going with simple reverb. I hate the over-hauled drown-out that some people insist on using with their setups.

    With many things, hey, less is more right?

  • I agree 100%
    This tip alone is something that the beginning engineer should learn as a basis to starting and keeping a good mix going. Cause nobody like it when they have to stop to increase (or decrease) there buffer size.
    I wish back in my cool edit/adobe audition days someone had told me about the wonders of bussing and aux sends.