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?