What's My Next Step? (Mixing Question)

Mustachio

New member
I'm lost about what the next step is to mix my project.

I have some medium to large projects all done as far as arrangement goes. Mostly virtual instruments and some audio samples.

But, I paid no attention to gain staging or clipping during the creative stage, so I've got individual tracks clipping all over the place, not to mention the mains.

I've read and watched a lot of stuff on what to do regarding mixing and gain staging, but almost every tutorial starts of with what to do with already bounced audio stems. I can't find much info on what to do at my stage, when I've still got a bunch of virtual instrument tracks.

From what I've gathered, this is the point at which I bounce all tracks down to audio stems. Correct me if I'm wrong.

But, before I do that:

1: Do I make sure that no individual track exceeds -18db, -5db or -6db. I've got all of those numbers in my head.


2: Do I lower all my track faders to some number, or do I turn down the volumes within the virtual instruments? Note, if I'm supposed to lower the faders, I don't see how I do that, as I have a lot of volume automation on a lot of my tracks.
 

Storm

Member
What DAW are you using?

There's lots to digest here but I'll try to blindly help guide you. You do not want to lower the faders. You ideally want to adjust Gain or Input Level on the input of your channels because these are all Pre-Effects. If your DAW does not have Input Level or Gain Stage on each channel, then yes adjusting the volume on the instrument itself would be your starting point. I usually try to get a balanced sound around -7 to -10 on the strips leaving headroom for all of them to sum close to -2. But as long as its all within the digital domain this is a bit old school. 64 bit processing has allowed much more headroom internally before any clipping actually occurs. I know producers who redline lots of stuff in their DAW and as long as the output bus doesn't clip their tracks come out fine.

Get everything balanced first with input level or gain on each track. Route everything to group busses, then mix and eq from there.

Let us know the DAW I'm sure some more specific users can help once we know.
 

Detroit Soul

New member
In the future, mix while you write. I typically start with the drums and remove 4 db from the fader, after I may or may not remove 3-4 db from the Ableton drum buss using a hard limit and the compressor to begin dialing in the drums. I'd personally mute all of the tracks and start with the drums, and build the song back up from the bottom, mixing while I go.
 

DRR

New member
What the others already said: your best approach from where you are is to reduce the gain at instrument level, or at the input level (in Cubase I use the 'pre' gain settings in the channel strip, and there'll be something similar in Ableton etc). At input level can be easier because you can dial in a -dB, whereas on the virtual instrument it's usually turning a dial.
My additional point though is that imo you shouldn't have too much volume automation in the stems before mixing because you're going to be adjusting the volumes as part of the mixing process. You might well find that at mixing you're trying to adjust some levels only to find that you're fighting against a stem that already has its own opinion.
I also agree with Storm that I wouldn't worry too much what the levels say if it sounds good - I've had stuff peaking way over the scales in gain and way under in EQ and it's turned out just fine.
 

Danny Yellow

New member
In the future, mix while you write. I typically start with the drums and remove 4 db from the fader, after I may or may not remove 3-4 db from the Ableton drum buss using a hard limit and the compressor to begin dialing in the drums. I'd personally mute all of the tracks and start with the drums, and build the song back up from the bottom, mixing while I go.

I actually don't mix when I write. I'm not the best producer, and when I mix and write at the same time, projects can get really messy and not thought through. Also I can spend quite some time on 'the best take', while it can be better for me to continue with the writing process.

At the moment I mostly write a song and it's structure, and record a demo of it. Just simple with a minimum of mixing, and with quite some mistakes. Then I think about changes I'd like to make about the structure or instrumentation, and then I make a new version and try not to make it a mess :)

Good to know: I record quite some live instruments, not really using that many loops or midi. The approach might be different when the music is more electronic.
 
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