Mixing tools: The Bus (Part 1- Submix)

Using Subgroups for Mixing

In this article we discuss the basics of the Bus concept inside your DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) or mixing board.

One function of a Bus is to provide a way in which you can combine multiple sources (audio tracks) and send to a single location. This is known as creating a submix.

Lets say for example, that you have recorded drums using multiple microphones (Kick, Snare, Hi Tom, Floor Tom, Overheads and Room mics) and you’d like to combine them all into one stereo track. Or perhaps you want to create a submix that serves as a stem mix (we will discuss stem mixing separately).

The idea of using submixes, in general, is to group things that belong together. So, you can submix background vocals, doubled acoustic guitar parts, or in an orchestral setting you might want to create a different submix for brass, woodwinds, strings, percussion, etc.

The benefits of using the Bus system in your DAW for submixing as described above are many. It gives you the ability to simplify extensive track counts into fewer faders for a more manageable and easier mixing process. (Here’s a podcast episode that talks about bus processing)

It is important that you understand how to create a Bus in your DAW and how to route sources properly. We encourage you to name your busses in order to avoid issues caused by unintentionally routing different tracks to the same Bus, possibly resulting in problems difficult to troubleshoot if you’re not careful.

How do you create a submix?

First, choose which tracks you want to group together. Say… Kick, Snare, Toms, Overheads and Room mics for this…

Then create an Aux track and name it (Drum Sub for example).

Select a Bus (Bus 1-2 or Drums – if you named it!) as your Aux track’s input.

Now, select the Kick, Snare, Toms, OH & Room track outputs and route to that same Bus (Bus 1-2 or Drums).

Creating a drum Sub mix using Aux track, bus

Now you can not only control your overall drums level with one single fader during mixing, but also insert effects such as EQ or Compression to affect all drum tracks as a single unit.

Next time we’ll discuss another application using the Bus concept using sends and returns…

Happy mixing!

Question: What are some Creative ways that you have used a SubMix or an Aux Input Track?

submix bus


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