019 MixCoach Minute – When to automate a mix

When to automate a mix? The short answer.. As late as possible… and as little as possible. I’ll explain in this MixCoach Minute!

Raw Transcript:

Hey guys, its Kevin with MixCoach. It’s time for another episode of the
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I have a question. Actually, it’s not a question it’s more like a workflow
that we worked through this morning. I’m working with a friend to teach him
to mix here at my studio and we hit a couple of issues this morning that I
wanted to just make sure that you knew about. The question was, “When do
you start automating a mix? When do you automate a mix?” And the question,
a very honest question from someone who probably hasn’t mixed a ton, my
advice to anybody who’s mixing and automating is don’t let automation
become the mixing. Because automation is really just a product to help you
to get what’s in your head, what you want to hear in your ears.

My tips to you is don’t use automation unless you have to. Let’s just say
for instance you have a snare drum that one hit is louder, obviously, than
the rest of the song. Then my advice to you would be to cut the hit out and
replace it with a smaller hit or do it offline. Grab it, put it in audio
suite or whatever, in your [inaudible 00:01:40], whatever you can do there
and you Clip Gain, which is a new feature in Pro Tools that finally came
out that a lot of other people have been able to do, take the clip and
automate that down offline so that your faders are not moving around. But
it’s actually an offline edit.

So, for example, if you have one snare that’s louder, don’t automate the
whole track of snare to fix that one thing, replace that one snare or fix
the one snare offline. Because later in the mix as you go you’re going to
want to listen with more finely tuned ears. So at the end of the song if
you decide that your snare is half a dB too loud, you’re want to be able to
grab the snare and pull it down a half a dB while you’re still in your
creative state and not in an analytical state of like, okay, hold on right
there. The snare is too loud. What do I need to do to fix the snare? You
don’t want to go there because you want to stay in your creative mind as
long as you can. So don’t automate unless you need to.

Now, things that need to be automated; vocals, background vocals, maybe
guitar fills, maybe string lines and horns, and things like that. Sometimes
they need to be automated. But here’s my second point, automate as late as
possible. Get your mix sounding good without automation. In other words, if
that snare issue comes up, replace that snare and then you listen to the
mix and everything sounds pretty much in place except you’ve got the vocals
sounding like they should in mono and all that kind of stuff. Then you
should start automating.

Don’t start automating in the beginning because what you’ll end up doing is
kind of chasing your tail as they say. And what happens is you lose your
train of thought when it comes to mixing and the most important thing is
the way it sounds, not the faders moving around even though that is cool
and it will impress your mother, or your brothers or your sister or
whatever. But you’re not really mixing for them, you’re mixing for your
clients and they don’t really care anything about seeing the faders jump
around either. So make sure it sounds good first. So automate as late as
possible and as little as possible. Okay? I hope that helps. And I will see
you on the next MixCoach Minute. Bye.

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