Understanding the Basic Mixing Stages

Although there are no rules for mixing—except those learned from experience and a good ear—mixing generally takes place in the stages listed below. The structure of the sections in this chapter follows the same basic workflow. You may, however, find yourself moving back and forth between stages as you work on the mix.

  1. Stage 1: Making Preparations

    Take some time to prepare and preview your arrangement before you start mixing.

    • Preview the tracks in your arrangement to see if you can group some of them in a logical manner. If you have lots of drum tracks, for example, it can be useful to group these tracks and link some of their parameters, which you can then adjust for the whole group at once. For details, see Working with Mixer Groups.

    • Preview the tracks in your arrangement using the mute and solo functions. See Muting Channel Strips and Soloing Channel Strips.

  2. Stage 2: Setting Volume Levels

    Set the relative levels for each channel strip, to control the volume relationships between your project’s parts. See Setting Channel Strip Levels.

  3. Stage 3: Setting Pan, Balance, or Surround Position

    Set the pan/balance/surround for each channel strip, to control their positions in the stereo or surround field. See Setting Pan, Balance, or Surround Position in the Mixer.

  4. Stage 4: Adding and Routing Effects

    After the basic sound and levels are the way you like them, you can add some effects, such as reverb or chorus, to your musical parts. You also need to look at how you route your audio to these effects. See Adding and Routing Effects in the Mixer.

  5. Stage 5: Controlling Signal Flow

    There are many ways to control the signal flow in your mix, using inputs/outputs, aux channel strips, output channel strips, multiple instrument outputs, and so on. See Controlling Signal Flow in the Mixer.

  6. Stage 6: Automating the Mix

    Some parts of your project may benefit from real-time changes to levels, effects, or instrument settings. This is best achieved with track automation. See Working with Automation.

  7. Stage 7: Bouncing the Project

    The last phase—which is not a mixing task, per se—is to render or bounce your project to one or more files. See Bouncing Your Project.