How To Mix Music Like A Pro | Beginners Guide | Alex Huston | Skillshare

How To Mix Music Like A Pro | Beginners Guide

Alex Huston, Coach

How To Mix Music Like A Pro | Beginners Guide

Alex Huston, Coach

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9 Lessons (35m)
    • 1. Intro & Lesson Overview

    • 2. Configuring Master Fader & Sub Mix

    • 3. Routing & Setup: Drums

    • 4. Routing & Setup: Bass

    • 5. Routing & Setup: Keys

    • 6. Routing & Setup: Guitars

    • 7. Routing & Setup: Vocals

    • 8. Routing & Setup: Backup Vocals

    • 9. Final Tips

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About This Class

Music is an art form and a science. There is a lot that goes into creating a great sounding production. With that being said, there are simple steps we can take as professionals to set our productions up for success.

In this lesson, we will discuss exactly how to set our productions up for success. We will learn how to gain more control over our mixes starting from the foundation up. 

What is covered in this lesson:

  • Configuring signal flow and routing in our Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) for our Sub Mix and Master fade for greater control over our entire mix and production
  • Configuring signal flow and routing for our Drum MIx within our mix and production. 
  • Proper summing and bussing of our Drum Mix in order to gain great control over individual elements as well as the kit as a whole.
  • Configuring the signal flow and routing of our Bass tracks
  • Configuring the signal flow and routing of our Key & Guitar tracks as well as additional effects tracks for these elements (i.e. delay and reverb)
  • Configuring the signal flow and routing of our Vocal and Backup Vocals tracks as well as additional effects tracks for these elements (i.e. delay and reverb)

Greater and more precise control over our mixes and productions will give us the foundation for creating more professional results. Let's create!

Meet Your Teacher

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Alex Huston



Alex is a determined and focused young professional who has developed an array of skills to share over the past 10 years. With primary focuses around digital marketing, eCommerce, music production and various creative software, his knowledge is applicable to several different industries.


His zealous passion and worth ethic stem from a love of learning and application of new skills to the projects and businesses he is involved with.

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1. Intro & Lesson Overview: What is up, guys. Today, we're gonna dive into the fundamentals of setting our session up for success, that we can have a more professional sounding mix. We really want to go through the techniques and the internal rounding within our digital audio workstation to make sure that we're able to create mixes that can hold its place in today's music market. You know, there's there's so many tools available to us with the advancement of technology that we can really start to make really good, great sounding music with with limited tools available to us. So we're gonna dive into the computer in just a second. But let me say that all these techniques will be applicable across all genres of music that we're working on. We're really looking at the root of batteries here in order to set ourselves up for success . So whether you're working the country music, whether you're working on rock music or hip hop or pop, we can we can take these techniques and translated over to that also whatever digital audio workstation you're working in, whether that's logic, pro tools able 10 whatever working in, we can really take thes and apply them everywhere today, we're gonna be working in pro tools, so I'm looking forward to getting into it. Let's dive into the computer and start making some music. 2. Configuring Master Fader & Sub Mix: Alright, guys. So we're in pro tools now. We've got a blank session. I'm gonna go through the session set up in order to show us how again we confined more success by just setting up to setting up our session in a way that gives us more control, mawr more flexibility around our mix on this, this will ultimately allow us to derive were professional sounding results. So the first thing we're gonna set up is our master Fader and our sub next ater. So we're gonna go to new, we're gonna goto stereo, and we're gonna we're gonna create a new D c A or. Sorry, a new Master Fader. You're right. And I usually just leave this as is, the next thing we're gonna do is we're gonna create a some mix. And the reason I like to create a sub mix is I'd like to dio a lot of compression and, um e que and harmonic and harmonic saturation on on the sub knicks. And then do my limiting on the master track. And so effectively, the sub mix is gonna be a channel that feeds the master fader. And it's gonna be it's gonna be basically a pretty master fader. So we're gonna set that up next, we're gonna hit track new stereo, uh, auxiliary inputs, and we're gonna name this sub mix, and I like to make the color of my sub mix pink. So it stands out. I would like to do any automation to the entire master track on the sub mix. I just find it works better than pushing the master fader, especially if you have a a limiter on the master fader. Eso automatically. This is gonna feed. You can see our inputs and outputs if we switch over to our mixer, which is command plus in pro tools. This is automatically gonna feed our main out, which is our master Fader. And we're gonna want to make the input a bus stereo bus, and we're gonna rename this right click subtext. So that's the first step on getting our sessions set up t mix for success. 3. Routing & Setup: Drums: The next thing we're gonna look at is I usually like to build out my drums and percussive elements and sometimes will separate thes depending on what type of music I'm working on. If it's rock music and I have a full life drum kit, and then percussive elements will usually separate these two out. So we're gonna do it in that fashion. But they could make a judgment call a lot of pop and hip hop. The percussive elements will be will be the drum kit, so to speak. You know, you'll have collapsed as a snare in in acting as your snare and hip hop on pop music. So make a judgment call. It's up to you. So the next thing we're gonna do is we're gonna do we're gonna create a bunch of audio tracks eso we're gonna hit command shift and pro tools, and we're gonna create 10 new mono audio tracks we're gonna go through and label these. I might end up deleting some of this will be kick, uh, let's do this as they were doing rock music. So this is a kick in, came out snare top snare bottom. It's on one. Tom to Hi. Hats overhead hat overhead, Ride rule, hat, room ride. And let's actually create, um, create one more We'll do a mono room track. All right? So, effectively, we just set up our entire drum kit as though we recorded an acoustic drum kit in the studio . Mike, the ticket had a player play and, um, had all these different, you know, microphone channels, making the kit in different places. So the next thing I'm gonna do is I'm gonna highlight all these, and I'm gonna create a group so that I have master control over my drum tracks just specifically. So I'm gonna do command G. And I'm gonna name this drug. I like to make these tracks Brown. It's just the color that I've chose to associate my drums with whatever style music I'm working in. The drum tracks are gonna be brown just so my brain knows it. This is a big part of keeping your mix organized and keep it looking good. Easy to find things and easy toe work flow through it. The next thing we don't want to do is we're gonna head over to our mixture window. We're gonna hit command plus on the keyboard Pullup bar, mixture window. We're gonna highlight all of our drum tracks and we're gonna send all of these to an auxiliary track so that we have one fader that one we can do processing on all the drums. And the second thing that we could do is control the in try tired, drunk it volume with one fader. So we're gonna hit option shift after we selected all of our drum tracks and we're gonna go to the output here currently made out. We're gonna do new track. We're gonna call this the drum box And that key command that we that we just used is gonna allow us to, uh, to change the output of all the tracks that are highlighted. So make sure you just have your drum tracks highlighted. We're gonna move this drum bus to the top. I always like to make these a nice, bright blue. All my buses are blue, so my brain knows we gotta make sure the output of our drum bus goes to our sub mix instead of our master again. Our subjects is gonna be that the fader before our master Fader, and it's gonna allow us to do another level of processing to make our mics sound great. Eso anything that is being sent to the master fader, We want to actually send it a sub next first. So the next thing I like to do on drums, as I like to some, um, elements of the drum kit that had more than one mic on them, this is going to kick this could be our snare. This could be our overheads. And it's gonna be our room, so we're gonna do something similar. So what we did with our sense was we're gonna highlight our kick in and kick out. We're gonna hit option shift. We're gonna go to the output. We're gonna do new track. We're gonna make this Ah, mono auxiliary track because, um, the kick drum is a mono signal. Right? So we're gonna call this kick, and we're gonna move it to the right, and we're gonna solo safe this so that it's always on command and hit that solo button. And what this will allow us to do isn't allow us to do effectively. The routing here is this. Tracking in and kick out are headed to my kick some, and then my kick some is gonna head out to my drum bus. So I'm gonna send this out to my drum bus, and then my drum buses headed to my subjects and my subjects out to my master. All right, on what this is gonna allow us to do is we can have an individual channel of processing honor kick in. We could have an individual channel of processing honor kick out then those two audio tracks for some to our kick. And we can also do an additional level of processing to our kick. And so we're gonna go through and do the same thing for our snare. Because we had two microphones on that. We're gonna solo safest command click, and we're gonna send this out our drum bus right now. We're gonna do that for our overhead hat and overhead ride that's going to your left and right. So we're actually gonna want to do, you know, option shift new track, and we're gonna do a stereo auxiliary because thes two tracks really pan left and right to make a stereo sound instead of Amado signal. So we're gonna call it overheads, and we're gonna pull it over to the right. I'm going solo safe in. I'm going to send it to our drum bus, and we're gonna wanna panties left and right overhead hat, depending on what imaging you are overhead hat to the left and overhead ride to the right and will do this for our rooms as well. So option. Shift head to that output. New track, and we'll call this room's stereo auxiliary. We'll move it over command, collect the solo to solo. Safe it, and we'll send this out our drum bus. There we go, and we'll do the same thing. Room had two left and room ride to the right, and then we're gonna go over here and we're gonna put our Tom one to the left on Tom on top . Two to the right and are high. Has to the left. Cool. So we effectively set up all of the audio tracks. Four hour four are drum tracks to be imported and begin the mixing process. If you wanted to add additional affects, I would do that. Here is Well, you know, typically, we're gonna put some type of reverb on the snare so we could go over to our sends we can click on our snares some This is great. You don't have to put a reverb on the snare top in the snare bottom. You can put it on the snare sub and we can do on our son track new track And we can dio a stereo send to an auxiliary track that we could do a snare snare ver Okay, and we'll bring our send up. We'll also solo safe this so that the verb is always on and we're going to send this out. Are drawn buses. Well, that's typically a good starting point for where, where we want to send all of our audio how we wanna have a nim ence amount of control over these tracks again to go through it, we have control over the kick in and the kick out. And then we have those summed to a single fader that we could do additional processing and volume controls on, and all of that is sent to a master bus that are drums are controlled by the same with the snare, same with the overheads and same with the rooms. Eso This is looking pretty good. We're gonna move on to the rest of what we might find in a mix 4. Routing & Setup: Bass: All right, So we're back over in our edit window. We're gonna create some additional tracks. We're gonna look at base. Usually I like to put base next, and we're gonna create two tracks for base, and we're gonna call this base base DE I, and we're gonna head back over to our mixed window. That's a weak man. Plus and I like to make base. Purple pace just always looked purple. Me. Um, so we're gonna go ahead and create a a base bus fader as well, depending on the processing that you're doing. Sometimes I like to put a course effect a distortion on a base. Those things will really depend on whether I use a base bus. Typically, I'll use a base bus if I'm using some type of effect on the base that is gonna make it stereo. Of course, when we're working with pop music or hip hop music, we're gonna have a lot of virtual instruments that we're definitely gonna have stereo based signals, especially with big pads or, um, saw bases in electronica music. So I always like to make one. It gives me a nice a nice another level of control over that over those based signals. So we're gonna highlight our base, our base channels, and we're gonna do option shift again. Head to that output. New track protocol, this base bus, it will move it over to the top of the tracks I always like to put My bus is at the top of the tracks, and again, they're blue and want to take our base bus and send it out. Art are our sub mix. Okay. Typically, if I'm working with with a live base, all typically has some type of distortion. I usually like to use a no overdrive or some type of harmonic saturation as ascend on the on the base to bring out the frequencies that are years gonna really here, which is more of the mid range frequencies. So I'll take both these tracks. The basing up in the base de I I'm gonna hold option shift again and do a new send new track. And I'm gonna make this a mono, uh, auxiliary inputs. I'm gonna call this base distortion and bring that small fader up and move it over and solo safe. It, uh, see here over and then another. Another great effect I love to use on bases. Course it gives it this nice. Even if you use a little bit of it, it gives it a nice spread to the base, and it puts it in a different space. So we'll go ahead and do the same thing here. Will highlight these two tracks and create a new auxiliary track. We're gonna do stereo for the chorus and we'll bring it over solo safe in command. And we'll bring that fader up. It will click over here on that, son and bring that fair up as well on for now. I'm gonna bypass these sense. So I'm gonna hit command and just click on the send to bypass them. I don't know if I'm gonna use those, but it's good to have it set up and ready to rock. We missed one thing. We gotta send our base effects that we're gonna use out are based bus. So that are based bus. All are based. Tracks could be fed to the base bus, and that base bus could be fed to our sub mix. Uh, so we're gonna highlight both those. We're gonna option shift, and we're gonna click on the output. And we're gonna go down a bus and we're gonna go to based bus. Both. There we go. So now that we got our base tracks set up, we're ready to rock. We're ready to move on to the next thing. 5. Routing & Setup: Keys: Okay, so you can see that our session back in our edit window, it's starting to get pretty filled up. We got a lot of tracks going on. You know, this is what these professional sessions start to look like. Even if you don't have a lot of elements in the track. Typically on the mix sessions, you're gonna have a lot of stuff going on, whether running effects or other levels of processing really make that music sound good. So the next thing I like to hit is usually some type of key keys or piano, so we'll go ahead and make that. It's gonna be pretty simple. We're gonna create. We'll create two stereo tracks and never know what you're gonna have gonna bring that under the bass tracks will head back over our mixed window command. Plus, I will call this, uh, keys and we'll call this, uh, we've got an acoustic piano as well. Typically, I like to make my key oriented instruments orange. Just what it works in my brain. And we're gonna highlight and select these again option shift head to that output and send it to a bus. So we're gonna do a stereo oxen put and we're gonna dio key bus, and we're gonna make sure that key bus feeds our sub mix. We'll make it blue. So again, this is going to start to get a little repetitive here. We've got, you know, a few audio tracks. They're gonna feed a master bus, and that bus is gonna feed our sub mix so that we've got a very tight control over all of our tracks. And we can really dial in the level of precision that we need on these audio tracks in order to really make a great mix. 6. Routing & Setup: Guitars: all right. The next thing we're gonna hit his guitars I usually expect anywhere from 2 to 4 guitars This could be acoustic guitars, electric guitars If you want. You can separate those out. I would recommend if you've got acoustic and electric in your song that you create two different you know, bosses for that Essentially, just because there's gonna be there they're different. They're different instruments. At the end of the day, even though they're both guitars, we're gonna assume that we've only got electric guitars and we're gonna create four new audio tracks for the electric guitars. We're gonna call this E g one DJ too e g three 84 on I always like to make my electric cars light blue And again we're gonna hit option shift head to that output and we're gonna create a bus for all these guys. Stereo bus. We're gonna call it a DJ bus, electric guitar bus. We'll move it over, will command click that solo, but in we're gonna have our bus feed our sub mix again. Here it is. We'll make sure that buses blue, so we know what it looks like. Um, you could add some effects in here as well. Uh, let's go ahead and do that. Will add to, um, black two effects Will do a delay in a reverb. Um, typically, I like to put slap or some type of slight delay on my electric guitars on Obviously dependent on the tune on and obviously some type of reverb if it doesn't already have reverb on it. And so we'll go ahead. Will highlight all our tracks. Will have option shift will head over to our send, and we'll do a new track. It will make both of these. Um, it will make both of these stereo, so we'll do e g delay, and we'll bring that fader up option. Click that fader to pull it up to zero. And if we actually command Ooh, sorry. Option dragged us over. It'll copy that. Over and all of those if we open him up, will be at zero. Awesome. We'll pull it again and then we're gonna do another will collect local. Select all four of our electric guitar trucks again. Option shift head over new track. That will do e G for Bring that over and we're gonna option click that small fader uh, option drag. There we go. And we gotta make sure our effects for going out our e g bus are electric guitar bus. So we gotta select those two options shift and we'll send them. Teoh are electric guitar bus, and then our electric guitar bus again will feed our sub mix. That's going to sound really good that flow. That rounding of audio is gonna allow again a great amount of control over all of our tracks. And again, we're gonna man click off these sends just cause we don't know if we're gonna use it's gonna have him there, and then we'll move on to the next the next element here. 7. Routing & Setup: Vocals: so the next thing will probably have is our vocals, if again, If yet get any other projects or any music that you're working on that has additional elements. Just follow this process of how we group similar instruments and then route them to a bus and then route that bus to sub mix And that sub next door, Master Fader, in order Teoh have that great control over audio tracks. But the next thing we're gonna have is probably vocals and background vocals, and we're gonna dive into that. It's gonna be the same process. So we're gonna we're gonna create our vocal track. Let's see, usually will have one or 21 or two lead vocals usually dependent on how you're editing and mixing. You may need to duplicate the track, so just keep that in mind so we'll create two new vocal are two new audio tracks over here and we'll call this box one box too. And when the seventies out, Ah, stereo bus, the stereo walks. So we're gonna hit option shift and over door output, hit track stereo, auxiliary input, and we're gonna do box bus. And you might be asking, you know, the vocal tracks are gonna be, um, first we're gonna making yellow, and we're gonna make that box bus blew. Uh, we make sure that box bus hits our sub mix. You might be asking why, Uh, why don't we send our mono box signals out a stereo bus? What? We're about to add a bunch of effect channels for our vocals. You know, the vocals air probably have the most effects. Whether that's reverb doubling, um, delay all these things is typical toe Have several effects. You can have a distortion. Said you can have all these All these different effects on your on your vocals. So we're gonna go ahead and create those. It's probably gonna be the most, and we want those delays and those rivers to be stereo stereo not coming out of a single a single channel mono. So we're gonna head over to our box morning box to we're gonna highlight them. We're gonna hit option shift and hit head to our sins again. We're gonna call this box delay. We'll call this fox slash and a slap is a slap delay going to short, short, short delay. Eso will pull this fader up option click that Fader, we're gonna command pull our sorry option. Pull this over to our other Fox Channel number box slap over here, and we're gonna have the box slap output go to our box bus, and we're just gonna repeat this process. Okay, so we're gonna highlight thes and go new track. This is gonna be our box delay, which is gonna be a longer delay, whether it's a core. Know whether we have some type of ping ponging delay, eighth note delay, whatever it ISS. But it's gonna be longer than our slap. And we want to make sure we differentiate that. So we'll bring that over a solo safeties as well. So safe may and click, and we'll drag this later over. And that's gotta feed our box bus as well. And then we'll create both a plate reverb and a chamber river. We can do so well. Highly. These again. Option shift, New track. We'll call this plate burb. Bring that fader up option. Drag that. That fader setting over bring our plate firm over. I like to keep all of my effects after my audio channels. It just makes sense when I look at it on the mixer. And when I look at it in the window and we're gonna solo safe, soaring command, click that solo but in. And we're gonna have this feed our box bus down here and we'll make one more right now. Uh, option shift new. That will do some type of Chambersburg drag that over option. Click that fader up option. Drag that failure setting over command. Click that solo safe and we're gonna send that out. The bus, the box bus here we g o and so great. We've got to mono audio channels for our vocal tracks and we've got four different effect tracks that we can keep going with this. We're going to stop there for the sake of the video. But we could keep going with this. Continue to add, you know, apparel, compression track or, um, any of these different effect tracks that we want to add to our vocal. You know, there's a lot of stuff going on with vocal processing. Now, if you wanted to add a vocal since send and really layer in a nice but I sound Another great trick is to the layer in an active of the vocal lower or higher active way do the same technique here. So we're gonna go ahead and command click all of these sense so that their bypassed for the time being and the soul safer bus and that will be done br vocals. 8. Routing & Setup: Backup Vocals: Okay, The final element. We're gonna include here in our sessions set up and routing is gonna be our background vocals R B g B's So we're gonna go through this process one final time on and then we'll be ready to rock. So we're gonna create Let's say for new mono audio tracks to start, especially if you're working in pop music. You're gonna Tana backing vocals. Rock is gonna be a little less dependent on what kind of genre you're really working with in the rock around. And but four background vocals is a good place to start. You can always duplicate these tracks and just keep on Keep on rocking So we'll create four new audio tracks. Drag him over. We're gonna name B G, B one, B two D two b, g three and G four. I like to make my be gv tracks bright green, and we're gonna highlight all these traps were option shift head over to our output and you guessed it. We're gonna create another bus. We're gonna call us our BTV bus, right, And we're gonna make sure r b g V bus is bright blue and we're gonna send out our subjects . So we're gonna do something similar with the main vocal that we did. We're gonna create a few effects sense don't need as many. Typically, you're gonna process your background vocals a little less, but we'll make sure that we add something with delay and some type of verb. Uh, you don't believe those background vocals dry. So we're gonna highlight all our tracks from an option shift had over or send new track a stereo Auxiliary input. Do TV burn and we'll bring that fader up Command like that fader head our option click, and we'll option drag across the rest of the tracks. Bring that fader up there Will move the auxiliary sent to the right. Keep ourselves organized. Will command. Click that solo and we're gonna make sure that that feeds the output, feeds RBG bus and we'll go ahead and do that one more time. We'll select all of our TGV tracks. Quit actually. Quick tip. I didn't say this. You select one track and then hit shift. It's like natural. Select everything between great eso option shift. Head over to our sense again. Track. We're going to be G B delay and we'll move this over. We're gonna pull that fader up option. Click that fader head option dragged across the rest of our audio tracks. A man click that solo safe. We're gonna make sure that this feeds our TGV bus. Here we go. And so now we're in a pretty good place. Guys, if we had over two or are edit window week Hit man man. Plus, we've got a little bit of grouping to do. But see, let's hit these two vocal channels. We'll call this box, and we could make these smaller box make these smaller as well. Highlight are our background vocals command G, and we can do G. D. And all our groups were gonna be over here, Bottom left. You can toggle these on and off, right? Click modify. And you can change what's in. So we're gonna make these license small 9. Final Tips: this is what are This is what are mixed session looks like. And once we have our music, whether we're creating our own or we're doing this for client will have a bunch of audio in here we can begin to play with. But this is gonna This is gonna set us up for success, guys. So we'll run through it real quick one more time. We've got an aggregation of, uh, drum tracks that were then sent to a bus that we have master control over all of the drum tracks. We've summed certain elements of the drums to their own internal, some some tracks, auxiliary tracks that also feed this drum bus. And then that drum bus goes and feeds our subjects, which are subjects feeds our master channel. So that leaves us in a great position to have control over the individual audio tracks as well as the instrument as a whole as well as the entire mix eso. You can see how this is gonna allow us to take in more professional approach to our mixes, to get better results, to get clearer sound mixes and ultimately make the best music that we can. Guys, that that submission were on is, let's create the best music that we can. So I hope this lesson waas helpful. I hope it. I hope it tied some loose ends for anybody who's just getting into this. I will leave a a downloadable form of this template. If you're working in pro tools, you can use this template. You can edit it. You can add more effects. You can take away things. But this is a great starting point. This is pretty much how I start all of my mixes pretty much anything that I start, uh, mixing or creating in them. When I'm creating music, I start, I start to build this out a little bit as well. So definitely a great starting point. Guys. I hope it was helpful. If you have any questions, feel free to shoot me a message. Let's chat. I'm here to help you guys make the best music can. So let's let's get two guys