One of the most important things when taking on a New Project, is taking that First Step. If done wrong, your job can instantly start progressively getting more difficult. When done correctly, the Physical act of Mixing should be effortless. Granted, there is a lot of things to conceptualize and remember. Once the Physical Session is set up, you should ultimately forget that you are doing work and start enjoying yourself.
It’s the equivalence of being a Commercial Pilot. If you begin to feel unconfident and doubt your Physical Abilities to Execute Actions, your clients will be able to tell. If you begin to get frustrated from a messy workstation, it will translate those feelings into your Mix. You won’t be able to preform your best.
Setting up a Mixing Session, allows you to be worry Free. Whether you are Old or New to Mixing or Production that first step is going to impact the way you work, as well as your mood. In order to Properly set up a Mixing Session, it’s important to know where to begin.
This Article will cover Setting Up Mixing Sessions in Ableton Live, but can be applied to any Digital Audio Workstation.
Before we get started, let’s go over a few important Options in the Preferences Menu. To Access this, simply Press ⌘ + ,
Once this Menu opens, we want to go to the Record/Warp/Launch tab, and Turn OFF “Auto Warp Long Samples”. What this setting does, is deactivates time stretching to match a certain BPM. In Mixing, having the ability to change the BPM doesn’t matter because we cannot change it. This stage is only meant to enhance the Quality of the Stems, in order to output them as a single Premaster.
Next, we want to be sure to Deactivate “Auto-Hide Plug-in Windows”
Doing this, enables us to compare and contrast 2 or more tracks without the Plug-ins closing automatically when we switch Channels. This can be annoying if you forget this step, so be sure to make it a part of your workflow.
For Production, however, we want Ableton to Auto-Hide our Plug-in Windows. Let’s say we make an awesome Patch in a Synthesizer. Sometimes we will can accidentally edit the wrong Synthesizer if there are 2 or 3 opened at once. This is much different in a Mixing Situation, where everything is clearly labeled and controlled. Arguably, it isn’t as important to Label things in Production if it hinders your ability to get into your role as an Artist. You will want to do whatever it takes to make a Hit. However, we must pay attention to Numbers and Technical things in the Mixing Stage.
Now we are ready to begin.
Let’s start with a Blank Session:
When Mixing, we utilize Audio Tracks. That means, we must delete our MIDI Tracks. The reason we do not use MIDI in Mixing is because at this point in time the Production should be complete. It’s not a good idea to start actually Mixing, until you have everything converted into Audio Files.
Your Session should now contain only Audio Tracks. Now it is time to Import our Audio Stems. To do this, you’ll want to be in Session View. To change views, simply press Tab. Now Click + Drag your Audio Stems, then Push + Hold ⌘. You screen should look like this before you let go of the Mouse Button:
If you have done this correctly, all of your Audio Tracks will be on separate Tracks. If you have done this wrong, you will have them all on one Track. Knowing this step can save you a lot of time.
Rule of Thumb – When using Volume Automation, be sure not to Automate your Channel Faders. What this means is, we must use a Utility in order to Automate Volume. That way we can still Mix Output Levels using the Channel Faders.
Additional Rules – When Mixing, NEVER adjust your Master Channel Fader. This will never change. You really don’t want to mess with this because it will give you a false representation of your Output. This can lead to Clipping of the Signal. To avoid this, simply don’t touch this.
Now we are ready to begin Mixing. Your Stems should have headroom, at least 6dB to avoid clipping. More information can be found on this Topic Here
Next it’s time to Import our Reference Track. To do this, we are going to need to make another Audio Track. To do this, simply Press ⌘ + T. Now we are ready to Click + Drag our Reference Track into our DAW.
Now we want to set up an Easy method to Instantly A/B between our Reference Track and our Mixing Project. Clicking back and forth with a mouse continuously distracts you, and wastes time. Let’s set this up in a more efficient way.
The First Step will be to MUTE our Reference Track
Next, we will Press ⌘ + K. Or simply, Click on the word “KEY”
Next, we must Press a Button that will be the Trigger to listen between Songs. In this Example, I have pushed the number “1” on the keyboard. Now Press ⌘ + K again, or re-click on the word “KEY” to exit this mode.
Now Tapping the number “1” on your Computer’s Keyboard will Toggle between Your Mixing Project & Your Reference Track. At this point, you will want to Lower the Volume of your Reference Track until it’s Kick matches your Kick.
Another Method, is to Press ⌘ + M. If you have access to a MIDI controller, you can also Map any Button to the Solo of our Reference Track. Then from your Favourite MIDI Controller, you can toggle between your Reference song and your full Mix.
You are now ready to begin to Mix! Hopefully this has helped you develop an approach that you can carry with you as your skills evolve.