8 more creative routing ideas
ATTACK OF THE REVERB
Add the perception of attack to your drums without making the actual drum kit sound spiky by placing your drum reverb on a send and adding an attack boost after the reverb using a transient shaper. This’ll give the overall sound more bite and sheen without making your hats and rides sound too sharp.
NEW DOGS, OLD TRICKS
Pretty much the oldest rock mixing trick in the book is to group the kick and bass together to a bus before strapping a compressor over it. Aim for 2dB or so gain reduction when the kick hits. This’ll glue together the kick and bass by pulling up the level of the bass in between the kick hitting, giving a more solid low end than leaving the two elements processed separately. Although this one’s a rock mixer’s staple, it can also work amazingly well with other styles of music – give it a go!
SHAPE THE GROUPS
Next time you’re mixing, try bussing all the relevant parts together straight away (drums, bass, synths etc) before starting to shape the mix by focusing on processing your buses. This can be a liberating technique as, if your basic levels are already good, it’ll speed up the mixing process without you getting too bogged down in what each individual channel is doing.
ACCEPTABLE IN THE 80S
One of the most legendary uses of send-based processing in music is the gated reverb snare effect beloved of artists such as Phil Collins. To ape this sound in your own productions, first place a big reverb on a send with a sidechain-enabled gate after it. Then, send your dry snare signal to the reverb return, and also send it to the gate’s key input, so that the gate is activated by the dry signal rather than the reverb-soaked one. Also try replacing the reverb with delay!
Make a quick stereo vocal harmoniser by setting up two aux sends with a pitchshifting plugin placed on each. Pitch one plugin up by 7 semitones and the other down by 5 semitones, then pan the sends apart by opposing amounts. After this, bus the sends together and apply a little chorus or phasing to complete the effect. You can use this to add huge width to a mono vocal, or automate the send amount to pick out certain words – great for hip-hop tracks or spoken-word samples.
REVERSE PARALLEL COMPRESSION
Happy with the overall sound of your super-compressed drums but wish you could make the snare crack through more? A bit of reverse parallel compression will do the trick. Create a new return, then send your unprocessed snare drum to it before mixing a little of the dry snare send in to taste – even a small amount of the dry snare in the mix will give the over-compressed snare more snap.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
A neat trick for embellishing the room sound of a multitrack drum recording is to place a 5-10ms delay on a return, with a little feedback and a 100% wet mix. After sending a bit of the room mic to it, the resulting delay will sound just like the room the kit was tracked in, giving the overall sound a more consistent tone and realistic feel than using a drum reverb for the same job.
DUCK AND COVER
Sometimes, adding serious power to a clinical synth part using some distortion or saturation mixed in on a return is a must. However, saturation or distortion can mask other important parts of the mix when you’ve got it at a satisfactory volume level. A great workaround is to use a sidechain compressor to duck the return’s volume – brilliant for giving the kick some room when heavily saturating bass, or making your snare pop out more. Best of all, as you’re ducking the return rather than the dry signal, you’ll avoid an obviously side-chained sound, retaining more solidity in the mix.
Transient shaping on reverb can give a whole extra dimension of control over ambience dynamics
Vocal harmoniser plugins are great – but why shell out for one when you can roll your own?
Make mixing easy by bussing all your track elements