As many engineers will agree, automation is my best friend at the mixdown stage. Subtle changes to different effects can truly eek out that perfect mix. For example, in busy segments of a track, I automate the level of important elements to make those sounds more prominent than others in the mix. This allows the track to breathe and sound less cluttered. For example, with an important element like a brash stab or percussive loop, I’ll push up its volume by a dB or so when it first enters the track. After that moment, I bring that level back down slightly to keep its natural space alongside the other mix elements. Overall, less is more when it comes to this trick, but simple volume rises and dips really do assist the movement and sonics of the whole song: you can draw your listeners’ attention towards the sounds that have to take centre stage.
Depending upon the project, I generally use tons of softsynths, plugins and automation across many MIDI tracks, which can be a major strain on my CPU. Therefore, I like to bounce or render the tracks down to audio once I’m completely happy with the tune in its current state. I’ll then import these audio files back into a brand new version of the project. Alongside this, I keep the original project saved, allowing me to go back into the MIDI arrangement to make changes if needed. This speeds up my workflow, and gives me visual control over the sounds in the session. Plus, I can manipulate things even further – for example, I can chop up audio samples and apply quick clip fades. Over time, it’s also a great way to broaden your sample library, as you can throw these audio clips into a custom folder for later use!