Here is a quick mixing tip to help you add interest and make your mixes more dynamic using simple automation. Music is a temporal experience to quote Steve Duda and once of the most exciting things for the listener is elements changing over time. When mixing we can fall into a trap of setting a track or channel at a certain level and think our job is done. However, with this quick tip, you’ll make your mixes come alive and grab the listener whilst still maintaining enough space for all the parts to shine in your mix.
Add more dynamics to your mix
Step 1 – Pick a part
We’re going to apply this technique to any element of the song which enters for the first time during the song. In this example I chose a muted Nile Rogers style funk guitar part which enters in the second Chorus of the song (see fig. 1 below)
Step 2 – Set the Channel Volume
Find the optimal volume for the part in the rest of the mix as you would normally set it, when balancing a mix for the first time. Make a note of this volume. (see fig 2 below)
Step 3 – Add subtle dynamic automation
The concept we are going to use here is manipulating the volume a little when the new part first arrives to grabs the listener’s attention before then settling it back into the mix. It’s an aural illusion. To do this draw in a slight volume ramp when the part first enters then let it gradually settle back to the original volume you wanted. The listener’s ear hears the part slightly more prominent when it first arrives and the brain accepts it. This allows you to then lower that parts channel volume just a little now that the ear has found it. (fig 3 below)
Step 4 – Ear Balling
Review the part while listening and check that your automation isn’t too extreme. Check that the part returns to the normal level in the desired amount of time for your track. Like many things in Music Production and creation, subtlety is often the key. We aren’t going for anything too noticeable here, it should be more subliminal for maximum effect.
This is a very simple mixing trick to make your mixes more dynamic, but it’s one that can have a massive impact on the interest of your mixes. Back in the days before DAWs, mix engineers would man the huge SSL mixing boards with energy and artistry. This modern technique can help you avoid stagnant mixes and dynamics in your own productions and try to recreate some of that feel. Have a go and comment below to let me know how you got on or if you’ve any questions.