Here is a quick mixing tip to help you add interest and make your mixes more dynamic using simple Automation. To quote Steve Duda ‘Music is a temporal experience’ and once of the most exciting things for the listener is hearing subtle 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.
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 I was mixing. (see fig 1 below)
Step 2 – Set the Channel Volume
Find the optimal static volume for the part in the mix as you would have chosen it without using automation, when balancing the 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 the part back into the mix. We’re trying to create an aural illusion of the part appearing then settling in to the mix. 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 intended. The listener’s ear hears the part slightly more prominent when it first arrives and the brain identifies it. This then allows you to then lower that part’s channel volume 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, 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 high energy and artistry. This modern version can help you avoid stagnant mixes and dynamics in your own productions and try to recreate some of that organic feel. Have a go and comment below to let me know how you got on or if you’ve any questions.