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How to Record – Lesson 15: Mixdown

Hi, it’s Warren Huart here. Hope you’re doing marvelously well.

Today, in lesson 15, we’re going to talk about mixdown. So we’ll setup a master fader, we’ll put the little bit of EQ, and compression, and maybe even a little bit of limiting, and we will bounce to disk. This is the basic kind of mixdown process using Pro Tools, and of course, as ever, subscribe.

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So here we have a session I mixed on my laptop. It’s a song called Shoot You Down by a band called Little Empire. It’s a song I wrote with an artist called Lily. She’s the singer of Little Empire.

Okay, let’s put on some headphones. Okay, so I don’t have a master fader, I’m going to set that up. So let’s just go to the bottom here. I’m going to highlight this track here, so that will give me the position of where the fader is going to go.

Shift+Command+N will give me a new track, or you can go up to track here and hit new, which you’ll see is Shift+Command+N. So then, you can toggle through, if you hit the Command and the right arrow on the right hand side of your keyboard, it will go to stereo. Then Command and the down button will toggle through and you can get to Master Fader.

You can of course sit here and highlight it like this and go between mono and stereo, and of course, go through it like this. It’s a Master Fader. Alright. There we go, we’re on a master fader.

Okay, so we’re creating a master fader. It’s going to default to 1 and 2, which is the track. Let’s listen to the track.


Cool. Now let’s try putting a little bit of compression on it. We’ll go to, like, one of the louder sections of the song, which of course is going to be the chorus. So let’s go and let’s find something soft. You know, I’m going to go to my old fashioned Compressor Bank here. The McDSP one, because I like how it sounds.


I’ve got the occasional peak there, which I will deal with.


I’m getting about three, four dBs worth of reduction there, so what I’m going to do is I’m going to go into All. This is the loudest part of the song, there’s occasional clips. I’m just going to go into All here, go to waveform, select volume, and bring the whole thing down. Another half a dB, three quarters of a dB. Okay, let’s have a listen to that. Still might be occasional peaks, but if it’s a tiny transient…


Let’s come down on that. There’s some DIs in the groups here, so if you see this, it’s just because they’re hidden. It should be enough for the occasional peak.


So we’re not slamming the master buss too hard. So there’s an output control here.


Alright, so I’m using a soft amount of compression there, I might get it a little bit more aggressive, but I’m getting like, 3dB maximum there, maybe more like 2.


Just gluing it together a little bit.

Engaging this pre-filter here and letting the low end go through a little bit is really helping that bottom end pop.

Okay, so we’ve got the occasional peak. The occasional peak. If you’re getting a tiny transient peaking now again, that’s fine. If it’s lasting a nanosecond, deal with it. Obviously, if you’ve got solid red and have a lot of peaks happening consistently, you’re going to start to hear really audible distortion.

Okay, that’s nice, that’s a pretty standard set. It defaulted to that release time. It’s nice and smooth. Now let’s just go there, and I think EQ wise, let’s go and just brighten up the top end a little bit, and we’ll go back to the Filter Bank right here for shnits and shniggles.

Let’s go super, super high. Like, 10, 11, 12. Let’s really look at that. We’ve made our Q nice. Oops, too much.


Subtle amount, subtle amount. Now, you know, most mastering engineers now might sort of put something like a 60 on. So let’s go down here. Tighten our Q up a little bit.


Just a quick little extra thump. See, when I mix on the SSL, I have EQs on the master buss, and I’m not afraid to put a little 60, a little 7, 8, 9, 10 boost over the top. So this is something I would do on an SSL, on a console.


I’m not going crazy here, I’m not doing super correctional EQ, I’m just thumping it out a little bit.

Okay, let’s go to some limiting. You know, to be honest, I’ve always been a fan of it. Here’s the L2.


I mean, that’s really toughening it up. So it’s a great little trick.

Now, I’m not square waving it. If you see, it’s still breathing.


Look over here. And I might turn that off and do a print without that on for a mastering engineer.

Okay, so now what we’re going to do is we’re going to bounce. Now what you can do is you can go to Bounce here, then you can bounce it to disk, and you can have it interleaved. We’re at 48kHz, 24-bit, and then what we can do is we can — we can either convert after bounce or during the bounce, either way, and then I’m going to leave it as import to bounce, so it comes in and we get to look at it.

Here we go. So let’s — what I normally do, and I think this is good file management, honestly, is go to Shoot You Down, and you see there’s a rough mix here, spelled wrong? [laughs] Create a new folder, call it bounces, and have it go to that. Let’s call it Shoot You Down, or SYD. Produce Like a Pro, PLAP. And it’s August 7th, 2015.


Hey! Okay, converting bounced files. New track. Interesting that it doesn’t come right to the right place. Let’s Spot it. If I highlight the track and go up to Spot here, we can just click it, highlight it, and then you’ve got the original time stamp where it should be, you click that up and then it will hop to it.

Okay, so let’s have a listen to that. We don’t want to hear it through all the same…


Cool. That’ll be fine — I’d probably be fine giving that to a mastering engineer. I’d probably, to be honest, take the limiter off, let it breathe just a little bit more, but that’s a quick bounce. A lot of bounces I get from people are just like, one big blob of square wave, so that’s pretty conservative, although you can tell the L2 is taking off a lot of these peaks here.

Okay, great, so that’s a quick rough bounce. The only other fun things you can do, when I’m bouncing, is this. So if you were going to send this out to somebody, and you’re not going to master it, or you weren’t going to have it professionally mastered, what I do sometimes is I go — so let’s go into Grid here. Here’s some fun things to do.

Okay, so let’s highlight everything before the first chorus, and bring it down 0.5 of a dB. So this is going to make the choruses jump out and sound slamming. So we can do the same thing here. Come down 0.5. Like this. Then bridge. And the breakdown. Another 0.5.

Now, what we’ve just done there is we’ve artificially built some dynamics in there, so it’s kind of a neat trick. I do it a lot. I know a lot of big mixers that do it a lot, and they’re getting their mixes approved.

So now, what we’re doing is we’re building some artificial dynamics. So let’s just turn all of our everything back on again. Now let’s do another bounce. So you’ll bounce to disk. And we’ll call this — just clicked on that to get the name — we’ll call this DYN for dynamic.


Alright, cool, so here’s the new track. Let’s do the same thing for shnits and shniggles. Let’s go to our Grabber tool. Let’s hit Spot up here. Grabber tool. Hit okay. Let’s turn all of this off, because otherwise, we’ll be listening to that through the master buss.

Now, you can probably see little visual lifts going on. Let’s just go pre-chorus to chorus.


It’s kind of a nice, gentle lift. To be honest, first verse, pre-chorus to chorus, you could go as much as a dB lift. It’s a nice little trick. You know, mastering engineers do it all the time. I’ve read that Rick Rubin will make mastering engineers push his choruses much harder. Sometimes, people will hit the compression a little harder and turn it up, so it just sounds even squashier and fatter.

There’s lots of little tricks you can do. I would experiment, but it’s a good way to manipulate your mixes. Now, I’m only doing this very subtly, but you know, that is the subtle way of introducing punch into your chorus.


Pretty effective, now let’s come out of the chorus.


Nice. Cool, so a little breakdown, outro dynamics. Great.

Thanks ever so much for watching. That’s the most basic kind of bounce down that you can do in Pro Tools, and you saw some of the little techniques that I was doing there to manipulate the files. I do that quite a lot. Especially when I’m sending out mixes, and I want them to really hit people over the head.

It’s the one thing you can do very easily when mixing in the box is you can manipulate that kind of stuff. Automation is quick and easy to use in your DAW. So much easier than trying to do it on a console, to be honest. I mean, I can do that move on an SSL, but it takes a lot longer than just doing it quickly on there.

I would exaggerate that a lot so you can come down as much as a dB during the verses, then really make those choruses pump. And as I was saying earlier, you can really — you can crush the compression a little bit. You can even automate the choruses to be slightly brighter, so they’re a bit more aggressive. There’s all kinds of fun things you can do. Experiment.

Don’t go crazy though, use subtle amounts of stuff, because if you really manipulate the EQ too much, you’ll end up really, really hearing it. I think it’s better — as you may notice in a lot of my lessons, to do small, incremental amounts of EQ when you need them.

You know, you’ll hear phase shift in any EQ if you do really, really drastic moves, but if you’re doing subtle moves, you know, you’re not going to hear it. You know, I asked a mastering engineer about, you know, EQing, and phase issues, and you know, using passive and active, and you know, they don’t worry about it, because they’re not looking at the waveforms.

When you watch videos of people showing you the waveforms and how it’s affected, remember, luckily, we don’t look at our music, we listen to it. So always be aware that what it sounds like is most important.

Okay, thank you ever so much for watching, I really appreciate it. Please leave some comments below, any questions, tips that you have on your master buss, and how you bounce things, and I look forward to seeing you again soon!

Warren Huart

Warren Huart

Warren Huart is an English record producer/musician/composer and recording engineer based in Los Angeles, California. Learn more at

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