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Mix Bus Compression & Sub-Mix Grouping in Pro Tools

Hey, what’s up guys? I’ve got another tutorial.

Today, let’s talk about track grouping, master faders, sub mixes, mix buss, sort of how I have things organized. Everyone kind of does it differently, especially if you’re running out to hardware or not.

This is an example. We’re going to keep it right in the box, how to sort of group instruments, run a mix buss, I’m going to tell you why I don’t really like to use a master fader.

For this one, we just need our Mix Window. If you want to bring up the Mix Window, Command+=. Boom.

Alright, so this is our Mix Window. I don’t like to use a master fader. A lot fo times, people will have — they’ll create one of these things. Stereo, master fader.

And when you play it, all of your audio runs directly out to it.


Pull it down, you can do fades or whatever.


But here’s the thing I don’t like about it. This thing works pre-fader in Pro Tools, which kind of mostly sucks for a master fader. That means if I were to put a, say, buss compressor, or I guess a stereo EQ or something like that on it, if I were to do anything to this fader, it’s going to affect how much signal gets dumped into my inserts up here, my plug-ins, which isn’t cool, because it’ll just pretty much destroy your mix.

So I don’t ever really use a master fader. Some guys will just kind of leave it up and they may put a frequency analyzer or something on it, but that’s not for me. So let’s delete that.

What I’ll do is I’ll make a mix buss, which you’ll see right here next to it, and it’s got my 1-2 Out, and everything ends up at the mix buss. That is the final stereo out for me.

On that mix buss, I’ve got an SSL compressor that really isn’t doing a whole lot of compression. It’s just kind of sort of massaging the mix.


Really low threshold. I mean, I’m not really tacking it out. I’m hitting like, minus…


You know, minus five dB or so on the way out. Really quick attack, really quick release, two to one ratio. Nothing aggressive at all. Like, I’m really just kind of massaging it. No more than 3dB of compression.



So that’s our mix buss. Some guys will route everything to the mix buss. I like to group things before I get there. This is a new thing — newish thing I’ve started doing.

So you’ve got to think about your instruments, your arrangement.

So percussion and bass really have to work together, right? So you’ll notice I’ve got two bass tracks, all these drum tracks. Drum tracks are all getting sent to this drum buss, and then this drum comp aux over here in the yellow. Then they’re getting sent to a drum and bass group over here.

I have four auxes set up for my four main sort of categories of instruments. I’ve got effects, so reverbs, delays, drum and bass, which is drum and bass, you’ve got the vox group, which is all my vocals end up hitting that, and then I have, you know, my synth and keys group.

So I can mute these and pull whole chunks of the arrangement out.




Just vocals.

[drums and bass]

Then… So that gives you some more options as far as mix down goes and as far as automation goes.

My theory behind it is that your drums and bass are going to have very important transients. That two and four, that back beat, and that needs to pulse, and that needs to sort of breath its own way. It doesn’t need to breath like the vocals need to.


I mean, that’s where your melody is, that’s where all of the real important stuff is. That vocal melody. You know. It’s different information than your drums and bass.


Same thing with your synths. That’s kind of your glue.


So if you notice, I’ve got these API compressors. They’re not really doing much. This one is on the drum buss.

[drums and bass]

I’m sorry, the drum and bass group.

[drums and bass]

And it’s just — those needles are just kind of rocking.

[drums and bass]

Fast attack, 1.5 ratio, 0.5 release. Soft knee.

[drums and bass]

Not much. If you notice, same kind of compressor on the vocal group.


Really not moving.

On the synth group, we did a little high passing over everything altogether.


This is with it.


This is without.

[synths, no high passing]

Really subtle, but it stays out of the way of our basses and our drums.

[drums, bass, and synths]

There you go. There’s a little more separation in your mix. Things are getting to move. And then of course, the 2500.

[drums, bass, and synths]

You can do some really cool stuff when you start staging your compression like this. Having things work a little bit at different levels rather than having one smash everything under one roof.

Again, this is how I do it. It’s not the golden rule by any means.

Now once we come out of the mix buss, I don’t ever bounce my mixes. What I do is I print. So what I’ll do is make another track, stereo audio track, and I’ll label it print, and then set the input over here I have setup, we have a print. Set the output of our mix buss over to it.

Record enable that, print it, and then I have a stereo capture of my mix within the session. At that point, I can select it and I can go over to my clips menu and I can right-click and export file as wav and mp3. Whatever I want to do at that point.

And that’s pretty much how I setup my sessions. Some guys that do some outboard sort of summing, if you’ve got a lot of really cool stereo compressors, they’ll send them out in groups. That’s sort of the philosophy behind analog summing to a sense.

They’ll send them out and run them through buss compressors, and run them through an analog summing box, then send it back in, and it’ll hit this mix buss, then sometimes they’ll hit a mix buss outside and then they’ll come back in. They’ll hit the converters and then they’ll print the track.

I mean, if you’ll notice, all these tracks, all the individual tracks are routed to their specific — I’ve got vox busses, drum busses, a lot of the synths kind of work independently, because I have them doing different things, different textures, different sounds, leads, pads, and I’ll send them all out to this synth and keys group.

Same thing in our effects group. So I have an office, a hall, a plate that gets sent to that.

This is a lot of information to kind of take in, so just think about it. It’s an extra ten minutes or so setting it up, but you can make templates and mix templates so you can load stuff up really fast. Do this and you may hear some results that you like with as far as creating separation and allowing your mix to really kind of sort of fuse like instruments together, because that’s really what it’s about, right? We’re fusing sounds together when we mix.

Anyways, I hope this was helpful, and subscribe if you haven’t subscribed, hit me up on Twitter, Facebook, all of that stuff, and we’ll see you next time.




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