Separate tracks for different sections
Here’s something an old mentor of mine taught me, which has proved to be SO useful in my daily mixing life.
When you realize that an instrument needs to be treated differently in a different section, don’t automate — duplicate the waveform for that section off onto a new track, along with all the plugins, and then simply adjust from there!
This comes up with vocals A LOT. For example, you might have the lead vocal sounding great for the verse. But then when the chorus hits, maybe the instrumentation changes, and the vocal doesn’t sound anymore like it’s sitting in the right place.
Here’s what I do:
Duplicate the lead vocal track, and call it “Lead Vocal C.”
Delete all the waveforms off Lead Vocal C.
MOVE the waveforms for the choruses off of the original lead vocal track and onto the Lead Vocal C track.
And then you can just make whatever changes you need to make to the Lead Vocal C track, and they won’t affect the lead vocal in the rest of the song, and you don’t have to do any automation!
For example, maybe you might want a little more volume, and a little more reverb, and a little added EQ brightness to cut through. When the waveforms are on a separate track, these changes are trivially easy to make; when you’re accomplishing these changes via automation, it can be a nightmare.
I typically have separate lead vocal tracks for every single section in a song. I don’t start that way — I split waveforms out onto a separate track only when I hear a need for a different treatment. But with the simplicity and flexibility that this approach gives to my mixing practice, I find myself encouraged to try different little things for each section of a song, so I’ll often end up with the lead vocal split out over a bunch of tracks.
For example, it’s routine for me to have separate lead vocal tracks for V1, C1, V2, C2, Bridge, C3. I’ll always get the basic vocal treatment in place first as I’m starting to work on the mix — compression, EQ, reverb, and so on — and then I start splitting out the waveform onto the separate tracks as I get more focused on the details of the mix and how the energy is evolving from section to section.
I’ll also do this for snare drum, kick drum, bass, guitar, keyboards — any time I want a part to sound different for a specific section, I’ll most often just split the waveform out onto a duplicate track and make the changes there. I end up with a LOT of duplicate tracks — but very little automation, and very definitive scene changes, so it’s totally worth it.
Simplifying by multiplying — jamie