How To Bring Your Mixes To Life With Automation


Hey, this is Jason Moss from BehindTheSpeakers.com, and today we’re gonna talk all about automation—which is one of the most powerful techniques in the mixing process, and really can help take your tracks from good to great.

Now, before we dive in, if you’re looking to learn more about automation after this video, I put together a free PDF with five other ways that I like to use automation to enhance and elevate my mixes. Now, to download this free PDF, you can click the link in the description below or in the video and you’ll get free instant access.

Now, when I was in high school, I sang in choir, and later on when I started mixing, I realized that a lot of the concepts and techniques and principles that my director would tell us when we were learning a new song actually apply perfectly to the mixing process. So it was really this masterclass in learning how to mix.

And one of the things that I took away from watching my director is, he would always say, nothing in music is ever standing still. So a note is never flat dynamically—it’s either growing or it’s shrinking. So it’s either crescendoing and getting louder, or it’s getting quieter.

Later on, when I started mixing, I realized that this concept is just an incredible way to think about the mixing process. So whenever you have tracks in your mix that are just hanging on one note or sitting still, you can actually use automation to bring in some of that movement and give them that kind of life. So instead of just having things sit flat, suddenly you have this subtle sense of either things are growing, they’re getting louder, or they’re getting a little bit quieter. In my experience, I’ve found this can really elevate mixes and really take them from good to great.

So I wanna show you how I incorporated this idea into a mix that I recently did for an artist called Alice Kristiansen. So let’s take a look.

Okay, so I have a session here from a track called “Lost My Mind” by Alice Kristiansen. And I wanted to use it to show you a couple different ways that I approach automation in a mix, and more so, really, just to show you the impact that this concept of things never staying still, always growing or shrinking, can actually have on the quality of your mixes.

So let’s take a listen here. This first section I wanna play for you is the entrance into the chorus.

Okay, let me go ahead and turn off all the automation. And I just wanna play you, basically this is what the tracks sounded like when they came to me before I had added any of my rides.

So it’s kind of flat, right? And really, there’s no dynamic shift going into the chorus. It doesn’t feel like we’re swelling, it doesn’t feel like things are growing. They just sit there and then the chorus comes.

But what I did was, if you take a look, you can see on a lot of these tracks I added these rides coming into the chorus. So you can see on this AirSynth track I added this crescendo, so it gets louder coming into the chorus and then it just backs off a little bit, and same thing on this organ. So take a listen again, and notice the dynamics heading into that chorus where it feels like there’s this swell. Things get louder and it really adds a lot of energy and impact to the entrance of this chorus.

Right, so we feel like we arrive into the chorus. It feels like the song’s pushing us into it versus just, suddenly we’re there.

So the next thing I wanna show you here is at the end of the song, kind of a similar concept. Let’s take a listen. First, let me play it for you without automation. And I’ll play you a couple bars beforehand.

Okay, so it’s like the exit out of the last chorus into that outro section.

So I’m gonna turn on the automation and play this again, and really notice the dynamics. Take a listen to, what’s the movement, do tracks feel like they’re getting bigger or smaller, what’s happening going into that last section?

So, again, a similar concept, we’re swelling into that exit, and so everything feels like it gets bigger and bigger and bigger and then it cuts off right when all of those instruments come down and we have this solo piano/vocal. So we’re actually making that transition a little bit more dramatic.

But I want you to notice one other thing that I did here was I actually brought the volume of a lot of these tracks down right at the beginning of that crescendo.

So what happens a lot of the time is, especially at the end of a chorus or something, things are already pretty loud and so if you wanna do something like this where you have a crescendo right at the end, you don’t have a lot of room to build because you’re already at peak volume. So instead of trying to build from where you are, often times, a better approach is to take a step down. And then that gives you a little bit more room to grow.

So take a listen again and notice how the volume drops right at the beginning of this section and then we have more room to grow right into the end.

And again, I just wanna turn off the automation and play this for you without any automation. So this is basically what the tracks sounded like when they were sent to me.

So it’s just completely flat, there’s nothing. There’s no dynamics, it doesn’t feel like it’s getting bigger or smaller. But with that automation, we feel like these sections are moving along a little bit, and they have a little bit more life to them.

So I hope you enjoyed this video, and hopefully you can apply this idea to take your tracks to the next level. Now if you’re looking for more ideas about how to use automation to enhance your mixes, I put together a free PDF with five more ways that I use automation in the mixing process. So if you want this PDF, you can click the link in the description below or in the video and you’ll get free instant access.

Anyways, thanks so much for watching. You can check out more mixing tips at BehindTheSpeakers.com. Take care.

Video features music by Alice Kristiansen.