MixingFilter: Do you 'play' the Fader

November 27, 2008 11:28 AM

MixingFilter: Do you manipulate the volume of a 'part' during the song?

I was reading something the other day about Mixing that was about 'playing' the faders rather than using compression or other fx to manipulate the relative level of a sound during playback.

This is something that i've never really done - except for the effect of a fade in/out.

I mean, if you are not doing dance music or the sort of thing where you would fade up / fade down an instrument for the effect in itself, do you adjust the volume of instruments during playback?

Its odd as generally I"ve taken the approach of mixing by setting the volume of a single part / instrument and such that it can be left there for the entire song.

(lately I record, electronic-ish DAW based pop-ish stuff with vox and things - but trying towards a kind of 70s David Bowie aesthetic)

posted by mary8nne (14 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Yeah automating the faders will usually give you a better result than slapping a compressor on the track and letting that work away. It just gives you more control over your levels, typically giving you more room to play with without flattening out the sounds. Typically it's very subtle changes rather than big fade-ins and such, like levelling out a vocal on a singer who moves a lot in front of the mic, or having your guitar swell in on the chorus or solo or whatever. As well as a corrective measure, it can also be used as effective creative measures, such as sending your reverb to a seperate channel and subtly increasing the level of reverb at the end of a sung phrase. Obviously this is going to apply more to recorded/acoustic type music and maybe not so much dance music using a lot of samples and such.
posted by TwoWordReview at 1:35 PM on November 27, 2008

I use fader automation on my DAW on a good number of tracks on nearly every song.
posted by chimaera at 1:54 PM on November 27, 2008

I used the Mixer: Track Volume automation control in Ableton Live to achieve an effect similar to a fader. Frankly I haven't bothered to figure out the actual faders in Ableton and Track Volume works pretty well.
posted by wastelands at 5:14 PM on November 27, 2008

I don't have/use automation, but yeah, I will absolutely ride faders while mixing.

If there's more than a few fader moves that I want, I may bounce the track(s) while riding beforehand, so that I don't have to worry about it during mixdown.

I don't really understand "compression" (or "eq" for that matter) so I tend not to use it much.
posted by Karlos the Jackal at 6:11 PM on November 27, 2008

Any song that I'm trying to really make a solid recording of, I'll end up doing a lot of detail work on the per-track volume envelopes in Adobe Audition (or, lately, Garage Band). Same concept, different interface. I'll often use some compression on individual tracks as well, but this kind of "fader" work really can't be beat for getting the little details right—you can really reign in a track this way and do a lot of subtle mixing work by easing levels around.
posted by cortex at 10:44 PM on November 27, 2008

Definitely faders first for reining in levels and highlighting sections. I still compress the holy hell out of bass and most vocal tracks, as a general rule, but fader automation is king.
posted by uncleozzy at 5:42 AM on November 28, 2008

You know our love will not fade away.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:04 PM on November 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Usually, when somebody talks about playing the faders, they mean recording a pass of the song where you're mixing. In DAW-world, you can do this per track instead of having to do all of them at once on a big console, necessitating bringing the band in to work faders/taping pencils across sets of faders/gawd knows what else.

So: while you can draw volume automation lines in your DAW, if you want to record yourself automating the volume of the track manually (with the mouse, probably), you can do that too. For some people, it's more musical that way. I'm a freak and I don't like how many points Digital Performer puts on the automation line (do you REALLY need a movable point every 5 samples?), so I don't do it...but you can.
posted by nosila at 7:54 PM on November 28, 2008

This is one of the worst things about working digitally on a home computer; without a control surface, riding the faders is extremely difficult (good luck spinning that little knob with your mouse!)

So you have a choice, really: draw volume automation lines, play back, tweak, play back, tweak, play back...or get yourself a control surface and record your manual adjustments as the track plays back.

Personally, I find a manually-played fader to produce better results faster than drawing the lines, but either one is a better alternative than leaving things at a set volume and trying to find a single level per track that works across the entire song.
posted by davejay at 9:47 PM on November 28, 2008

You've gotta have some compression on vocals -- singers just move around too much, or sing louder in higher registers, or something. That said, in Logic, while you can write automation while "riding the fader," I find it annoyingly hard to do with a mouse, and I tend to listen through tracks, while watching the waveform, then draw in automation where it's needed. There's a good keyboard shortcut in logic (shift+control+option, I think) that will allow you to drag across a section you want to bring up/down, & give you control points at either end of your drag. I've gotten relatively fast at it, actually, and it's more intuitive to me than trying to move a virtual fader up & down, even though I'm a veteran of pre-automation multi-track recording in the late 70's & early 80's. It was nuts how many hands you'd have to have on the mixer -- the whole band might have things assigned to do. "You -- turn the backing vocals up during the ahhs in the second verse. You. Turn the echo up during the chorus. You. Bring the guitar up, then back down at the lead. You. Mute & unmute that bad tom hit at 2:23." Good times.
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:49 PM on November 29, 2008

I basically never ride the faders, though it's something I've been thinking about more lately.
posted by frenetic at 8:50 PM on December 1, 2008

As most of he music i've been doing doesn't have a lot of long recorded takes. I've never really adjusted volume much - except say where the first verse vocals sound softer then say the second.

perhaps i need to try this more. - But doesn' t it sound odd - things changing volume through the song - un- natural?
posted by mary8nne at 5:01 AM on December 2, 2008

I heard a quote from Keith Richards talking about the production of Her Satanic Magesty's Request, saying something like, when the parts sound good I turn them up, when they sound bad I turn them down. Compression should be the last mixing step before mastering.

Recording wise, I've found this is especially true with double tracking vocals or lead melodies.
posted by dobie at 10:31 AM on December 3, 2008

flapjax wasn't it Peggy Sue he rode the fader on? ;)
posted by self at 9:40 PM on December 5, 2008

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