Mixing Techniques: Common Steps at the Start of a Mix (Part 2)
Have you ever opened a session that you were asked to mix and, you find it without the markers that tell you where each section start, such as Verse 1 or the Chorus, that all the tracks in the song are not positioned at the beginning of the Pro Tools session, or that the session is not in the proper tempo?; This has happened to me several times. Not having the session properly prepared can be frustrating and a waste of time. The truth is that in the long run, it is worth spending a little time to set the session properly before you start mixing. That is why, in this blog, I will continue with different types of recommendations so that the mix down is a pleasant experience.
Well, if the beginning of the song is not at the start of the session in Pro Tools (as you can see in Figure 1), then you have to position it first unless the song was recorded according to time code or SMPTE; This will prevent you from changing the song start. If this is not the case, then the process in Pro Tools can be as suggested in the following steps. Although, I imagine that some of you already have done it before and already have your techniques in how to do it, in that case, congratulations! However, you should always listen to other suggestions and keep an open mind because there is still something we can learn from others. So let's start.
First, you have to "clean" (erase) all the excess audio at the beginning of the session that you won't use as in the case of Figure 2; You can do this by selecting all the audio at the beginning of each track, that it is not the beginning of the song, and clicking on the "delete" key to erase it.
Next, you will have to select all the audio in all of the tracks in your specific session. I recommend changing the size of the tracks to visualize them all at the same time in the entire session; This prevents you from missing one of the tracks that might be hidden. You need to be very careful when making this selection. Therefore, you need to make sure to include the exact time where the song begins and where it ends. The next step is to click on the "Clip" menu and select the "Group" function (see Figure 3).
You will notice that all of the clips or audio in the tracks are going to turn into a single color, and it is going to look like it is just one Clip, as supposed as many. The reason it will appear like this is because of the "Group Clip" function, which will merge all clips as one, therefore, facilitating the process of moving all Clips simultaneously as if it were only one (see Figure 4).
Another tip: Make sure the first beat of the song is exactly at Bar 1 | 1 | 000, which is Bar 1|Beat 1|000 Ticks. Otherwise, the song will not be in tempo with the click from the beginning. To do this, it might be necessary to "Zoom in" and see in detail where Bit one begins. In this case, it is the Kick track. If you notice in Figure 5, there is still a little "silence" before the first hit, so you will have to erase it to get to the fist kick sound.
You can use the Trim tool to remove the "silence." I recommend utilizing the Slip editing mode to trim it (see Figure 6). As you can see, it is effortless to edit all the clips in the tracks at the same time using the "Clip Group" function.
Now, it is time to position the beginning of the song to measure 1 | 1 | 000, which is at the beginning of the session. It is possible to move it simply using the Grabber tool (little hand icon) and in any Edit mode. But, we will do it using the Spot mode to practice a bit. First, in the upper left corner of the Edit window select the Spot mode by clicking on the button, then, select the Grabber tool, and click on the Clip Group in the Edit window (inside the blue area). You will notice that a dialog window will appear and ask you to enter a number. That number should be 1 | 1 | 000 (see Figure 7).
By clicking the "OK" button in the window, the entire Clip Group will move to the left side exactly at the beginning of the session, which is where we wanted to place it. Since the song is at the beginning of the session, it is an excellent time to "Ungroup" the "Clip Group"; This is done by simply going to the Clip menu and selecting the "Ungroup" function (see Figure 8).
After ungrouping the "Clip Group," you will notice that all of the clips returned to their original state, meaning, they will be separated and with their respective unique colors (voice) to be able to manipulate them better during mixing.
This type of tasks seem very easy, and it is if one knows what are we doing. But, if you are not careful performing it, this can turn into a real nightmare, as they might be problems such as phasing, instrument tracks out of sync, etc. So get to practice, because as they say, "practice, makes perfect."