As you may have seen, I recently launched my first full-length mixing course for Logic Pro - Mixing Mastery: The Fundamentals of Mixing in Logic Pro. In this course we cover everything necessary to deliver great sounding mixes using Logic, starting with the very fundamental principles that underpin a professional sounding mix.
But what exactly are the fundamentals of mixing in Logic Pro?
Mixing is not just about selecting the right EQ and compressor. In fact, what plugins you use and how you use them is really only a small piece of the puzzle. All great mixes start by following some fundamental principles, all of which we cover in the course. The first, and one of the most crucial in my opinion is file management.
What do we mean by file management exactly?
TIDY UP AFTER YOURSELF
One of the biggest “mistakes” I often see people making is jumping straight from the production process to the mixing process and getting themselves in a tangle.
You’ll notice I put quotation marks around “mistakes” because it isn’t necessarily wrong or a mistake to be mixing whilst you are producing your track, it’s just that many inexperienced producers and engineers often tend to do too much and end up feeling overwhelmed by their session files. This results in them going round in circles trying to untangle an often cluttered and muddy sounding mix, and often a lot of banging heads against desks at another system overload message from Logic.
This is all about file management.
A bit of time spent deleting the piles of muted tracks and organising the session goes a long way (more on that shortly).
By commitment I mean - commit your tracks to audio before you mix.
As tempting as it may be to leave your 15 instances of Serum active just in case you need to tweak a synth patch later, this is actually not helping you or your computer. Export your MIDI tracks and software instruments to audio, remove the urge to go back and tweak synth parameters, and take a load off your Mac.
As well as freeing up processing power and forcing you to commit to sounds, audio waveforms are actually much easier to look at and follow than track after track of MIDI. At a glance I can usually tell what is a kick drum track, what is a synth track, and what is a vocal track just from looking at the waveform of the audio file. I can’t do this with MIDI.
The other issue with MIDI is it’s often prone to bugs, glitches, and sometimes-random-sometimes-accidental changes to patches or MIDI regions. I’ve lost count of the amount of times a MIDI region has changed pitch for some reason, or some MIDI notes are no longer triggering in the way they were. Printing these tracks to audio as soon as possible immediately removes any risk of things changing in a way they shouldn’t have.
A quick File > Export Selected Tracks as Audio Files will do the job (or straight from the toolbar if you've got Logic set up properly 😉). You don’t have to delete the original MIDI tracks (and nor should you). Keep them saved as they were in case you do need to come back for whatever reason.
START ALL OVER AGAIN
When it comes to mixing, my personal preference is to work from a completely fresh session file - even if it’s a track I’ve been producing myself.
Once I’ve exported everything to audio, I’ll open up my mix template and import the files ready for mixing. This keeps the mixing process entirely separate from the production process.
You might ask if there’s any sense in doing that, as we’ve just spent ages building up a strong production mix and now we’re going to just begin again in a whole new session? Yes, and this has a few benefits.
Firstly, it keeps things organised and it separates the two processes mentally. I can take off my producer hat (the hat which tells me to keep adding things to a song) and put on my mix engineer hat (the hat which tells me to start taking things away from a song). The deliberate shift in mentality can be really useful, particularly if you’ve been working on a production for a long time.
Starting a fresh session also removes any bugs or issues which have been buried in the session file. As great as Logic is, it’s often prone to developing weird latency issues within a session which can be difficult to diagnose and fix. This is particularly common in sessions with a high track count which use a lot of software synths.
Beginning again from a clean session file will eradicate any of these bugs and allow you to work much more efficiently.
A PROPER SET UP
What a lot of people don’t realise is that there are actually tons of hidden features buried in the menus of Logic which can streamline your workflow and make mixing much easier for you.
There’s nothing worse than getting an idea and then having to break your creative flow whilst you click around trying to figure out functions or think about where a certain button is.
Setting up a proper mix template with all of your most used features just a click away makes the whole process much quicker and much more enjoyable.
In the Mixing Mastery: The Fundamentals of Mixing in Logic Pro course, I walk you through some of the hidden features in Logic and show you some tools that I use on every mix.
Spending a bit of time deciding on what features are most important to you when mixing - such as configuring your display and assigning the right mouse-button tools - along with laying out the routing in the mixer beforehand can save so much time and energy when it comes to actually mixing.
Do this all in advance and save it as a blank mix template. This way, once you’ve exported your files from the production as we discussed above, all you need to do is fire up the mix template, import your files and you’re ready to mix from the same starting point every time.
RESTORE SOME ORDER
Last but definitely not least is to properly order, name, and colour code all your tracks.
Whenever somebody shows me their Logic project and says they’re having trouble getting the mix to sound good, there’s almost always one consistent issue: the project files are an absolute mess.
No tracks have proper names, the tracks are randomly ordered and the project is just a wall of the default-blue audio files.
10 minutes spent just going through and naming your tracks with sensible names that are to identify, as well as colour-coding all the parts with some kind of grouping system is going to make navigating your session a thousand times easier, and ultimately make your mixes better.
Trust me; if you’ve been mixing a track for a few hours and your eyes are starting to feel the strain, there’s nothing more frustrating than having to trawl through a wall of blue audio files in order to find that hi-hat which is now starting to sound irritating.
My personal preference is to have the drums at the top of the project, followed by the percussion, then the bass. From here, it’ll be keys/synths, guitars, then vocals. The reason being that the drums and the vocals are usually the two things that get the most work during a mix so knowing that they are at the top and bottom of the session respectively makes it much easier to quickly jump from one to the other. Particularly in a busy mixer window.
When it comes to colouring, I like to have all my drums in a dark blue colour (the marquee and scissor tools show up really well against a dark blue background which makes micro-editing the drums much easier). Bass is usually a deep purple, synths in pink, guitars in red, vocals in green. You get the idea…
Colour-code your mixes however you like. What colours you choose isn’t really important, what is important is being able to take a single glance at your session and know exactly where each track is.
A lot goes into building a great mix, but getting these very basic things right from the beginning can make the whole process much easier and deliver much better results. If you’re interested in seeing how I implement all of this into a full mix from start to finish, check out my Logic Pro mixing course now - Mixing Mastery: The Fundamentals of Mixing in Logic Pro