The Art of Bus Mixing

When mixing down your track, one of the hardest things to accomplish is getting all of your sounds to sound cohesive. While copying EQ setting along with panning and automation will produce good results, the only way to really gel it all together is through bus mixing.

Bus mixing is a pretty simple concept to understand. Let’s say you wanted to use the same reverb on all tracks within your mix, but you wanted to have the amount of reverb used different for each element on of your track. This is where bus mixing can really help. With bus mixing one can basically send the reveb from one “bus track” to as many tracks within a mix as desired. In addition, you are able to adjust how much reverb is being sent to each track, therefore you have complete control wihtout losing cohesiveness of the overall sound.

Most times, bus mixing is applied to the drum elements of a track. However, it can be used with vocals, basslines and synths as well. Although it is primarly used for drum mixing, it should not be mistaken with drum tuning. More on how to tune drums in my next installment.

Hopefully by now you have a solid understanding on what bus mixing is all about. Now it’s time to learn how to apply it to your track. The following steps are general, and apply to most DAWs. Some elements may differ, but the concept is exactly the same with most.

Step 1

In your DAW, identify the tracks you want to group together, for example; your drum tracks. It helps to move these tracks next to one another in the arrange window so you know they are grouped.

Step 2

Select all the track channels you want to group, then navigate to the bus options and chose a number.

Step 3

This typically will automatically create a new auxiliary track, which is your bus track. All signals in your group are now being routed through this single channel and fader.

Step 4

Select all of the tracks in your group again and bring down the levels a bit. This will help prevent clipping when you send the signal from the bus over.

Step 5

Optional – Use automation on your bus track to really get creative.

That’s pretty much it. Now you can go ahead and apply, tweak and send effects to your entire group!