Your DAW may have tons of very useful features. I bet there are features you don’t even know existed.
Truth is, there are tons of unused features in your DAW and if they are unused, there is a reason.
Maybe you do not know your DAW very well. Or you didn’t need those special features yet, so you didn’t “discover” them yet.
In any case, relax. That’s okay.
You simply don’t need them. Mastering all the features of your DAW won’t make you a great mixer.
You have to focus on the basics: your essential mixing tools.
To record your tracks, you need to know how your interface works, how to create audio tracks, how to set up your inputs and outputs and how monitoring works.
When it comes to mixing, there are in my opinion only five essential tools in your DAW that are critical to getting great mixes.
Your faders are critical since setting levels is the core of mixing. Consequently, faders are the most important tool. Yet it’s a very simple tool. But your static mix is so important. If you get the levels right, your mix is halfway done.
EQ allows you to give clarity to your song. All your tracks are dumping into a single stereo output and they are all competing for the same frequency range. You need EQ to make your tracks work together instead of against one another. EQ will make them blend well, so you’d better learn how to use it.
Compression gives punch to your instruments and makes their volume more consistent. Punchy drums, grooving bass and upfront and clear vocals are the result of a good use of compression. Get it right.
Reverb is used to give a sense of space. As if the band was playing live in the same room. You can use reverb to push some instrument back, to give depth to vocals,or give life to your guitar solo. Reverb is your best friend.
Your pan knobs
Give width to your tracks with panning. Sure your mix has to sound good in mono, but it can sound great in stereo. Pan your tracks to maximize stereo width and make your song sound bigger.
These five are really the ESSENTIAL mixing tools. You will use these basic tools on EVERY project. So focus on those, and leave the rest for later. You’ll use your fancy phaser and chorus later.
It’s just that: fancy. You don’t need them so much. Or you might need them, but they are not your everyday tools.
So, work on the essentials first and build solid mixing skills.
Hope that helps. For more information on making great sounding mixes using only the five most important plug-ins you have in your DAW, click the link below.