What is Automation? And how do i use Automation the best way?
Updated: Feb 11
I usually get all my faders right around where they need to be (A rough leveled mix) with some basic FX on my tracks. Then I begin vocal automation first in the gain stages. This allows compression to be received evenly. There are times when a vocal is near flawless (signal wise) and I skip right over this stage but more often than not... it isn't and needs to be evened out. This is done by manipulating automation to the clip gain itself.
Once I know my gain staging automation is complete, I start adding in more FX, adjusting more faders, and making sure the mix is tight at proper levels. Get it close. Then use some volume automation on vocals and instruments that need to be brought up/down in the mix at certain points of the song, (like lead solos).
Automating FX parameters is a great way to control every single aspect of your sound. We sometimes find ourselves using a plugin for a whole track but wish we could change that plug-ins parameter mid-way through. for example, a Saturation plug-in with a lot of grit for the majority of the song but when vocals start, the input level is backed off a bit so the saturation is not overpowering your vocal, thus allowing everything to sit in the pocket/mix perfectly.
After this is complete, I automate the "Sends" for Bus FX. For example, you don't always want an overbearing reverb on the whole vocal track but it in some parts cranking up the verb is just what the Dr. ordered. This is the time to plan these things out.
Master Bus Automation
This one you need to take caution with. you can easily fuk up the dynamics of your mix in seconds by tooling around with master bus automation. However, it can be very powerful to add a +1db or +2db to the chorus in your song. Let's face it, dynamic makes most songs amazing and by playing with the dynamics in your song you can make a lame chorus go from just coming in or... "Coming in". Just do it tastefully or it's going to sound like someone grabbed the volume knob by mistake.
There are no rules with automation, however, there are some basic principles. Kick, Snare and Bass should more often than not left alone as they carry the rhythm section in most songs. Those should be left untouched with the exception of artistic creation or to boost/cut dynamic.