A guide to mixing music - Part 138Getting started
Essential tools for your mix
In the previous episodes we saw how to test and choose the tools that will help you out with your mixes. But it's very important to remember to limit them in number so you can focus on what really matters: to realize your vision of the sonic puzzle of the song your working on. That's why today I will tell you how I go around choosing those plug-ins to make up an indispensable survival tool kit you can take with you wherever you go.
If you have been following this series week after week (for almost three years now!), you are surely aware of a concept I hold very dear to myself and which I've mentioned many times before: contrast! Resorting once again to a visual analogy: white seems more brilliant next to a deep black. Translated into the audio world, this contrast principle can be applied to all mixing domains, like the depth, width or color of a mix, to cite just three examples. Well, what do you know, it's exactly this contrast principle that will help you put together your Dream Team of plug-ins. In my opinion, the best way to limit yourself to the essential is to do the following: for each family of tools (EQ, compressor, etc.) choose one "clean," multi-purpose plug-in and another one (two max) that has a distinct character, and that's it! Alone with this, you should be ready to face almost any mixing situation across. The "clean" plug-in will come in really handy when it comes to technical and/or "rescue" tasks, whereas the other one will allow you to make cosmetic retouches to your sound.
Words can only go so far, so I guess it will be much more interesting to show you what I have in my own personal tool kit. But before I do that, here are a couple of remarks to avoid any misunderstandings.
First of all, it's important for you to understand that this are just the tools I use to work, according to my personal musical tastes. By no means do I claim to hold the absolute truth in this regard and while these plug-ins have proven very useful to me, they might not work for you. So, in short, this list should be taken for what it is, an example, not a decree.
Besides, this list includes only plug-ins (which is already quite a lot!), but if I had to list hardware gear as well, the article would be several times longer...!
For the record: I don't have any special interests citing any of the brands or products below. I'm only listing the plug-ins I use on a day-to-day basis on the projects I'm involved in to make the point of this article clearer, nothing more and nothing less. So please don't start any rumors about whether I'm getting paid by some of these brands, because it's absolutely not true.
Now that that's clear, here's my personal Dream Team. For all of them I first cite the "clean" plug-in and then the ones with character.
These 11 plug-ins are at the core of all my mixes. However, and even though I could do without them, from time to time I also resort to other "special effects" like the ValhallaSpaceModulator, Tremolator & Co from the SoundToys v5 bundle, or even some of the the weird donationware by Airwindows.
There you go, now you know everything about me. I hope this example will help you get an idea of how to create your own indispensable tool kit to tackle any mix that comes through your hands. See you next time for some new adventures in mixing!