Some people have asked me if I add any processing to my Mix Bus before sending a mix to the mastering engineer. All I can tell you is that every time I sent a song or an EP to a record label to master without doing anything on the mix bus I always regret why I didn’t do it.
So I always do minor processing to the mix bus and in this tutorial I’ll show you how to process your mix bus but still keep the mastering engineer happy. Processing your mix bus also allows you to get a feel of what the mastering is going to sound like.
That also makes it easy to spot any problems then easily go back to the mix and fix it. So let’s jump right in and see what we can do to make a mix sound better and ready for mastering. If you’re reading this, I assume you’re done with a mix and just want to add some final touches.
Mix Bus Compression
When you insert a compressor on the mix bus then add a subtle amount of compression. You don’t need the compressor to squash the track, you just want to tame out the loud peaks and keep the track at a constant level.
You’ll need to use a fast attack but be careful not to ruin the transients, so you want a fast attack yet not too fast. A medium to long release time works well on the stereo bus.
Use a really small amount of gain reduction on the master bus, there are no certain rules but anything above -3dB will be too much. Remember, you’re not mastering, all you’re doing is gluing the song together.
Lastly, any ratio setting less than 2:1 will be fine. Add compression if it’s needed don’t just add it because I said so. One other thing, always A/B test your processing.
Mix Bus EQ
This is where you need to listen to your mix very careful, if you don’t have much experience with equalizers then I would advise you to leave this part to someone who’s going to do the mastering.
But what you want to do at this stage is remove any mud, rumble, harshness and any other problem frequencies. Don’t do any boost or cut that is +/-3dB, rather go back to the mix to fix the problem.
Unfortunately there’s no EQ Chart or Guide for the mix bus as genres are all mixed and equalized differently. For instance, you can’t use Hip-Hop mix bus eq settings on a Dance Music song. You’ll have to use your ears.
Avoid Limiter & Stereo Image Tools
You don’t need to add a limiter to your mix bus because the compressor takes care of the loud peaks. You also don’t need to bring up the volume of your mix using a limiter. Remember that loud doesn’t mean it will sound good.
Also avoid adding stereo image processing tools to avoid any stereo image balance issues. Including mid side processing, leave that stuff to the engineer.
Other stuff I think you shouldn’t add to the mix bus chain is reverb, saturation, modulation, exciters, de-esser any multi-band and other effects except for EQ and compression. If your mix bus needs more processing then go back to the mix to fix the problem.
Only use EQ and compression on the mix bus. For those who are wondering what the hell is a mix bus? It’s basically the master channel, that’s the simplest definition I can give you. That’s it for today guys, remember to leave the rest of the mix bus processing to the mastering engineer.