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Wednesday 27 March 2024

Templates and temples

 I've posted a few times on forums about this and a couple of people have asked elsewhere so I thought I'd do a quick post about the mix templates I use and why.

Why templates?

Tackling the last bit first, why use templates at all? I mean, all songs are different right?

Well, yes they are but templates are not there to force you into certain ways of working (unless you want them to be), they're about speeding up your work flow.

So lets start with the first template that appears on most of my mixes, my 8-bus template:

Most of my tracks will have vocals, guitars, bass, keys, reverb, percussion, and ear candy of some kind.
So I have these 8 tracks set up as receiving busses for applying bus-level effects and rough balancing.
They're also linked to a Korg Nanokontrol2 control surface so I have buttons and faders for instant muting, soloing, etc.
They all have a channel strip plugin on that is linked to another control surface, a Qube Mobie One, so I have all my core controls mapped to physical buttons, knobs and faders (I have a BCF2000 as well). 
Which is good because I hate mices.
But the point is, with one 'insert track' command, I get all this set up and routed.

Drums in the deep

So let's move to the next template: drums.

Sometimes I record real drums but more often I'm using Abbey Road vintage drums via Kontakt. And because Kontakt is the spawn of the devil you do not want to be trying to set up multi-channel routing every time you load an instrument - that way madness lies.
So channel one here is the kontakt instrument then I have the individual mic sends to separate channels, and then three sub-bus channels (click the picture to see all the channels): parallel compression, delay (just for the toms), and a crusher (for everything except the cymbals).
These will all route to the drum bus in the 8-bus template above and again they all have a channel strip plug-in on.
If I'm recording real drums I'll generally start with the same template and just get rid of the kontakt track and any others that aren't needed.

Sing like you're winning

My vocal template is complex because it's cunning. Not because I'm cunning, but because I've copied someone who is.

Actual recording happens on channel 1, it then might get multed out to channel 2 if I want to process loud and quiet bits separately (or some other kind of split for effect). These feed the parallel compression track that does a lot of heavy lifting to balance out the overall volume in a nice way.
The two VCA channels are the cunning bit, thanks to an article by Mike Senior, allowing me to easily do manual fine tuning on an actual fader rather than needing to use a mouse. 
And then finally there's a bit of extra reverb for the vocal. The reverb and parallel compression channels will generally be heavily de-essed.

A sense of space

I have other standard templates for things like guitars, bass etc. but they're all fairly standard and boring so I'll jump straight to the final template, for reverb:

We'll work from right to left to talk through this one. The right-most column has the main reverb on it, it's then fed by the three channels to the left, the front, middle and back delays. These have different length delays and EQ settings to simulate the effect of sound travelling further through air. This helps to add a bit of front to back depth to the mix.
The three columns on the left are for various effect reverbs, that will be automated in and out during a mix to add ear candy when needed. Which is a slightly simplified version of a set up used by Chris Lord Alge.

So that's it, templates to speed to things up.
In a similar way I have a standard plug-in chain for the master channel that I'll generally bring in once I've got the core of the song together and then mix into.