So far we've recorded our band in our rehearsal room location, added vocals, an electric guitar part and amassed a few hours worth of audio in the process. So now it's time to send the band home and bring all the elements together in the mixdown stage.
By recording our instruments separately, each via its own input on our audio interface, we now have each audio track on a different channel in Cubase, meaning we can adjust and play with each sound individually.
If you have multiple takes to choose from, listen through and appraise each one you have. It's often good to use headphones here to really zero in on the performance.
With our 'best take' selected, the first steps are some basic housekeeping. Are there any unexpected thuds or buzzes anywhere on any of the tracks? It's simple to chop out performance mistakes or other unwanted sounds by cutting out and deleting any unwanted audio.
If one section of a performance needs replacing, you can select a 'good' verse or phrase and copy and paste it in place of the unwanted section/s. You could even lift a solo or part from an entirely different take.
Do beware, though: too much editing and rebuilding will make your track sound mechanical, and it can be fiddly to match the new, intercut section with the existing tracks around it. However, should you need to make an edit and cut and paste a section to replace a glaring mistake, Cubase has the ability to stretch timings and make audio match its surroundings should you need it to. This is one of the huge advantages of digital recording and editing.
Start with the drums
A good place to start any mix is with the drums. And getting them working together with the bass. As our band was recorded playing together in the same room, we can achieve an ambient, natural sound by starting will the stereo overheads. Pan one overhead channel left and the other right to widen the overhead mix.
It's best to keep the overhead signals as clean as possible. If the drums were recorded in the same room and at the same time as the bass guitar, the overhead signals may contain bleed from the bass, so you might want to roll off bass frequencies from the overhead signal with EQ. A treble lift can add brightness if desired too.
Once you're happy with the overheads, it's time to mix in the other close mic signals, so fade these up one by one, kick drum first. A noise gate can be used to cut out any unwanted spill from the close mic recordings.
Use EQ to remove extreme sub frequencies, midrange mud and top-end buzz. You may need to accentuate the upper click of the beater with a gentle boost, which can help the kick cut through the mix. Compression can be used to even out level inconsistencies or add punch.
Next, add the close mic snare drum. Again, you may need to roll off the lower frequencies and carve out boxy mids or resonances with EQ, as well as control dynamics with compression.
A touch of reverb applied to the snare can help dry, gated sound blend smoothly in with the overhead signal.
Don't be tempted to mix tracks in isolation. By all means check they 'sound good' by themselves but always remember they need to sound best as part of the overall mix balance.
A neat trick for drums is to combine the separate overheads and close mic signals together in what's called a 'buss', known as a 'Group Channel' in Cubase - grouping all individual drum parts to a single 'drums' fader. Try subtle bus compression, tape saturation and/or limiting on this 'drum buss' to gently control dynamics and add weight.
Another trick for drums involves mixing the original 'drum buss' signal with a duplicate signal that's been squashed with heavy compression. This 'glues together' your rhythm section and fills in gaps to create a pro-quality sound.
It's vital that the drums and bass work well together, so fade up your bass track alongside the drums. Vintage-style compression is particularly effective for levelling out a live bass performance.
Pull up your guitar tracks next. Try panning one part hard-left and one part hard-right for a lush, wide sound.
Remove obnoxious mids and harshness with EQ cuts if needed - but try not to hollow out the sounds too much.
Spiky, bright acoustic guitars can benefit from a touch of limiting - this is essentially fast-acting, extreme compression to reduce and even out sharp peaks.
Vocals sit in the middle of the mix. It's usual to add a little delay and some reverb to the vocal. And compression will even out the level changes with vocals for a more consistent sound. Reverb and delay may sound too conspicuous isolation but be sure to add them as you listen to the rest of the track to hear what effect they have in the context of the other instruments.
Time for a finishing touch. Add a 'master compressor' on your final output. As before this evens out the track and glues all the sounds together. Cubase has some great presets here for giving your track the finishing touch.
Now bounce this final output down to stereo and you've got yourself a finished track.