It happened years ago. I was mixing a song, particularly drums at that moment. I put my standard strip for rooms on the room track and while I was tweaking; I noticed that it sounds great, but not in the way it had to. But what’s happened?
Templates in mixing is a very controversial subject. Some people deny them because they kill the art of music production. Other rely on them heavily but don’t like to admit it. I’ve never used a “full template” approach, I just couldn’t even if I wanted to, because I’ve never heard in my life a full template from one mix which suits the best way to another, despite an artist made both records in the same session. And lots of automation, what I usually do, kill the rest.
But I’ve made many mixes from scratch. No FX chains, no templates, I inserted every plugin individually and manually. Oh, it takes time! Especially now, when 100+ track sessions are common. So I’ve had some masochistic experience in my life. And there are my thoughts about the subject.
The template denial party should realize that “template free” mixing is a digital era thing. Every analog mix in the world was mixed with a template. Analog studios have a limited quantity of gear and every piece is assigned to a narrow range of specific tasks. So yes, templates.
And yes, the possibility of full template mixing is a digital thing.
I think “template free” mixing is a great way to learn how to mix. You will have more freedom for experiments. It’s easy to add something new from scratch than to replace something existed. And it’s a more artistic way. So when young mixers always in searching for some templates I think strongly opposite is the right way to learn. But at some point templates should be considered, because they increase productivity and… quality. They help to automate workflow, skip the boring part and save your time and focus for things that matter. So for the sake of art, quality and productivity, consider them if you haven’t yet.
I don’t understand people who rename tracks from scratch. I have templates for every common instrument with names what I like. It’s way faster to move files than rename every track.
Basic routing is always almost the same. It is hard to invent something new here. Drum buss, guitar buss, etc. I don’t see the point in making it again and again since you’ll figure it out for yourself.
3. Track arrangement
I like tracks in the same place in every session. It’ll help to navigate automatically after you adapt to a particular order.
These three points help to shortcut dumb and routine work. I don’t see how it can destroy the art but I see how it can improve it.
4. Make it analog
As I mentioned before, analog studios have templates by design. So you can replicate them creating fixed templates with prepared plugins, bypassed or flat. If you use the same chain, again and again, it worth to consider. You can also create a pack of templates, for example, Neve Drums, API drums, and SSL drums if you want to recreate a particular desk. It saves a lot of time and almost every mix until the digital era was made like this.
5. Spaces, reverb, delays, etc.
Building the right space takes time sometimes. Two-three hours? Easily. So if you find something that works for you it’s better to save it for future projects.
6. Master buss
I found that making redundant FX chain for my master buss is more effective than just creating it from scratch for every new mix. So it looks monstrous, but I just delete what I don’t need.
This is the points about mixing templates what I consider helpful and improving. They don’t hurt the art of mixing, on the contrary, make it better.
And when I was tweaking that rooms I was tweaking overheads. I just confused the tracks and since it was “template free” session I made a mistake, what would be impossible if I use templates. It’s how I learn that my standard approach for rooms sounds awesome with overheads. It’s educational, as I said before.