Originally Posted by brownj24
All the pro mixers seem to emphasize riding group and individual track levels throughout an entire song to maximize every element as much as possible; dynamics, emotion, etc...
I have tried to ride tracks and it doesn't seem to add much. Maybe I'm not feeling the music enough and thinking too technically.
Can you offer any advice on where to get started on riding levels in a mix. What elements do you start with. How many dbs are you moving things around? Anything you can offer about this skill that all you great mixers have would be appreciated!!
Yes, I sure can. I often 'train' my assistants by saying; "work without automation for as long as possible. Only start riding when you're ready to make the song 'breath'." Work in small steps and general idea's first. If you get an idea that will require more than ten minutes to refine, write it down to be done later. Keep your focus on the vocal and make the instrumentation support the vocal and lyric idea as best you can.
When you've got a 'mix' that has 'general levels' and 'rough sculpted' eq's. Start working through the song, section by section. Again keeping your work focused on the vocal and 'energy' you're trying to create. Don't spend too much time on any one idea. If you're working with live drums, they're levels should be pretty self sustaining, you may only want to ride your cymbals here and there, right before you're ready to print; jus to add that extra excitement. After you've worked through the whole song, section by section, take a break; listen to other material to clense your pallet.
When you're ready to get back to the song, just listen. Paying close attention to how it effects you emotionally. It should be compelling and hold your attention throughout. If there are sections or bars that don't, devise ways (in your head, or on paper) to rectify the problem. Then listen some more. Basically building an outline of what your plan of action is going to be.
It goes without saying; if you're feeling like a particular element or vocal isn't being 'felt' as it should, there's a good chance it's because something else is 'masking' it. Start your riding by lowering or using subtractive eq on opposing tracks, to make a hole for the element that needs focus. This method will allow you to stay within the construct of your outline.
Like any outline, rules are made to be broken, but breaking them will be easy and at your fingertips, if you progress in this method.