What is your track layout for mixing?

Im trying to get more organized

What is your overall track layout when mixing your projects?

Do you have it all on screen at once or do you have to scroll horizontally any?

Do you use individual reverbs and delays on vox/drums etc or do you just send stuff to busses??

At what point do you start adding fx to tracks etc?? for example if I use a drum template or vocal template to save time there are already FX applied etc. But maybe they arent right for each project so do we start from scratch every time or what???

I guess one of the main things im trying to figure out is if I should have various individual verbs for drums/guitar/lead guitar/vox/bass etc…or just send them to 1 or 2 reverb busses

same for delay.

The tradeoff being of course just using a buss is simpler and cleaner…BUT will I have the control needed to tweak stuff and make it standout nicely if I m sending everything to 1 or 2 reverbs and delays.

if you use all busses, then how many reverb and/or delay busses do you use

so reverb, okay I can see maybe just having a long and short reverb but what about delays?? I might generally like some ping pong on the main vocal but what about other types of delays etc? how many delay busses might one need?

What about for instance just short slapback for vox. Would that be on a buss or would you put it on the vox buss itself as opposed to a slapback buss?

gets complicated quickly even when trying to simplify

please discuss, thanks, JJ

I use busses for fx as I find inserts limit what you can do to the reverb or delay as in eq and compression etc.
I get the mix as balanced as I can before I start with eq or compression ,fx come last most of the time but sometimes as I go.
Drums a lot of the time I will send to the same room and a separate verb for guitars etc
and a different verb or usually more for vox

so you are talking maybe 3 different reverb busses?

At least yes

so how do you set that up, long, short or plate, room? or what?

this crap gets so complicated lol

A drum room ,a medium room ,hall or plate for guitars etc then vox usually a small room, a larger plate with more pre delay .Then I would say set up more busses for 16th slap mono sometimes stereo ,a 8th note and a quarter note delay sometimes I use them sometimes not. I might then set up a bus for parallel comp or distortion

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Here’s how I usually work - screen split horizontally. Console at the bottom, tracks at the top

Once I have a good static balance going

In the screenshot of the session shown above, tracks 4 through 20 are all various reverb and delay busses.

I have a main “room verb” that the drums go straight to. Then I have a “gtr room” “keys room” and “vocal room” that all feed the room verb. These each have a delay on them that effectively becomes a different pre-delay time for the room verb. The vocals have the longest pre-delay, followed by the guitars and the keys. This helps create more depth in the soundstage.

I also have a snare plate verb, a tom verb, a tom room, a vocal slap delay, an 8th note stereo delay, a vocal plate, 3 different ping pong delays with different settings, and a wild sounding “special FX delay”.

Do whatever works for you. Try both and see which way you like better.

I prefer the separate buss method, because it allows for more flexibility. If I decide I want to put some tom verb on the snare, I can without using another instance of the reverb. Automation is easy, because automating the send level doesn’t affect the source sound in any way.


Good topic! Agree that it is useful to get into the habit of having some kind of system or organization. Which particular way you choose to go is far less important than just finding something that works for you and going with it. Mike Senior writes about the value of doing this in his excellent book on small studios (highly recommended!). One of the few times when I read a section and said “Hey cool, I do that already…”

On screen real estate: I picked up a so-called ultrawide monitor for my music rig, which gives 2560x1080 resolution at about 32 inch overall screen width. I’d used a pair of venerable 15" monitors before that, from previous computer builds, and got this when one of those finally gave up the ghost (got a LOT of years outta that sucker). This way I can have lots of things on screen at once without any break or scrolling required.

Since I have much more horizontal space than vertical, I tend to undock the console from the track workspace and have it to one side; in my DAW (Mixcraft) the console window also includes tabs for project data (text fields for annotation), sound properties (including MIDI editing), and the built-in sound library (which I pretty much never use anymore). In this view I have a MIDI sound selected and the Sound tab chosen:

Then when I want to open whatever VSTi or plugin, I just leave them overtop while fiddling with them and bring forward the workspace as needed, just placing them where I can click on pieces of their windows to make them the focus:

These screens are from a recently-begun project (cover of a Tom Petty tune), so it’s nowhere near the final state btw. Lots more to go but makes a useful example for this question…

I also set the track colors so that I can see at a glance what goes with what. Guitars are in blue, bass in green, drums in purple, and vox will be in red once they’re tracked. I also make heavy use of track markers, also color-coded, separating verses, choruses, bridge (and usually sections within each of those), with blue flags for verses, red for choruses, yellow for bridge, aqua/turquoise for intros and outros. The colored flags are useful during tracking, because I can just glance at the screen and be reminded that the chorus is about to start or whatever.

In terms of track order, my usual is to have at least one reference track at the top, with a separate output channel for them right beneath, so that I can a/b between them and my mix. But lately I’ve been using the plugin REFERENCE by an outfit called Mastering the Mix for that, which greatly simplifies the process of one-click switching between many ref tracks and the mix.

Then my sequence is the rhythm section tracks (bass, drums; sometimes the drums are a submix with the kit pieces within, but not in this example), guitars (plus mandolin if I’m using that), then keyboards and finally the vox tracks. In the views I posted, greyed-out tracks are muted, and you can see in the bass track all the bits and pieces from the multiple takes I did, from which I comped the final track (haven’t discarded those remnants yet in case I need them to replace an errant note that I have not yet noticed, but will once I can commit to the final).

At the bottom are the sends. Right now I have just two, a compressor for guitars and a reverb. Will no doubt have a couple more before all is said and done on this project. I have many of these tracks shrunk to min height to take up the least vertical space possible, but will expand them as needed as I proceed.

Again, the particular order of all this is really of no consequence provided you start with more or less the same setup each time and then modify from there as the project dictates. I do find that the color coding is really important for me for whatever reason…

Hope this helps!

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Depending on the DAW you are using, setting up a template or three for different types of tracks can be very useful, however you choose to do it. The easiest way for me to do it is to have the drums on top, followed by the bass, since getting that relationship how you want it is usually step number one. From there, I would usually try to have the vocals in the next section, then the guitars and whatever else is included after that. However you like mixing things it’s just a matter of getting the tracks where they need to be visually for your preference so you don’t have to search for the pesky left channel rhythm guitar clean channel when you are trying to automate something.
As far as busses go, they would generally be on the bottom, and you can use as many as you want on the template. If you use them efficiently, like a couple of compressors, a couple of delays and reverbs, etc. you can really save on cpu power over individual inserts.
The key is however you want to organize it, it will pop up the same and save you time each time you start a project. Pretty obvious, I know, but it has taken me a long time to adopt anything that organizes my projects, so I have crap generally scattered everywhere, and if I’m sending tracks off to someone I sometimes leave an individual effect on a track that shouldn’t be there.

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The individual groups are called “buckets”. I keep organized in banks of 8 even if I have empty channels.

This is typically how I have my buckets divided at any given time. Keep in mind that digital mixers have layers and banks. We also have the ability to park a stereo L/R piano on ONE fader, where as analog consoles typically require 2.

I use layouts and snapshots to navigate.

Both. I keep about 16 effects modules strapped to the auxiliary busses. Those 16 effects are what I call ‘global effects’ meaning that at any time, I can send any of the 500 channels, either digital or analog, to those ‘globals’. I’m routed so I can also send a delay tail back into a reverb, or a distortion bus into a delay bus. Basically the globals are my most commonly used effects so I can get stuff to them quickly. They park on my 4th bucket which is called a ‘glory strip’. Again, they’re for more global or universal effects.

Then I have an additional 40 pre-configured busses on standby with their signal chains pre-built. I route anything to and from them as needed. Check out Dave Pensado’s templates. Same idea.

Do both. Have global busses, and specific group busses. Like Drum verb short. Drum verb long. Vocal verb long, Vocal slap etc… Including All Tracks Long Verb. All Tracks 1/8 Delay. All Tracks 1/4 delay. All Tracks Tape Machine.

16 shared between all tracks. 40 available on standby.

That depends on how intensively you use delay. Remember that you can keep multiple delays open on the same bus, then pick and choose by muting and unmuting them as needed. This entire thread is really a question about how to build a template. You’re gonna have to go through a lot of experimenting until you really understand your own workflow.

Start with a mono vocal track then send to a stereo bus. So you want it on a bus. Don’t make a mono track stereo unless you have by splitting mono->stereo within the channel strip unless you have a damn good reason to.

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Hey man, I’ll add one more thing. Some mixers are a big fan of a left to right workflow. So they’ll start with all their drums to the left, then work their way horizontally across the mixer moving to the right, adding and tuning elements as they move across. I’m a center-out guy. Meaning I like to have my most dominant elements to the immediate left and right (vocals to the bucket immediately left and drums to the bucket immediately right).

Some mixers (Like CLA) scatter their return busses next to the relevant groups. So CLA’s vocal verb returns are somewhere close to his vocal channels. I lump all of my return busses into the middle of the console.

Long story short, there’s no correct or incorrect way of doing this. Some guys put all their returns to their far right. Some guys even have them far right, on the other side of the master fader. Again, no correct or incorrect way of doing this. Find what works for you.

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Hmmm. I have a slightly different approach to this. I don’t consider my static actually balanced until I have my transient, EQ, and saturation in place. I’ve found it almost impossible to balance the kick/bass/overheads without having to re-balance after those particular effects are applied. I started using transient manipulation a lot more when mixing complex layers of kick samples. I’ve found that elongating or condensing the decay tail of a kick can immediately shoot a rough-balance to shit lol.

So lately I’ve been applying non time-based effects to the drums, bass, and vocals almost immediately.

I wondered if I should expand further on this - what I meant was static balances with all my eq and comp in place. Jon Jon asked:

At what point do you start adding fx to tracks etc

When I think of “fx” I think of reverb/delay/etc ie. “mix cosmetics”. I consider eq and comp etc to be “processors” which are foundational, and thus part of the static balance - There, now I’ve said it! :wink:


mainly I am thinking of eq and compression. So far I have always started with drums. I program a full song in ez drummer before anything else is even envisioned. So before I even start writing guitar parts I have gone thru and eq’ed and compressed each individual drum track, all 12-16ish of them since I break them out individually. of course they are in a drum bus which also gets some eq and compression.

So if I do the same for guitar, then bass, then vocals…there has been a ton of work (and time) on each element but then I have to start re-tweaking everything to get an actual mix going lol. After a while I lose track of how much compression and eq is happening overall blah blah.

of course then when I start adding automation and sends…wow, it gets pretty messy

So I am trying to get WAY more tidy.

yeah, 100%

one more question. I JUST started working with basic sidechaining (Reaper)

How does that come into play as far as setting up a template. Mainly im thinking of for instance maybe I want to have the vocals triggering a compressor for the rhythm guitar. so far so good. But if I am sending that guitar thru busses for delay and reverb, how am I going to sidechain those since other stuff like vox might be running thru those same busses?

btw if anyone is interested, the whole subject was triggered by this vid where CLA emphasizes neatness and organization.

One thing I forgot to address was using inserts vs sends: Like @Jonathan, I use both. I pretty much always have a global verb send or two that I’ll use, especially in acoustic-centric numbers, to try to make things sound like the instruments are playing in the same space. But if I have some particular feature I want a given instrument to have, I’ll use in-track inserts for those. One size does not fit all here.

Well, many here have much more experience than I do with sidechaining, but in my limited experience it doesn’t necessarily lend itself to a template thang. Always seems to be some specific need, and thus one sets it up as required for that need. YMMV, as the saying goes.

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Then side chain directly from the source…the delays and reverbs won’t matter.

??? Why not just run the side chain control through a different bus?

…does that make sense? The side chain signal path can be run independently of the reverb and delay signal path. Thus the reverb and delay on the guitars would respond to the effect of the side chain post fader. This makes it so the side chain source still effects the side chain target, without doing anything to the delay/verbs (because they’re on a separate bus).

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anything else in those rooms or are they JUST for predelay?

without going into a whole seminar, in general what type of settings do we do for rock vocals

I have some vague ideas on other stuff but im totally clueless on vocals. If I dont put anything on them they sound boring and dry but then the second I get something I can hear, it sounds like they are way off in a tunnel

whats a basic starting vocal fx going to look like for a basic rock song. Im assuming some type of slapback, then a room or plate with longer predelay? what about when u get to 8th note or ping pong delays…are they on all the time or automated or what? what about a longer delay that is still mono for depth, or is the reverb taking care of that?

vocal processing is by far my weakest (perceived lol) skill

They are just predelay - these busses feed into the room verb buss, which has no pre-delay on it. It works on the principle that more pre-delay = source seems closer to listener. So my vocals have the most pre-delay, guitars have less, keys less than guitars, and drums & background vocals have no pre-delay.

Ok, no seminar from me - watch this, and all your questions will be answered:

Then watch this:


I was just letting you know I wasnt trying to monopolize your time lol