It may seem like a tedious and unnecessary task, but if you do this one thing, you’ll save yourself countless hours down the road.
You’ll not only save time, but you’ll actually become a better mixer.
It all starts with a little file management – let’s get started.
Create a folder on your hard drive (internal or external, it doesn’t matter too much for this.) Call it [Your Name] Presets.
Then, create several folders inside this folder. Title them “Vocals”, “Guitars”, “Bass”, “Drums,” etc. This is going to be where you store your presets.
If you’d like, you can even go a level deeper than that. You can create two folders inside “Guitars” – one for acoustic, one for electric. This isn’t 100% necessary, and it’s never a good idea to over-organize with folders. (It can quickly become a web of folders that makes files harder to find.)
Once you’ve got your folders set up, you’re ready to begin. Open up the last mix you did that you were really proud of.
Start with the vocals/lead instrument. If your DAW allows you to save the channel strip settings, feel free to do that for your tracks. If not, open up each plug-in and save it with a proper name in the folder you just created.
You can get creative with these names or keep it simple. A creative example would be “Milky Way Butter Vocal” for a smooth, spacey reverb setting on a vocal. Keeping it simple would be “Smooth Vocal Reverb.” Either works – just title it something that you’ll remember when flipping through for the perfect sound on future mixes.
Do this on all of the mixes that you’re proud of – you might end up with 100-200 presets after you’ve gone through your top 5 mixes.
Now you’ve got a bank of your own presets that you like for your mixes.
So how will this help you to be a better mixer? As you bring these up in your future mixes, you’ll be forced to slightly adjust them to work perfectly for the track. That means you’ll need to move a few things around, play with the knobs, and maybe even create an entirely new preset.
As we’ve said many times before, playing with the knobs (and then learning more about them and what they technically do) is the best way to learn. Starting from scratch every time can be a bit easier than starting from 80% of the way there. (Counter intuitive? Try it for yourself.)
When you’re close, you have to know exactly what button to push or knob to turn to get the sound you want. When you’re at zero, just about anything you do will get you closer, so you needn’t be as precise.