Once you have recorded your tracks, the next step in the mixing process is to add plugins. Plugins bring life to your tracks as well as add unique effects and depth to your mix. Here are three essential plugins and the benefits they offer.
Equalization is one of the most powerful, and essential, plugin effects at your disposal. EQs give you the option to boost and cut any frequencies within an audio track. This gives you the option to drastically change the tone of each track, and can help to create space within your mix. In some ways, EQ serves as the tool that neatly organizes each track within the song. This is usually the first effect that is used in the mixing process.
Here’s a great introductory guide to EQ from Sonicbids!
Compression is used to change the dynamic range between the loudest and quietest parts of a track. For example, if you have a vocal track with a few loud parts that stand out from the rest of the track, a compressor can be used to bring those levels down to create a smoother dynamic range. The basic controls consist of the threshold, the decibel level at which the compressor “kicks in,” the ratio, how much compression will occur after the threshold is reached, and the attack and release levels, which control the time the compressor takes to affect the signal and to let it return to normal respectively. Compression is one of the more confusing plugins to understand, but it is essential to creating a good mix.
Here’s 10 tips for getting started with compression by Home Studio Center!
Reverb is my favorite effect by far. It is essentially the reflection, or “reverberation,” of an audio track that creates a sense of distance. When properly used, reverb fills the spaces within a song and creates depth. With too much reverb, songs can sound “muddy” or too noisy. When using reverb, you can make an audio track that you recorded in your bedroom sound like it is being performed anywhere from your shower to an empty cathedral.
Here’s a video by Waves Audio that will show you how to apply reverb!
There are dozens of other types of plugins out there, so what kind do you like to use? Do you have any specific techniques or products that you prefer? Let me know in the comments! Also, check out Plugin Boutique for a great selection of paid and free software.