Image Credit: Leo Wieling

Learn to let your DAW take the strain by using automation to bring your mixes to life, with this beginner’s guide to mix automation.

Automation is an essential part of the mixing process. All DAWs have some kind of automation tools to play around with, saving you time and helping you make precise adjustments to the mix.

No endlessly adjusting individual levels and EQ settings with your mouse – with automation, multiple faders and panning knobs are moved for you, and you can make changes to your track in real time, bringing your mixes to life.

Despite what the name suggests its not completely automatic – you do have to program the settings yourself, but it’s a far cry from back in the day when audio engineers with more faders than hands would have to help each other at the console, manually twisting knobs on multiple tracks to get whatever effect they were after. Now, your friendly robot DAW simply remembers whatever adjustments you’ve made during mixing.

When to use automation

Rather than just making one adjustment for the whole track and leaving the dial, automation lets you make multiple changes on different specific sections of a track. Want the chorus to sound louder? Use volume automation, which is the most popular automation used by producers, to achieve this. Adjust the volume between instrument phrases, or add an effect like reverb in only specific places.

What automation parameters are there?

Automation can be applied to volume, panning, mute, send, and plugins, to help create movement and space in your mixes. It gives control for example over when you want your effect plugin to kick in, and by how much.

How do you record automation?

You can click in automation control points manually on the graph and move the levels in your channel or plugin throughout your track before hitting play. Touch automation lets you draw automation in as the track is playing. Or you can use your DAW to record the adjustments you make on a fader or knob on your MIDI controller.

Different tools let you create smooth or sharp changes in the volume or effect. Like many production techniques, where to apply automation features is a personal choice for producers.

Mix automation is an extremely useful tool to bring another level of precision and excitement on your music. Bring up the automation on your DAW and have a go.

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