How to HOOK the listener with volume automation

In this video, you’ll learn how to make your mixes way more interesting in just a few minutes using volume automation. So, if you want your music to sound more professional and more engaging: watch now!

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In this video you will learn how to make your mixes way more interesting in just a few minutes using volume automation. So if you want your music to sound more professional and more engaging, keep watching.

But first be sure to download the free volume automation cheat sheet, there’s a link on the screen now or in the bio.

Hey, how is it going, Rob here from Musician on a Mission and let’s dive right in with this trick.

By using some simple volume automation, you can make your mixes more interesting but always making sure there’s a core focus.

So for example, when the vocal drops out, because that’s generally going to be the core focus, you can bring in something else like a keyboard fill or a drum fill to take up that empty space.

And by just turning up the volume a little bit for that one little section while the vocal has disappeared you make sure there’s something that’s pulling the listener in rather than them just getting bored in the gaps between the phrases of the vocal.

Then the vocal comes back in, the volume goes back down on that keyboard part and later on maybe the vocal drops out again, and this time there’s a really nice guitar fill, so you just bring that up a little bit.

The goal is to just guide the listener through the song, make sure there’s always something pulling them in and that there’s always a main focus when that vocal drops out. And then you can get a bit more creative with it and use volume automation and other ways to make your mix more interesting, more engaging and more impactful.

Now, if you want to see me actually do this in a mix, keep watching because we are going to go through a whole track together and add automation.

Let’s start by listening to the track and we are going to go from the very beginning and as soon as I notice a spot where I think, “Ah, you know what, that will be a great point for some volume automation,” I am going to hit stop, and we are going to do it together.”

[Music Being Played 00:01:49]

So there’s a few spaces there but because it’s only the acoustic guitar and the vocal at the moment, I don’t really want to bring up the acoustic, it’s quite nice to have that space, the reverb sounds nice and lush. So we will leave it at there.

[Music Being Played 00:02:10]

But now we’ve got this banjo that’s filling in the gap on the other side as well. So here I feel like it could come up.

Now, I’ve actually already done this with the banjo, so what you can see here is the volume comes up slightly, it ramps up and then it drops back down from when the vocal comes back in. So let’s actually watch this and listen.

[Music Being Played 00:02:31]

It’s really this hit here; when the vocal drops, it kind of fades out. And then this hit here is really obvious and straightaway that grabs your attention. If you can imagine listening to this for the first time, that would really pull you in.

[Music Being Played 00:02:49]

Then it drops back down.

[Music Being Played 00:02:59]

So let’s just make sure that’s not interfering with the vocal because we want to be careful that we are not pulling the tension away from the lead vocal.

[Music Being Played 00:03:06]

So maybe that could come down a touch, really not that much of an issue there.

[Music Being Played 00:03:23]

Another great example there, this banjo is really filling in a lot of those gaps, so we are going to do the same again.

We are just going to grab it so we can see the vocal; and if you think it will make it easier, what you can do is zoom out and actually just pull the channel that you are working on up to the top here so that it’s directly under the vocal.

We can move it back later. It just means it’s going to be easier now to actually see where those gaps are.

[Music Being Played 00:03:48]

So there is a kind of, a bit of the end of a piano trail in there, but the banjo is really what fills that gap and adds a lot of interest to that little section.

[Music Being Played 00:04:02]

And then we can just drag those out to make it sound a bit more musical, a bit more subtle, not as [inaudible 00:04:05] straightaway louder.

[Music Being Played 00:04:15]

So there’s a gap there but I like it. Again that nice lush reverb I am using FabFilter Pro, sounds really nice. That’s filling that gap so we don’t really need any effects there.

[Music Being Played 00:04:34]

I feel like we’ve given the banjo too much attention, so let’s see if there’s something else we could use here because there is a bit more of a fill there in the acoustics that we could actually use. Let’s pull that back down and let’s have another listen to just that gap there.

[Music Being Played 00:04:55]

So now we’ve got these two acoustic guitars, it’s creating this really nice stereo spread, it sounds really warm.

So what I am going to do instead here is automate the bus. So depending on what DAW you are using it might already be there, but in Logic you just have to actually turn on automation.

Then we can drag this up to the top and we just automate both of those acoustics. Instead of automating them individually, we can just do this.

[Music Being Played 00:05:19]

They’ve already come up a little bit anyway. Then let’s just make that slow for a bit more natural.

[Music Being Played 00:05:29]

Too much, too much. So normally just a decibel, 2 decibels is all you need.

[Music Being Played 00:05:48]

So I feel like we could fill these gaps but the vocal comes back in pretty quickly, so we will leave those alone.

[Music Being Played 00:06:04]

Oh banjo there, that was a nice fill on the left there, so a different banjo now, so I am guessing this is banjo 2. Let’s bring that one in this time.

[Music Being Played 00:06:15]

Easy. We can just pull up that [inaudible 00:06:16].

[Music Being Played 00:06:25]

So you get the idea, there might be a few more examples in the rest of the song but that’s it. So now you could get a bit more creative with it, so you could, instead of just doing this line here, maybe we could make the middle of the fill a bit louder so that it feels like it goes… something like that.

And you can get really creative with vocal automation as well, so we could just pull up the ends of words, I love doing this, so we can just get this for example and let’s see how this sounds.

[Music Being Played 00:06:57]

When vocals trail off towards the end of the word, there’s normally so much nice stuff there but it just gets lost.

[Music Being Played 00:07:04]

So you could pull that up like that.

So there you go. It’s really simple, really easy. This is one of your jobs as a mixer, it’s to pull the listener in, to enhance the original artistic intent and emotion of the track.

You saw the video I posted a couple of weeks ago called what is the goal of mixing, this is that second goal.

So please don’t neglect it. It only takes a few minutes at the end of a mix but it can have a huge impact.

There are actually quite a few different ways to use volume automation when you are mixing, so I’ve put together a cheat sheet so you can actually apply this because you need to go away and do this now in your mixes.

So that cheat sheet will help you to apply this particular trick and it’s got a couple more tips in there for applying volume automation to your mixes to take them to that next level.

And of course, if you are new here, don’t forget to subscribe and hit the notification bell.

So that’s all for me, I am Rob from Musician on a Mission. And remember, Create Regardless.


UPDATE: We recently released a video that shows some great automation tricks for Logic Pro X:

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