The term static mix refers to a mix that you create using only the faders and the pan pots in your DAW. When creating a static mix, you don’t add plugins and you don’t use automation. You simply create the best mix that you can by setting the faders and the pan pots to a static position.
It stands to reason that for most tracks, there won’t be one perfect position for your fader for the whole song. Perhaps things won’t be perfect with tracks panned to one spot for the whole song either. That’s OK. You can use automation later in the mix to change the level and pan position of different tracks if you need to. You can also implement compression, EQ, effects and all of the other elements of a normal mix. But at the static mix stage, your goal is simply to mix the song using only the faders and pan pots.
Why create a static mix?
There are a number of benefits to creating a static mix:
1. The static mix forms the foundation for the session:
By setting each track’s volume level and pan position to the best value that you can, you’ll create a solid foundation that you can build on later when using EQ, compression, effects etc.
2. It makes your EQ and compression decisions easier:
By hearing all of the tracks in a balanced mix, it becomes easier to hear how different instruments should be equalized. It also becomes easier to hear how much compression is needed to manage the dynamic range of different instruments. Making these kinds of judgments can be much harder if you’re not hearing them within the context of a mix. But with a static mix in place, the song’s requirements for things like EQ and compression reveal them selves to you naturally.
3. It gives you a clear starting point in your mixing session.
Knowing that you’ll start your mixing session by creating a static mix helps to avoid the problem of opening up your DAW and wondering where you should start. It forms a clear starting point to help you get your session underway and helps you to avoid adding plugins and changing levels with no real purpose.
Tips for creating your static mix
It is generally best to make the creation of your static mix the first stage of your mixing session. That said, there are a few steps such as organizing your tracks, setting up a mix bus and introducing trim plugins that I like to do first. But I think of these more as mix session prep, rather than part of the mixing process.
People start their static mix off in different ways. Some people turn all of the tracks down then turn them up one by one to incorporate that track into the mix. Other people like to listen to the track all the way through before they alter anything. Personally, I just hit play and react to what I hear. I like to loop the song and listen to it at least three or four times all the way through, making changes and experimenting with different levels and pan positions as I go.
Things will change a lot over the course of this process. As you listen, you’ll react to all sorts of changes in your songs that make you re-consider the position of the faders. But after running through the whole track a few times, you’ll have found the volume level and pan position that makes most sense for each track.
So when it comes to creating a static mix, it’s as simple as that. It’s a straight forward process but it has a big impact on the rest of your mixing session. Remember, you shouldn’t add any plugins or apply any automation at this stage. That comes later in the session. For now, it’s simply a case of creating the best mix that you can using only the faders and pan pots.
Do you start your session by creating a static mix?