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Mix balance in Bitwig

This is a short guide to show you some methods I use to acheive a basic mix balance in Bitwig Studio. Balancing your mix is essential to make sure that no one instrument is too loud, and that everything has the correct gain level in the mix.

For beginners (and sometimes even those who have been at it a while), balancing a mix is one of the trickest parts to setting the correct initial volume levels for a mix.

Disclaimer – I know the pedants of the audio world will pick me up on using the term volume in amongst this post, but I’m trying to keep it user friendly for the home producer. There is a distinct difference and volume has many meanings but lets leave that one for now – please refer to Gary Google if you want to delve further in to this rabbit hole. ** End of Disclaimer **

My point in all this is that the initial level set matters a lot. It may not seem much on the indivudual track but when everything is fighting for space in the 20Hz to 20Ghz range, a dB makes a lot of differnce. So before grabbing that EQ plugin, lets get the main balance right.

At the end of the day, the less plugins you need to use on a mix channel the better. It leaves more CPU to play with on other channels, not to say (in my opinion anyway) every plugin that goes on takes a little bit more off the original sound.

Here are my 3 methods to set a track level. On all of these, rather than using the channel fader I much prefer to pop a Tool utility on the channel. In Bitwig studio, the tool utility has a Gain knob which gives more flexibility when it comes to minute changes in level.

Pink noise method

This is my first go to method for setting the balance on the mix. Essentially you pull all the gain knobs down on all tracks so they are silent apart from an end audio channel which has on a file of pink noise.

This will play all frequencies at once so you can pit your instruments up against them and sit them at the correct level in the mix.

Start by playing the pink noise at the level you require. For a mix I’d probably aim for somewhere around -6dB to -12dB.

Once playing, slowly drag the gain of the instrument you are trying up until you can just hear it in the mix. Once done. Mute that instrument track.

Repeat the process for the rest of the channels until they are all done. Then unmute everything but mute the pink noise. You should have a fairly good starting point for a balanced mix.

Window method

This is very similar to the pink noise method above, but this can be done with the rest of the mix instruments. With everything playing, you pull one instrument down until it can only just be heard in the mix.

Mark this position by making a note of the level. Now increase the gain until it is obviously too loud and mark that point. The point between these two marks is your “window”. The correct level for the mix is somewhere between these points.

Most important first

In addition to the mix balance, it is important to mix the most important instrument in your mix first. Otherwise what is the point in that perfectly mix hi-hat that appears for two bars later on the track when the synth sounds pants?

Ideally you could use one of two of the above methods for acheiving this balance for your most important instrument, then second most important, third etc and then stick the rest in as required.

In conclusion

There is no getting around the fact that mix balance is something that has to be done correctly and it is a time consuming task. But the results on a well balanced mix are well worth the time and effort spent.

It’s not all about using the eyes, looking at the green going into red and numbers. Music is about listening and so training your ears to do the job of the fader display has far more value. It takes time, and there are no short cuts.

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