Automation is an unsung hero of music production. You wouldn’t believe the amount of automation that goes into producing a vocal track, but most people have no idea what it is.
As you’re slowly getting your head around your recording software, you may have noticed a display that either appears under the recordings on your tracks or overlays them. It’s a coloured line, nothing more, nothing less. Usually, a small box on the track display tells you that it indicates volume or pan. This is not the moment to get rid of the display you opened accidentally and get on with things, no no, this is the time to realise an amazing discovery.
You see, automation is one of many ways to lighten your workload. Instead of furiously trying to mix several tracks with fx sends and all manner of other events in a 3 minute panic, you can use automation to write in every conceivable mixing manoeuvre in your own sweet time.
In the image above, you will see an audio track with two lanes of automation below it. The first lane is for volume and the second is for panning. As you click on the line (it starts off straight and set to zero value or centre pan), new points are created – think of these as joints to allow the line to move up and down. Click and hold on these points and you will be able to increase or decrease the volume/level/value or in the event of panning, choose its position in the stereo field. You can now control the volume of the track at any point, the panning of the track at any point, and even send levels to effects. This can be done to an amazing degree of accuracy – I often use automation to remove breaths from vocal tracks.
In the example above (from one of my own tracks), I have chosen to automate a send level from one track to a bus track containing a reverb. I have set it so that it doesn’t send any signal from my Taiko drum track to the reverb until right at the end. Performing this task in the old-fashioned style of mixing would have been quite a daring stunt.
From this day forth I implore you to investigate automation and discover what can be done with it. Hopefully, it will see you sitting back with a smile on your face as your song invisibly mixes itself.