The Power of ADSR Mixing!
A New Approach to Mixing,
Welcome to ADSR mixing! ADSR is the envelope you have to mould and shape your sound. While starting up, and learning mixing, I tried to find all the tools I could that take control of my sounds that help me while I’m mixing.
If you’ve ever mixed, you’ve probably felt that feeling of you’d like to take more control over the sound, but you don’t know how, or what tools are available for you to do this. EQ is a huge tool for creating space, and compression helps the sound to be more consistent within the mix, but what if you want to modify the sounds length (sustain), or after you let go of the button, you want it to play longer (release)? Or, what if you just can’t get the sounds to sit where you want in the mix?
This is where ADSR comes in. I’ve found it to be a very helpful tool while mixing.
Using VSTs to Mix,
The awesome advantage to mixing a beat that you’ve just created, is you still have 100% control over the instruments. You can use the ADSR right off the VST, or even change the sound if you’d like.
I often find myself using ADSR to gently fit my instruments in a bit more, before I attempt EQing. Or, while I’m EQing, I realize that the sound is too over-powering, or, not strong enough.
I will adjust the sustain knob for more power, or dial back the decay and sustain a bit if it’s too powerful. (More on that below).
What Knobs Should I Tweak on the ADSR Envelope?
Well, before reading this, you should play around with an ADSR envelope. This will give you an idea of how ADSR works.
Simply put, ADSR is a set of knobs that allows you to shape your sound to how ever you’d like. You can make it fade in (attack), make it play longer when you hold down the note (sustain), have it play longer when you let go of the note (release), or use the ADSR envelope for sound design purposes.
ADSR – Attack Knob,
I usually use the Attack if my instrument is too quick sounding. If there is a sharp pluck sound at the beginning of let’s say a bassline, guitar, or bell etc. I will gently blend in the attack knob, making that sharp transient at the beginning of the sound to become duller, and hopefully achieving what you are using the attack knob for!
You can also use the Attack knob in sound design to create slow-rising epic sounds out of instruments!
ADSR – Decay/Sustain Knob,
The decay is right after the the loudest part (the attack), slopes down the volume, and is usually quite quick. This is where the sustain comes in. Once the decay is finished lowering the volume, it leaves us at the sustain. The sustain holds that notes volume for however long the note is held down for. Upon the release of the note, there are times where the sound will keep playing. That is called the release.
I usually reach for the sustain knob if a sound is way too powerful in the mix when a note is held down.
ADSR – Release Knob,
The release is a real special one. I use this almost more as sound design, and at times, to help clean up my mix.
The release on ADSR is when you let go of the note. If a note is held down for 5 seconds, the release has not yet been reached until you let the note go. Upon release of the note, the release is what continues to play.
So if you have a sound, like a PAD for example, as they are usually drenched in effects like reverb, and delay. I will then dial back the release knob, and many times the effects, where it still retains that warmth and epicness, but not so far where it sounds funny when you let go of the note. (However, this can be a cool sound for some instruments, then you add delay to make it sound cooler!).
Yes, yes, complicating stuff, kind of, but all that matters is tweaking that ADSR knobs until it suites the sound you’re going for in your music.
ADSR Envelope Mixing — Conclusion
Tweaking the ADSR envelope works great to make your sound blend in the track when it’s being difficult. For those long sustain notes that just overpower the mix/chorus, or those sounds that keep playing for long amounts of time after the note is released! ADSR can be your option to a cleaner mix.
New to Mixing?
If you are new to mixing, I’ll tell you right now, having a nice meter to judge your audio levels is quite important. Check out this FREE one by IK Multimedia. It’s my favorite, and I use it on pretty much every mix/master!
I actually use this technique, ADSR Mixing, a fair amount. I find those long sustain notes really bring some power to choruses, but again, they can over power them. Pull back on the sustain and decay knob to gently push it to the background and blend it in nice!
ADSR mixing is a great tool when you feel your other tools aren’t working! You can also get a little sound design out of the ADSR envelope as well ;).
Hope it helped!