Pocket- Guide to a Mixer Buss?

When I had my very first lesson from a professional music producer and DJ from within the UK Drum and Bass scene one of the first questions he asked me when we got started was – ‘Do you know what a mixer bus is?’

‘Errmm…no…?’ I replied.

What I thought was going to take a huge amount of effort to get my head round actually stuck pretty easily.

This is what he proceeded to tell me…

A Mixer Buss is essentially an umbrella term that describes a route in which you take a selection of one or more individual instruments (or audio), from their own channels and route them towards a particular place or group – (a mix buss)

So basically, you’re taking the signal you have in your mixer channels and ‘routing’ them somewhere else.

Here’s a quick example:

Say you had all your drum tracks nicely organized into their channels on your mixer. You’ve got a kick drum, a snare, some hi hats and some congas. As it currently stands they all sit within their own channel on your mixer.

If you were to send them to a mixer bus – you might route them all to what you could call a ‘Drum Buss’. This buss would have all the individual drum instruments routed to the same mixer channel.

Okay, that’s all well and good – but…

‘Why Use a Mixer Bus in the First Place?’

As I mentioned above a mixer bus is the generic term. Under this main umbrella you’ll often hear other phrases such as;

  • Aux Sends
  • Buss Groups
  • Inserts
  • + a whole host of other keywords and phrases.

For the sake of simplicity for a music producer, here are a few reasons why you could use a mixer bus;

  • Save yourself time: While on the surface it may not seem like you’re saving time – you are. You’ll be able to mix different audio from their respective channels at the same time by going straight to the buss channel. Also, to save yourself even more time I highly recommend you start each new project with a template that already has your buss channels set up.
  • Save yourself CPU usage: If you’ve ever overloaded your computer whilst producing music you not only know about the annoyance it can cause but the completely waste of time of have to redo everything if your computer crashes before you end up saving your project.

It allows you to cut down the amount of plugins you use by just processing the buss channel instead of the individual parts.

While using mixer buss won’t guarantee your CPU won’t flake out on you it’ll definitely help save your computer power for longer 

  • Create a sense of Cohesion: By ‘gluing’ your individual elements together. This is an important point. By using processing techniques such as compression – you can have a disjointed mix sounding far better than it did in its individual parts.
  • Add More ‘punch’ to Your Mix: Again, using processing techniques you can add more punch and energy to your mix
  • It Makes Things Simple: Imagine sticking a reverb on 4 different drum parts…now try getting those individual parts to fit together in the mix. You’re making your job far harder than it needs to be. By applying reverb on the buss channel you’re affecting your affecting all those parts you’ve routed to that bus at the same time

Where to Apply Bus Routing?

The short answer for this one is simple – everywhere.

You can route your;

  • Synths
  • Bass
  • Drums
  • Keys
  • Vocals

Also, if you’re layering different layering different sounds on top of each other you could send those individual sounds into their own buss. So for example;

  • Low End Kick + High End Kick: You might want to layer 2 different kick drums because you like the low end of one kick and the high end of the other. It’s recommended you’d have each of these kicks in their own channels. You’d then send them to a shared ‘Kick buss’ and then route the that to the ‘Drum Buss’
  • Low End Snare + High End Snare: Again the same could be applied to 2 separate snare drums. Each snare drum would have their own channel. You could then route those individual channels to a ‘Snare Buss’ which in turn would be routed to the ‘Drum Buss’.
  • Percussion: You could also do this with percussion. Have all your individual percussive elements routed to a ‘Percussion Buss’ then route that to the ‘Drum Buss’

Again, this could apply across various different instruments and audio.

Mix Bus vs Master Bus

So, what’s the difference between a mixing bus and master bus?

As the name suggests, the mixing bus will contain signals for mixing purposes such as;

  • Adding Effects
  • Using Procession Plugins
  • Adjusting The Volume of Multiple Tracks at the Same Time

Your master bus is where everything in your mixer gets routed too and produces the final end sound. You master bus is affected by what you do in your mixer buses which is affected by what you do in your individual channels.

Have a look at the diagram below that shows you a very simple way to organize your mixer channels and how they could be routed. The best way to view this is from right to left.

Mixer bus example and diagram

Wrapping it all up

So on the surface the generic and umbrella term of ‘Mixing Bus’ is actually quite easy to understand. It basically describes the process of when you route a signal from one place to another.

However, as you dig a little deeper in to why you would use mixer bus and consequently how you would use them you can see the simplicity of things somewhat changes a little.

If you’re just starting out producing music my advice would be to create a project template for you to get used to every time you start a new project. If creating one from scratch sounds a little too do daunting, there’s nothing stopping you from downloading one that’s compatible with your DAW and maybe editing it a little bit.

Make sure though, that the template has at least the most basic of mixer bus setups. That is; individual drum channels routed to a overall drum bus for example and then start your tracks how you normally would.

Once you confident with basic setup, there’s nothing stopping you from working out nuances of mixer buses using things such parallel compression, side chain compression and other processing technique so you can really get the most out of your mix.

All the best and good luck,

  • C