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Audio Bussing Explained

Audio Bussing Explained

You will often hear many of the greatest mixing engineers discuss bussing instruments together, such as processing a drum buss, or even using parallel effects via buss sends. At first, I didn't really understand the need for buss sends because I figured processing individual tracks is more effective. In some cases, that may be true, but it can be easier to get a finished sound quicker by means of bussing.

What is a buss?

For our purposes we're going to be talking about digital bussing today. A buss track is a mono or stereo channel on your DAW's mixer which you set up to take input from other channels within the DAW to create a submix that then gets routed to your stereo mix. I typically use stereo channels for this, but for things like snares and bass, it is typically better to go with mono channels. The idea is to set the input as an auxiliary input, and the outputs of the tracks you want to go there to that auxiliary input. This process essentially sums the tracks you send to be processed together.

For example, let's suppose I want to make a buss track with my snare, kick, toms, overheads and room mics. This will be called my drum buss. In most DAW's, I would need to create a new stereo channel, go to each individual track and set the output to the buss input. In some DAW's, you can copy and paste the output to more tracks instead of setting it up individually. I use Studio One Professional which allows me to highlight the tracks I want to send, then right click and create a buss channel for the selected tracks. It really is that simple.

What can you do with a buss?

There are two great advantages of using busses. The first of which is processing. When using bussing, engineers will typically compress and sometimes EQ on just the buss rather than the individual tracks as it can make the sound more cohesive.  sounding drum kit. It is also an easy method of achieving punchy sounds with minimal processing. Overall, it saves time and processing power on your computer. In the example below, I show what you can do with dry drums being processed only in the drum buss. Often engineers will compress the individual channels and then route them to a buss and compress them again there to create a cohesive sounding kit.

The first track is the dry drums, no processing:

The next track is processing only on the drum buss, no individual processing:

I took out about 6dB with a 4:1 ratio. I set a slow attack time and a fast release to get a little punch and depth.

If you don't use bussing for the processing benefits, you can still use them for organization purposes. After all levels are set for each instrument in the buss, you can either hide the individual tracks or relocate the busses to the end. When I mix, I send everything to a buss for this reason. Drums, vocals, guitars, bass, synths, everything. They each have their own buss fader which helps clean up my screen and allows me to focus just on the sound rather than 50 different meters.

Bussing is one of the many techniques that can take your mix to the next level. If you have any questions about it, feel free to call us toll free at 855-269-0474, or stop in our store in Downtown Appleton!

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