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Mixing Rock

Multi-Platinum Engineer and Producer Kenny Gioia is back with an incredible, in-depth series on mixing rock! This collection allows you to peak over Kenny's shoulder as he takes a multi-tracked rock production and mixes it from the ground up. If you want to see how a professional mixer works his magic, this series is a must see.

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Introduction 10m:14s

An introduction to the mixing tutorial. Also includes preparing files for a mixer, or what to request from your producers or tracking engineers using differing DAWs. Tempos and tempo changes are also addressed along with setting up main outputs and busses for creating a quick rough mix. All tracks in the song are also briefly reviewed followed by the song being played in its entirety.

Organize the Session


Markers 2m:41s

In this tutorial we begin to organize the session for the purpose of mixing more efficiently. Using Markers to label the sections of the song makes locating much easier. Adding colors to Markers is also addressed.


Track Naming 27m:53s

Continuing with organizing the session, we go thru track by track and re-name each track for clarity and based on what the track is actually playing.


Color Coding 3m:03s

In addition to renaming tracks, most modern DAWs allow us to Color Code the tracks. In this tutorial, we go through track by track and Color Code tracks based on their instrument and how easily it is to spot them in a complicated session.


Track Clean Up 22m:47s

Cleaning up the tracks is an important part of mixing. Getting rid of extraneous and unwanted noise can really speed up the mixing process by allowing you to focus on just what the mix will be and avoid distractions in the later listening phase. Keeping regions to their correct size, will also speed up the visual part of mixing in a DAW.


Re-Ordering Tracks 6m:47s

Finally we put the tracks in the most logical order to speed up the amount of time it takes to find a specific track and make further adjustments. We also Lock our audio so that it can't be accidentally shifted during the mixing process.

Groups, Busses and FX


VCA Groups / Busses 4m:35s

In this video we set up groups and busses to combine similar tracks to allow us to control things as sub groups and masters. Such as volume rides or muting and soloing specific groups to speed up the mixing process.


FX Returns 9m:49s

In this tutorial we set up FX Returns for things like Reverb and Delay to use DSP more efficiently and to make it easier to use sends for FX when sharing the same presets. Vocal Reverb using Redline Reverb by 112dB, Drum Reverb using Waves IR-1 and creating Ping Pong Delays are all discussed.


Mix Bus Compression 9m:35s

In this video we go thru adding compressors and other effects to the mix buss to give it an overall polished sound and to make the mix sound more cohesive. Also addressed is pre-master buss metering to avoid overloading and unwanted distortion.

Technical Issues


Timing Fixes 14m:11s

At this point we address some other non-mixing related issues that still affect the overall sound of our mix. Using Elastic Audio (in Pro Tools) we adjust the timing of our drum tracks and percussion.


Tuning Fixes 7m:30s

We also address some tuning issues in our song. Using Auto-Tune, we adjust the tuning of our lead vocal using Graphic Mode for pitch correction in real-time.

Basic Vocal / Drum Mix


Basic Vocal Sound 12m:30s

In this video we begin to actually mix the song. We start the mixing process by adjusting the lead vocal, getting a basic vocal sound. It's not the final sound, but it's really close and it allows us to build the rest of the song around the vocal, rather than the other way around. EQ, compression thanks to Softube's FET compressor, reverb and delay are all applied.


Basic Drum Mix 12m:56s

Next we start to get a good drum balance to get a feel for what each track needs to do and what effects should be applied to create that effect.


Overheads & Hi-Hat 9m:04s

In this video we begin getting the overall drum sound from our overhead mics. The goal is to make this the sound or centerpiece of our kit and build around it. EQ, compression (Massey's CT-4) and reverb are applied.


Room Mics 10m:13s

In this tutorial we dig in to the room micas on the kit and see how big and distant we can actually make the drums sound. In addition to EQ and compression, we use the Sonnex Oxford Transient Designer to re-shape the drum mics.


The Kick Drum 12m:46s

As we begin to zero in on the close mics on the kit, we notice how much presence and thump can be applied by adding Samples to the kick drum. Not only do we add Samples to enhance the sound but we also find quick ways to make those triggers sample accurate.


The Snare Drum 13m:18s

In this video we address the Snare drum and see how much crack we can create from it by using EQ, compression and Sonnex's Transient Designer. We also add a few samples to bring out some extra character in the snare.


The Tom Sound 5m:38s

In this tutorial we go through and adjust the tom track using EQ and compression.


Parallel Compression 10m:40s

One of the tricks to creating a great drum track is to use parallel compression. It's also called 'NY Compression', which is when you buss the drums to 2 different stereo busses and compress one of them quite heavily and mix it in to taste. We make use of the Big Blue Compressor plugin by 112dB to create this powerful effect.


Snare / Tamb Overdub 9m:32s

In this video we work on the snare overdub track along with the tambourine parts.

Bass and Keys


Bass Guitar 19m:01s

Working with bass guitar tracks can be especially tricky. In this video we divide the bass into 4 tracks to create different sounds to be blended together in the mix. Using the SansAmp plug-in and the Bass Amp Room plug-in by Softube gives us a few extra possibilities to create a well balanced low end to the song.


Wurlitzer & Organ 13m:59s

In this video we adjust the Wurlitzer and the organ to cut through the track.



Main Guitar 8m:36s

In this tutorial we adjust the main guitar to find a place in the panning field and cut through what is soon to be a dense mix. We make use of the Tube Tech EQ plug-in by Softube to give this guitar some much needed grit.


High Guitar 6m:29s

In this video we adjust the high guitar to find a place in the panning field and cut through. Adding reverb and delay to make it even more ethereal. We also make use of the Tube Tech EQ plug-in by Softube to give this guitar some much needed grit.


Chorus Guitar 9m:22s

In this video we adjust the chorus guitar to find it's space in the mix.


Heavy Guitars 8m:48s

The heavy guitars are meant to add just a little extra weight in the song, and we show how to achieve this without clouding up our sonic space.


Tremolo Guitars 9m:54s

At this point we adjust our verse pretty guitar to have a tremolo effect to create more interest in the verse. Sound Toys Tremolo plug-in is featured.


Riff & Octave Guitars 7m:26s

Next we adjust the riff and octave guitars to find their place around the vocal in the more open verses.


Pick & Chicka Guitars 10m:57s

Finishing up our guitars are the pick and "chick" guitars. Compression and EQ are used to allow these to cut through without getting in the way.

Piano and Mutes


The Piano 7m:43s

In this video we adjust the piano to give it more top end without making it sound unnatural. The Toneluxe Tilt by Softube does an excellent job of creating a different type of EQ plug-in. Massey's CT4 compressor plug-in is also used to contain the sound.


Mute Sections 6m:05s

Part of any good mix is taking out things that are just getting in the way or are just not that important. We go through and mute some of these non-essential parts to free up some sonic space.

Final Vocal Mix


The Lead Vocal 17m:23s

At this point we're ready to really nail the lead vocal sound. We finalize it using some EQ notching, more compression and still more top end EQ. We also dig in using a manual approach to De-essing that involves volume riding gain riding for a more natural effect.


Vocal Harmonies 8m:37s

By using EQ, compression and reverb we find a nice place for our vocal harmonies to sit. De-Essing is also applied.


Octave Vocals 7m:06s

By using EQ, compression and reverb we find a nice place for our octave harmonies to sit. De-Essing is also applied.


Background Vocals 17m:40s

In this video we use a trick to bring out the top end or breathiness in the vocals. By using parallel processing we create a super bright compressed version of our background vocals and mix them in with original to create a wall of prettiness that envelops our mix.

Automation and Final Mix


Automation 23m:41s

In this video we discuss how automation can create motion, dynamics and interest in an otherwise flat mix. By working section by section, rather than track by track, we can really focus in and make each part of the song special.


The Final Mix 6m:26s

In this last video we discuss when a mix is finally completed, when to use loudness plug-ins on our reference mixes and finally play the finished mix from beginning to end.

Kenny Gioia

1. When did you start dabbling in music?

I've played an instrument since I was 10. Drums and Trumpet. I'm 40 now. I can play a little bit of any instrument. Master of none. Rock bands most of my life.

2. What training have you had?

I was taught trumpet classically from grade school up until I graduated high school. I went to Five Towns College for engineering and learned that you can't just learn this stuff from school. I did graduate though.

3. When did you get into recording?

I've been recording since I was 15. Two cassette players wired to a Radio Shack mixer. Eventually I got an 8 track reel to reel by Fostex. I've used just about every DAW and I started using them before they even recorded audio. Vision and Performer were just MIDI sequencers at the time. Before they became Studio Vision and Digital Performer. I got studio jobs because I knew computer MIDI and most studios didn't. I eventually moved up to Sound Tools which was two track. Then Pro Tools made a Audio Media III card which let you have 4 inputs. Gradually I moved up from there with Pro Tools D24, Pro Tools Mix to HD.

4. People you have worked with/for?

Marcy Playground
Mandy Moore
Willa Ford
Lee Ann Womack
Paulina Rubio
Hall & Oates
Head Automatica
Cute is What We Aim For
and many more...

5. Why are you so good at training people?

Hmmm. My Mom always said "Self Praise Stinks". I think it's because I have no ability to talk like a professional announcer, or plan out my teachings. So I teach as if you were sitting next to me. Pretty much off the cuff. I think that engages people more. We're so used to hearing everything done so properly and planned out with unnecessary explanations and proper wording that the brain will actually ignore most of it. Your brain tunes it out like you're back at your desk at school. But if the teacher grabbed you aside and just explained it to you, I believe you'd get more out of it. That is what I try to do.

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