When it comes to mixing music, mix automation refers to track settings that can be automated, like volume, pan, send and mute. By automating these settings via DAW software, their values be varied throughout the song. Take a volume fader assigned to a guitar track for example – by automating it, you can set it to automatically boost the volume by a few decibels when the solo starts. Best of all, all this takes is drawing it up on the automation timeline, then sitting back and watching as the guitar-fader magically moves up and down.

DAW Automation: What It Is And How It Works

Drawing In The Timeline

The easiest way to automate any parameter is by using your mouse. Pull up the timeline for any parameter and simply map out your idea for it, but remember that you’re not drawing the timeline in real-time. In other words, you won’t be able to hear the effect of what you’re doing while you’re doing it.

There are two ways to automate the timeline:

  • Creating anchor points along the time gives you the option to drag the parameter value up or down at specific moments. This works well for broad outlines.
  • Drawing a line using a pencil tool. This is a good method for more organic dynamics, especially when compared to using a mouse which can lead to choppy results. This is also why some producers and mixers work with graphics tablets.

Automation Modes: Write, Latch, Touch and Read

Instead of drawing a custom timeline in advance, you can also opt to tweak parameters while the song plays and ‘capture’ the results. Here, you have the pick of three automation modes: Write, Latch and Touch.

  • In Write Mode, any automation data is registered from the moment you hit play. Bear in mind that this also applies even when you’re not touching the parameter you’ve selected.
  • In Latch Mode, data is only overwritten when you move the parameter during playback. The moment you release the control, the parameter reverts to its original position. Any subsequent automation data is left alone, even if you simply let the song play out.
  • Touch Mode is similar to Latch mode. The only difference is that, instead of reverting to the original value of the parameter after you let go of the control, the value you leave it at is maintained.
  • Read Mode is only used to playback your automation scheme. You can’t tweak any automated parameters while this mode is active.

Control Your DAW Like You’re Playing An Instrument

A MIDI controller allows you to play your DAW like an instrument. The faders of MIDI controllers can be assigned to specific parameters (e.g. volume) and used to tweak the value while the song is played back. This not only makes it feel like you’re playing an actual instrument, but gives you a handy tool that, depending on the model, lets you tweak multiple parameters at once.

Take Things Even Further

Just so you know, you can automate just about any parameter, including the parameters of all of your plugins. So, for dramatic effect, you can make the feedback setting of a delay effect go up at the end of a phrase, or maybe stick a filter on a synth part and fully open the cutoff the moment the chorus kicks in. The options are basically limitless.

Does your automation-window usually look like a Picasso painting? Share your DAW automation-based tips and tricks below!

See Also

» What’s The Best DAW For Beginners?
» FL Studio for Beginners: How To Use This Popular DAW
» Should You Mix with Headphones?
» Mixing Flawless Vocals in 5 Steps
» DAW Plugins: What Are They & What Can They Do?

» DAW Software
» Plugins
» MIDI Controllers

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