What’s a Bus? I’m not talking about taking a bus to the studio, of course not. When you’re trying to mix in your DAW and the tracks keep piling on with tons of clutter and disorganization, it’s time for you to us a Bus.
The best way to describe a Bus is that it groups together whatever tracks you throw at it. At that point, it’s up to you to use your imagination.
It’s A Great Way To Stay Organized
Most of the time when you think of signal routing to a bus, you would think it applies only for using effects, but it’s also very useful if you just want to stay organized. Believe it or not, there’s much more to a beat than the Kick, Snare, Hat, Bass, Keys, and Vocals. Depending on what genre of music you produce, you could easily have up to thirty tracks.
So what do you do when you have so many tracks? Group them with busses!
Normally, the first thing I like to group together are all my drum tracks. Kick, snare, hat, cymbal, toms, etc. – they all belong together on the same bus. You could even break it down further by grouping multiple kicks and snares together, if needed. Let’s say you are using two kicks and three snares all layered onto each other, well then it’s best to group all of those separately for even more control.
Other instruments like bass can be on its own, but something like keys (piano, synth, etc) can be grouped because they’re similar.
The main reason to stay organized like this is because it’s of course much easier to find what you’re looking for, but also it gives you a lot of control over each group of tracks.
It’s Much Easier To Apply Effects
Before I ever messed with busses, I would just apply certain effects to each track that needed it. For example, if I wanted to compress my drums, I would put a compressor on the kick track, snare track, and hat track. I know, it’s stupid, but we all have to learn the hard way, right?
But with a bus, it’s so much simpler. Just assign all your drums to a particular bus, and then apply whatever effect you want to that bus. Simple.
Now you will be able to group together various tracks as one, plus the main benefit is that it’s less strain on your computer’s CPU. This is probably the main reason why using busses is so effective, and it makes total sense. Instead of bogging down your CPU with unnecessary power consumption, just use one instance of an effect, rather than multiple.
If you’re familiar with computer programming, in a sense it’s like using Object Oriented Programming. One instance rather than multiple is always easier, cleaner, and uses less power.
However, you can also assign a bus to another bus. You’re probably wondering why that would be useful, well it’s easy. For example, you could have all your drum tracks assigned to Bus A with a compressor added on A. Now if you want to have a part of your song with a breakdown of your drums, then you could assign Bus A to Bus B.
So let’s recap: your drums are all on Bus A which has a compressor on it. You then assign Bus A to Bus B. What does Bus B have on it? Whatever you want. If you’re going to have a breakdown of your drums, where for example you have a few bars where the bass is taken out, then do that on Bus B with some sort of EQ effect. Easy, right?
You Can Also Keep Busses Simple With Just Volume Control
Probably the best thing I like to use a bus for is simply for bus control. In the beginning, I always thought a bus would only be useful for effects, but as I’ve described it’s much more than that. Volume control is one of the easiest and useful.
Whereas you could lower the volume of each individual track (for example, your drum tracks), it might also need some more volume tweaking. If you lower your kick, snare, and hat to a desired level and you’re happy with it, that’s great. But what do you do if you decide later on in your mix that the drums are too quiet or too loud? You could painstakingly try to adjust each drum track again, but what if you have ten drum tracks?
This is where assigning your signals to a bus comes in very handy. Send them all to a bus, then adjust the overall volume right there.
A Bus is easy to use and yet it’s so useful for anyone that is mixing in their DAW. If you’re still not using busses, do so now because once you try it, you’ll be wondering why you never bothered before. Good luck!