Artists Recording at Home, Why Bother Using Auxiliary Tracks and Sends? Here’s 4 Reasons Why.

Artists Recording at Home, Why Bother Using Auxiliary Tracks and Sends? Here’s 4 Reasons Why.

Vally here - As an artist, you probably just want to create. Anything technical, or any learning curve that puts barriers up for you to create quickly and easily, you’d probably rather avoid at all costs.

That said, having one or two technical tricks up your sleeve can really uplevel your ability to record and produce your ideas at home. Secondly, once the creative stage is over it’s time to do the big scary task of exporting your multitracks as .WAV files (some artists call this stems, but there’s a difference... an article for another day) a little work upfront can prevent a big headache later.

One case where a little technical knowledge goes a long way is understanding how to apply effects like reverb and delay to your vocals. More than likely, you are just slapping that effect right on an insert at the end of your vocal chain directly on the audio track itself, and using the dry/wet knob to find a good blend for you. This is fast and easy, but once you get to bouncing your multitracks for an engineer to mix, things get complicated. Many artists end up sending vocal stems with reverb, or other effects printed directly on the multitracks when exporting tracks, which is a no-no as I outlined in this post. This leads to delays for your project and confusion. Now you have to go back and re-export, bypassing all of your cool effects. What if you want to send those effects too? What if there is a way to do this much more quickly and easily?

Enter, auxiliary tracks (or bus tracks) and sends. Historically, this is a confusing topic. Let’s clear up some of the terms first:

The I/O window is where you can manage busses in Pro Tools

What is a Send?

A send is like a digital cable that routes or “sends” a copy of the audio playing from a track. The level of this audio is determined by a separate fader or knob. You can set up sends to be “pre” or “post” fader. The default should be post, and that’s the preferred setting for this use case.

What is an Auxiliary track?

You are probably more familiar with audio tracks and Instrument tracks in your DAW. Your input for an audio track might be an input from your interface like a preamp or line input (or, you just imported audio like a sample, loop, or two-track) and your input for the instrument track would be midi or a software instrument. On an Auxiliary track, the input would be the previously described send, or copy of audio from another track.

So, Why Bother?

The idea here is to keep the audio tracks with your vocals 100% dry, the aux tracks 100% wet,  and use the faders on your mixer (or, the send faders) to blend the two signals instead of using the dry/wet knob and inserting the effect directly on the audio track. Now, why bother with two separate tracks in your DAW for this?

A screenshot of an audio track, an auxiliary track, and a send fader window

1) Easier to print stems to send to your engineer.

  • Do you have a hard time quickly printing stems to send to your engineer? With auxiliary tracks, your effects are all already on their own track and your vocal is already clean.
  • This means you can more easily utilize the “Export tracks” feature of your DAW (unless you’re in Pro Tools… this deserves its own post). Your engineer can now blend-in that favorite delay or yours, or favorite reverb, without having to recreate it.

2) Save processing power.

Which do you think is easier for your computer? A million individual delays and individual reverbs? Or total 2-4 delays and reverbs? Each effect is like it’s own little app that bogs down your computer’s performance leading to crashes, frozen sessions, lost work, and more issues that keep you from creating.

3) Get even more creative by further processing and effecting JUST the effect on the auxilary track.

For instance, spice up your delay by adding adding reverb, saturation, or compression to a just the delay, and not to your entire vocal chain. Add a phaser insert before your reverb. Get weird with it.

4) Create moments with delay / reverb throws

This is more in the category of mixing, but f*ck it I'm spilling the tea for yall. With dry/wet directly on your vocal chain, you can’t really add delay throws. The wet signal is always playing, and you’re blending it in. So when you blend it out, even with automation, you loose that vibey long reverb tail or repeating delay feedback. With a send, you are only sending audio to the effect during moments you want, like at the end of a phrase. This creates that lingering delay with repeats on certain words at the end of your phrases.

Are you ready to use auxiliary tracks in your songs and productions?

My hope is that I have fully convinced you to start implementing auxiliary tracks into your at-home recording workflow. Do a minute of internet research on how to create auxiliary tracks for your DAW of choice, and if you have any questions just shoot us a message!

Are you ready to use auxiliary tracks and take your songs and productions to the next level?

If you HAPPEN to be using Pro tools, check out this TikTok on how to easily set up auxillary tracks and busses in one or two clicks. Give us a follow while you're at it please 😈😈😈

As for what's up like, 'RIGHT NOW' right now?

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Ciao ciao.