So you’re brand-new to mixing, and at the moment, you can make some pretty hot beats – or at least you think so right? 😉
Using subgroups is not only a helpful tool while mixing, but is powerful in the middle of producing beats as well.
So what’s all involved in setting up subgroups?
With FL Studio, it’s not too hard at all! – Only with a few clicks, you’ll be set up to use sub groups while mixing, and producing higher quality beats.
In this tutorial, you will learn:
- How to set up Subgroups
- Why Subgroups are beneficial to you
- Different techniques while using subgroups
- The Difference between Series vs. Parallel processing
- Using Parallel compression to beef up drum loops (or just make any sound thicker in general)
Sub groups are very powerful tools, and once you know how to quickly set them up, it can not only make your tracks thicker, but you can apply this to create cool drum loops with delays/reverbs etc.
Setting Up Sub Groups,
Don’t let this topic bore you, or feel too advanced for you. This is a big part of mixing and audio production in general – It’s simple and will only help your productions!
Mind-set and Organized Before-Hand:
I like to first categorize, and decide what sounds I want to put into their own sub buss. (The term Sub-buss and subgroups are used interchangeably – they are the same thing).
For example, if I have two kick drums, I will usually put these into a subgroup so I can control their volume with one slider instead of two.
A major benefit of subgroups is not only controlling volume with one slider, but you can EQ all the sounds with just one EQ!
Also, let’s say you a nice balance in between two kick drums which you don’t want to touch. By routing these two kick drums to a sub group, you don’t have to move the individual sliders! – Just move the subgroup slider for your volume, while keeping the balance!
Setting up subgroups is simple:
I like to go to my mixer, find an empty mixer insert, hold shift and left click.
This opens up a window to label and color the insert – Organized! 😉
By holding ALT + LEFT or RIGHT arrow keys, this moves the Subgroup where you’d like along the mixer.
Decide what sounds you’d like to be inside your subgroup. Some examples would be DRUM SUB, CLAP SUB, PERC SUB (Percussion), HI-HAT SUB.
By creating these different sub groups, this keeps you organized, and you can create some cool effects!
After categorizing your groups, I place these to the left of what it’s grouping – Left or right is up to you, I like the subgroup to the left. (Personal choice!)
Let’s say we’re routing two drum samples – This is what I have in the image to our right.
Our subgroup is on the left – we want the sub buss to group our two kick drums.
Click on one kick drum and right click the bottom arrow of the subgroup (the blue mixer insert in the image). Choose Route to this track only.
This makes the kick drum go to the subgroup, and not to the MASTER – This is what we want so we can do parallel processing.
Don’t worry, the kick drum still goes to the master, but just takes a different route to get there – This allows for more control + creativity.
Done! – You have now created your first subgroup.
Do this for different sounds if you’d like – It only allows for easier mixing!
Here’s how I like to personally set up my mixes – This is a rough idea of where I stat off, then make decisions accordingly:
Kick Drums, Bass + 808s – I like to subgroup my Kick Drums in to a subgroup, but not my 808. I will keep that separate. This allows me to side-chain my kicks against my 808s. (Personal choice).
Claps/Snares – I like to group my claps/snares into a subgroup – I compress all claps at once for total control over their loudness. If I have a snare that comes in only at a chorus.. I tend to keep this one separate to mix to taste – As this enhances the chorus.
Percussion – I like to route all my percussion to a subgroup – If I have two separate percussion loops that use different sounds, I like to route them to their own subgroup – Depending on the track, I may route them all to one!
Hi-Hats – I will group my hi-hats, as I usually like to use 2+ in my beats. This allows me to do parallel processing on them, and even add a widener on the parallel signal! Find out more info on layering hi-hats.
Creating Cleaner Mixes?
On a side-note, which goes hand in hand with this tutorial, is creating subgroups with a cleaner mix in mind.
If you EQ all your individual tracks, but you feel you can’t get all your sounds to stand out. Try this technique.
So, let’s move on to why would you want to use Subgroups, and why they’re beneficial to you as a producer, and mix engineer.
Why Subgroups are Beneficial to you
As already mentioned, you can control a bunch of sounds with just one fader – that’s a nice feature, but there’s much more.
- Save CPU resources – easier on your computer
- Stay very organized
- Keep consistency through your track – You can use sends to route the whole subgroup to a send, keeping a consistent amount of effects to that subgroup. (If you have effects on that send).
- Advanced Parallel Processing Techniques – Have cool effects in the background, or help a track to stand out
- Effect a lots of sounds with just one plugin – use one EQ to effect 5 sounds!
- Organized, organized, organized!
As you can see, there are so many possibilities of how subgroups can help you. If you are not using them, you are definitely missing out.
There are two things that are super powerful in audio production, which again and again, are used consistently.
- Layering sounds
- Duplicating the track, effecting it, and bringing it up just underneath (Parallel Processing)
Just like in math how we use Pie = 3.14 to find a circle’s circumference to it’s diameter – We can compare layering and parallel processing in audio production.
It is a number that is always used to in the equation, whereas layering, or parallel processing is always used to enhance your other signal if it’s lacking, or feeling thin.
Duplicate the track or send the track to a new mixer insert, effect it, and subtly bring it underneath the primary track. You will see this over and over again – It’s a powerful tool.
But I think we should discuss the difference between series processing, and parallel processing in order for you to fully understand how beneficial parallel processing is, and what it’s really doing!
Series vs. Parallel Audio Processing
Note – When using the FL Studio Limiter, if you get “phasing issues”, try moving the Attack on the limiter section all the way to 0 – Using another compressor should not give you these phase issue.
So, you’ve always heard about Series vs. Parallel processing.. what is it?
Series effects the sound in order. In other words, if you have a chain that looks like this:
Your audio is being changed through each effect it goes through, and that’s the end result.
Series processing many times does the trick, but can sometimes be hard to achieve the sound you want!
This is where handy Parallel processing/compression comes in!
Parallel Processing is Helpful!
Parallel processing isn’t just for mix engineers – It opens up tons of creativity for us a beatmakers as well!
Why? – This can enhance your drum loops major! – In the tutorial I just showed distortion + parallel compression, but if you add a delay or reverb on that parallel signal, you can come out with some awesome drum loops!
By leaving the dry signal untouched, and blending in the wet signal into taste, this create all sorts of cool opportunities, while still keeping sounds in sync!
If you know anything about the benefits of sends, this is the exact same thing. It’s parallel processing.
Subgroups are powerful – Don’t miss out!
Subgroups alone are super powerful. As you’ve read, there’s tons of possibilities you can take with subgroups.
Sure the parallel processing is great on drums, but don’t just leave it at that! – Try throwing delays, reverbs, distortion and other effects to bring awesome results!