Automation – Mouse versus Fingers

volume_automation.pngLong time ago, in our own universe, the way to mix down whole songs was to be very quick with your fingers and move lots of sliders and pots around, or hire a couple of extra hands and tell them how to move them. That, or bouncing half-way done tracks to another track, leading to more noise in the analog world.

Today, with automation, you could record all the minute details of each track changes, volume, filter frequencies, amount of delay, and so on.

For a long time, the only way with the modern DAWs was to draw such lines by hand, and I got used to it, even down to just changing the track volume values by typing or using up/down buttons on the screen.

Then along came all the new nifty MIDI controllers, so you could record all the automation movements as long as the parameter was mapped to a MIDI knob or slider. Anyway, I tried it for a while, and I don’t know. The issue with the hand-controlled envelopes, for me, is that the actual changes are jerky and not clean. It has to do with most MIDI CC messages only allowing values between 0 and 127 — sometimes that’s enough, not not always. Also, a change using fingers is always not that linear. Finally, the biggest problem I had was that if I had to go in and redo the sequence, it was a matter of re-recording all the changes.

So. For me, I’m mostly just drawing envelope parameters by the computer — been used to it now for a long time, and it works just fine for me. I understand those who like the instant changes by tweaking a MIDI knob, and for me it takes a couple of mouse clicks, but that’s fine. As an example, in the picture above I’m changing the high pass filter frequency up and down for two back-to-back samples. If the frequency is too high, I just drag down the middle point and the job is done.

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