What is multing?
‘Comping’ is a term with which many are familiar: ‘compiling’ the best possible performance from the best bits of several takes, turning several tracks into one. Multing is the opposing of that, turning one track into several, but why would you want to do that?
Well, a couple of big reasons for starters – which we’ll go into in more detail a bit later on – mainly simplifying aspects of the mixing process and for providing creative inspiration when composing, arranging and producing.
With multing, the idea is to take a part that is start to finish on one channel, with the same effects, levels, panning etc, cut it up and lay it out across multiple tracks, which have different parameter settings.
Now, an awful lot of this can of course be done by programming in automation, but, particularly in cases where there are multiple track sections that require a similar mix treatment – multiple verse/chorus sections for example – it can be more efficient to work on multiple tracks.
Let’s take a look at a couple of examples of how multing can be used. To keep your DAW looking neat and your mixer looking manageable, it is often easier to group the collection of multed tracks together to help keep things organised. Colour-coding particular tracks can also make it easier to see what’s where at a glance.
Multing for mixing
The first use for multing is as part of the mixing process. Let’s say that you have a bass part that runs the length of the song and the song has a fairly minimal verse, but a very dense chorus. The bass sounds perfect in the verse, but is lost in the chorus sections.
Take your bass part, and split it into sections at the appropriate points. Create a new track and drag the chorus sections onto that track and mix to taste. you might want to start with the mix settings as you have on the verse sections, but maybe add some saturation to increase the harmonic content, maybe give it a bit of a higher eq boost to help it cut through, without changing that perfect bass sound you had in the mix.
As said above, you could do all of this in the one channel using automation, but there are a couple of advantages to multing.
The first is that it can be less time-consuming. Let’s say you have three chorus sections, and you have an additional two plugins that need to come on, one that needs to go off, and one that needs a couple of settings adjusting. Multiply that out, and that starts to get tedious.
The second is that, if you have two completely different plugin chains, your ‘channel strip’ can get unwieldy quite quickly or, depending on your DAW, you may run out of insert points or aux sends.
Creative multing for composition
I appreciate that, in the flow of the whole creative process, that I may have these the wrong way round, but there you go. This is where things get interesting.
Multing in the mix process is a useful problem solver. Multing at the beginning of the process is the good stuff. This is where you can come up with an inspirational synth part, or create a whole song from a drum loop…
As a wee experiment take a drum loop, just a nice, simple breakbeat and copy and paste it a few copies along a track. Now create a few new tracks and go to town creating some weird and wonderful effects chains on each one. Slice your drum track into chunks and drag them down across your various tracks. Hey presto! Just get to work on your micro-edits and you can achieve near-instant breakcore goodness!
Think that synth line is a bit boring? Take the MIDI and split it into pieces as small or large as you like. Create some extra MIDI tracks and put different virtual instruments or different synth patches onto each one, now drag those MIDI chunks across the new instruments – and effects settings too, why not?! – and rejoice at the instant complextro!
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