Creative Automation is used for enhancing the flow and musicality of an arrangement, and good use of automating effects parameters can really enhance the sound. Use subtle automation to guide a listener through the song, create anticipation and movement. Automation is a good way to join the dots in your track and to avoid empty spaces between parts, which can be vibe killers. For example, if a melodic synth part ends and in 1 bar you have a new guitar lead part coming in, rather than leave a gap use fx automation on the tail of one sound and use a pre-fx automation to lead the listener to the next sound. I.e – sample the first note of the new guitar phrase, process it through delay and reverb, print this effect as an audio sample then reverse this sample and place it before the phrase.
This works as a way of introducing the forthcoming phrase, filling any void present space between the parts, whilst guiding the listener from element to element. There are countless dot joining techniques which I‘ll have to discuss some other time!
IMPROVISE WITH FX AUTOMATION ON THE FLY: Try and incorporate more improvisational ideas into your mixing process. As well as automating your levels it‘s also good practice to have some fun automating interesting creative effects chains on the fly. You can use a physical midi controller if you prefer. Here are 2 common effects chains for automating in the mix process which can embellish the flow of your arrangement.
Sample leading: Sample a part of the next section, loop the first beat and slowly fade it in with a rhythm until new section lands
Tape delay: Automating feedback, delay timing, Modulation and filters to fill gaps between parts.
Reverb: Automating size, wet/dry, filters.
Sound Mirroring: Copy a sound and process it in a completely different way, then repeat it in the gaps placed behind in the mix to create an interested mirror of the sound that fills the gaps
Improvised FX: Using Controllers is a good way of automating effects in a more organic live manner. Try and incorporate more improvisational ideas into your record. Set up an interesting effects chain, hit record on output bus and jam with all the settings like crazy. Then go over all the crazy audio and cut out the good bits and use that. Improv FX Chain Example 1: Hdelay, feedback, timing, Modulation and filters. Improv FX Chain Example 2: Chorus/Enigma/Modulation. FX Chain Example 3: Time based effects: reactor timing shuffler, chopper etc...