Music Production Tutorials

What Is An Audio Buss Track?May 02, 2012

Audio Buss Track


When it comes to audio terminology there is an awful lot to learn. Some terms are easy to remember where others are more difficult. For some audio terms it is easy to figure out their meanings just based on the word. But some times when it comes to audio we have terms that almost seem like they mean the same thing. For some of us this may be the case with busses and auxes. So this week we are going to talk busses and find out What Is Audio Buss Track and much more.

In this article we are going to cover the following topics;

  1. What is a audio buss?
  2. Is it buss or bus?
  3. Why would you need to use a buss?
  4. When would you need to use a buss in mixing?


WHAT IS AN AUDIO BUSS?

The term buss as it relates to audio is simply nothing more than a conduit to move a group (or a single sound) from one place to another. It is mainly used to create groups, sub-groups and duplicates of a channeled sound. For example, let's say that you are working on a song and within that song there are four guitar tracks. You could place all four guitar tracks on one buss and control all of them at one time. 

Another way busses can be used is to make a duplicate of a track and apply effects to that newly created duplicate. This allows you to make changes to a track without it effecting the original. This works a lot like creating a new layer in Photoshop. One of the first things that they teach you is to always make changes to a duplicate so that you never mess up the original photo. In the case of audio your buss duplicate would work like a new layer would. A often used technique in audio is to combine both your original and your overly effected duplicate together in parallel. By using a dry signal and a overly processed compressed signal together is called parallel compression (also known as New York Compression).

The best way to look at a buss is as a grouper and mover of audio (or data) signals. Much like a city bus moves people from point A to point B an audio buss does pretty much the same thing. A buss is all about routing signals. I guess it could be said that a master fader is like a main buss channel. With the master fader you can control all the sounds within your mix at once. With your buss you can control all of the sounds that you have routed to it. So really when we talk about bussing we are really talking about how things are routed rather it be in the real world or in a virtual one.

Also keep in mind that different DAW's have different ways of setting up a buss with them. For instance Pro Tools and Reaper both have I/O features which allow you to quickly and easily create a buss. FL Studio also allows you to set up busses but the process requires more steps. Whatever DAW that you may be using rather on a PC or a Mac the chances are very high that you can set up busses in them. The important thing is to understand the terminology that the DAW manufacture is using so you understand how to do what you want to do while working with it.


IS IT BUSS OR BUS?

Well I think the jury is still out on this one because I have seen it written both ways in books, videos, studio notes, etc. Even after doing some research on the topic I still did not find out the proper spelling with 100 percent certainty. Some spell it buss where others spell it as bus with only one “S”.


For the single S folks;

It could also be said that the term may have come from the latin term “omnibus” which is a vehicle for carrying a large number of passengers. More commonly known to most of us as a bus. The term bus is also used in electrical and computer terms.


For the double S folks;

The term buss (with two S's) seems to be related to a term meaning to kiss and a possibly blend of obsolete bass which is related to the French word baiser.

*Baiser (pronounced beh zay) in French does mean to kiss but can also mean a very vulgar term also so unless you speak French you may not want to use it.

I must admit I never gave it much thought until I sat down to write this article. I am with the “buss” folks not because that is the correct spelling, but mostly due to the fact that is the way I learned to spell it in school. I personally think either spelling is fine because as I said I did not find a definitive answer to the correct spelling so I guess we can assume they are both correct.


WHY WOULD YOU NEED TO USE A BUSS?

Great question! So why would you use a buss in the first place? Well let's take a closer look into this question. We know that a buss is used to group sounds and to move sounds. So that being said you would most likely use a buss to group a bunch of sounds together that you would want to apply a group treatment to. When working in digital you can open as many copies of an effect that your DAW will allow (well your computer processor might have something to say about it too). But this will put a strain on your CPU so it makes more sense to route an effect to many different sounds instead of using the same effect over and over again for each instrument. 

This is the way that it is done with hardware. I don't know too many studios that have 20 models of their favorite hardware compressor on hand! They use routing and patch things instead. By applying an effect to many different instruments will get them to sound like they were recorded together and often give your mix that glue that it may be missing.



AUXES, SENDS, INSERTS, BUSSES....OH MY!

  • Aux – Use this as a receiver of a buss signal.

  • Sends- You can use a send to go out to analog devices or effects or to send out to your vocalist for example in the booth.

  • Insert – Can be used for send and return routing purposes.

  • Busses – These are used as a path for your audio to move from point A to point B.


Here is where it gets a little confusing......

There is a difference between a buss and an aux although some people use the terminology like they are interchangeable. Well I guess honestly when it comes to working ITB (in the box or digitally) then there really isn't much difference. This is because some DAW companies allow you to do just about the same functions with the bus and the aux. However it is good to know the difference between the two and in my opinion work with them differently. If you are working with someone on a mix they would most likely expect busses and auxes to be set up the same way they would in the real world.

On hardware consoles an auxiliary channel is typically used as a send or a return. So for example you could have one aux output that is taking that signal to another area of the studio (like a booth) or even to a different recording device so you could capture a different version of the session. Then another aux (most consoles have multiple aux outs) is sent out to an effects processor and is returned back into the mixer as an input. It could come back in to the master fader or another buss channel depending on how it is set up.

When it comes to a buss on a console it is used for grouping and sub-grouping. You could send different instruments or channels to a buss channel for example and group them together. Say you had several different drums in your song. Well you could add them all to a buss called “drums” and apply effects to all the drums at once.

When it comes to the world of digital the lines begin to blur because you can pretty much do the same things with an aux as you can with a buss in most DAW's as I have already mentioned. Most DAW's will allow you to send, return send, add effects and group sounds using the aux or buss functions.

*If you are having trouble between remember which does which then think of a buss, well like a bus that takes children to school. Your buss is used for taking a group of sounds from one place to another. An aux is used for sends and returns of effects and excepting those busses.


WHEN WOULD YOU USE A BUSS IN MIXING?

You would want to use a buss during your mix session whenever there is a need to create sub-groups, to glue sounds together, to apply effects to many sounds at once (saving your CPU) and my favorite, to create spaces to mix in.

When I mix I like to mix visually and imagine the sounds in the song were recording in different rooms within the studio even if everything was really mixed ITB. To do this effectively I create multiple rooms for my mix session. So for example I might create a drum room, a small room, a medium sized room and a hall. I would label all of these rooms on the mixer and apply the correct reverb in each to get the sound I wanted from that room. Then I would buss each instrument into the room in which they belong. Mixing in this way gives your mixes realism and cohesion.


SOME HELPFUL TIPS TO REMEMBER

  • Sends and returns are really just describing direction. Send is going out and return is coming back. It is not really a separate function, as a matter of fact a buss could be set up as a send.

  • Pre and post fader is a good button to get to know. It simply controls the link between the buss fader and the related send fader. In post-fader the fader of the send and the fader of your buss are linked together. In pre-fader the two are not linked together.

  • When dealing with I/O's it is important to name your inputs and outputs and make sure your outputs match up with the corresponding inputs.


CONCLUSION

I know that it still may seem a bit confusing if you are not familiar with using auxes, busses, sends, returns, inserts, etc. while mixing. But once you get use to using them you won't know what you did without them.

Now it's time to break out your DAW and try out some of the things that we learned. Experiment with what your DAW has to offer and you will be surprised but what you can do. Happy mixing!


Stay tuned for more weekly tips and tutorials every Wednesday.

Article written by Alex Butler

Alex is an audio engineer, studio producer and freelance writer based out of Seattle, WA.


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