Hello, I'm Carlos Devizia from Argentina
Today I will explain the technique called "Riding the Fader".
Sometimes you have a performance that you like, but there are some parts in which it is too loud and some other parts in which it is too quiet. It often happens with the vocals. In this example, and for the safety of your ears I won´t sing. Instead, I'll demonstrate this technique over an instrument performance. I´ll use Zynewave Podium free, but you can replicate this technique with your favourite DAW. You may encounter some differences between DAW to DAW, but the main concepts are the same.
The concept behind "riding the fader" is easy, when the volume of the sound goes up, we turn the fader down, when the volume goes down, we turn the fader up. Just like that. What we are actually doing is a kind of manual compression. In fact, every compressor does this kind of job, first it analyzes the signal and then compensates the volumes in the desired way.
OK, let´s work! We have our audio in an audio track. It is a short clarinet performance, and there are some noticeable differences in volume in it. In part due to the difference between the registers of the instrument but also because of the performance in which I played with more strength in some parts than in others.
We can listen to the original performance
We right-click on the track and select "automate parameter" and then we choose "level".
This will create an automation child track related to our clarinet track
By double-clicking on the level track, we'll see the following:
This is our clarinet part and we can begin automation here. Then, you must select the "pencil" tool" and just draw the automation envelope following the wave.
After doing that you may notice that your actual level is too low, so you can correct it by selecting all the points (Ctrl + A), and with the arrow tool taking them to your desired level. You can even move individual points if needed.
One of the good things of Zynewave Podium is that this automation changes does not affect the main fader of the track. So you can still increase or decrease the volume level of the whole track by adjusting the gain fader.
In other DAWs this is not possible and you´ll see that as the music plays your fader volume moves up and down, so if you want to increase or decrease the whole volume of the track you'll be in trouble. To solve this, you can add a Gain VST filter (there are lots of them, and some of them freeware as the one that I show below), and then ride the gain fader of the filter leaving the track fader to adjust the global volume of the track.
After finishing our work we can listen to the performance that now has a lower dynamic range and the loud parts and quiet parts are closer.
Then we can normalize our audio.
The conclusion of this small experience is that we can manipulate our volumes in an easy simple way by using this technique, and though it will be really helpful using it as the way it was designed for (the manual compression we talked about) it let the doors of experimentation opened and would be interesting to ride the faders in unusual ways too.
Finally, it is important to point that every time you alter audio you are making a decision. In this case, we should ask ourselves how much we want to ride the fader to equal the volume levels as, the more we equal the levels, the less dynamic range we will have in the end. These last years have seen a rise in the "loudness war" losing dynamic range in music. I think that it is a metter of balance, but this is up to every musician and every producer.