All About DAW Auxiliary Channels

Auxiliary channels can be a great way to add depth and texture to your mix. By using plugins such as delays or reverbs, you can create effects that would be difficult without them. You can also use these channels to add background rhythm parts, which can help to fill out the sound of your mix. In this article we will cover the different techniques that you can use to make effective use of these extra channels.

What is an Auxiliary Channel?

An auxiliary channel is a channel on your DAW that you can use to send tracks to for processing. This usually means using effects such as delays or reverbs, but it can also be used to change the dynamics of a sound, or manipulate any other parameter.

Auxiliary Channel vs Bus Routing

This term is sometimes confused with the normal routing options that you have in your DAW. However, it can be useful to think of auxiliary channels in a different way- for example by thinking of them as being similar to ‘busses‘ in some hardware mixers. You would use bussing in these mixers to send tracks to a bus, which can then be processed using effects. This way of thinking about auxiliary channels works well if the send levels are set up in a ‘post fader’ mode on your DAW (more on this later).

Using Auxiliary Channels for Effects

One effective use of auxiliary channels is to add effects to your mix. There are many different effects that you can use, but here are some of the most common.

Delay

With auxiliary channels it is possible to create multiple delay ‘pads’ within your mix. This means that you could add several delays to your snare or vocal parts for example, which would give them more depth and width in the overall mix. Using the auxiliary channel to create this effect means that you will save processing power on your main channels.

Reverb

You may also want to use reverb with auxiliary channels, especially if you are creating pads for an instrument. Reverb can be used to change the tone of a sound, and this is often necessary when creating instrument pads.

Using Auxiliary Channels for Rhythm Parts

You can use auxiliary channels to add additional rhythm parts into your mix. One of the most common ways that this is achieved is by using an aux channel to create a kind of ‘double bass’ part on your main drum track. The first layer could be the original drum beat, while the second layer would be a very low-frequency sine wave very quietly mixed in with the drum track.

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This second layer would only really be audible on smaller speakers, but it can help create a bigger sound on these systems. You could also use this technique to add another riff underneath your main synth parts or vocals for example.

Using Auxiliary Channels for Background Parts

You can use auxiliary channels to create background parts that are similar to your main mix. This can be useful if you want to have an instrumental version of a song, or just want an additional part for your project. You can use this technique on any instrument really- try using it on guitar parts or strings for example. However, this is a fairly advanced technique and should be attempted with care.

Creating Background Parts

To create a background part, you need to have two instruments playing at once. The first instrument will play your main instrumental part, while the second one will only play every so often in order to create a kind of ‘fill’. This can be done by creating a MIDI part for this instrument, playing it via the same aux channel as the first instrument. This will create a kind of ‘duet’ between these two parts.

Using Aux Channels to Create Depth and Width in Your Mix

One of the most effective ways to use auxiliary channels is by adding depth and width to your mix. This can be done by adding another instrument that is quite similar to your main mix. You can then use EQ or panning, to make this auxiliary part sound much further away from the main instruments in the mix.

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Aux channels are also sometimes used for bass parts too- if you have a bass line that plays throughout your song, it might be effective to add a duplicate of this into your mix on an auxiliary channel. This can be automated so that it is not always playing, and could even be faded in at just the right moments to really help drive home your song’s chorus.

Do you have any great tips for using aux channels? If so, leave a comment!