Do you find yourself constantly changing the volume of every single channel strip in your patches during tech week? How do you mix your sound patches when programming keyboards for a musical theatre production? You probably use a combination of common sense and the “I’ll use the cast recording as a reference” method. Here’s another tool you can take advantage of while programming. It’s called a submix, and here’s how it works.

I’m currently programming the Keyboard 2 book for a production of Bat Boy in Apple MainStage. Here’s a screenshot of one of my patches – two FRENCH HORN channel strips, one TREMOLO STRINGS channel strip, and two TIMPANI channel strips.

MainStage concert for Bat Boy in Apple MainStage.

In order to get the correct mix for this particular patch, I had to lower the volume of the two FRENCH HORN channel strips and the TREMOLO STRINGS channel strip. Since I haven’t played with the rest of the band yet, I don’t know if the sound patch will be loud enough. I DO know that each instrument’s volume level in relation to each other is correct. In other words, the mix is correct BUT it might end up not being loud enough, or it might end up being too loud. Adjusting the volume of each channel strip separately, can be time consuming. It’s also difficult to do in the middle of a rehearsal. The solution is to create a submix for each patch.

  1. Create an Aux channel strip.
  2. Reset the channel strip to get rid of any preset effects.
  3. Set the input of the Aux channel strip to a “Bus”.
  4. Set the output of each instrument channel strip to the same “Bus”.
  5. You can now control the overall volume of the patch with the Aux channel strip.

The following is a screenshot of my channel strips. Notice how the INPUTS of my Patch Submix channel strip is set to “Bus 3,” and how the outputs of my instrument channel strips are set to “Patch Submix” a.k.a. “Bus 3”. The concept of a submix is simple — you’re basically putting all your instrument channel strips on a bus…and the bus drives them to the main outputs.

Submixing patches in MainStage.

That’s it. It’s really that simple. After you mix the instrument channel strips’ volumes, use the submix aux channel strip to control the overall volume of the sound patch. No more adjusting the volume of each channel strip separately during rehearsals.