Automation, in the context of music production and audio engineering, refers to the process of automatically controlling various parameters within a digital audio workstation (DAW) or mixing console. This can include volume, pan, effects parameters, and more. Automation allows producers and engineers to make dynamic changes to a mix over time, adding movement, depth, and nuance to a track.

History and Evolution:
The concept of automation has its roots in the early days of analog recording. Engineers would manually adjust faders on a mixing console during playback, ensuring that specific parts of a song were emphasized or de-emphasized at the right moments. As technology advanced, motorized faders and voltage-controlled systems were introduced, allowing for these adjustments to be recorded and played back automatically.

With the advent of digital audio workstations in the late 20th century, automation took a quantum leap forward. DAWs allowed for precise, granular control over a multitude of parameters, all from the convenience of a computer interface.

Why Use Automation?:

  1. Dynamic Mixing: One of the primary uses of automation is to create a mix that evolves over time. For instance, the chorus of a song might require the vocals to be louder than during the verses. Instead of splitting the vocal track and adjusting the volume for each section, automation allows for a smooth transition between these different volume levels.
  2. Creative Effects: Automation isn’t just for volume and panning. Producers can automate effects parameters to create sweeping filters, evolving reverb spaces, or rhythmic delay patterns. This can add a unique character to a track, making it stand out.
  3. Fixing Issues: Sometimes, a specific word or note might be too loud or too soft in a recording. Instead of resorting to compression or other dynamics processing, automation can be used to manually adjust these problematic sections.


Types of Automation:

  1. Read: The DAW plays back any automation data present on the track.
  2. Write: Any changes made to the track’s parameters are written as automation data.
  3. Touch: Similar to Write, but automation data is only written when a control is being adjusted. Once released, the parameter returns to its previous state.
  4. Latch: This mode continues to write automation data even after the control is released, until playback is stopped.


How to Use Automation in a DAW:

  1. Select the Parameter: Almost any parameter in a DAW can be automated. This includes volume, pan, mute, solo, and the parameters of any effects plugins on the track.
  2. Choose an Automation Mode: Depending on the DAW, you’ll have various modes available (as mentioned above).
  3. Draw or Record Automation: Most DAWs allow users to draw automation curves directly onto a track. Alternatively, users can hit play and adjust parameters in real-time, with the DAW recording these movements as automation data.
  4. Editing Automation: Once automation data is recorded, it can be edited just like any other MIDI or audio data. This includes copying, pasting, deleting, and adjusting individual points or curves.


Advanced Tips:

  1. Use Automation Sparingly: While it’s tempting to automate every parameter, sometimes less is more. Over-automation can make a mix sound unnatural or over-processed.
  2. Combine with Modulation: Some effects, like tremolo or chorus, have built-in modulation engines. Combining these with automation can lead to complex, evolving soundscapes.
  3. Hardware Controllers: Many producers and engineers prefer the tactile feel of physical faders and knobs. MIDI controllers with motorized faders can be used to write and read automation data, providing a more hands-on mixing experience.


Automation is a powerful tool in the arsenal of music producers and audio engineers. It offers a level of precision and creativity that’s hard to achieve with static mixes. Whether you’re looking to add subtle movement to a track, fix problematic sections, or create wild, evolving soundscapes, automation can help you achieve your vision. As with all tools, the key is to use it musically and serve the song. With practice and experimentation, automation can elevate your mixes to professional standards, adding depth, clarity, and excitement to your music.

If you want to get more information in a personal consultation or get your next song produced or mixed by me simply click this link here and click through my application process: