I thought a lot about this - when I’m working on my own songs (as opposed to the songs of my band, Visions of Atlantis), I always do it directly into Cubase and I use things like EQ, high pass filters, fx and reverb right from the beginning.
So, one might say: “but those things are for mixing!!1 Oh noes!!1”
But I reply with a grumpy NO - because I have my own method for this, which I call the “CIA” - method.
Of course, of course… when done composing, I start the proper tracking and then the mixing of the audio files (I don’t master because this is rocket science I don’t understand, lol, and I also don’t have the golden ears necessary…).
But during composition (and often, tracking - but to a bit lesser an extent) I also want to “feel” the song better, and get right into the ambience of it. Thats why I use my “CIA” method for the first step.
- C stands for “Clarity”
I want to hear everything. So I use high pass filters and (sometimes) EQ to get rid of frequencies which interfere, right from the start. I record a pad? First thing I do is: high pass filter that damn thing @ 120 Hz, so I can hear that bass later. No need for fine adjustments. Just a primitive, caveman style high pass filtering, to get clarity.
Also I adjust the volume of tracks.
- I stands for “Intention”
I put in all the fx and other stuff right at composition which are key to my song. Guitar modelling, of course (who doesn’t do that), but also effectful reverberation, delays, saturation, compression (when I want, for example, that “delicate sound of thunder” vocal sound). No, I won’t keep it like this in mixing, but I want to hear it and I think that sound is part of composition. This is not the 60s or 70s anymore, we have great tools, lets use them.
- A stands for “Ambience”
While I won’t use the highest quality reverberation settings or the best reverbs at hand in composition (here track count and latency matter most), I want to have a sense of “space” and “life”, so, of course, drums get a drum room or chamber, everything else gets some plate or concert hall preset. Two sends usually do the trick.