When you say mix-down, to you mean raising the volume level in some places and lowering it in others? That's done using audio keyframes.
Audio keyframing can be done right on the timeline. Just select a clip and position the CTI playhead over it, then click the Make Keyframe button on the track header, to the left of the audio track. This will create a keyframe point at the position of the CTI. Raising this point will increase the volume and lowering it will decrease it. You can create and position as many keyframes as you need to mix your audio tracks.
As for your playback issue, you can isolate which area you edit, render or output by placing the Work Area Bar (the light colored gray bar that runs along the ticker on the timeline) so that it only covers a portion of your project.
(I see you've ordered my books, Carlton! Good for you! These and many other topics are covered pretty thoroughly in them.)
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You already have one level of mix-down, in that your Audio is mixed down to the Master Track. PrE does not allow individual mix-down Tracks, like PrPro does, where one can have special mix-down Tracks, and feed different Audio Tracks to those. This then allows one to apply Effects to that Mix-down Track, so that they will affect all of its Source Tracks.
Video does a "mix-down," in that all Video Tracks will be applied to the resulting file, but at Export/Share. There is no Nesting, as per PrPro, which is sort of a "mix-down."
As Steve mentions, that "scale ruler," is the WAB (Work Area Bar) and can be used for limiting Render, and for limiting Export/Share.
Hope that helps and good luck,
PS - what are you wishing to do, that is not happening in PrE now?
you guys are my Gurus... if that is a word... LOL. I really appreciate it and understand fully now.
Steve I can't wait to get the book, this program has so many features I probably wouldn't last long without a guide, OR you and Hunt would get tire of my many blogs! Thanks again fellas!
I cannot speak for Steve, but I would not tire of questions. They keep my gray-matter functioning, especially when I have to fire up my Adobe program to check things out.
As for Steve's books, enjoy. Also, do NOT forget to read his appendices, as they contain so very much good info.