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Thread: How do I get higher volume levels out of my mastering??

  1. #1
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    How do I get higher volume levels out of my mastering??

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    Hi,

    I was wondering if anybody had some tips on how to get the final volume levels of a track higher without distorting the sound? I'm really happy with how the track sounds but I'm trying to make it just a little bit louder. I've smashed the limiter pretty hard if I go any more the sound starts to distort. Any help would be much appreciated!!

    Cheers,

    Mark

  2. #2
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    You could try a multi-band compressor and set different compression ratios for each frequency band. What you're going for is 'perceived-loudness' so what's probably happening (obviously we haven't heard your track) is that one of your frequency ranges is dominating the others and also clipping when you run the track too hard. You have to find what section is distorting and treat that separately for the others to jump out a little more. That's one way. It is not the only way but that's a good place to start if you have a multi-band compressor.

    There's a lot to it. Sometimes sending it to a mastering person is your only option too.

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  4. #3
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    You can also use the multiband or EQ to expose problems in the original mix. For example, if you notice that it is very bass heavy (a common issue resulting in hitting compressors or limiters harder than you want) and taming the low end allows you to push the limiter harder, you can go back to the original and cut some of the low end from individual tracks. Guitars for example, can have a lot of low end that gets in the way of the bass and/or kick drum. This not only pushes the low end higher (perhaps triggering your limiter too soon) but can cause you to push the bass or kick louder to stand out in the mix better (exacerbating the problem). Cutting low end from guitars can make space for the bass and kick. Can even cut some of the low end out of bass to make room for kick (resulting in being able to lower overall drum volumes). Another thing you can do is sidechain a compressor on instruments that get in the way of the vocals. Set vocal track as the side chain, so when vocals are active, it reduces volume on the other instrument slightly (I often do this with rhythm guitars).

    Once you get some of those issues under control in the original mix, the master will turn out better. So add an EQ, multiband compressor (no limiter) and make adjustmens to overal mix, then go back and try making similar adjustments on the individual tracks to accomplish the same thing, then return to the mastering and repeat process. Repeat this until you need very little EQ, compression, limiting, to get the final as you want it.

    The ability to go back and edit the original mix during mastering is a huge benefit to doing your own mastering. I recommend it as the final process to perfecting a mix, even when having actual mastering done by a professional because it brings the final mix closer to what you want the mastering process to achieve, and will result in less problems for the mastering engineer to fix. Just remember to focus on the task at hand and don't jump back and forth too much. By that I mean, wait until you have a final mix to start trying to master. Then get it as good as you can before going back to the original mix to make adjustments. I find it helps me to have a separate project to master in. Keeps me from going down a rabbit hole.
    Last edited by robin_loops; 03-28-2019 at 09:32 AM.

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  6. #4
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    Be mindful that if you are going to use a professional mastering service, they will not want a brick-walled maxxed-out track to work with. So either make two “final” versions, or don’t hit the limiter too hard, and let the mastering engineer worry about the issue of maximizing your volume while balancing overall EQ.

    GJ
    Gregg Juke
    Nocturnal Productions
    The Sonic Vault Recording Studio
    Drum! Magazine Contributor






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  8. #5
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    I'd elaborate on robin_loops' post a bit - there's a lot of low end in almost anything, and most of the time you don't need it; this is probably the primary reason of amateur mixes "not getting loud enough". The simple solution is to simply high-pass the shit out of all your non-bass/kick tracks, but of course that can end up sounding a bit hollow as well. But yeah - start cutting the excess low end from those tracks.

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    To elaborate one step further. Most instruments have frequencies that are not part of their principal sound. When listening alone you might notice that the guitars sound best Without removing these freqencoes, because having a full spectrum makes them sound full. However, when combining with other instruments, these same frequencies get in the way of their fundamental frequencies. When mixing together, overlapping frequencies can make an instrument sound muddy. Bass frequencies are the biggest culprits but the idea can be spread throughout the frequency spectrum.

    Here’s a little trick you can use to hear this in action as well as using for finding where to low cut the bass (track you need to be most careful with low end cuts. Cut too much and it doesn’t even sound much like a bass anymore, too little and the kick drum and bass step all over each other. Solo your drum track and bass track. Put a high pass filter or an eq with a low end cut on the bass. Now start at the lowest frequency possible and sweep to a higher frequency. Keep in mind that you are ‘removing’ volume (in the low frequencies) but you will notice at some point when the low cut makes room for the kick drum, the bass starts to sound crisper and clearer, even louder. Back off a little from there and that’s a good place to cut the low end from the bass. Now you should be able to solo just the bass track and not hear much of a difference in the bass with or without the cut. Be careful not to cut too high (frequency) or the bass will sound hollow. Also keep in mind that for some music with really low sub bass, you may not want to cut the lows off the bass. In those cases sidechaining compressors to duck bass out of the way of the kick is a good option.

    Sidechaining is also a way to get more clarity without increasing volume. For example you can use this method to lower the volume slightly for midrange instruments that compete with the vocals. Another example is a horn line. I have one piece that has some horns the overlap the vocals. So by using a compressor side chained to the vocal track, when the vocal is present the horns are a little quieter, then as the vocals trail off, the compression stops, and the horns gradually (play with release time) rose to fill the empty space. Make sure when doing this to only aim for 1-2db cuts at most or it will make it pump too much.

    To add one more thing: in a given project there can be tracks that aren’t meant to be heard, but add dimension. It’s natural to put these tracks too loud because we can’t hear them in the mix. When you have tracks that are meant to disappear in the mix, try quickly toggling solo or mute on these tracks (on to off them back on again quickly). By hearing the track alone for an instant or visa versa not hearing it for an instant l, allows one to focus in on that track to hear how it sits in the mix, even though listening to the mix alone, it disappears.
    Last edited by robin_loops; 03-29-2019 at 10:24 AM.

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  12. #7
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    Here's the answer to loud masters that don't distort.

    1) Balance balance balance. The better you balance your mixes, the more it can be pushed into a limiter without distorting. This is 90% of it.
    2) During mixing, focus on perceptions of loudness. For example, if your mix is all low end and high end, then it will never sound loud. As well, if you have parts that are far too dynamic for what the part is, then the brain will focus on the parts that are quiet and you will have to push the mix more into the limiter to get the same "feeling" of loudness. Last, humans focus on the vocal. So if you bury your vocal in the mix you are pretty much screwed for loudness. When comparing the loudness from one song to another, people pay more attention to the relative levels of the vocal more so than the relative levels of the musical elements.
    3) Some buss compression. Don't go crazy though or you will kill all your dynamics.
    Chris 'Von Pimpenstein' Carter - Major label mixer/producer
    http://www.vonpimpenstein.com

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  14. #8
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    My best tip is to lay off heavy handed compression and limiting early on. Keep in mind that 'perceived loudness' is just that... a trick, it makes things less loud. A common beginner mistake is to compress the hell out of a kickdrum because 'yay, bigness!!' The problem happens when you start bringing these heavily compressed sounds into a mix they sound flat, lifeless and dull ('boxy').. so your next instinct is more rounds of subtractive EQ and compression, further cutting the life out.. so you might bring in the multiband exciter to fuck shit up even more... and so on. Certain plugin manufacturers make a lot of money convicing you this is the way, and selling you the tools to supposedly do all that.

    There's a lot more to it, distortion and clipping can be your friend, using certain type of analog compressors, spreading the load between different limiters, using different limiters, etc.. but 'not overdoing it' is a big one. Cheers!

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  16. #9
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    Thanks are there any multiband compressors you would recommend?

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    Sweet thanks man I'll give that a try

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