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Old 03-07-2011, 04:54 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Mixing music for loudness

As A Mastering Engineer, I quite often get asked to make a track as loud as xyz. There are certain processes involved in mastering which are used to make the record appear loud, and some tracks benefit from these processes better than others. A track can only be pushed so far before negative artifacts start to affect the sound, and some tracks can be pushed much further than others. This is down to how the track is arranged, recorded/produced and mixed.

Before you go ahead mixing for loudness though ,make sure you ask yourself why you want it to sound loud, and remember every music system has a volume control!

Here are some to tips to achieving a well balanced, clean mix that will allow your track to have high Ďloudness potential.í They are by no means exhaustive, just some helpful hints which you can choose to use or lose!

1) PLAN your arrangement from the outside so that each instrument or sound has itís own place in the mix. Instruments fighting for the same frequency content will become blurred and unclear. Decide which aspects of your mix are important. Is it a vocal based track? Then try to fit the other parts around the vocal and give it some room.Our ears our most sensitive to those between 2-5khz, so bear this in mind if you are mixing for loudness and make sure yuou have enough content here. Get it right at the beginning. Fixing it in the mix (or master) is always a compromise, so make sure you spend plenty of time getting the right sounds in production and recording.

2) UTILISE the entire fequency range and stereo field. Pan hard left and hard right, have the important aspects you want to be heard at the front of the mix. Wide mixes will sound much louder and fuller.

3) CONTROL individual tracks and busses. Get rid of any unwanted noise using eq or high pass filters (but be carefull not to make your mix sound too thin.) Compress and even limit tracks/busses if they need it to try and maintain dynamic control throughout the track. If you do have sounds that are fighting for space, use eq, panning, reverb/delay to create new space for them. Sometimes if your kick and bass are fighting for the same space, having the kick trigger the sidechain of a compressor on your bass track can help it poke through and create a pumping effect if desired. Kicks with a lot of frequency content from 200-400hz often interfere with an electric bass, so a little EQ dip here might be all thatís needed. Getting your kick and bass to sit well together is often the hardest, yet most important part of the mixing process. Donít be afraid to carve the sound of your kick using EQ so it fits around your bass. Try not to let the low mid range get clogged up. Often, the punch of a snare, lower vocal frequencies, guitars, bass and synths can all be adding to congestion in this area, so decide what needs to be most prominant here and eq the rest to fit around this.Too much going on here and you have a dense, unlcear, congested mix, too little and you have a thin, weka and possible harsh sounding mix, so pay close attention here.

4) KEEP IT SIMPLE. Busy arrangments and mixes will be much harder to get sounding loud. If your planning a loud track you should be aware that reverbs and delays will be accentuated. Keep their use to a minimum, eq or use high pass filters to stop them clogging up the low midrange of your mix. You can even use the sidechain input on a compressor, so that the reverb/delay is compressed when the vocal is playing, and released when it stops, for instance.

5) HOW LOUD DOES IT NEED TO BE? As with everything in music, loudness comes at a price. Decide what your track needs, if you really want the chorus to have impact, you canít have it loud all the way through. Do you want a wall of sound or do you want to keep plenty of punch? If itís the latter, be careful not to overcompress, especially on the drums and bass. And whatever you do, donít use compression or limiting on the master bus to achieve loudness, this will only make the mastering process harder and most probably less effective. If you use compression on your master bus for a specific effect, itís probably best to provide the mastering engineer with 2 versions of your track, one with and one without the extra processing.

There is some more info on my website if you want to check it out: CD Mastering Studio, UK
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Old 03-07-2011, 06:33 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Yeaaah, **** dynamics, let's limit it all to the brim.

I know limiting can be useful, but most of the time it's just destroying music.
I don't think I'd be able to be an engineer just for that reason.
I don't want anyone who doesn't know **** about sound quality to tell me how I should master my music.
It seems like an incredibly irritating thing to me.

Yamaha and NAD had some cassette decks back in the 90's that had a "CAR" setting.
When you pressed this, every bit of signal that went beneath -12dB was kept above -12dB so the sound of your engine, wind and tires wouldn't be louder than the soft passages in music.
That was a pretty good idea, quite useful too.
But the limiting hype that's going on nowadays...
They're even turning excessive limiting into some sort of 'effect'.
Listen to this:

This once was a pretty good recording. Brilliant stereo imaging, loads of detail and then they ****ed it all up by excessive limiting.
Same goes for:


As an audio engineer, you can probably tell me; Ive heard that the reason limiting is so popular nowadays, is that when a song is played louder on the radio, it sells better.
Is that true?

Anyway, I hate it. I hate excessive mastering, I hate excessive limiting.
I have this CD you'll probably know called 'Jazz at the pawnshop'.
They used two nagra recorders, an overhead mic and two mics on each side of the band. And it just sounds magical. There's so much space in that recording that you actually feel as if you're in the bar where it has been recorded. Dolby Surround my ass.
A good engineer and a set of decent stereo speakers and you're done.
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Old 03-07-2011, 06:35 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Davidphonic View Post
2) UTILISE the entire fequency range and stereo field. Pan hard left and hard right, have the important aspects you want to be heard at the front of the mix. Wide mixes will sound much louder and fuller.
I don't really agree with this one.
If you pan too hard, you will get a recording that's coming from left and right, but there's no depth and there's a huge hole in the middle. Making the listening experience rather tining when done via a proper rig with proper stereo imaging.
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Old 03-07-2011, 01:23 PM   #4 (permalink)
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what do you think of the mastering on the link in my signature? Im working on my mastering skills and Its hard sometimes to walk the line between loudness and over-compression
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Old 03-07-2011, 03:14 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Clickety.
I don't care for the music much, but I've heard far worse.
It's pretty clean, but I think the voice and bass drum are a bit pushy.
Might take it easy on those

The S-tones are a bit sharp for my tassssste.
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Old 03-08-2011, 08:31 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Its a loudness war out ther.
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Old 03-08-2011, 04:10 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by s_k View Post
As an audio engineer, you can probably tell me; Ive heard that the reason limiting is so popular nowadays, is that when a song is played louder on the radio, it sells better.
Is that true?
Radio playlists are determined by a group of listeners played sections of random tracks and being asked to rate them good or bad. If the track comes on and their short sample is quiet, they'll consider it to have less impact than a louder sample, or there'll be doubt as to where its going, thus it will seem weak compared to a louder track.

Since the artists can't control what section of their tracks gets used as the sample in these listening tests, the trend has been to master for increased punch through the whole song, increasing the likelihood that whatever part is actually sampled, their song will seem the punchiest during the sample play, and thus get the most positive responses.
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Old 03-08-2011, 04:16 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Well it makes me turn off the radio
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Old 06-02-2011, 03:07 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I'm not a producer, but I hate records that are mixed too loud. I'd rather turn up the volume myself if I want to hear it loud. Yes, it probably sells better, but in the end it sounds like sh*t. But most people I know like it so loud that their speakers will blow (and that's what mostly happens).

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Old 06-02-2011, 04:04 PM   #10 (permalink)
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And after that, the world keeps turning in peace and quiet
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