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#177042 - 10/23/12 09:05 PM [RealBand] Levels, mixing, and mastering
eddie1261 Online   content
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Registered: 04/08/11
Posts: 4019
Loc: Cleveland, Ohio
Okay I had 2 threads running that somehow got all twisted, combined, and taken WAY off course. Let me restate in simple language what the intent was.

Scenario one.

I pick a style, I create a song. I use those 5-6 tracks to make my song work, adding vocals along the way. Then I say "Hey, I think some organ would sound good here." So I go to the next empty track, choose "generate real track", and pick some organ sound. When I generate that track, it is WAY WAY quieter than the ones RB originally created. So my question was "Does the level of the master volume slider, the on the is above the tracks, to the right center, and moves horizontally, have anything to do with the level at which that additional track is created?"

Scenario two.

I have done all of the above, and in most cases for songs I do, I have made gain changes on almost all the real tracks so they almost fill the track but never touch the top or bottom. I want the tracks as hot as they can be without clipping so I can mix DOWN. I would rather have headroom and remove than run out of room to boost.

The original question was not at all about volume, amplitude, level.... it was about how to best use compression and reverb and what "mastering" actually is. I got several great answers that all made sense yet somehow slightly contradicted each other. I find that everyone has "their" special tools that are "the best" (the BEST, Jerry!). And after digesting all of that input, and doing a good deal of reading that was suggested in the thread, I still don't know any better than when I started how to polish the turd.

So maybe I need to ask more specific questions for specific conditions.

My mixes sound nice and bright when I mix down in my studio room. I save to wav, then using Adobe Audition I make them MP3s, one at 320, another at 128 (and if you ever looked at my stuff they all have (hi) or (lo) in the title), take them out to the car and they sound dead, lifeless and drab. No color, all the crispness of the high end is gone.... even when the MP3s sounded fine in the studio. They sound so alive and perky in the studio. In the car, blah.....

So to fix that, do I need to add high end EQ, remove low end EQ, compress, limit, spin, dry, collate, staple, lather-rinse-repeat......? Do I manipulate all the tracks the same? Do the drums get different treatment than the vocals, and the guitar, and the bass? If I EQ the whole thing to find more "snap" on the snare drum, isn't that going to change every other instrument?

I have different EQ and reverb presets for my vocals, drums bass, and instruments other than bass, so I do EQ and apply reverb differently depending on the track content. I don't use compression/limiting at all because I don't know what I am doing and I do more harm than good when I try. That just seemed logical to know that a voice is different from a drum and both are different from a bass guitar, etc.... that thought process may be 180 degrees out of phase. And I do know that from other forum poster's input I can get better, bit I need training if I want to get BETTER. I am just looking for a starting point.

I got the demo of Izotope as someone suggested. Read the help documents for an hour while experimenting. It sounded worse when I finished. FYI, that was in Sonar, as I could not get it to load as a plug-in for RB. Those settings in Izotope made NO sense to me with the cute names they give them. And honestly, since this is a hobby for me, I don't have hours to sit there and play with those presets to figure out what is what. I can't quit my job to play around in the studio writing and producing songs so 25 people can hear them. I'd just like to get a little better so the stuff is presentable. One good thing I DID recently start doing is taking notes (pictures actually) when something sounds right. I guess that's a start.

These threads have really been awesome for the amount of thought and information. I just thought maybe it was time to post fresh and refocus.
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#177043 - 10/23/12 10:15 PM [RealBand] Re: Levels, mixing, and mastering [Re: eddie1261]
Kemmrich Offline
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Registered: 02/27/07
Posts: 1814
Quote:

...I want the tracks as hot as they can be without clipping so I can mix DOWN...




I really can't figure out what you mean here. Individual tracks should be nowhere near clipping on a digital system. All mixed together, you want the master bouncing around at a max of -6db before any limiting/compression has been added on the master. Therefore, individual tracks are probably in the -10 to -12 db range.

Do I have all my individual tracks added in or recorded this low -- no, but I am trying. I just use the volume fader (in sonar I group the tracks together) to bring the all the tracks down so I get that ~ -6db on the master bus.
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#177044 - 10/23/12 10:44 PM [RealBand] Re: Levels, mixing, and mastering [Re: Kemmrich]
eddie1261 Online   content
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Registered: 04/08/11
Posts: 4019
Loc: Cleveland, Ohio
How else could I state that? I want them as hot as they can be without clipping, distorting, overdriving.... www.thesaurus.com.....

I want them nominally as loud as they can be so I can CUT them when mixing.

Put your thumb and index finger a 1/4 inch apart. If that is my track, I can only boost it so much to blend it with the other tracks before I run out of "boost". Now put your thumb and index finger as far apart as they will go. If that is my starting point, I can always come DOWN. If I have nothing to work with, I can't make a quiet track go any higher than as high as it will go. I CAN, however, make a loud track be softer.

Nobody said I was slamming VU meters against the limits. Where did that come from? I specifically said I was NOT doing that. I would rather have a soft roar than a loud whisper. I am not going to get into a debate of -6 or -9 or whatever. My ear is my meter. When it sounds good to me, that's the right level no matter if it's analog, digital, digilog, anatal... whatever.

3 posts in and my original train of thought is gone already.
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#177045 - 10/24/12 12:24 AM [RealBand] Re: Levels, mixing, and mastering [Re: eddie1261]
yjoh Offline
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Registered: 11/08/10
Posts: 191
Loc: Australia
Quick post, in between students.

When you say you "want them as nominally loud as they can be so I can cut them when mixing", you are thinking of analogue style of mixing. In the digital world you need to think the other way round.

You need your tracks at much lower levels so you can have the headroom you need for mixing. Adding compression, EQ etc to your tracks results in gain being added.

Check out the link to gain staging I put in your other thread.

Maybe you need to think of it as mixing up. I'm no expert but I know more than I used too. I'm sure others here will come in with more experience to help.

Mixing and mastering are two different things. Mastering comes after all the mixing has been done. This is when the silences between tracks, the order of tracks, the tweeking of compression and EQ and numerous other polishing details are taken care of.

To get the levels up to those slamming levels so popular with pop music, they often use a brickwall limiter to get them up to or close to 0db.

You say you need a starting point, so did I. This is a you-tube link to extracts of some of the videos I study. It will give you an idea as to whether you'll find them useful.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCi6cLmgiNQ&feature=channel&list=UL

I watched all the DR77 videos before I decided to invest. (again I'm not trying to push these but I do know they helped me gain more understanding)

Got to go, good luck! (EDIT)In a rush forgot to put in the link.


Edited by yjoh (10/24/12 12:25 AM)
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#177046 - 10/24/12 06:42 AM [RealBand] Re: Levels, mixing, and mastering [Re: yjoh]
Kemmrich Offline
Expert

Registered: 02/27/07
Posts: 1814
Quote:

How else could I state that? I want them as hot as they can be without clipping, distorting, overdriving... I want them nominally as loud as they can be so I can CUT them when mixing.




If you are mixing Down on a digital workstation (applying tons of limiting to avoid clipping on the master bus), then I think you will never succeed in getting a good sounding mix. All your mixes will sound lifeless, squashed, muddy and devoid of dynamics. You need to use limiting and compression on the master bus to make things louder, not avoid clipping.

Obviously there are many ways to mix and while you might be able to get an OK mix from your approach -- I just think you have made your task that much harder.

Watch this video -- maybe it will help: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Enhcve9Lblc

Edit: I got my -db #'s mixed up a little in my 1st post -- memory will do that to you.


Edited by Kemmrich (10/24/12 10:41 AM)
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#177047 - 10/24/12 10:44 AM [RealBand] Re: Levels, mixing, and mastering [Re: Kemmrich]
Kemmrich Offline
Expert

Registered: 02/27/07
Posts: 1814
Quote:

... 3 posts in and my original train of thought is gone already.




I just think you are basing everything you do off of a flawed foundation. Until you fix your original problems of gain staging, there is nothing you can do (easily or at all) that will give you what you want (in my opinion).
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#177048 - 10/24/12 10:58 AM [RealBand] Re: Levels, mixing, and mastering [Re: eddie1261]
jazzmammal Offline
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Registered: 06/08/05
Posts: 6404
Loc: Redondo Beach, Ca.
Read the last 3 posts in your Mastering thread. Scott corrected my terminology. It's normalizing. RB is normalizing your tracks. The faders are not mixing down anything. I can't find anything about that in RB's help file. Maybe this is why I never used Power Tracks (now RB) for this in the first place, I can't remember now. If RB is automatically normalizing everything and it can't be turned off, that's bad.

Bob
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#177049 - 10/24/12 07:46 PM [RealBand] Re: Levels, mixing, and mastering [Re: jazzmammal]
rharv Offline
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Registered: 05/30/00
Posts: 18660
Loc: Marysville, Mi. USA
Quote:

RB is normalizing your tracks. ... If RB is automatically normalizing everything and it can't be turned off, that's bad.

Bob



No it isn't unless he tells it to.
And he'd know it if he did, as it doesn't happen automatically.
RB does not automagically normalize.


Edited by rharv (10/24/12 07:48 PM)
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#177050 - 10/24/12 10:42 PM [RealBand] Re: Levels, mixing, and mastering [Re: rharv]
jazzmammal Offline
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Registered: 06/08/05
Posts: 6404
Loc: Redondo Beach, Ca.
I'm always a bit leery of disputing you because you're probably the most respected RB guru around here. Here's my questions:

1. Where is normalize hiding in RB? I just searched Help again and nothing comes up.

2. If RB is not normalizing automatically then how is it possible to mix a bunch of tracks if each one is recorded up at -2db or something? Other software I've tried will simply create an over driven distorted mess and I'm forced to destructively lower each track first. Just moving the console mixer faders won't do it.

3. I asked this in the other thread. If all we have to do is move the faders, then why is it universal among all these articles I've read that digital tracks must be recorded down at -15db or so? What's the big deal with that then?

I just read two more articles that I'm not going to post links to, they still say the same thing. Too hot tracks will overload the output bus and you have to apply either a trim plugin, compression, limiting, something to bring the levels down before you can mix. If you or anybody else has a bunch of tracks that are up there in level and yet you can mix it without clipping simply by moving the faders then one of these things is going on. If you didn't apply a plugin then RB must be doing it automatically someway, somehow.

Bob
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#177051 - 10/25/12 04:25 AM [RealBand] Re: Levels, mixing, and mastering [Re: jazzmammal]
ROG Offline
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Registered: 12/12/11
Posts: 2467
Loc: York, England
Bob.

rharv is right - RB won't normalize anything unless instructed to do so. If you want to normalize a track, or part of a track, you can highlight it and go to EDIT - AUDIO EFFECTS - GAIN CHANGE.

The output of each track is determined by two things - the level of the recording and the channel fader setting. In other words, a hot track with the fader half down will be similar to a quiet track with the fader up full. This principle holds good for both analog and digital.

The trick when mixing is to use the channel faders in conjunction with the meters to ensure that the signal going to the master buss isn't overloading and you can do this regardless of how hot the tracks are. If it's a complex mix we use the sub-groups to make it easier to take sections of the mix up and down. In RB, if the mix is getting too loud you can use the main sub-group (A1) to reduce the overall level.

Having spent over thirty years working with tape, where signal level was our main weapon against noise, I still don't like to see things recorded way down, even though with digital it isn't quite as important. Any decent desk will handle 24 tracks of tape-saturated sound if you watch your gain controls and meters.

There seems to be a lot of dis-information on the internet about levels and mixing, but good principles have always been the same - record as good a signal as possible and keep an eye on the meters when mixing.

ROG.

EDIT - the first studio I helped out in as a boy in the 60s was recording straight into a Ferrograph stereo half-track. The desk had tubes in and a chassis which looked like it had been made out of a railway bridge. The faders more resembled power boat throttles, but it did have a VU meter on every channel. On the control room window was a sign which read - WATCH THE METERS NOT THE PERFORMERS.


Edited by ROG (10/25/12 04:47 AM)

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#177052 - 10/25/12 04:53 AM [RealBand] Re: Levels, mixing, and mastering [Re: jazzmammal]
LynB Offline
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Registered: 07/23/00
Posts: 3161
Loc: Barton-on-Sea,Hants,UK
Normalisation is provided by the Gain Effect Option 3 which increases the overall gain to -2db. I use this for the final mastered mix in order to achieve a similar level of sound across all the tracks in a CD. Softer sounding tracks can be incresed usually by up to 3 db - more than this I would need to revisit an individual mix.

For recorded tracks within a song, I would not use Normalisation and only use Gain if the track volumn slider is at maximum. As to the concern at over hot mixes which would suggest the need to reduce all track volumn levels, consider using the ALL Volume slider to reduce all the track volumes simultaneously, before increasing low volumn tracks. Don't forget that gain can be added by individual track Compressor/Reverb plugins

For final Mixing I use effects in the Output A1 port - PG-EQ, PG-RTA, Triple Comp, PG-Peak Limit. The Triple Comp plugin, which I have used for the last three years, has proved invaluable. I generally start with the "Preserve Attack" option and study the graphical output to determine what should be done. The Output level determines when to use the ALL slider to obtain the necessary headroom.

I have tried many methods of mixing over the years and, for me, this has proved to be the quickest and best to date.

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#177053 - 10/25/12 11:29 AM [RealBand] Re: Levels, mixing, and mastering [Re: LynB]
jazzmammal Offline
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Registered: 06/08/05
Posts: 6404
Loc: Redondo Beach, Ca.
What I get from both ROG and LynB is there is no global normalization option which is what I was talking about. I'm aware of the option on a track by track basis but what I'm referring to is creating the initial mix in the first place. If you need to mix 4, 8, 20 whatever tracks and overall they are too hot, there's no one global option to normalize them to create a mix. All you can do then is ride the faders. That's what I was asking about.

Now here's where I really don't get it and it's because I completely respect you guys. How can all of these articles be wrong? I try to only read stuff written by someone who looks and sounds like a real pro who knows what they're talking about. Example, the last article I read was linked off of the Pro Tools official forum. It went into great detail about keeping the initial tracking levels low so as to not have the tracks too hot for mixing. Simply riding the faders and saying that is perfectly acceptable flies in the face of this. If that's all you have to work with sure that will work but it's not the optimal correct way to do it if you have control over the initial tracking process. At least that's the way I read it.

Bob
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#177054 - 10/25/12 11:49 AM [RealBand] Re: Levels, mixing, and mastering [Re: jazzmammal]
ROG Offline
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Registered: 12/12/11
Posts: 2467
Loc: York, England
Bob.

You ALWAYS have to ride the faders and watch the meters. It's what mixing is all about and this is why it's a skill which needs to be learnt and practiced. If you have a mix of say thirty plus tracks, it's still possible to overload the master buss even though the tracks may not be recorded hot. If you can't do this, you've already compromised your noise performance, even on digital.

Like I said - there's a lot of dis-information about and some people seem to be trying to make the system idiot-proof. Recording so low that it's impossible to overload is like limiting a car to 25mph so the driver can't break any speed limits.

At the end of the day, I can only say how we've always done it. Other people will disagree and you'll need to come down on one side or the other as you see fit.

ROG

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#177055 - 10/25/12 12:21 PM [RealBand] Re: Levels, mixing, and mastering [Re: ROG]
Kemmrich Offline
Expert

Registered: 02/27/07
Posts: 1814
I don't think you are in trouble if you record hot (as low as you don't clip). Once you have all your tracks in there, you then do your gain staging so the master bus is under control. Once that is done you do all your mixing to get the tracks sitting the way you want. Then you apply the compression/limiting on the master bus (or sub-busses) to get the overall song volume where you want it. A little bit of an over-simplification, but there you go.
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#177056 - 10/25/12 01:46 PM [RealBand] Re: Levels, mixing, and mastering [Re: Kemmrich]
eddie1261 Online   content
Veteran

Registered: 04/08/11
Posts: 4019
Loc: Cleveland, Ohio
Here's just the way I was always told to do it.

Record your track this hot

-------------------------------------
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX


-------------------------------------


then pull the slider off to 0. Nothing. Dead quiet.

Then start mixing and move the fader accordingly until it blends how you want it.

-------------------------------------


XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
-------------------------------------

to start, then up to

-------------------------------------

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

-------------------------------------

and so forth. My thought it that if the starting point (100% of what is available) is low, like

-------------------------------------


XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
-------------------------------------

and you start going louder and louder, THAT is where you start introducing noise.

Am I "analog" thinking and "digital" thinking is 180 opposite?
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