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Question about "Setting Master Volume."

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martinweeks
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Question about "Setting Master Volume."

Postby martinweeks » Sun Jul 19, 2015 12:14 am

Hi Folks,

Okay I've finally amassed enough quality songs for an EP of sorts. And I have a question about MC7 and one of the settings.

I've read, watched, asked and so on now for about six months. Everybody from Ian Shepherd and his Mastering Class YT Channel to folks right here always and continuously say that with digital recording KEEP THE MASTER LEVELS DOWN AROUND -6db to preserve headroom. (No argument there.)
I have been meticulous about that and always keep both individual tracks and mastering well within the safety limits. However, now that I've done a "dry run" so to speak on creating an actual CD of "Mastered Tracks" there is still fluctuations in the over all level of the entire EP. Some songs are just louder than others even if the master track never goes past unity gain.

So when I'm ready to "Record" to Master Track I see in the "Mix" drop down menu where it says "Set Master Volume." Also when I click "Record" for the actual Master Track the Master Fader always jumps back up to 0 db. So...what is the correct level to set the "Mix-> Set Master Volume -> (various percentages...) for recording to Master Track? ... and...How do I keep the Master Fader from always jumping back up to Zero?

I know I'm going to have to do some more editing for the Mastering Process so would like to get this figured out correctly before I start the process. Thanks folks. Enjoy the rest of the weekend.

Marty

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Re: Question about "Setting Master Volume."

Postby Sami Seif » Sun Jul 19, 2015 3:53 am

The problem about track imbalances will usually be fixed during the mastering process, but many people mix all the songs in an album/room at one, or at least consecutively.

One rule the mix engineers who taught me how to mix always told me "Never touch the master fader!", so always keep the master fader where it is by default: 0db, turn down volumes of individual tracks, and while you're at it, make sure no tracks are clipping, if individual tracks are recorded clipping, you probably need to re record those tracks.
Usually, what I do to avoid the track from clipping is, either use compressors, maybe one one on the master track, or turn Down the volume of individual tracks.

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Mark Bliss
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Re: Question about "Setting Master Volume."

Postby Mark Bliss » Sun Jul 19, 2015 7:01 am

Your questions open multiple doors, and the answers are even more multifaceted.

But the first thing to understand is that there are two different characteristics of the levels you must consider.
One being peaks and their relation to clipping.
The other is "perceived loudness". Example: It is entirely feasible that a track peaking at -6 dB could sound louder than a track peaking near 0 dB. This is why using and understanding metering that better displays this phenomenon is such a good idea. This has been discussed at length elsewhere here on multiple occasions, and there are suggested resources for study in the tips and tricks section.

Heres an exercise that should give you a general outline on the steps you want to consider. Methods vary but this should get you going.

1: Don't record tracks too loud, no clipping. Being conservative on your levels is recommended.
2: Mix your project keeping the main fader at unity, and main meter levels peaking at moderate levels. Some use -6 as a recommendation, (I generally recommend even a little lower. -10 or -12 works for me.)
(Note that you dont really have to worry about peak track levels here for two primary reasons. One is that the internal work is in 32 bit float, the other that generally to get the main levels where you want, you will be turning tracks down, not up.)
3: Once the projects are mixed and you are ready to "master" them for your CD, render them to new tracks, and create a new Mixcraft project.
Import the tracks and set them in the order you wish for your CD and place any processing you wish to add on the main bus. (Some would use light touches of overall EQ, possibly multi-channel compression, perhaps a limiter if it suits you and your music. But generally only light touches of anything to "polish" you mixes, not heavily alter them.)
Again, watch the main bus for peaks, no clipping. It is also the point where some people are going to want to push the peaks up toward 0 dB. Some seek -1, some even closer.
This is also the time to correct for differences in perceived loudness. This can be done assisted by metering, by ear, whatever suits your tastes. Note that some people create music that they want to all have the same perceived loudness, others create music that has some song styles intended to be somewhat "softer" than others. Just as you might have faster songs, slower songs, its about the "mood" of the song so to speak.
Anyway, this is the time to locate any songs that sound too loud relative to the others, and turn that song down as desired, using automation, clip gain, whatever suits you.
4: Burn a test CD, play it on multiple sources and come back and fine tune as desired.

That work for ya?
Stay in tune, Mark

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aquataur
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Re: Question about "Setting Master Volume."

Postby aquataur » Sun Jul 19, 2015 10:26 am

One caveat about the master fader...
Your fader is always on the end of some alleged FX queue.

There is thus no need (and, in fact, no useful case) where you would want to change the MV setting.

Say you felt the mix was balanced, but a hair too loud.You have a fancy meter like the loudness meter in the master fx queue (towards the end) that tells you this. Changing the MV will have zilch effect on the meter. The MV is the last instance before the outer world. It just changes the loudness going out - but in an uncontrolled manner.

What you want is a gain trim plugin first instance in the master fx queue that let´s you fine tune the volume.
After that, any mastering compressor, final EQ, brick wall limiter or similar stuff and lastly, a fancy meter may come. By the time you are hitting the outer world, everything will be behaved. You must stay below clipping when you hit the D/A converters, at any other point in the DAW this is forgiving.

For me, I have yet to encounter a good reason for changing the MV setting at all.

-helmut

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Mark Bliss
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Re: Question about "Setting Master Volume."

Postby Mark Bliss » Sun Jul 19, 2015 10:43 am

Exactly.
Didnt get that far in depth. Little steps........
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martinweeks
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Re: Question about "Setting Master Volume."

Postby martinweeks » Sun Jul 19, 2015 11:29 am

Thanks Mark and Aquataur for all the info but you guys kind of lost me on a couple of things See below...

>>Heres an exercise that should give you a general outline on the steps you want to consider. Methods vary but this should get you going.
1: Don't record tracks too loud, no clipping. Being conservative on your levels is recommended.<<

I do that. All the individual tracks are always at -6db or even lower depending on the instrument and how I want it to "sit" in the over all mix.

>>2: Mix your project keeping the main fader at unity, and main meter levels peaking at moderate levels. Some use -6 as a recommendation, (I generally recommend even a little lower. -10 or -12 works for me.)<<

I also do this as I know before the fact, that later on in the process if I start using compression or limiting in the mastering it's going to get louder. (compression and limiting still messes with my head but I'm slowly getting better at it.)

>>3: Once the projects are mixed and you are ready to "master" them for your CD, render them to new tracks, and create a new Mixcraft project.<<

Mark when you say render them to new tacks...are you talking about individual instrument and vocal tracks to wav? Or are you saying to stereo mix down the individual songs to two track and then import them? Not sure I'm getting what you mean by rendering to new tracks.

>>This is also the time to correct for differences in perceived loudness. This can be done assisted by metering,
By metering are you referring to the frquency analazer? If not what or where is the metering in MC??

>>aquataur:
What do you mean by: "fancy meter like the loudness meter in the master fx queue (towards the end)" that tells you this. <<
This question goes in hand with the previous question... is there a "fancy meter" already in MC7 (not pro studio...just MC7) or do I need to go surfing for another plugin?

The advice and suggestions is great, just still having some confusion on certain areas.

Also a little input and techno translation regarding using submix bussing would be helpful...not sure how that actually works and lost vocals last week from not using it correctly. Still don't know how that happened. Just glad MC had a "Backup" of the song to pull up.

>>What you want is a gain trim plugin first instance in the master fx queue that let´s you fine tune the volume.
After that, any mastering compressor, final EQ, brick wall limiter or similar stuff and lastly, a fancy meter may come. By the time you are hitting the outer world, everything will be behaved. You must stay below clipping when you hit the D/A converters, at any other point in the DAW this is forgiving.

I use input trimmers for just about everything from the initial audio and instrument tracks to the Master Output. I've been told that between -12 and -18 is a good general area to start when looking for the "Sweet Spot." Can you elaborate a bit on this? The "Trimmer" I have has both mono and stereo settings. I assume mono for individual tracks, and stereo for the mastering Track. Am I mistaken?

Thanks again...slowly but surely.

Marty

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Re: Question about "Setting Master Volume."

Postby aquataur » Sun Jul 19, 2015 11:54 am

submix

view your DAW as a big hardware mixer. You have individual channels with volume sliders, each may have a send/return loop (your fx queue) and a master volume.

You may want to record a drum set with a set of microphones and may think, having another small little mixing device available that lets you balance your drumset would be great. One wire (or two for stereo) goes into the main mixing board and finally results in one single volume slider you may want to term "drum set" - bingo. That´s your submix.

Any fx you put into this queue affects all of the submix tracks.

fancy meter

you may want to join the league of fighters against the loudness war and use a loudness meter like the TT dynamic range meter or the Bob Katz K-Meter.
There is a commercial equivalent (?) to this, they have some usage tips there kmeter.

or any other that does some precise ballistic metering. This will tell you when you had spurious transits into the forbidden zone and what your dynamic signal range is.
Read the abstracts in the links and you will know. This is really relevant before mixdown.

For instance, you may want to use the K-Meter and set it to 14db. Turn peaks memory on.
Boost (or attentuate) your signal so that it levels at -14db at average. It will show random excursions into the red, but should never go more than some dB´s near full scale. Any excursions into the overload will be remembered, and upon replay you can spot those things and correct them. As a beginner, I recommend to stay conservative here. When you are in the realm of mastering, you can fine tune on that.

limiter

this leads to limiting. A well programmed limiting plugin (just like a hardware device) will kill all signals above a certain threshhold (such as -3dB). Use this as last guarantee before the meter to ensure signal integrity.

gain plugin

you already know all. Keep in mind that your gain trim is (most sensically) first and the master fader always last in the queue - too late for corrections :lol:

If you use a loudness meter system, you will look at gains differently.

-helmut

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Mark Bliss
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Re: Question about "Setting Master Volume."

Postby Mark Bliss » Sun Jul 19, 2015 5:18 pm

Whoa, I suspect you are getting a little advanced for some here Helmut! Maybe lets start out a little more basic.....
(no disagreement, just hoping to keep it simpler for now.)

submix
Some people have found this useful-
http://forums.acoustica.com/bbs/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=12572

fancy meter and gain plugin
Good tips and great links here from Helmut. However, I suspect that like me, most home studio users are going to balk at the cost of some of these third party meters. (Still recommend the sites and research however.) Those metering tools are nice, and on my wish list, no question!

In the meantime, the first point is that you need a meter after the fader for the purpose discussed, so inserting a gain plug in the chain as Helmut describes, and a third party meter last in the chain, gives you a functional solution.
Now you can leave the Mixcraft main fader at unity as previously mentioned, use the gain plug as your fader, and have a meter that reads the actual result at the end of the chain. (Unlike the arrangement in Mixcrafts main bus where the meter measures before the fader, which as pointed out doesn't do much for us in this application.)

There are inexpensive (and free) meter plugs that have some additional scales and features that can suffice on a budget, if you learn to use them.
Perhaps at some point Mixcraft will have improved meters and expanded metering capabilities, but in the meantime I use the above methods.
Stay in tune, Mark

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Rolling Estonian
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Re: Question about "Setting Master Volume."

Postby Rolling Estonian » Sun Jul 19, 2015 6:49 pm

Mark Bliss wrote:submix
Some people have found this useful-
http://forums.acoustica.com/bbs/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=12572


This is a must for many on many levels! IMO.

M

martinweeks
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Re: Question about "Setting Master Volume."

Postby martinweeks » Mon Jul 20, 2015 9:37 am

THANK YOU MARK!! The tutorial is wonderful...don't know why it didn't click for me before, but this time around everything (and other questions too) clicked.

I had just downloaded the TT Dynamic Meter so was getting real freaked as their seemed to be all manner of transients going on and I could not find the nasty little frequency bugs anywhere to stop it.

Then it hit me that I had not specific sends to "premix." Amazing results. As soon as I made this correction levels came down in the meter and I am actually well below the danger zone.

the Output Master Volume Fader (in the mixer view) though is still going way above zero db when the fader is at 0.

But the sound is much cleaner, and the effects are now the way I want them (not really noticeable till their is a pause in the singing.

Still have a lot of work to do, and need to go back and probably remove a bunch of needless additions now as the sound is much cleaner, but yes I see how this works now.

I do have several questions though as I want to make certain I am in fact understanding correctly So here goes.

Questions:

1.) by using send tracks and setting to premix...is this the digital equivalent of using an outboard Hardware device to for example compress a vocal track before entering the mix? If so, would this negate the need to add compression in the mix?

2.) I use trimmers so would I want to set up a send track the same way with the trimmer? or... set up the trimmer followed by the compressor in the send track setting it to premix?

3.)...then send the vocal track to another send with reverb or delay if I wanted to for effect?

4.) I mentioned a while back a technique I saw on a "MixBusTV" YouTube Channel that showed a way to use his compressor to control the "tail" of a reverb effect in a manner that would have the vocals essentially dry while singing, but release the reverb effect when their was space between the singing. Really nice effect for when you have a great singer that doesn't need effects processing but you want to add dynamics. He used the compressor from the vocal track to "trigger" the reverb in the send track when the singer stopped. (This last question isn't top priority but it would be nice to know how to in MC for future reference.)

thanks again. Posted this last night but for some reason is didn't show up so am reposting the reply. Take care.

Marty

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Re: Question about "Setting Master Volume."

Postby aquataur » Mon Jul 20, 2015 9:51 am

Mark Bliss wrote:Whoa, I suspect you are getting a little advanced for some here Helmut!


too advanced

To an extend I agree. However, a DAW is not an analog tape recorder, and even back then, nobody really knew how to set the controls. Nobody knew what the meters were really showing. Luckily, those things were forgiving, but a DAW is not. If you don´t understand what the meters are telling you you might as well ignore them. Staying green at all cost is not enough.

I see the same questions coming our way periodically, and they all stem from the same source, a lack of overall conceptional knowledge.

Yes you can install the software and arm a track and record with zero background, but when those questions come, and they do come inevitably, some things should be understood. Maybe once I sit down and start to write all that basic stuff up, but I am afraid, it is going to have to go below the surface.

fancy meters - for free!

The above mentioned meters are pretty self explanatory, at least after watching the videos.

BTW, both of them are for free. For the DR meter you have to stress the magic ball a little, but it can be downloaded legally. The kmeter seems to be no different than the K-Meter except for a fancy shell and a price tag.

Some others are available that obey to recent official laws, but are commercial. IMHO irrelevant for the non-pro.

Marty, great to hear that you found what you are looking for anyway.

-helmut

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Mark Bliss
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Re: Question about "Setting Master Volume."

Postby Mark Bliss » Tue Jul 21, 2015 10:23 am

Helmut, I'll have to look into those meters more again. Honestly, I should have looked at the links better. I ma familiar with them so I made assumptions.
Last I knew on those, the best deal I could find on one was on sale at $99, and the other, though cheaper, required a $39 subscription style "support" payment of sorts, and I don't care to sign on for things that automatically charge my account every month, with very rare exception.

As far as the advanced advise, it was good. No complaints. I think you know what I was getting at.
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Re: Question about "Setting Master Volume."

Postby Mark Bliss » Tue Jul 21, 2015 10:33 am

martinweeks wrote:Questions:

1.) by using send tracks and setting to premix...is this the digital equivalent of using an outboard Hardware device to for example compress a vocal track before entering the mix? If so, would this negate the need to add compression in the mix?

2.) I use trimmers so would I want to set up a send track the same way with the trimmer? or... set up the trimmer followed by the compressor in the send track setting it to premix?

3.)...then send the vocal track to another send with reverb or delay if I wanted to for effect?


First, I suspect you are making things more complicated than necessary maybe? Simplifying things a bit might ease some issues. Secondly, not sure what you mean by some of it. Like "setting to premix"? Do you mean pre-fader?
And it seems you might be getting carried away with the gain trim plug ins. If you need one, use one. If not, dont?

martinweeks wrote:4.) I mentioned a while back a technique I saw on a "MixBusTV" YouTube Channel that showed a way to use his compressor to control the "tail" of a reverb effect in a manner that would have the vocals essentially dry while singing, but release the reverb effect when their was space between the singing. Really nice effect for when you have a great singer that doesn't need effects processing but you want to add dynamics. He used the compressor from the vocal track to "trigger" the reverb in the send track when the singer stopped. (This last question isn't top priority but it would be nice to know how to in MC for future reference.)


I think you are referring to side chain compression. Mixcraft currently does not support native side chain compression. And while there are some third party/back door tricks, I honestly dont use them at this point and cant be of much assistance. Its a set of advanced mixing techniques that I am aware of but have no experience with. It would be interesting to get into, but I haven't felt such an overwhelming need yet to go jumping through hoops to figure it out. Future growth perhaps.
Stay in tune, Mark

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Re: Question about "Setting Master Volume."

Postby Acoustica Greg » Tue Jul 21, 2015 11:34 am

martinweeks wrote:4.) I mentioned a while back a technique I saw on a "MixBusTV" YouTube Channel that showed a way to use his compressor to control the "tail" of a reverb effect in a manner that would have the vocals essentially dry while singing, but release the reverb effect when their was space between the singing. Really nice effect for when you have a great singer that doesn't need effects processing but you want to add dynamics. He used the compressor from the vocal track to "trigger" the reverb in the send track when the singer stopped. (This last question isn't top priority but it would be nice to know how to in MC for future reference.)


Hi,

Mixcraft Pro Studio 7 includes Beatrig's Sidekick Extended 6, which is a sidechain compressor. You can use it to cause the sound of one track to "duck" the audio of another track. Most commonly used in electronic music to lower the volume of other tracks when the kick drum hits.

Greg

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Re: Question about "Setting Master Volume."

Postby aquataur » Tue Jul 21, 2015 11:39 am

Mark,

a little OT but just to round this up...

a sidestep to meters

for the DR meter there was some rigmarole about joinging the league, which was the reason I temporarily suspended it. I later looked closer and there are download links where you can download the meter officially.

Tischmeyer have since gone further, I saw a even fancier meter similar to the DR meter, but commercial.

The K-Meter implementation by Martin Zuther is and was free.
His other thing is the trakmeter, like a k-meter for each track. I don´t know if that makes sense with Mixcraft, since the tracks are 32bit float and thus virtually overload free.

There is also the free SSL X-Ism which claims to find those otherwise invisible inter-sample peaks (inter-sample computing products that might exceed the adjacent samples...), but that´s the reason for the recommendations to stay a few dB below full scale.

Then there is the free RMSplus meter supposedly mimicking the very dear Dorroughs meter.

Any of them should give you a good gauge if your mix is balanced or if there are any gross problems.
My personal favorite is the K-Meter because it is no-frills and remembers a lot of transients. It diplays average, peak (short term), peak (absolute), phase and other signal characteristics.

-helmut


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