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How to keep sound from getting to overwhelming when all the elements come together in a song when vocals etc. come in?

Support and feedback for Acoustica's Mixcraft audio mixing software.

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Mark Bliss
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Re: How to keep sound from getting to overwhelming when all the elements come together in a song when vocals etc. come i

Postby Mark Bliss » Tue Apr 26, 2016 9:38 am

Thank you Rick, for letting me know you found it useful. I really appreciate that!

I don't recall who first suggested that to me, but I find Graham's explanation of why to be far clearer and useful than most. He just makes it make sense.

I think you will find that once you get a really good mix worked out with just levels and EQ, and only then begin to work on some spread and depth with panning and reverb/delay, your mix efforts begin to bloom with an appreciably more open and pleasant result. The common information we see everywhere leads to a rush to use the wrong, or too many plug ins, used incorrectly or that just aren't necessary, combined with peoples concept that they should be concerned with the final loudness FAR before it even needs to be considered are derailing the efforts of many who are trying to learn and improve.

I look forward to hearing, (and hearing about) your efforts.

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Re: How to keep sound from getting to overwhelming when all the elements come together in a song when vocals etc. come i

Postby midimoose » Tue Apr 26, 2016 12:26 pm

AMEN! I'll post the tune if/when I ever get it straightened out. :lol: Rick.
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Re: How to keep sound from getting to overwhelming when all the elements come together in a song when vocals etc. come i

Postby Pete Stobbs » Wed Apr 27, 2016 3:41 am

Mark Bliss wrote:I agree.

Turn Your Tracks Down
This is the most obvious solution to the headroom quandary. Although few people seem to take my advice on this one. By simply turning down your tracks in your DAW you will be sending less signal to your mix buss and consequently will have instant headroom and clarity. You can do this in one of three ways: turn down your faders, use clip based gain to reduce track level, or insert trim plugins across your tracks with a generous level cut.


If I may come in here. Turn down how far?

I am starting to delve a little deeper into mixing etc. Here is a problem I have.
When I listen to some music on youtube through my Scarlett solo on headphones, the monitor wheel on the solo is at about 9:00 o'clock and the volume is quite loud. To get the sameish volume from one of my mixes I have the monitor wheel at approx 1:00 o'clock. What gives?

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Mark Bliss
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Re: How to keep sound from getting to overwhelming when all the elements come together in a song when vocals etc. come i

Postby Mark Bliss » Wed Apr 27, 2016 4:16 am

Hi Pete

First, lets clarify that the suggestion is to MIX at lower levels and leave headroom.
Obviously, if you rendered the project at that level and uploaded to Soundcloud (for example) the song would be too quiet as you describe.
Rendering levels are another subject altogether and depend on the intent. For presentation sake you might for example render your work just below clipping.
But you will find more often than not that other songs will still sound louder by comparison due to "mastering" or efforts to make apparent loudness higher.

This (always :roll: ) takes us into a whole topic full of contentious opinions that I usually avoid even getting into much discussion about. I stick to my personal preferences and don't try to "compete" with others loudness levels very much, whether it be commercial mastered or amateur attempts, which usually means compressed, compressed and compressed some more until the life is just squeezed right out. Its just gone too far. If that's what you are into, that's your privilege and decision, but I can't advise as I am not into the mastering aspect.
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Mark Bliss
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Re: How to keep sound from getting to overwhelming when all the elements come together in a song when vocals etc. come i

Postby Mark Bliss » Wed Apr 27, 2016 5:08 am

I wrote that in haste due to limited time. I'll return to elaborate (and hopefully be a little more helpful) later. 8)
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AHornsby
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Re: How to keep sound from getting to overwhelming when all the elements come together in a song when vocals etc. come i

Postby AHornsby » Wed Apr 27, 2016 7:15 am

I watched the video about editing in mono but as the procedure didn't seem fully explained I wasn't too thrilled about it. Is the intent to just leave all the pan settings on center or route the whole shebang though one speaker? -h

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Re: How to keep sound from getting to overwhelming when all the elements come together in a song when vocals etc. come i

Postby aj113 » Wed Apr 27, 2016 7:47 am

Mark Bliss wrote:...This (always :roll: ) takes us into a whole topic full of contentious opinions that I usually avoid even getting into much discussion about...
Apart from this lecture in the same post eh?
I stick to my personal preferences and don't try to "compete" with others loudness levels very much, whether it be commercial mastered or amateur attempts, which usually means compressed, compressed and compressed some more until the life is just squeezed right out. Its just gone too far. If that's what you are into, that's your privilege and decision, but I can't advise as I am not into the mastering aspect.


Your intense dislike of hypercompression always comes across as a severe warning to everybody never to compress anything or even dare to contemplate it. If you want to give good advice, give the right advice. Whether you like it or not tracks need to be mastered to a certain loudness, otherwise some playback levels would be so low as to be unusable, as Pete is experiencing. Sometimes the correct level can be achieved with a small amount of compression and adjustment of gains and faders, other times it requires the use of a limiter.

Personally I don't love hypercompression, but I don't have an agenda to eradicate it. The typical characteristics of hypercompression are actually major components of some genres, for example drum n' bass, so it's pointless trying to lecture people on the subject, not to mention misguided.

Pete, the question you are asking is THE most important aspect of both mixing and mastering. It's all about levels, everything else is a minor issue compared to levels.

So your question cannot be resolved with a simple answer, but at least you are noticing the issues that your recordings have, which is half the battle.

Here is the first step in your journey to better levels:

Download and install the Orban Loudness meter: http://www.orban.com/meter/

This is a standalone app, not a VST. Import your wav and check the LKFS reading. Youtube adjusts to -16 LKFS, so you need to raise the level of your master to at least -16 LKFS, but to take into account other playback environments such as CD players etc. you should be aiming at -12 LKFS as a minimum (in my opinion).

Each LK unit is equivalent to 1db, so this will tell you exactly how much louder your master needs to be. For example, if your LKFS rating in the Orban meter is -20, you need to increase the level by 8db to make it -12.

So first, try normalising your master and see if that makes a difference after re-measuring in the meter.

There is a lot more to learn but see how you go with all this first.

N.B. an LKFS rating of -12 will sound 4db louder than YT. This does not mean your master is too loud, it means that YT turns everything down to -16 LKFS.

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Re: How to keep sound from getting to overwhelming when all the elements come together in a song when vocals etc. come i

Postby outteh » Wed Apr 27, 2016 9:01 am

Lot's of good tips here. Just keep in mind mixing and mastering are two different animals. Mastering also needs to know what your end user is going to be, streaming audio, CD, radio play, and lately a recurrence of vinyl records. There are different mastering settings for the output media. As AJ113 points out knowing what the sound levels are on the media your going to use provides the guidelines for setting your outputs. Also, the style of your music dictates a lot of the mixing and mastering techniques. :D

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Mark Bliss
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Re: How to keep sound from getting to overwhelming when all the elements come together in a song when vocals etc. come i

Postby Mark Bliss » Wed Apr 27, 2016 9:56 am

Yeah, I think Tom about sums up what I wanted to say.
I was simply trying to help with some mixing and EQ tips and choose to defer most tips on mastering levels to those who are more experienced with current methods on that because I simply don't listen to or work with music that emphasises that.

I could only share what I do and feel works well for me.
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Mark Bliss
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Re: How to keep sound from getting to overwhelming when all the elements come together in a song when vocals etc. come i

Postby Mark Bliss » Wed Apr 27, 2016 10:24 am

AHornsby wrote:I watched the video about editing in mono but as the procedure didn't seem fully explained I wasn't too thrilled about it. Is the intent to just leave all the pan settings on center or route the whole shebang though one speaker? -h

A lot of people reference their mixes on one speaker to check for mono compatibility, but that's not really what this suggestion is about. (though everything seems interrelated somehow doesn't it?)

The general idea is that mixing in mono forces you to get the levels and EQ worked out better without the interference to your perception by spreading things out in the stereo field.
All mono, perceived as coming from the center of your monitors or headphones.
So yeah, panned to center at the beginning of the mix process is the tip.

Keep in mind that (true) stereo loops or clips will need to be configured as mono tracks as well for this method to work. One way to do this would be to duplicate the track and set the properties of one to the left channel, the other to the
right.


*Edit: Hmm, after some experimenting, I feel the need to add that last part may not work quite as expected. It appears the way the pan law is applied causes a problem with that method. The level of the duplicate tracks is higher.
You could try reducing the duplicated tracks by 6.2dB.

Perhaps an easier method would be to use a stereo or M/S plug-in for this. For example, the "Mid-Side Harmonic Vitaliser+" included with Mixcraft Pro Studio could be used on the stereo tracks channel, by selecting the 100% Mono preset.
Other 3rd party examples that might be useful: Brainworx BX Solo, (Simple) or A1 stereo control (by Alex Hilton) or something similar.
Last edited by Mark Bliss on Wed Apr 27, 2016 11:52 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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TheHound
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Re: How to keep sound from getting to overwhelming when all the elements come together in a song when vocals etc. come i

Postby TheHound » Wed Apr 27, 2016 7:50 pm

marc32123 wrote:Basically, I have a song that starts with one guitar for the first measure. When the third measures hits a new guitar part comes in on top, and at the fourth measure and the start of the 5th, probably like 6 or 7 new elements come in.

I am just wondering, what techniques do people use to keep the sound from getting to loud and overwhelming when all these new elements are added? I have an idea, but I just want to get a new perspective on this, as it is really important in my opinion and something I really am not to sure about...


What happens with me is that I get the bed tracks sounding good ex.. guitar, bass, keys (sometimes) and drums. Keyboard sounds can cause trouble especially if it's a complex in frequencies. Seems like the vocals get masked. I've tried a lot of stuff. In live situation I would just boost what instrument or vocal that was weak or lower an instrument that was too strong. It seem different when mixing for recording.

I have duplicated vocal tracks and EQ'd them a bit differently and panned them. There is a nice preset on the Classic Compressor that brings out vocals without them sounding out of the mix.

Here is one of my songs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hqCJKl4dS0M where I now think I have overly effected the vocals and they need to come up a few db. I put in a ton of instruments all loops but the flute. I'm not happy with the mix, or the capture but I thought is was fine at the time. I am finding that cleaner is better at least for my songs.

Another thing that seems to happen is I will not like a guitar tone so I will change it by adding more overdrive and EQ and that changes how the vocals sound.

This is a learning complex process but I think we all will progress.

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Re: How to keep sound from getting to overwhelming when all the elements come together in a song when vocals etc. come i

Postby AHornsby » Thu Apr 28, 2016 5:45 am

Mark Bliss wrote: So yeah, panned to center at the beginning of the mix process is the tip.


Thanks Mark. Oddly enough, this is what I have been doing with Mixcraft since I discovered VST's --- which wasn't so long ago... 2 years perhaps. This is probably because the default in MC is panned to center. :lol: -h


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