Louder Mix Questions
We have a few questions that came in here. We have a viewer who wants to know what is the difference between peak and r m s level. So peak level is how is how I've heard it best described to me peak level is how allow the volume is and are a mess is how loud the volume fields so peek volume is like you saw on the meter here. It's literally. Where does a peek at it might peek at minus three? Let's let's give her the limiter back to a normal comfortable mix volume let's. See where it peaks it's peaking at minus six. Well, so without a limiter some of some of my transistor peaking at minus six but the average volume if you took all the peaks of where's the average volume of my mix it is quieter it's going down here, it's just be right down here probably minus twelve minus thirteen so that the technical answer like peak volume is important because it could peak and you could clip you don't want that to happen, but what we use a limited to do is turn down some of the peak so we can bring up...
the average volume, which is what when we're saying I want next to be louder. You don't want peak volume to be louder. You might even be peaking at minus zero, but your whole mixed feels quiet, it's the average volume of entire piece of audio that we want that to rise. And so that's when we say our mess, if you have a meter that reads are a mess that stands for root means squared and it's some math people, that stuff that I don't understand itt's, how they compute the average output volume, not the actual peak volume so it's more of how loud it really feels. Okay, yeah, let's, take a few more questions here you have another one from statman who says, is it better to mix without the limiter? Do you ever need to adjust your mix after you've added the limiter? Yeah, don't mix with the limiter. What we're doing here is you're about to burn this to a cd, bounce it down as an mp three posted to soundcloud. This is last step of the game. You want to be able to have a great mix without a limiter and think of a limiter is just a way to get louder and so, like I'll mix for a client. The mix sounds great to me when I'm done with the mix I'll slap a limiter on just like this get it that nice volume and that's what I'll send to the client so they're not complaining about how quiet it sounds and then it can just think about the mix itself, but when I come back to tweak the mix of graham, it sounds great, but I want you did turn up the snare drum, the vocals little to quiet here too, you know? I'll take off the limiter, go backto work and put the limiter back on to get it loud again for my client so it's the last thing that I wouldn't mix through it all right now we have a viewer here who says I've been told that you don't need to compress distorted guitars do you ever compress them or not? Okay, great, yeah like the thinking with someone saying you shouldn't have to compress the store to get ours is because they are already should have yeah, they already compressed that's and that's what's happening is you've got a dynamic guitar signal like if you record guitar electric guitar through a virtual amp again, you see the direct saying when you could see how much peaks or in the guitar track, but if you like bounce it down once has gone through an amp simulator it looks like a big fat audio way because it's compressed that's what distortion does naturally so yeah it's already compressed but again it comes back to what are you trying to do with the audio? Do you need the distorted guitar to poke out more in the mix or have more sustained? If so, you may want to use a compressor so yes, I do compressed guitar sometimes even if they're already distorted because it's not about well it's already been compressed it's about is it doing what I needed to do? And if it's the lead guitar that's come distorted but I still want more sustained and might use a fast attack on it to sort of get started squeeze out more of that tail so yes and no all right now here's a question that we have about drums do program drums need compression or are they already compressed? Great question I get this question all the time. What about what I would love? These are great questions of what I would love for you all to take away with a question like this is to ask different questions in the future think about things differently those types of questions like if it's already sample drum do you need to add compression? You don't want to think in terms of that you want to think in terms of what do you here so if you have a program drums that air samples and if they sound fat and punchy and the way you want it to sound then the answer is no they don't need compression they might already be compressed in process but it doesn't even matter if you know that or not if they sound awesome to you they don't need anything I don't want to think doesn't need something or does it need not need something based off of whether it was sampled or not it's is it giving me what I want and if it's not quite if most of it's good but that snare still needs a little bit of punch a little bit of fatness then yes you could compress it doesn't matter if it's already been compressed live drums you go to nashville and you watch a tracking session I mean those drums go through e q and compression they have it set up so when it comes off the microphones and into pro tools or whatever they're tracking to know he sounds like a record like they've already compressed in the acute it s so you could say that those live drums were already compressed you shouldn't have to compress it but when it's mixed I guarantee you they put compression on the drums even more because they want more out of it so there's no right or wrong like it's already been compressed I shouldn't need it just if it gives you what you want leave it alone if you want more do more all right sounds like good advice of we have a question here. Another one from marcy a few people voted on this and they say I heard that itunes has a mastering format when you upload your song and compression is applied as defaults when it goes in the itunes wouldn't that change your mix and what is your take on the loudness were so I'll answer the loudness war question in the next session it's very important question great question I know the itunes has been changing a lot of what they do and what they allow mixers too to deliver so that a lot of that's in flux and I don't really want to pinpoint exactly what it is they are doing because by the time you watch this if it's in the future it might be different but I put it to you this way for ever radio you mix a song and it goes to radio everything on radio is compressed again because that's the whole point of trying to get a strong signal to broadcast out two cars and radios everywhere is they need to compress the signal squeeze it and they want everything to sound loud and awesome and exciting. You know a lot of radio stations they slap a limiter and compressors on everything that goes out the door out into the sound waves is already compressed that's been that way for years if you listen to the radio and you're really tuned into in your audio engineers, you really pick. If you listen to radio, you can just tell everything squashed man, just it's the way it is. So that's been happening for decades that being said, people who have been mixing our favorite songs for the last forty, fifty years, they know it's going to be compressed when it hits the radio ways, but that doesn't stop them from compress using compression as a tool to sculpt their mix. They don't say, oh, it's going to be compressed on the radio, so I won't compress it here that's kind of the parallel who knows what itunes is going to do to your music? Who knows what the future formats are going to hold our if you get on you? I mean a song on youtube is compressed, I mean, whatever form it they have to do to display it, I don't know what they're doing, you have to pretend like that doesn't exist in my mind on one level and say I want to have a very musical but punchy sounding mix, and then I would use compression as little or as much as I need to get it to do what I wanted to do on I'm not gonna worry about the future if you're not over compressing in the mix it's like we're doing here, none of this is over compression in my opinion even with the limiter, then it'll sound great as it is and it's ross tw form and it will sound great compressed on youtube or on the radio because it will hold up well on any format and that's the beauty of a great mix sounds good on any form it even if it's compressed again and again and again if at some point the radio could destroy it there's nothing we can do about that, but it doesn't mean you shouldn't use any compression on the way. Great, I'm glad you touched on the radio because we had a question of course about that and you answered it perfectly so always, always good when our instructors one step ahead of our skis reading their mind very mind reader love that so let's get to one more here from tag rudo says, have you tried out any of the automated mastering services? If so, what did you think of the final product is somebody e mailed me about that this guy, this guy that hasn't he created either the first one or one of these automated mastering cz things and he wanted me to mess with it I've seen it de mode to me I mean, so you know I love automation I love tools that make my life easier I can't for sit for sure say whether it's a great idea or not but my gut is like I don't understand the point because what we just did today with this one limiter takes you two minutes max and you're going to get a track that's a nice hot level is it master that's kind of a different question I've talked a lot about that previous places but is it going to compete with other tracks out there? Pretty darn close I trust myself making those decisions rather than a a computer algorithm that you send your mix too and that spits it out as master like a literally is a computer that hears it and doesn't needs to do maybe that'll be the future and maybe we won't even need mixers you know you just you record your tracks and it does what it's supposed to do but I think so much of this process is art so we are the artists even as the mixing engineer mastering engineer and so so much of it is what is the music giving me and I it's the subtle nuances of it might you might have a limiter reading exactly the way graham said to a creative life it's doing the minus three d b I've set the output level I'm doing all the right things but it may not sound right to you and then you have to normal, graham said and say it doesn't feel right that a computer, and you can't do that for you. So that's, where you have to? Well, I'm gonna push it a little harder, maybe that this might be giving you sixty b of gain reduction, but it feels right and sounds good, then that's that's the correct answer so that's, why wouldn't really trust a automated mastering algorithm? Or if that's the question, because you still need a human to say that feels right through the of the day we're not pumping out math, we're not pumping out a piece of software. We're creating music, which is the art form, and if it feels right to you as a human being, it will feel right to the listener, because god into the day, we're just sharing music as it is a feel thing, and then a quick follow to that. How about for quick bounces? So explain so, for the for the automating that we were just talking about for automated mastering? Well, how would that work with quick, quick bounces to clients like if you have to get there faster to your client, I would just use a limiter like this. I mean, to me, this is like when I file, do a mix and spend all the time on the mix, this process of of quick mastering with a limiter takes me like I said two minutes of my time and I'll bounce that down said that to the client and it's always sufficient it sounds great to them and when I deliver if if I'm also mastering the project later they might listen to the masters and they might not even notice much of a difference between when I sat down and did a legit mastering session versus this quick little quick master, they might not even tell the difference like I can tell and I'll point out like here's what I kind of did when I was sitting down and thinking like a mastering engineer but most people like that sounds great, I would use that on my my band page or my facebook page like sound awesome cool any questions from you guys? Have you had any experience? Jorge head of questionable on that question ok, so when youre then we do when you're makes and you send it to master engineer, do you leave the limited there or do you take it out? Great question okay, so it depends on where this is going if you were just mixing and then you decided to hire somebody to master it let's say you recorded your music and you mixed it and you feel good about it, but you're like graham I want to hire you to master it because I've been listening to this thing for days and days and days, and I've lost perspective if you you might have been throwing a limiter on it to test it in the car or send it to your friends. Hey, when you think about this, but if you're sending it to meet a master, you actually would take the limiter off because you're only in the limiter isn't part of your mix it's, just a volume thing, and so you want to leave final volume decisions to the mastering engineer, especially if you have multiple song let's say you record a three song e p you might makes one song and might be louder than another song by like a little bit because you're mixing them in isolation and you're not really making sure that your mix of the same volume from session to session you're just focusing on the kick german, the vocal and so when you bounce out your three mixes, they might be close, but they may not all be the same volume, so you want to take off limiters? Leave your mix bus compression because that's not really a volume thing. That was a tone thing, right? We didn't make the mixed louder with a mixed bus compression. If you saw the last session, we just did it to make the tone sound difference that you leave that on that part of the sound of your mix, but this limiter, the l two or the massey or whatever your stock limiter is, you would definitely take that off because we want to leave the final volume decisions to the master engineer because then I would take your mixes and I would first match the individual songs to themselves so that the same volume so you're not playing one track and track two is quiet and track three is loud. I'm making the same volume make any final week, you're compression decisions to sculpt those mixes, and then I would use limiting as a mastering engineer to get the fault follow the final output were needed to be so yes, it's a great question if you are having someone else, master it or you're going to mass for yourself, but in a separate session. So this song is one song and let's say, I like this mix and I wantto save it from the my mastering session, but have a whole another album. Rest worth of music. I would take off the limiter, save a nice twenty four bit version of this song because that's the death I'm working on and save it often folder somewhere is a stereo track ready to be mastered is still going to quiet, but I'll leave it alone and they do all my songs the same way, and then I'll use limiting when I'm putting on that mastering hat at the very end, I've heard some people that this could be totally wrong. They say you wanted to even like not the master, but the one like the final mix, but not the next master. You wanted to be close to zero, some people say leave enough headroom for the mastering phase. Some people say it doesn't matter because they're thinking some people say it should be close to zero because they think you get by taking up the entire dynamic range it's actually taking advantage of like the twenty four bitter sixteen bit where's if it's not, then you're only taking advantage of, like fourteen out of sixteen bits, or maybe twenty out of twenty four I don't know if that's true, great question, okay, so with sixteen bit audio, which is what we only used to have, like let's, say, in the nineties, like digital audio had sixteen bits that all that means is you have a certain amount of actual volume dynamic range toe work within your audio and like I pointed out earlier, frank philip petty did a whole james taylor album that won a grammy recording only to sixteen bit so it's taken sound amazing, but this is like in ninety five, ninety six um, the problem is sixteen bit it would apply more to that is you don't have nearly as much dynamic range, and you want to take advantage of all those bits with twenty four bit recording, which if you're if you're watching this and you have a little home studio, your audio interface, I guarantee allows you two recorded twenty four bits it it became the norm years and years ago, and that gives you a ton of head room without getting into the math behind it because I'm not that smart when it comes to the math, you don't need to maximize in my experience, in my opinion, we need to maximize those bits if you're recording a twenty four bit, you've got tons of room, so when I recorded mix, I am perfectly content to have my mixed living down here where it's peaking maybe at minus six like, I'm not even close to zero and I'll send that to a master engineer he can, because it's, as he brings up the volume there's it's, all quiet is there's no noise for lawyer floor you're dealing with, you're not bringing up tape hiss, you know, losing you're you're, uh I don't know the accuracy of the audio so you can comfortably mix conservatively. In fact, I would rather you bend towards mixing quieter like actual level wise, because this is what a lot of people do is their tracks, even if they recorded their record tracks and all these tracks were peeking their all the damn marines up here that snare is peaking at minus three the guitars or appear and all of that combined serum, master fader it's all crammed up here and you actually going to lose a lot of the clarity of your mix because the moment you get crammed up at the top of your mix bus in a digital world, it sounds nasty there's nothing good happening up there, so I literally have to bring the actual audio waves in here down so that they're much quieter, so it is much more conservative levels when it gets to the mix bus it's, nice and conservative that way stays musical stays nice, a lot of mastering engineer or if I'm asking engineer, I'll wait till then and I'll bring up the volume then, so I wouldn't worry about getting it hot and mixing anything else from you guys we have a few more that have been coming in here we have a viewer who wants to know how high do you set the output bus before adding the limiter so like the actual fator that's what I think so we could see if you can clarify or not but let's see because I will leave that always at zero by default where it is because literally I don't know I don't want to mess with a master fighter I said it to unity gain or zero if I need more volume I'll do it with a limiter if it's too loud this is another good point really it's just a mixing in general if like if before limiter your mix it is too loud you don't want to grab your master fader and turn it down although you can um it just means that the tracks that are feeding your master fader or too loud so leave your master output at unity a zero and go back a level go down a layer if you're talking about top down mixing and turned down your vocals turned down your drum they're just too loud on that track level in the feeding your missed six bus too much and if that was really where the question was now I think that covers it let's you know we talked a little bit before about specifically guitars but pablo has another question here and he says he wants to get your take on compressing reverberated instruments, guitars or just one example. But how do you recommend treating the compression when there's a big spring or room re barb already recorded within the instrument? Great question. Get some great sharp people on the chance today. Um, I would much like the drum bleed problem, like, the more you compress it. Like a reader of guitar, the more you're gonna start to hear that tale of the river, um, and that's, not a good or a bad thing. It's a it's, a neutral thing. You would decide if it's too much or too little so I would compress if the unique compression I would do it. And if all of a sudden the river becomes too much or and you notice it too much, I would back off. I mean there's really no right or wrong here's a here's, a helpful exercise for you to give you some context. After this the's sessions are over and you're going home and your brain's fried from, like, listening and thinking and processing all the stuff really helpful thing is to go find one of your favorite songs of all time and put on really good headphones or sit in front of your studio monitors if you're in the studio and listen to it and not listen to it the way you normal. Listen to music like you love that guitar riff. Like when I listen to, like rock records, like listen to like an engineer and ask yourself questions. Like what is that one of the drum sound? Like? I'll do that a lot and I listen to drums and I'll be like, man, those drums sound squashed. They sound here a lot of drum bleeder here. A lot of room sound. They sound like to me. I would have figured that they were cleaner and less compressed. When I listened to him, I can hear sometimes the compression happening and I realized that's. Not a bad thing. That's. Really cool or you hear a lot of squashed reverb on a vocal or distortion on the vocal. I mean, listen to any black keys record. I mean, they purposely distort his vocals and the buzz. And like, if you listen to me like that, you would think that would be wrong. But it has a cool vibe to it. And that's. A very informative exercise for you. Then go. Is it too bad? Is it bad to compress that already riverbed instrument like a guitar? Maybe not as you might find it from. Your favorite records have really compressed river be guitars, and when you look for it, you find it you know, that's actually pretty cool. I wouldn't have thought that was happening in this song, but it's there. All right, we'll wrap up with this one last question from jordan rent and we had a few other people also vote on this one they say hey, graham, what resolution orbit death? Do you export your tracks in fora mastering engineer also? What is your opinion on dithering? Attract before master bring create questions, pretty questions very timely. So if I'm dumb this mix and I like my limiter settings you can even see on this limiter. You get some bit depth choices here, so you can I just click it? I never used the ways one so if you're recording this session in here on pro tools seeping, pull it up you could you see on the screen my bit death is twenty four bit. My sample rate is forty four point one kilohertz and you might like to record at forty eight k or ninety six or one ninety two or eighty eight point two, whatever sample rate even recording and hopefully you're recording a twenty four bit like I said, you can do sixteen bit um, if your approach was user or some of these other dolls now thirty two or sixty four bit, that doesn't really count it's not really real, because no audio interface currently can record higher than twenty four bits, so your session might live in thirty two or sixty four bit float, but really the audio you're recording can't go higher than twenty four bit because it's based off of europe interface, but whatever you've chosen like, I like to record and mix it twenty four forty four one whatever you've been recording mixing up, if you are going to have a mastering engineer, master it, or if you were going to export this, mix yourself to master later it's, you're not done yet. Still a little bit more processing that's going to happen to this? You want to leave it at twenty four bit and whatever sample right you're at esso, when you export, make sure your choices let's see if we're going to bounce this song down and we like it, we'd say bounced to disk it's going to give us and choices if I'm going to get someone to master this, I'm going to leave it with the original file types, I believe it is wave or a a f f that's what it is that I'm gonna leave it at twenty four bit it's, going to the audio quality is going to stay the same. I'm just going to literally take all these tracks and bounce it down to a stereo file, so then the mastering engineer can take that, or if I'm the master engineer, I could take that and add some more high quality processing to it. Then that's that's one scenario, if this is the final stop for you, if you're going to bounce this down with a limiter to put up on soundcloud or put up online or share somewhere final output audio so far currently is sixteen dead, so cd is going to be sixteen bit wave forty four point one and mp three is going to be sixteen bit forty four point one, so you have to reduce it down to whatever the final output is. So if I'm recording at twenty four bit forty for one thing, if I were bouncing this down, I would change this to sixteen I could make it a wave so I could leave it away, but it's sixteen bit for cd or I could make it an mp three directly here from pro tools that's cool, and then I'll be ready to go to post online, so yeah, you want to make it the final output for most of the day in the future it's already happening right now, like I think itunes let you do this with mastered for itunes, that whole concept there, allowing you to submit songs to itunes and really high quality levels like twenty four bit ninety six k, and they will they will leave a high quality version catalog on itunes, and they'll spit out whatever version they need for itunes now, but in the future they're going to have that nice high, super high quality version in case our audio players of the day play twenty four bit audio, then we never have to reduce it down to sixteen like we do now, we only reduce it down to sixteen that's what cd players mp three's have been doing, they only handle sixteen bits were chopping off bits. Umm so when you have to think about your your final destination, if this is going to be a song for video, usually dvds operated forty eight, so they don't actually drop down to forty for one, they actually the higher sample, right? So you actually would hopefully be mixing at forty eight or higher, and you wouldn't reduce it down to forty four one you'd reduce it down to forty eight you have to know where it's going to live, but for most of us in the music world, sixteen bit forty four one is where it's going to end up and the question about dithering I'm going to spend any time explaining did because I had explained to me and I learned about in school I still don't understand it, you know when you're taking a twenty four bit file on your chopping off the eight bits or whatever to make it sixteen bit it's like this really hack solve a job just literally chops off bits and so dither does this in the video world to less of video people who don't and this just a cz well, as I would if not better, it adds white noise or a little bits of noise to kind of cover up the harsh cut over his chopping off bits. So in theory, we won't hear it as like a something's missing, but then there, then studies done where they've bounced the song with this without dithering and with dithering and no human being can tell the difference. So then the question is, does dithering even do anything like in the real world for here? I don't know what do I do? I had deserts, I've been doing it for years, so like I would take this limiter if this is if I'm going to post this online to my website today, I would drop it down to sixteen bit it's, probably by default twenty four I'm dropping down a sixteen one make sure there's dithering there's different types just leave it at whatever the default is I I can't physically here the differences type two type three sometimes none I would leave it type one normal shaping ultra shaping moderate shaping I have no idea what that is. Um I don't really care to know so because you can't hear it anyway so I would leave it at sixteen bit slap on some dithering if it's the last step if it's going down too to be out put it for the real world leading to the question all right, now I think that covered it really well, steve a question actually have one more question on did during I think it was I want to say was nine inch nails but they ah I heard some people have ah, school thought where they record everything at sixteen bitches because they think everything well, everything is gonna be bounced down to that anyhow so they just figure why fight it? It's a great question that logic for me applies to sample rate so I recorded nixon forty four one but people say, well, why do you do that, graham you could record it your interface would let you record it won ninety two which is so a sample rate is just like a frame rate for a video you know, the higher the frame rate the more pictures were being taken in a second the more fluid the picture looks right like we're watching the world series you know like when they have a slow mo cameras on the baton you know instead of thirty frames per second you hunt two hundred frames per second would ever see you can slow it down it's still looks smooth sample rate is that for audio? How many snapshots of the audio way does it take in a second? You know, the fewer the snapshots the more rigid the audio wave in the digital world looks like you think the more samples the more realistic which is true but I use that logic for sample rate I say it's going to end up a forty four one um I I am most people that I work with can't really hear much of a difference tow warrant how much more massive the audio files have to because it's more informations collecting and it slows down your computer s o I have may have no problems making records of forty four one for me for years you think you could apply that two bit death and you could I've mixed records that a guy did not realize he recorded at sixteen bit he meant to do twenty four but he knew about it but he had just left it at sixteen but when he created the session recorded I get the mix and I realized hey, did you know this is been recorded, sixteen buildings and I had no idea, but it sounded good he recorded a conservative levels and the mix sounds great the thing with bit death though the beauty of twenty four bit and I would always recommend that isn't used get more headroom, he literally get more volume to play with so it's harder to clip your tracks so it just keeps you safer so like if that guy really play that guitar really allowing your recording sixteen but he's more apt to clip the channel that he is on twenty four but yet more room to play with so that's why I don't do that logic with twenty four because it gives me more the safety net but way actually we have time for one more question if you make it quick before you're break of one that's going to part of their but guilt related tio so do you think the limiters pretty much sound the same? Yes and no, I think the average person it doesn't matter you're not going, you're not going to notice a difference. We're like I could never use that woman that I don't like how it sounds, but different limiters have different coloration just like different compressors do which we're gonna look at a little bit the next session we technically yes they can sound different how do you feel about like analog to digital type of clipping and what would you have the rather and using a limiter, you allow the clipping, supposedly some high quality and low digital devices that people like that sounds like softly like, yeah, ok, so some devices, if you clip it, it actually tries to recreate what analog circuitry does, like when you know you would really recorded hot, it kind of squeeze it, and it sounds a musical and cool. Most plug ins don't do that right there is one that I use that does, but it seems to thin out the base of it well, and then that's just experiment. Yes, so some people really like it's. Some interfaces let you do that like you, khun soft limit on some of these interfaces here. I think that happens, you want, and it sounds pretty cool. I would say the typical person, the digital world keep conservative levels, try not to look there's, nothing really to be gained by playing up there unless you because specifically learned about a feature that that plug it does.