Clipping and Distortion


DIY Mastering


Lesson Info

Clipping and Distortion

We're now on our second to last of this wonderful work floating toolbox chart which is sweeten a k a make it better um so in this we kind of talked about the other little things you could be doing so the most obvious of these we went through pretty extensively yesterday which is clipping and distortion we did some really cool examples of that and I think that that's one of the things that people really don't realize is a big part of mastering because it's not a brick wall limiter it's not a compressor it's not accused of things that everybody does the obvious answers to but this is what you hear on most of your records and it's I don't want to say a secret but when we call something dark art it's because there's some things kept in the dark and kept away from you this is so one of those things that's in the shade of bitch so we also think of clipping happening on ly in the digital don't domain but pushing mike cramps specifically, you know need ten seventy three mike pre absurdist soug...

ht after as the you know solid gold of rock preempts and um one of the reasons that is as they sound so awesome when they're turned up too loud and clipped and then you pull back the fader on them a little bit and all of a sudden you have this wonderfully over driven sound in most of the big mastering guys racks and including mine, you see a pair of need ten, thirty threes, because warming up a signal with, um sounds really good. So when we think of warming up a signal, we often hear tubes, tubes, tubes because the gear illuminati has told you if I throw a tube in and it automatically sounds good, I'll be the first to tell you that ninety nine percent of the cheap tube gear out there sounds way worse than anything on the market, including solid state or things you could put together yourself with a minor degree of suffering skills. Details. Thirty three's air transformer based transformers sound awesome there in tons of the vintage gear there tons of modern gear. They're what you see of the reason people love chandler gear so much on the manly gear the poll tax to nieves that's transformers if we really want to get into what should have been glorified tubes are beautiful. And when tubes are nice, well designed piece of gear they could sound amazing but transformers when it comes to clipping that's, where it's at fete transformers are very popular, pendulum audio makes a great fed transformer clip cupping ah processor lot of mastering you engineers used as well. There's also a lot of people like the way compressor outputs clip things. One of the reasons the eleven seventy six compressor is so famous for a vocal compressor is a lot of people clipped the outputs to that as well this harmonic and even the subtle harmonics like when we went through the saturation and distortion yesterday we showed that a lot of time we're just using a tiny, tiny little bit of it to bring out the sound. Um but one of the big things to remember is that instead of hitting the compressor of the liberals since those shape the sound a certain way, these air just different ways of shaping that sound and this could be a way more subtle way to clip those transients and push ups amore the information in the back you mix and bring it fuller to get a bigger sound. So what we use for the stuff fab filter saturn which yesterday I you know wrote a love letter to um this is ah great plug in that allows you to mix in of wide variety to distortions. I also use air distortion which comes with pro tools for free a lot there's a company called brain works that makes a saturate er's that I use a lot. Another company called camel audio makes up logan called camel fat that has a distortion that I really love the sound of when blended in for the affordable types I talked about a lot about how much I love massey massey makes a saturated that sounds really really awesome for very little amount of money yet again just like there are other plug ins you can get the demos for free and then if you like them you pay a small price to get them and they sound awesome and I know tons of people who use them on big records you see them on everybody's gear list on ben in the analog domain clipping happens on all sorts of things it doesn't need to just be an expensive mike brief tons of people get desirable clipping out of everything from a turbo rat distortion pedal teo the output on the cheap compressor joe meek compressors a lot of you people used to clip things you know I think yesterday we talked about the beastie boys vocal sound you know that's just and over over driving something anything with a gay knob and a fader knob to pull it down you can use clipping for but some clippings for your overall master some better than others which is why this needs ten, seventy three has gotten so famous it sounds great on the overall necks so yesterday we went over this a little bit something to keep this one a little bit more short and sweet since we're going to really show this off in the next section of how I do it but on this mix I'm on now with love electric um I had yet again my ten percent amount of distortion that kind of keeps creeping back up where I'm just opening the same song again I can't remember which but this is a common thing for me is I blend in just a tiny bit of distortion so as we went through yesterday here's an example of it on and off you it's pretty subtle and the other one I have on here is the fab filter saturn this time it's mixed at twenty percent um and yet again here's me fiddling with it a little bit wait you like latest fashion show these send in a foursome so as we saw yesterday this is just another little tiny amount of glue in a way to bring out some small details in the mix and bring them a little bit more forward as you can see in the chain this comes after the u in the compression that I already discussed but before our brick wall limiter that we discussed you could see it my chain right here um these are an essential part of it and you know it's very very rare unless something's really clipped out that I don't use some of this on the master it's one thing if the mix is too distorted you don't really want to add any more but in general most mixes air getting some of this so if we could go back to the key now, well, we also discussed was tape saturation, so that last fab filter setting I was using kind of acted as a tape saturate er a bit what I use slate tape, fantastic crane, song, phoenixes, the other plug and I use that's really, really great, both of them, you know, they're not exactly tape, but they sure do. You get the idea and I think this is the year we've been really seeing people really step up to the plate and really get us something closer to tape in the digital domain. I know for years it's been that crying thing, but every year we, you know, see less complaints on the internet about what we have to offer in the world of getting tape formulations to be right um, cheapen free the air distortion I'm talking, but, uh, I'm using that that comes free with pro tools, so it's a great, great great tool to be ableto blend into you mix in the real world, obviously there's a tape machine which isn't cheaper, very efficient since you're buying rials and maintaining a tape machines a couple hundred dollars every few months, the empirical abs fatso is a fantastic piece that had the weights both compression saturation and tape it's totally, totally excellent to use your questions based off of the distress er or something so it's the same company it looks some more to it. But what the fatso was more about is it has a saturation levels that as you increase the input, it'll take down the high end the way the tape takes it down. And then it also has curves for different types of compression so what's interesting about his ideas as he does digitally controlled analog. So the path is all analog but it's digitally controlled analog lot of like what you see in the new move designs and stuff like that but yes, in the sense that yes there's some compressions settings that fall fall from the imperil collab sod distress, sir but for the most part this is its own peace with its own specific sex. It also has an interesting but none there too. Like we were just talking about transformers, it has a button you can engage toe also start driving a transformer or not driving a transformer what's great about the transformers I should also mention like and this is such a big thing of like learning gear and everything is that the's transformers. What they do that is so pleasing to the year, and why is so much of the big mastering gear uses it is that we're talking about harmonics yesterday that what distortion does is it keeps adding harmonics transformers at a really pleasant harmonic from your first note on up on. But they could really do it. Specifically with bass frequencies is when you record through a clean amp that as queen preempt that has no harmonics on it. The base often times is a lot of trouble translating on speakers, but the harmonics that a base gets like it's the same reason that a lot of people use based distortion allows you to exist in other frequencies aside fromthe low down frequencies. And it brings out so what you see with a lot of people liked either the reason the chandler germaine eum is like a really popular transformer right now, it's, because it gives way mohr harmonics than, you know, even a need, which is really popular. And so a lot of people like the idea of creating these extra harmonic so you could hear the base and get an articulation without having to fight for it with the cue and compression. Um, is there any questions on ah, saturation and clipping that we have? Uh, so, what would you say? I mean, for somebody outside of using using the programs that you're using, like let's, say, like a windows based eyes one knows, too. Yeah, because I'm looking. I'm looking for something a little bit different. I mean, me personally, I jump between a lot of programs. Uh, and the air distortion does look great, but I just I'm kind of looking for something comparable to that it's a probable this in which program are you looking? Well, I use able turn and then I also use f l studio. So anything that we were gonna do very well at all, but a bolton has fantastic distortions in it that are actually very, very similar to this logic. Ones never sound the same to me as, like, this air distortion. And you don't let me also say this air is ah, brilliant company that makes very high quality place. But the able to distortions to I would say you could get something pretty close. This have you messed around with the settings a bit that I love you know they're to be honest with you, there's times with my productions, I throw tracks into able to just get the processing of some of those plug ins, then just send them right back to pro tools because they have such great plug ins in there. They're multi band compressors air, really creative compressor, and they have great tools in there. Yeah I think a lot of it also just goes to me understanding the tool more than anything else is well because you know showing this as the example with air I was like wow that was a lot easier than when I do it myself it seems you know it seemed like it was a little bit more labor intensive well I think one of the key functions here as you saw in both of those ones I just demo is the mixed knob and one of the things I don't have is much fun with is I use our brain works his saturate er a lot but it doesn't have as much of a mixed knob as a knob but kind of like a mixed nam but like mixing in the distortion is really crucial is the same way you see a lot of people talk about parallel compression um you really really want to um not you know yesterday when we turned up the distortion of the way it sounds terrible so finding that or there's some plug ins that actually allow you to do blends like massey tools makes a plugin called mix where you can literally mix in a what dr wydra wet dry of any signal so yeah that's yeah that's a good point too that you could just turn it you know turn most distortion down what you like or you know like using camel fat usually from my experiences from that andan elektronik music background people usually just do it to distort kick drums and other things like that use it to almost every synth today and yeah, day because distorted beyond that I've never really thought of doing it on the entire mix that's a really ingenious way to do it and then just mixing in you hear that especially to like, you know, I hear a distortion on, you know, there's two sides of you know, there's the really, really clean stuff at times like you here like a dead mouse or dead mouse rip off with the ballads will be you super clean and not have much distortion but that I think of like, all these aggressive ones there's so much distortion on everything in the mix these days and a lot of dance stuff especially listeningto bassnectar it's like the most distorted mixes I've I've heard that still are so cleared interesting and articulate in detail question from online from cory matthews, who says I've noticed when the mastering chain is on sounds that have automated filtering get distorted in a bad way pops and clicks that we're not showing in the mix before. Do you have any recommendations on how to deal with this? Yes, your pops and clicks were there before unless you're plugging is overloading your computer and then it's pre putting on those pops and clicks but your pops and clicks were there before, and sadly, what you're enough to either do is you're gonna have to improve your monitoring situation so you could hear it. I might suggest headphones I often, when I'm working on a track that has had pops and clicks or somebody else recorded, I give it a headphone. Listen, once I get a rough mix to go through, or I assign an assistant or an intern to start drawing out the pops and clicks, but what it sounds like to me when you're talking about this filter thing also is the big problem we have with filters, especially cheap filters, is that they don't keep the frequency range, um, in the same place, and that the residents will clip your mix out and that's. Some of the clicks and pops you're getting is that you're not gain staging your filter properly. There's definitely a youtube tutorial on that one that I'm sure is great somewhere a little outside of the zone of mastering, but I will just say this. Watch your gain staging, watch the head rooming have room stuff we've talked about before, and maybe give your mix of extra twelve d b of headroom experiment with some other filters, I really like us an alc assistances, filters very uh smooth and doesn't clip out for me as much as a lot of other filters yet something mean to me it also it sounds like it could be is something as simple as maybe even leighton see on the on the dog it sounds like maybe what's happening is maybe their computer can't handle yeah that's what I was saying the d s p s that's you sit in the less geeky way because the geek over here had to go there um girls your awesome is with you know we're good you can keep going okay, so the next fun we have here is wider and stereo tricks so I'm going to say this uh I am not the biggest fan of putting on a wide nerd to get things wife I think you should wide it in the mix I should well actually I said that I think widening certain tracks in the mix khun b so awesome and interesting to the ears and bring in three dimensionality toe dense material but widening your mix khun really damage it when it's brought down the motto and as we talked about before mixes go to mono more than ever now you know as I showed one speaker on the ipad, never mind if somebody is listening often iphone or something worse so I don't like the idea of doing wise but sometimes it's not my choice and somebody wants it wider um and basically this is because what widening sze doing is it's sacrificing your mono signal and playing with stereo uh, field to do weird things and artificial things that could make you get lots of comb, filter and phasing once you get to mono, so to show what I'm talking about, this is a group called street's on fire and I'm going to call up a stereo weidner awesome, they're already on the screen. So this is air stereo weidner um this comes for free with pro tools the other plug in that is really, really awesome for this is called wave center. I am a huge fan of both of these so oughta mix though let's take both of these off real fast. This is our program material wait so very standard mixed with the stuff right now. But then I bring in our friend the stereo weidner and so the most common setting I see a lot when I open people's mixes or I uses this one called just wider. So the first thing you see it do is if I put my mouse here and you watch it is this thing called phase now we all know anybody who's ready to get recording that phase is this horrible thing you should fear, like it's, the grim reaper or the headless horseman coming for your family um this is why we don't like to do this sunday what was its going to phase in order to get you an artificial thing now that's fine if you're doing it to some background vocals in your mix because if they get a little lighter in mono or they're a little different model it could sound pretty cool but your entire mix not so much so what's here what? This sounds like I'm gonna turn this on and off while we go wait champagne is like so as he could hear there's a big difference in sound but so then we get into what the problem with this is I'm gonna hit the motto button on this and wait we hear our weaken weird gets it sounds so that's our testament to why widening is not always the right answer. So what can be though the right answer for some of your stereo problems, though is this amazing piece of gear that waves made, which is called wave center so it's pretty simple as you see is center inside. So if we talk about the stereo spectrum in mastering this is, you know, if we're going to a third thing that we discussed stereo is there, but most of stereo was determined in the mix so that's why I like doing that, it makes it actually what's funny is with that streets of fire truck is those guys are such great producers. They give me such a perfect stereo mics for that song that I was able to do really cool outside the stereo effects on those vocals and that bridge and I used that exact air stereo with that sounds great. The track this is a little less harsh. So in a mix there's basically, you know, two channels of audio they're coming through, but there's three pieces of information what's on the left, it's on the right and what's in both so that on this is devoted, it gets turned into sides and center. So if you think of it this way on this plug in, what you can do is really cool. And this is how any karaoke machine works that doesn't have a real version of karaoke is it just gets rid of whatever is in the center. So if I hit play on this, you could do some pretty crazy stuff with that so what's practical, though when I get a master and the band calls me up and they say our producers, the worst human being we kept saying mohr kick it's there and vocal I say that's no problem I'm gonna give you more kicking, stare vocal because those air all three are in the center, so all you do wait so that's a nice, neat trick you could do and then of course, there's the opposite of that is I could turn the sides down to get more kicking, staring vocal and, you know, a little bit of this you can do I never find myself pushing that fader up too much on an overall master, but with this is great for in your mixes, you know? So for example, a lot of sense say, I'm misterio sits out, then you tend to find out it's mostly amano, since sound, but you want just the sides of it rip out that center and see if it sounds good still and you have that you didn't get a good, serious spread on your overheads, which happens to be all the time when I mixed people's records, I rip out the center and all of a sudden I have a much more sterile mix the high hat isn't in the center of the mixed getting in the way of the vocal this's invaluable for that, and then the other time it's really valuable is, you know, I get the master and then the others thing happens is the metal band calls me up and they go, you know, we really hate our singer, and I wish my guitars were more allowed, I say no problem. I turn up the sides because that's where his guitars are and all of a sudden the vocals more buried and I save the day look like a genius and everybody's taken raving about itself. Really? I just changed one small knob on a plug it, um but this is a great tool, tohave and it's. Sometimes a great thing to play with when you want to see what we talked about before setting up your speakers, how wide apart they are is going to give you a different amount of middle and how much you're getting. And if you want to hear the difference of what things could be like, you can play around with this plug in a little bit. Um, so if we could go back to the key note, um, would I use and cheapened free or based on the same thing? And since you just so I used those to plug ins? Um, I mostly use that center, but I will say this. I don't use that center on a daily basis, but it comes and when you want it, it's the best tool when it makes you look great, there is a real world version of this all stereo is basically what we called m s, which is for mid side, which was exactly that the center is the middle, the sides of the sides and a wild time there's a stereo recording techniques of microphones where you can put two microphones and make that and you can choose how much mid you want using something like this the a a stereo matrix um, so, um, these air great plug ins tohave, but yet again, one of the reasons we're doing these pretty much last is they're not used every day. Um, so I'll say before we get this next part is some people are probably saying, what about reverb in mastering? Because so many of the mastering things use reverb today? I don't know many instances where people are adding reverb to their master as much as they're adding into a lot of their mics almost anyone I know who's mixing a song who wants a really river be mixed it never to believe there's going to be something that doesn't work right in that reverb so particularly whyyou don't add reverb toe a lot of the mix is re verbs that sound good on trouble instruments compared to basie instructs tend to be very big disparity um what sounds greatest kick drum reverb almost never sounds great as a symbol reverb I say that knowing that there's somebody who is founded exception and doesn't agree with me, but in general that's the biggest, biggest difference in it. So I pretty much barring when it's, acoustic guitar and vocal, and somebody says, you know, it sounds a little dry. I maybe could get away with putting some reverb on, but that happens once a year, one set of every couple hundred masters, so I don't feel it's, a big thing to discuss reverb, since we're talking about d I y mastering, I want to make it clear. If you want reverb on your song, I think it's better to go back and open your mix up and find a place to put it on instead of doing it in the in the master.

Class Description

Mastering is often the difference between a good recording and a bad one, but mastering is notoriously difficult to understand. In this two-day workshop, sound engineer Jesse Cannon — who’s worked with the likes of Ross Robinson, Saves the Day, Animal Collective, The Misfits and Man Overboard — shares what he’s learned about mastering from working at top-tier studios like WestWestSide Music and Cannon Found Soundation. 

While there’s no substitute for having an engineer master your music, that’s just not feasible for many artists. This class is the next best thing: a comprehensive guide to DIY mastering.

Jesse breaks down the mastering process from start to finish. You’ll discover the basic principles behind mastering, and learn about the processes and tools at your disposal. Jesse will identify and troubleshoot basic rookie mistakes, discuss lesser-known essential concepts as well as share his essential behind-the-board tools as he takes you through a few real-life examples.

After two days with Jesse, you’ll have everything you need to master your tracks with affordable tools.


Michael Pena

This class was awesome. Jesse goes into detail about the mastering process and best practices for mastering in an easy to understand way. The live mastering session was very informative and educational.