Dynamics and Loudness
What's the biggest question you guys have about mastering the loudness war that that everybody is talking about or maybe just everybody on gear slits yahtzee really is every it's everywhere but yes there it's particularly a cesspool I'm just going to say it so so what are your thoughts? I mean, ultimately it comes down teo you know it personal preference obviously is aa is a big part of it but uh with the way that even you know media devices nowadays will automatically adjust levels uh how do you how do you feel that this is being approached? Do you think that people are kind of just not giving it enough? Uh, artistic expression? Yeah. So that's a great way of putting it as the artistic expression is that this is ah tool of an instrument just like anything else like there's no denying a crushed record is a different emotion than an uncrossed record. Both of them could be appropriate like you know, I think of like in metal is that you know you listen toe that ghost record that would som...
e terrible with the same mastering jobs metallica's death magnetic but for ghost it's totally appropriate to not pin it to death and do it but then us of death magnetic and like what I often say it's like we were like, oh my god, that record is so wh insanely stupid loud and you know, my question is this is the vibe is terrible enough of that record imagine with the vibe would be if it wasn't crushed in full of, like, pumping energy, it's just it's a tool, and it doesn't necessarily mean that something bad like you don't. In two thousand twelve, skrillex had the most streamed record of the year and arguably was one of the loudest records, and people really felt a new emotion from that record, no matter how cheesy and about his haircut is, you know, there's, a thing of you can make fun of the guy all you want, there's an emotion to that record and some of that emotion is loudness, and I know a lot of people don't like that emotion, especially if you're, you know, I'm getting on, I got a few gray's like, you know, I'm not always looking to hear the loudest record on earth anymore like I turned on he is legend, I am hollywood, I go how that hurts, whereas seven years ago I was back in my head. You know, I think people just need to take this as exactly as auto tune, and anything else is is it's a tool and just like you don't need three types of chainsaw you don't want that chain saw, and you want to use some precision saw go right ahead. No one's forcing you to make this there's plenty of people who make art without a brick wall limited record that do great art so the other part of the loudness war that started to come up now since we have some time is that but blood wig recently stated that the loudness war's gonna be over because itunes radio is now normalizing all the levels between songs so I think that that is that's absolutely wonderful if that's starting to happen but I just question if everybody's really could have just be listening to radio and just listen to streaming things and bouncing between songs all the time like that and you know, I think it's still going to be think of that whether all songs are normalized there's a different sound to brick wall women in your record than there is a thing to just everything being normalized the same volume um I would love if the loudness war was indeed over so these people would shut up but I don't think we're really actually there since itunes radio at last count only has ten percent of the, uh, market that pandora has so we're not quite there yet. Um any other questions before we get started cool so we're gonna talk about this section is on the basic concept you need to know which are our friend loudness um objectivity, consistency and clean up we're also getting to frequency span since that's the other big part of records you might be thinking, is this section boring? Well, we do have to go over some basics, but I'm going to guarantee you we're going to spice them up and put some things that you do not know in there and also, if you don't know these concepts, you kind of can't do mastering properly it's just a little foundation of education and then we'll get into the really, really fun stuff. So our first concept is dynamics and loudness, as we just discussed. So judging by you guys answers when we first got to this, a lot of the answer was dynamics, and that is a lot of what we're controlling in this, so the first thing is, what is loudness? We all know what loud this sounds like, but you know, it really is about perception as well, so you can read a meter all you want about how loud something is, but you know the meter's khun tell you something and give you an objectivity, but they're not really an absolute thing of like what that emotional loudness feels like when I go around the room and I say to people what's the loudest record you've heard meter often looks pretty similar on all of them, but if they would play it's, everybody everybody would say, well, that one's louder or that one's louder even though it all looks about the same um, several factors make something seem loud, including amplitude frequency distribution, which is where and how many frequencies and tall this and height you have one of the reasons like dub step these days sounds so, um much bigger than any things every ever heard is that the frequent stay spans much bigger than a rock song um dynamic range, which is the loudest quiet like one of the sound in a song. One of the things everybody has to remember is like, you know, when new nirvana blew away the world, one of the big things they were doing was is this quiet verse and then this humongous course of that backed out comparing and contrasting is your dynamic range and that's a big part of how volumes perceived as well if you're just loud all the time it's not as easy to notice when you're going down to nothing and then coming back up that could be a big perception of loudness it's the same thing as wouldn't on all the sixteen year old kids wanna hear the drop in medium today? Um so when you master hugh manipulate these aspects to achieve loudness or more consistent, properly translated mix as we've been calling it, um so loudness is chief threw a lot of means and you know it's a lot of people think it's just putting that brick wall wimmer the waves l two on something and turning it up until it doesn't sound so distorted but there's actually a lot more that goes into it when you're doing you know, mastering that's going to get a real good result um so our first concept is diana ranging loudness um so if you want and you're one of those people was going for loudness so obviously I do a lot of punk hardcore in metal that's a lot of our objective us how do we get this song loud rocket and punchy a lot of that is about mixing with levels that are not two disparate and very consistent so one of the big things is is that you don't want your kick sixty be above the mix and your stare sixty be above the mix if you want it to really sound really loud in full you need to get your levels close together without compressing them and have a good balance. One of the things I talked about before is I mixed with some mastering on what I also do is I often turn that mastering on and make sure I'm not doing something to stupid like having the kicking stare to out or the vocal two out um a lot of the big thing to you'll see and like metal records these days is you hear how oh tucked down the vocal is and a lot of time that is, is because the lower of the vocal, the harder it is to get the rest of the mix loud, especially since the vocal is something that's very dynamic and moving around a lot of the time. It's. Not just this block of sound, like when you see a guitar and your computer it's electric guitar and just it looks like the really mastered mix that we have right here on this next side on the bottom. Um, so, um, when we get in tow loudness, you know, we obviously just said that it's not all about this turning up the brick wall women or but one of the ways to really easily judge that loudness is to just hear that self to get into the sound if we could cruise over the proof pro tools computer, um, I have here a band called so most there from massachusetts, they have a really cool record. This is from coming out on a label called tidy engines next year I was a young man in a way, so that song obviously is a good amount of dynamic build coming into it, and part of what makes it powerful and makes the song work on its own is making sure that gets maintained, so right now I have up thea waves l three multi maximize our limiter, which is a multi band brick wall limiter this's what is famous from impaling and making records about um but everybody uses it so everybody well, most people use it and it's famous for a reason it's a fantastic tool, which is why I use it. Um, so seeing this master you know that I'm here I'm touching it a little bit we could see on the bottom and we'll say the bass drum trick way get here in the song more here, everything's pretty much getting him. I'll say that without the music, everything pretty much gets hit when it's on the loud part of the song um and that's not necessarily right for every song, but so we're talking about loudness I found a happy medium so a cz you see here, theo somewhere around three d b of that, I found to be the musical point that I liked. So with none of it, I'll even turn this up see, hear volume comparison! This is about three. So so even with that with three and a half d b up of compensation, it just doesn't so more punch crack in detail because we're compressing technically three d be the one thing we have to remember at the brick wall living her is it's giving us not just raided a raise of volume is it's giving us three mortgage eby of bringing the stuff at the bottom up to the top also it's remember, if you have noise down there going through the big thing I notice is theirs definitely a lot more low end than there was before on the original master are the original mix another and that's a great observation as you could see most of what's getting hit is the wellhead because which sounded right to me and this mix was to really push that kick like one of the big things with to get into a little mixing thing is is you know, there's a all of this to me is about emotion I don't really you know, a lot of the time you see these people online going will you cut two forty hurts and make this list money every time you master to me that's every programme, materials different and what I'm doing is I'm looking for an emotion where I feel the song more um on this particular song the way the drummer pushes the beat having that kick drum pushed the song along really felt good to me I can remember literally mixing this and be like, I know this seems wrong, but I'm gonna push that kick drum about it because this could sze foot just really makes me wanna about my head more and that's a lot of what this is all about to pay so but yes because we're pushing down that bottom end we're making it mohr even with the rest of the song and it's bringing out in blossoming some of the song great observation so we heard what happens when there's less of this so what happens when there's mohr which is so obviously as I turn that up we get shrill, distorted less clear the guitars get a really annoying frequency that I really don't like listening to yeah and that's the big thing too is that pompey could be good um you know, I think of a lot of records these days especially dense you want a pump but too much prom pins that happy medium is what we want to find cell that's definitely are technically our perception about us and if you go too far I think like you know if there's any lesson to be learned from this is that there's a too far in turning up on going for loudness you eventually as we've been saying go from three d d two d there's an optimization and like most of life happy mediums work much better um so the next thing we'll talk about in this is that um you know if we could go back to the power point uh in order to get stuff loud and dynamically controlled there's a couple of other things for that we use we do have a couple of good questions from rape the chat rooms which o get to if you guys have any questions or cover yours too so a good one from snickers bar fifty is if you master other people's mixes how often do you send the mix back and say this isn't finished please get it right first well, I would never put it that way but I'm much more constructive but how much do I send it back? Send it back compared to ask a couple questions and make sure that this is really what we're going for I master for a lot of really, really talented people so the main guys I do because they're so talented they pump out more stuff but some of the younger guys I work with you know I gotta cover this last week where the synthesizer is louder than the vocal I said, you know, we could probably get this whole record up a d b and volume if you just fix this one mix um I'd say twenty percent of the time I have to send stuff back, but you know, even for me every once in a while uh when I'm sitting my stuffed alan duchess or jamal rui it out west west side I'd say once a year they send something back to me and say, you know, you really think this trouble's right and sometimes I'm burnt out. I've been working for you no one hundred hours in a week on a very regular basis and your trouble goes when you work one hundred hours in front of speakers for a weekend I don't think there's any shame in it we don't know the objectivity is good but yes, every once in a while sure quick question deejay quality wanted to know what the name of that band, that song the last one that we list to again if you could just they were called so most and the song is called before you merge it's coming out on lp on the label called tiny engines in twenty fourteen sweet thank you s oh, kind of a few variations on this question from the chat rooms and I think you're going to be covering this, uh later, but maybe you could, you know, give ah little a quick overview of this is how should a mixer prepare the stereo track for mastering lee? What? What you know in a in a nutshell, do you want as a mastering engineer from the stereo track? So we get into this all in the next section bombing of a quick run down a good amount of head room six to twelve d b of head room at the highest level resolution and sampling rate possible um and with them feeling confident they got it right would be my other very big I put that one in bold and all caps of my e mails great do we have any questions from you guys? You guys already know everything pretty awesome what else you think? Um so again I know you're going to be covering a lot of the software stuff later in day too so maybe maybe when we start off the next segment let's get people on the road map of what's coming so they great one toe tune in but so you dress this a little bit but you know there's there's number of products out there like ice tub, ozone and some other like all in one mastering sweets d j serial tracks wants to know what's different scene using an all in one master employees in such a zo zone vs larger standalone software sweets like you know the the mastering specific d w's geared towards mastering so in my opinion and what I found is you start to get to a point where some of this software one doesn't do all the jobs as well as other things could catnip I think ozone is a fantastic tool especially for the price point but what I find is somebody who does this professionally is that I want to get all the best tools for the job so I use the best single compressor I confined the best q the best brick wall liberal, etcetera the other thing I tend to find with the old ones and when some tools get to ubiquitous is is it gets tough toe have the characters of your mics stand out now I say this with also the knowledge that some people are talented enoughto customised tones through these things to not get the sounds everybody gets but there are some tools where it starts to be that thing of like, wow, I've heard that sound or million times kind of the same thing is with like pod farm where you're like I can hear pod five like me I can hear that's necessarily a bad thing but it's like you don't necessarily want people to be able to hear your tool rather than your song I want people to focus on that and you know, I like what I will say is like with ozone is like, I've learned to hear that distortion and maybe I'm just a nerd but like I talk to people and I see people say yeah, you know I'm a nerd it just gets a little old here that same distortion, so I want to find tools. I just also think that, you know, one of the things we're going to go through is that if you search around and get to know your tools and don't just cruise through the best preset and learn how to manipulate those you tend a developing near that khun tweak things better so I think that that's a good way to go is like you want up it's great if you use those own for a few of those tools but you also want to develop some of your own singular tools all right, well why don't we do one final question unless you guys have anything you wanna add at the included along some of the same lines of this conversation I assume if you're using the same tools over and over again you find yourself doing the same things over and over again is there a specific way that you try to, um approach each new job while trying to find new ways to use the same gear I guess that's how do you keep your your approach fresh that's a great question so one of the things I did for years is I would devote I was like I'm posted on my thing was mandatory every day for fifteen minutes I try something I haven't tried before the same thing with a lot of you know as the saying goes necessity is the mother of venture I tend to find you know I have some clients who send me just great stuff and it's very easy to use my same tools on that stuff because they like what it's the way it sounds they called me up there like you're the best rule and so that you don't really want a deviate the recipe too much when you do that but that every once in a while I get a really terrible master and I'm like so depressed this is gonna have my name on it and so you just start trying new things and you're like you know what? I'm gonna reverse the phase put a fline jer and see if that fattens up bottom end and all the sudden you find because you're throwing the kitchen sink that there was some cool tool in that kitchen sink of some weird scalpel life and it works and like honestly like, you know, the funny thing is is like I really hated a synth sound on a really great song that I loved and this distortion that I'm using on this very mix I found it on a scent that I went you know, when mixes need a little more polish maybe I'll try this distortion and I think it's really about when you're not happy with something not settling for just using your tools and seeing if you could find new things and devoting having an ethic where you we're going to take time to experiment and get out of your comfort zone every day I mean, I think in life in general you know, I wish I'd get out of my comfort zone maurin mandating that is a really great way to grow as an engineer and a songwriter person whatever our zlin asif asked what is the most time consuming instrument in mastering I'm gonna assume instrument he means plug in e think that he means like you know for example like you know obviously snares have a lot of transients are okay you know, big heavy kicks and dance musically what is the most tricky? You know piece of the instrument and mixto work with so metal kick drum not pumping uh in like, punky stuff it's the snare and vocal relationship in dance with a vocal it's getting that vocal to not be swallowed by synthesizers at various times and like sometimes having to aught you know, in a lot of the dance stuff I get if it's not mixed well, it's like I have to automate the multi band compressor to turn on at certain times to get it out of the way of the vocal and that's not something you want to be having to do, but you know what? I'm trying to get a result that happens, but I'd say in most music that's just not this loudness war music the vocal is what you really want to focus on because vocals what everybody's listening to, um and so like, if I'm doing a pretty acoustic record, I'm going to definitely be saying there thinking about how does this mastering affect the presentation of how this vocal works