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Reference Makes Perfect

Lesson 4 from: Mixing Electronic Music In Ableton Live

Isaac Cotec

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Lesson Info

4. Reference Makes Perfect

Lesson Info

Reference Makes Perfect

Now we're gonna talk about calibrating your speakers. Like, why would you calibrate Why would we even concern ourselves with how the speaker sound? And were first gonna look at this thing called the Equal Outlets Contours. This was done by the Fletcher, Fletcher, Months and Curve. And the idea was this. They had a bunch of people come together and they had them all listen to this to the sounds. And what they did is they played a sound at 1000 hertz, you know, just like a fairly decent mid range sound, right? And they would play that at different decibels, different loudness, and then they would play other frequencies at other loudness is and have the person listening dial in the volume of the second frequency. That wasn't 1000 Hertz to see how they would compare. Well, what they found is, if you have 1000 hurts down here and you played a super low note like, say, 100 Hertz, look at that. They were listening to it 60 decibels, compared to almost zero db or five db 1000 hertz sound. That...

is immense. That is a gigantic difference Now, when they brought up to 20 decibels on the 1000 Hertz. It was around 80 db for the for the base, and you can kind of see there's this natural curve 40 and so on. And the higher we go up, the more you begin to see this flatten out. And that's because one of the main reasons is we seek you out base because we would hear our own heart where we would hear rumbles of things around us that aren't important just the way that we were hardwired to pay attention to if a tiger was rustling in the woods to kill us as compared to the rumbling of the water. You know, uh, we developed our years in a different way. But when we get loud, it levels out because now base, if it's that loud, seems to be important to us. So we want to calibrate our speakers and create a listening environment that is more flat in just the way we perceive it. Right now, you can go up to 100 decibels, but that is very loud, and that is going to damage your hearing if you listen to it over a long period of time. For for us. Our sweet spot is around 80 because around 80 decibels we have a place that it's a it's still pretty loud. That's about as loud as a bus driving by, right? It's fairly loud. And we're going to show that how to test that and do that here, we're gonna get a little esoteric stick with me. I know this is gonna get a little mathematic and using musician might not want to deal with these sort of things, but it's really gonna help. You're listening environment and know what you're doing is is ah, you know, solid. And I, like bobcats, creates this thing called the case system. He has this amazing book called Mastering Audio. The Art and the Science. It's fantastic. It's very clinical, but it he really laid down some interesting ways of viewing dynamics of Ewing volume. It has a lot to do with the volume wars and mixing and mastering, and I'm going to bring out some of the information called the case system. Now what is the case system? The case system ensures good headroom in your mix instead of seeing it at zero db at Unity's right, So zero db in live, which is right there. If we go beyond that, we're clipping. We have digital clipping where which were beyond zero. It's a bad thing to do, but under that is where we want to be Now zero is considered unity. Now the case system, we're moving. What we think unity is, for instance, we can move it to minus 20 minus of minus 12. So if we take zero and move it down Tu minus 20 were trying to stay around minus 20 as our unity when we move it down to minus 14 then we have 14 decibels of headroom, right from our actual digital clipping. But then we are hanging out around there and the same thing with right? In other words, the case system changes unity, full volume to a lower place to ensure good headroom. Uh, due to the volume levels, it is also hard to clip because you're down in these areas, right? That's tons of room. You're next to never going to clip. By the time you should be clipping, it's gonna be incredibly loud, right? And that is when we use this system with the way we calibrate our speakers on what is loud were almost never going to run into clipping problems again. We're gonna have a much better cleaner listening environment. And also, it helps our overall mix and our dynamics. When I went back and used the case system for mixing, the difference was incredible. Very obvious when I was using the case system and when it wasn't All right, so we're talking about calibrating yours, your monitors. Right. Your speakers. Uh, could you feel Grab that Mike san bringing over. Now, There's a few things you're going to need for this, actually, right in the front. Basically, we're trying to pretend like this is where we're listening and those are speakers. So we wanna turn it that way. Yeah, There's a few ways that we can calibrate our speakers, but I'm gonna show you the 1st Where am I looking? I'm looking at here. All right. Now, the first way to do it is you can do it. Very. Uh oh, no, Sorry. That's that's the room. We're gonna talk about that later. There's only one way to do this. And that is with two things we're trying to do is we're trying. Teoh, make sure the volume of our speakers are at a good level like that off the curve that we saw earlier around any decibels. And when we know that and we know what that setting is, we can say that's as loud as we're ever going to get great. And also the great thing about calibrating your speakers is if you move to any speakers anywhere, it's gonna always be the same volume. It's kind of like knowing your baseline and your you could move that anywhere. This was specifically made for mixing engineers that moved from studio to studio all the time to make sure they kind of knew what was happening. Okay, let's go back. Point this out real quick. The step one would be open up calibration life pack or download the pink noise. Now, when you get this class, you're gonna be able to get tons of resource. Is one of those Resource is is a massive life pack. And in that life pack, we have this. It's called monitoring reference Life set, and I laid it out. It's very easy. We've got our pink noise. We've got a mic in, so it's gonna be very easy to calibrate our system rights. That would be the first step you need to do. Or you can just look out pink noise and you can do this. You don't have to. You just download pink noise and emulate what I'm doing or for other dogs. You can also download the pink noise and set it to play it minus 20 minus 14 or my mind's 12 depending on the case system, we choose again. It's a little esoteric. It's all gonna come together. Don't worry. Step two. Using a sound level meter right here, set the speaker to 83 decibels for the case system. Now what this is is it's a decibel reader. It's just reading how loud noises, right, how loud the room is. You really want one of these? That's just a dedicated meter, because if you're using a mike and you're putting in its dependent on what your begin on your mike, you'll never know what the volume is. You really need something that just tells you I got this off eBay or Amazon for, like 2025 bucks. Very cheap, very easy to use to turn it on, and it tells you right there. I'm talking in around 50 60 decibels, right? Joining that and speakers pretty easy. And what we do is we come over to our live set and let's say so. K 20 would be orchestral music. Very dynamic music Que 14 is pop music. K 12 is broadcast very loud. Now electronic music seems to be going the route of K 12 because it seems to be very loud. So if you're doing very like Poppy Gm, you're probably there. If you're doing more dynamic like chill out music and stuff, I'd say K 14 I'm just going to use K 14 because it's my preference, and this is going to be loud and annoying, and there's no way around that because it's pink noise and I just turned up. I just turn it up until I get to 83 right? Ah, that was around 83 when I listen to somebody that okay, great. And I know now that 83 is right around there, and when I would normally do is I would take like, a little piece of tape and just market, and I could mark Okay, that's K 14. That's K 12 20 or whatever, but I have the different files. You just get it to 83 that's calibrated. Now you know, your monitors at their full volume is set there. Another way of looking at it is just to know, like what a reference track lit is at that volume. I have these right here reference tracks. Now it is much less than 83 right, because we have all that headroom in the case system. So it is quieter than we calibrated the speakers. But you can still tell at least you guys can. It's a fairly good volume, like it's definitely make your neighbors a little annoyed or your housemates. But it's not ridiculous, either, because you don't want to be so loud that you're hurting your hearing and you want to be so quiet that you're now not hearing base correctly. Yeah, yeah, point. Would you figure you need to adjust on the speaker of the monitors themselves? Great point. Uh, it would depend on your speakers. Like I have some mackey h ours. And I actually just sent him to unity to zero. And then I have a sub mixer like this and said it Now this sub mixer is not the best because it's noisy. I can actually hear a buzz right now from this speakers. And it could be either. Shouldn't be this volume like, yeah, this volumes good. This volumes. All right. But the way that I have to turn up the gain is making these speakers buzz, so I would turn up that. So, you know, it would depend on your situation if your sound card isn't getting that loud or if your speakers are acting weird at that volume that turn them up on the speakers themselves. Yeah, answer that. Do the rockets have, Ah, a volume knob? Well minus six plus six. Okay, not rockets. Have a little like You almost have to have a screwdriver toe turn a little, Yeah, the Mackey's kind of the same way. I mean, I can kind of get it with my fingers, but has a little like screwdriver. I mean, I generally like to keep that unity just would be my preference, but it depends on your gear. Cool. So let's just listen this one more time to get an idea. It's one of tracks in line, consistent shade. It's with amazing musician Capito oratory And you would You saw that there's actually tons of room in that mix because we're using the cases dominant. It allows for more breath and dynamic intermix and will never never clip well, next to never. And then, like I was saying, step three mark on your mixer right down the setting, and you should be good. Now, just make sure you're mixing is hanging around 14 decibels. We're gonna look at that with with me during and it can peak above this, but it should average around there or look at peaks at minus six. Or to my sense, so in other words, if using the case system, it should be around 12 20 whatever you chose and it really shouldn't be moving past minus six because that's kind of the mid range of it. It's best to use the case K system meter, like ozone fat filter or the meter plugs, came eater and let me show you that. All right, so right here, I'm gonna go into my plug ins and we got what? Ares meters. Great. I'm gonna show you these different ones. There's this one online you can go up. You got on there and they have a free version which just automatically sets it to K and you can just use it. It gets like a 12th demo, things saying, Oh, it's a demo, but you can use it and it totally works or you can buy it. I think it's like 50 year, 40 bucks and it's great. And if I play this sound, what I'm trying to do is I'm trying to average in the yellow and not peak too much in the red, right? So it's saying my average is around whatever that case system was. Now this is our mess. It's Ah, it's an average right. It's not the peak level peak levels. The 2nd 1 this one can go in a red. And that's kind of like how far past your minus 14 is it going like, is it peeking toe like minus eight and so on that that showed right here. Now you're peaks can go above that. It's totally fine, because, remember, we have tons of head room. That's the whole reason we do this. So let's look at it again. Now the closer your average and your peak gets together more uh, last dining experience you have, Right, So this is a great way to see, Like if you're kick is always weighed peaking and your average is hanging out Pretty quiet. You obviously have way too hot of a kick. This is again a way to get past our ego, to know what's happening. You also notice I am peeking a little bit in the red because this is a master track. So it is a little bit more compressed than a mix way. We do have these settings here which thes three arm or these two or more for, ah, like movie. You know, the I. T. U s and stuff. Those are more like moving broadcast concerns. I generally keep it our mess and yeah, it's fantastic. But if you have ozone, we go to mastering. It also has a K meter. I will just throw in there, play kind of my meter bridge, open that up in your meter bridge, and then you can make sure your options are set to K system and it's the same thing. This is your peak, and that is your average. So my averages air still hanging out around like plus three in the yellow is totally fine. Way more room to play with this than just hitting zero. And just in case you have it because I just found this out by accident the other day that you also have it within within fat filters. Limiter on. Then you come here, See? Where was it? I just found it. That's why I just found this rain little button away. They have the case system, so you go to K 14 and then you could see it through the limiter. I love fat filter and the fact that you can see this kind of mawr through time. That's pretty great, because you can actually see. Oh, that is obviously my kick, right? Where's my kicking out it? Oh, you mean, uh so that's that's where this is normal. This is normal way of looking at volumes. So it's hanging out around minus eight, right? But the reason the case system is so great is because we're not just looking at peaks anymore. We're looking at averages were looking at having the general average of the track around in a certain level. And with your monitors set, it's perfect listening environment. You now have a clear reference. And you know where your volumes are and where you I know, Very heady. But, uh, do you guys have any questions, or is anyone have questions on on that? I would question about Mom voidable too far past monitors. I have what I think are pretty nice monitors. Essam care case six inch that air Not rockets or something else, but probably ordered rockets. But I do not have a sub. How is this a problem? Or is this should be okay Still Well, it's that same idea of translation in the sense of if you know what it will sound like on a system with a sub and that will help you, right? You can get matching subs for that. We're going to go over because now that we've calibrated the monitors volume level, now we're going to calibrate their frequency in the room, which is when that concern would come up and you can straight up, test it and see Oh, like there is no base in my room for whatever that might be. Yeah. Ah, I feel like that's a reality in my room is that the basis really is not translated. Well, yeah, And then when we test the room, you'll be able to see it and be like, Oh, I am not just thinking that I can actually, I have empirical truths that's there is a problem. And you can either upgrade or not, uh, again, like I've done amazing mixes without any problem. You have a roll off with a six inch sub at around 60 or 50 resident like I have the Mackie h ours that have a eight inch, and that means it goes to about 40 to 30. Right? So I get a little bit more out of you, not all that much more again. It's just translation. Just compare. Something I recently discovered was that it sounds totally different in my room. Like when I get up and move to a different part of it. All of a sudden, the basis, like totally resonating and I have five inch rockets on. I used to run a sub with it, and then there was some weird phasing, and I turned it off and all of a sudden there was more based somehow in this one part of the room. So I definitely need to like figure out my room? Yeah, we're gonna show testing, and then you can turn on off the sub and check it. That was probably a crossover, an unmatched sub which creates phasing issues, Which will, I personally think it's better either have a matching sub or don't personally, because because then you have these nice speakers and you had, like, this little teeny consumers of and you're just totally, totally ruined it. But yeah, that that movement as you move in your room and it sounds different is based traps. It's basically how the base is hitting the walls and it will come out in Polk in different areas. Yeah. I mean, you can use it to your advantage or disadvantage. Just know what it compares to write.

Class Materials

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Drum Placement
Frequency Worksheet
Read Me - Mixing with Ableton Live
Sharing Tracks
Ableton Live Pack

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Ratings and Reviews

Jose Gerardo Rendon Santana

Excellent Course, Isaac Cotec is a great instructor and a great producer. The course is very well organized explaining each important step of the mix. as well as great tips and techniques. He also includes a great deal of support material with the course including an Ableton Live Pack with tons of great presets and tools to put to practice the knowledge acquired in the course.

a Creativelive Student

Isaac covers an amazing amount of material in a clear and concise way. Great intro to mixing with Ableton or review for the intermediate user who wants to solidify their best practices, DAW knowledge as well as gain some production tips.

Ian turner

this is the best thing money can buy in my life. Isaac makes it look easy and the way he teaches makes you understand everything and makes it easy for you as well. its exactly what i wanted to learn in each video! i cant even sleep because another video loads and im like "ohhhh i need it" lol. i thank god for this class being affordable and the real deal.

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