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Mixing Master Class

Lesson 10 of 27


Joey Sturgis

Mixing Master Class

Joey Sturgis

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Lesson Info

10. Limiters

Lesson Info


I wanted to also talk about limiters a little bit because I didn't get a chance to do that yet and I wanted to make that more clear because the difference between a compressor, an expander, and limiter is what it does to the dynamic range. So your compressor decreases your dynamic range, an expander expands your dynamic range or increases your dynamic range and a limiter actually limits your dynamic range. So what does that mean? So a limiter's going to basically pick a spot, you're gonna pick a spot where you're saying, "I don't want dynamics, I don't want anything to go over this certain point." You create like a phantom point that just stops so if you look at these guitar tracks, they've actually already been limited, so they end up looking like just a block of sound as you can see here. I want to show you how you can use a limiter. I wanna use a different sound that's not already limited, like for example, this lead. I'm gonna show you how you can use a limiter to create density as...

well. We talked about creating density with saturation earlier. You can certainly do that on this lead that we're about to work on but I'm gonna show you a cleaner way so this is no saturation but still creating weight using limiters. The reason why this is important, especially with guitars, is because this is the way that you can make a guitar more audible in a mix without making it louder. I'm gonna show you how to do that. This is what it sounds like with no limiting. (guitar music) Alright, now if you're watching the screen, you're seeing the levels going up and down, certain notes are louder than others. (guitar music) So the low notes actually, we can identify it as the low notes are louder than the high notes. We want all the notes to be at equal amount of volume. What you can do is you grab this link tool here. I'm using this plug in called L1 from Waves. If you grab the link tool and pull it down, it acts like a limiter. It limits the dynamic range so if I was to put it like here, the volume would never go over negative 22. (guitar music) Now my low notes and my high notes are the same volume now. Where as before, (guitar music) you might notice the volume is getting quieter. Well that's because we used the link tool which brings down also the output. It's a good habit to get into when you're using a limiter is to link those two together and pull them down together so that you are setting your limiter threshold to the signal without hearing. 'Cause like if I just use the threshold only, (guitar music) notice how the signal gets louder. That makes it harder to know where your adjustments gonna end up but let me show you how this can create more weight. I'm going to just leave the limiter off and I'm just gonna hit play and I'm gonna set the volume so that we can hear it. ♪I can't help that it's not worth it, ♪ ♪ You had your chance and you missed out. ♪ ♪ You couldn't change me- ♪ We can hear the lead now. The thing is is that it kinda sorta pokes out at different points and it's not really, you can't really make out every single note so if I was to bring my limiter down to start limiting the louder notes and bring those down to the quieter notes, ♪ I can't help that it's not worth it, ♪ ♪ You had your chance and you missed out- ♪ Then I can bring up my output and that brings that weight up so you can hear. ♪ I can't help that it's not worth it, ♪ ♪ You had your chance and you missed out. ♪ ♪ You couldn't change me so don't mistake me, ♪ ♪ I'm not someone who will back down. ♪ So watch this, watch the volume of this. ♪ I can't help that it's not worth it, ♪ ♪ You had your chance and you missed out. ♪ ♪ You couldn't change me so don't mistake me, ♪ ♪ I'm not someone who will- ♪ You'll notice at a certain point, it got louder as I as going, as I was lowering the threshold but at a certain point it stopped getting louder but you could still hear it getting louder. By effectively limiting the signal to a certain point, you can create weight especially with this limiter in particular. You can make the signal, the sound, have more, take up more space within your mix. Now in guitars in particular, I use limiters all the time. I think that compressors are too slow for guitars. It kinda makes the guitar sound weird so I like to use limiters because they react so fast that it allows you to even out all of your signals. Guitars are really dynamic instruments. They play all kinds of different notes and as the notes go up they get quieter and so it's a good way of balancing out the guitar. Especially when you're dealing with leads that kind of play high and low notes together. ♪ Well I can't help that it's not worth it, ♪ ♪ You had your chance and you missed- ♪ If a limiter, if you didn't have a limiter as a tool, that part would be so hard to fix. It would take so much volume automation to make that sound. A limiter is a really cool tool for doing that. For managing your dynamics. Do we have any final questions on dynamics? Wait, he has one. What is your thought between like the L1 opposed to using the L2 or the L3? What's your preferences? As far as my preferences go, I like L1 a lot, I use it, pretty much. That's pretty much the only limiter that I use on drums, or sorry, on guitars. However, there's like the LA2A, which is kind of a weird, it's like a limiter but it's a compressor, you know? That's good on like vocals or drums and then you've got your L2s which are known to destroy snare hits like I can put an L2 on this drum track and the snare will die. But sometimes that's an interesting tool. It's not gonna work for us, that's okay. For example, if you wanna turn a snare down on an overhead track you can use an L2. I do that all the time because it depends on how you mic it but if you mic it in a certain way to where the drummer's playing a drum beat and the snare like literally jumps 12 db over the cymbal hits, you can chop that off using the L2 which allows you to take that signal and then compress that cymbals without having the compressor react to the snare hits. So that's a really good trick for anyone who's dealing with their snare sounds really high in the overheads, use a limiter to cut those off and make the compressor react to the signal better. I don't have a demonstration for that but just try it. I mean I swear it's magic. Great, we've got a couple online here if you'd like to take some. Okay, sure. Nathan Danger Prince asked: If you're using a limiter on vocals, you bring up a lot of background noise like click from headphones. Would that be something that you would have to address early on in the recording stage or can you salvage it? Right, so, I would address that at the recording stage as much as possible and try to tell the vocalist, like hey, there's a certain point where we're not gonna be able to get these headphones any louder because they're gonna come through on the microphone. Now if you actually listen to this bridge section, you can hear the headphone bleed. ♪ You can't take away part of me, my dreams- ♪ I don't know if you guys can hear that in the background there. ♪ You can't- ♪ You hear that guitar like right at the beginning? (keyboard strokes) It's very barely in there. One way you could salvage the, wait. Let me see if the headphone bleed gets worse over here. ♪ But you're not made up, a figment of a dream- ♪ I took care of it pretty well on this. I recorded this and I tried to make sure. Let me see if one of these sections at the end might have worse headphone bleed. ♪ A figment of a dream, ♪ ♪ You are not made up ♪ ♪ You said you'd bring - ♪ Yeah, there's not much in there. You can use a transient processor for example to get rid of headphone bleed and I'll show you how to do that. (mouse clicks) I have this plug in that we just put out a week ago. It's called Transify. This is a multi-band transient processor so you can, you have control of your attack and your sustain of four different bands of frequency ranges. You can go in, for example, take sustain out from your low mids so I'll show you what that would sound like. ♪ You can't take away part of me, my dreams your voice- ♪ You hear that headphone bleed coming through now? ♪ Voice, meaning- ♪ I could just turn this down. ♪ Voice, meaningless, I'm- ♪ Now the headphone bleed is gone. ♪ You can't- ♪ At least some of it is. ♪ You can't take away part of me, ♪ ♪ My dreams, your voice, meaningless, ♪ ♪ I'm what you'll never be. ♪ ♪ But you know what- ♪ If you have access to some kind of transient processor, mess around with the sustain knob and you can kind of change that background noise and eliminate some of the headphone bleed but I think the best way is to try and do it at the source, get the vocalist comfortable to where it's loud enough to where they can perform the part but it's not too loud to where you can't capture it. Awesome, this is also from Nathan Danger Prince: When using limiters, do you have to be careful not to zap the life out of the performance and will that make a difference during the mastering stage? So the way that I use limiters is sort of, it's a mixing tool in terms of if I want to create weight or a more laymen way of saying that is create volume. Basically, you do have a compromise. You have this performance but sometimes a perfect performance, maybe it's extremely dynamic, doesn't allow you to get it loud enough in the mix when it's combined with other elements because it has been, if you're trying to keep the original performance intact all the way to complete authenticity, you might not be able to work with that in a mixing scenario so you might have to compromise some of the performance by limiting it to create the weight that it needs to be able to be audible with the other elements and I think it is always a balancing act. You're always going to be deciding how far is too far and how much is too little and it really is just comes down to experimentation. I've just tried to show you that I think there's a lot of people that don't understand what limiters, expanders, and compressors do and they just will use them because someone told them to do it or they've heard that, oh yeah, use a compressor on drums and you're supposed to have a compressor on a snare drum. I mean, I've gotten tons of snare sounds where there wasn't a compressor used at all and instead was using a transient processor or maybe I was using an expander. Maybe I had a snare sample that was had too much body and I could use an expander to create more attack and less body. Just know what the tools do so that they can help you accomplish your goals and also have a better understanding of what audio is. Knowing that a snare sound is made up of a transient and a body you can then open your mind to interacting with those two parts of the signal to create the sound that you're going for. I would say some of the demonstrations I've done here have shown you very extreme cases of how you can take a limiter and you completely cut off 12 db of a sound but that's not necessarily what you would do in an actual mix. I just am trying to demonstrate like what the tool actually does and how it reacts to sound. You might find yourself using a limiter as a corrective form of a tool where you're taking an acoustic guitar performance that has someone playing and it's very sharp and there's lots of attack and some cords have peaks that stick out over top of a nice gentle performance, you might use a limiter in that case where you completely cut those peaks off and make it more pleasant to listen to. Where as I might use a limiter on my guitar tracks so that I can squeeze every ounce of volume of the guitar performance as possible so I could turn it up and have it have a ton of weight in my mix. Yeah, experimentation and just utilizing the tools for what they're made to do.

Class Description

Joey Sturgis is the producer behind some of the biggest names in metalcore, including Asking Alexandria, Of Mice & Men, and I See Stars. His sound is one of the most sought after sounds of the last decade and in this class, he’ll show you the unique mixing techniques that are key to getting it.

This class picks up where Joey’s Studio Pass class left off: you’ve got your session tracked and edited, now how do you turn it into a polished, world-class mix? 

He’ll show you how to get his signature sound, including: 

  • EQ and compression strategies for drums, guitar, bass, vocals, and synths/effects 
  • How to use automation to fix problem areas and bring out the song’s dynamics 
  • Tons of little tips and tricks to take your mix from good to great 

If you want to elevate the quality of your mix, don’t miss Mixing Master Class with Joey Sturgis.



I don't work exclusively in the same genre as Joey but I always make sure to clear my schedule when he's on CreativeLive. This class definitely didn't disappoint and it was awesome getting to see Joey work on a track from start to finish and what his approaches and thought processes are. And not only that, but I appreciate that he briefly touches on client communication in regards to production, mixing, etc, and the business side to the mixing process as this is an area I'm just now dipping my toes in. Even though I often find myself on the rock, indie or post-rock side of things, a lot of these ideas can apply to anything you're working on and I definitely picked up some ideas to try and work on myself. Joey gives you enough to inspire you and make that light bulb click and does it with an admirable humility that I respect. He gives you more than enough on how and why he does what he does, but I never feel like he reveals all his secrets or magic; I honestly prefer it that way as it leaves a fun challenge of taking the ideas you've learned and figuring out how, when and where you're going to use them in your own mixes. Especially if you're not doing predominantly metal, like I am. The ideas are inspiring. This class isn't about those perfect settings to that phenomenal mix or tone; it's about why you do this and how you do that. It's cool to be able to watch his process and pick his brain, start to finish and all in the box. Joey definitely doesn't need to do these classes for us, but the more I see him getting active on social media the more I get this vibe that he genuinely wants to help make the creative and mixing processes easier and help us expand our knowledge and skills. I get that it's smart business, but I respect and appreciate the hell out of him for taking time to do these classes and answer our questions... Even if there are shameless plugs here and there. I love when these great engineers take time to show us you don't need school, you don't need thousands of dollars of outboard gear, etc. It's your ear, not your gear. We live in an amazing day and age with the Internet and awesome resources like CreativeLive. I love it and these are great classes to watch and get in their heads. It set gets the hamster wheel in my head spinning and I always keep CreativeLive classes on my calendar. They're motivating and inspiring. Looking forward to the next one!


I’ll start off by saying this a amazing class not just for those looking for or interested in “The Sturg” production, but for anyone interested in mixing or mastering. You get everything from the must have fundamentals and basics of mixing and production, to the more advance technical aspects, and of course Joey’s personal approach and method to mixing. Everything from EQ, to compressors, multiband compressors, automation and chain signals. If you ever wondered whether you should place delay in front of your reverb, or reverb in front of delay, or other common chain effects, chances are they get answered in this class. The class is organized in several lessons following a logical order, each covering different topics. All the techniques are shown with examples and Joey does a great job of making it easy to understand and follow as well as explain the reasoning behind the techniques. And it’s not just mixing or production that is covered, but the importance of good songwriting, good communication with artists and good workflow. I highly recommend this for anyone looking to take their mixing or production to the next level. Regardless of skillset, if you’re a noob, intermediate or advanced mixer or producer, you’ll find very helpful and informative lessons, regardless of what style or genre you do.

a Creativelive Student

I own both of Joey`s courses. While both are full of useful information to get you started in the audio production world with lots of good technical explanation and awesome concepts for a fast and individual workflow, Joey actually comes up with average or "mediocre" mixes and tones. If you want some really detailed information about how Joey works, this class is for you. If you want to know what plugins Joey likes to use and wanna see him promote his own plugins, this class is for you! If you expect to learn how to create or come up with outstanding guitar and bass tones (which Joey is famous for) you won`t learn much and won`t hear anything in this particular regard, unfortunately. However, I`d still recomment them, especially the first course he did but again, if you expect to hear a typical Joey Sturgis mix quality, you won`t find what you`re looking for.