Gain Staging and Trim
Welcome to Day 14 of My Creative Live Metal Recording Boot Camp. I am Eyal Levi, and this is Creative Live. I said it's Day 14, right? That means that there's been 13 days before this, so if you haven't seen them, it means you haven't bought this and I highly recommend you do, because what we're gonna talk about today has a little bit, or a lot to do, with everything that led to this point. We're gonna be talking about gain staging and balancing the initial stages of a mix, which, yesterday I routed and did all of that stuff to. So, I highly recommend that if you're just showing up for the first time, that you go back in time and buy the class, start at the beginning, and make your way up here so that it all makes sense. Those of you who are returning, welcome. Let's dive into this. If you guys remember, I know it seems like a year ago, but time flies now that we're getting older. I've got everything routed. Just a quick recap. Got my master section up here, and then all these auxes th...
at I'm trying to reduce the mix down to so I can hopefully do a lot of the mixing right here. All the different instruments and instrument groups eventually send to these auxes. I've also got them set up to print stems on their own. I've just got different color coding for different types of tracks. I got Drum Forge working. Their contact wasn't being friendly, but I got it going. I have set up an instance right here on the kick. It's gonna spin. Yeah, an instance on the kick but it's turned down all the way, FYI. Only gonna use it if I need it. I've got one on the kick, on the snare, and the toms. But again, I only loaded those so I wouldn't have to mess around loading things on your time. But I have those loaded to go, and let's get going. These settings right here are from the tracking session. I may ditch them, I may keep them, I don't really know yet. We shall see. With the way that everything is right now, I'm going to be controlling levels coming in up here, with the trims so that I don't end up clipping the plugins after this point. I'm gonna apply that same idea when I get to the individual buses and their instruments. So basically, it goes master chain, down to these auxes. These auxes all combine on the master chain. All these auxes are a combination of the individual instrument groups which have their own sub auxes, like vocal effects, vocal screams, and so on so forth. So at every step of the way, I'm gonna make sure that the audio that's feeding into the next part is not overloading or clipping. Simple, right? I thought so. Okay, cool. One thing that might be a good idea, would be to give myself more room here, and then give myself a little bit more room here. Let's see if I have any sends. So I'll fill that up once get rid of the first thing of sends. We've got a Virtual Mix Buss on the mix master. I'm going to mess with this later, but for now I am going to set it up to where these auxes are all working with it. If anyone here is familiar with the Steven Slate, he made a great product there with the Virtual Mix Buss. The reason I'm using this is because we did record this in an analog situation, well a hybrid really. I wanna keep as much of that intact as possible. I guess that even though this is an emulation of the way that a console does its summing, it does it pretty well for what it is. Let's get that going. The virtual channel is set to one. Rather than go and put one of these on every single track, I'm gonna at least just put these at the end of the chain on the auxes. Let's copy those settings. Come on. Okay. I'm gonna hit play and it's gonna sound real crazy. I'm gonna mute things that don't need to be there, for now. And use the Trim plugin to turn down things that don't need to be loud. (metal music plays) Not bad, all righty. (metal music plays) Now mind you, I'm not familiar with this room, so I have no idea what's even going on with the low end. I'm gonna try my hardest to do a great job for you guys. Let's get started looking at some drums and what levels we've got. (drum tracks play) So far I don't see anything peaking anywhere. (drum tracks play) What I'm looking for is that. Let's see something. Maybe it just won't light up. (drum tracks play) Oh okay, cool. Now I know it just won't light up. (drum tracks play) All right, cool. (drum tracks play) This one's coming in hot on the snare bus. I'm going to add trim. Bring it down minus six. That also gives me some headroom to add processing. Which I definitely will. I added it to the parallel bus as well. (drum tracks play) Yeah. (drum tracks play) All right, I'm gonna scan these plugins and see what's going on here. (drum tracks play) That could be turned down a little. Try minus three. (drum tracks play) We don't need this tuner anymore. This tuner was on because we were using it while we were getting tone, to help tune to actual pitch. (drum tracks play) Okay, that's cleared up. Try the same thing here. I copy and pasted that trim that was minus 3.3. Let's just see if that keeps the plugins from peaking out. (drum tracks play) Now again, if I was starting from total scratch, like if you had sent me this, and I was working on your tracks, well then clearly I would be doing this as I set up. But like I said, because this is coming in from a tracking session, where we like what we got, I'm just doing this to what's already included. I'm gonna try to get what it came in with properly balanced and gain staged, so I can then make decisions on if I want to keep any of it, replace any of it, or what. Or see what to do. But we can't have it clipping all over the place. (drum tracks play) This one was clipping at minus six. So is that. I put it to minus 10, and that should solve it. (drum tracks play) Okay, keep going. We don't need this anymore. Snare top. Probably gonna want a trim on there as well. Let's start with minus six. (drum tracks play) All right, since I had to do that to the snare top, and I notice that these other two snare EQs, and other microphones were also peaking out like that. I'm just gonna go ahead and add this minus six trim on all of them. Not necessarily to the samples though. Reset this. Oh god, come on. (drum tracks play) Oh, it looks like minus six is not enough. All right, gonna go with the minus 10 option across all those snares. (drum tracks play) Let's go with minus 12. (drum tracks play) Okay, cool. Just getting rid of a mountain of plugins. And that gives me a lot more headroom, actually, with which to process if needed. If I find that I need to turn it back up, I will. All right, this tuner does not need to be here on the toms. Okay. Looks like ... need to do some of this on the toms as well. Start with ... minus 10. I just put it across all the toms. May as well put that across all the snares, too, so we don't get any weird imbalances between the tracks. (drum tracks play) Even my Valhalla Vintage Verb needs it. Where is it? (drum tracks play) All right, it looks as though I'm gonna just bring down the kick some more. Just do the 10. Because clearly what I did was not enough. I was trying to play it safe, but it didn't work and why not have them all be brought down a similar amount. Come on. Get these outta here. So many plugins. This must be a new feature or a preference that they all just stay up there. (drum tracks play) Okay, don't worry, stuff will get loud again one day. (drum tracks play) All right, let me see what's going on with these cymbals. Yep. Yep. Yep. All right. Just gonna do it. (drum tracks play) Yeah and now my rooms are excessively loud. Let's see, these two. Yep. So basically everything. Okay. (drum tracks play) So I'm going to put trims across the tops of these buses. Set them to zero. But who knows, might need to use them. Whups. Okay. Cool. Now let's see something. I'm curious. (drum tracks play) All right. That kick is just destroying. Pull it on there as well. (drum tracks play) Okay, I'm gonna have to add some level back in. I'll get to that. (drum tracks play) All right, I felt like the .. with getting the snare gain staged all right, and even that I need to bring it further down and try 13. Even that wasn't enough. We shall see. Anyways, I put DF-Clip, which is a really, really sick multi bank clipper that Drum Forge just put out on there to bring the snare back up. And if you notice I've got the fader at zero, because this is the snare bus. I want to leave it at zero. And I'm trimming it in, so that I hit DF-Clip without a clipped signal. (drum tracks play) Anyways, if you hadn't noticed, I am starting to mix a little bit. This is about broad strokes. I like to take care of big things and then little things. Right now we're doing individual gain stagings. I had to bring lots of stuff way down so now I'm gaining some things back up a little bit, like the snare. I wanted to gain it back up with a clipper, though. We're gonna move to buses and some of the master bus settings in a bit, but I'm just getting things rebalanced real quick, and maybe sounding a little cooler at the same time. (drum tracks play) I like that because it brings out the ring in the snare nicely. And it sticks out in front again. It might be a little loud, but it's fulfilled its purpose which was to bring the snare back out in front after gain staging it. (drum tracks play) Let's see what else we got going on. I'm starting to think that minus 10 is not enough. Yeah, definitely. Gonna go to minus 12, I mean minus 16. Try to be conservative, and this is how I get repaid. Okay. Got it. (drum tracks play) By the way, this is completely normal. Some people just automatically set everything to hit plugins at minus 16 or minus 18. Just depends. Just know that this is pretty normal stuff. And again, the great thing about it is this is going to leave me a ton of headroom to play with. So I'm just adding it to all these channels. Yay. This is the ... the really glamorous part of mixing. Let's try ... We'll see if it needs to actually be that extreme on the buses. Might not, but either way. This is what you do. (drum tracks play) Changed my mind on the buses. (drum tracks play) All right. I know that's quiet. (drum tracks play) Okay. Getting somewhere. All right. Let me see something. (drum tracks play) So that's the kick inside mic. That's the outside, which I turned down. (drum tracks play) And a sample that I like. (drum tracks play) I'm gonna clip these as well together. See what happens. (drum tracks play) Cool. I really like this plugin, by the way. (drum tracks play) It's a little clicky, a little death metally. I'm gonna try to solve it here, but I'm gonna need to take care of that. (drum tracks play) It's with no rooms. The kick is blaring loud. (drum tracks play) All right, it's starting to look better here. Still think that that kick is obliterating. You notice I'm not trying to change a crazy amount of stuff. I'm trying to work with what I've got and rebalance it, now that I've turned it down a lot. Had to make it loud again, but I'm trying to not get too crazy yet. (drum tracks play) Okay. So you guys understand what I'm doing, I'm just kinda getting stuff balanced out. And then I keep checking back here to see if we're messing this bus up at all. (drum tracks play) Looks pretty good. (drum tracks play) All right. I'm going to now just check that the same is going on with some of the other instruments, just so that when I start working with them it's not blaring crazy. (music blares) Like such. (metal guitar plays) Okay. Let's see where is my guitar bus? (metal guitar plays) The very, very end, I'm going to ... I'm gonna put a trim so that it doesn't click the aux over there. (metal guitar plays) (drum tracks play) (metal guitar and drum tracks play) Okay. And that's not with doing any internal mixing on the guitar. So we've got things that are much too loud being much too loud. I'm going to figure that a similar adjustment is gonna need to happen on the other instrument buses. (metal music) The beautiful thing is that since I'm making a brand new type of template right now, once this is set up, it's pretty lock and load. (metal music) Okay. Must have missed that one. (metal music) I realize that it's very, very quiet. It won't stay quiet for long, promise. (metal music) All right, make sure that the vocals are not killing. (metal music) Okay. (metal music) Wrong tracks. (metal music) I know it sounds like a mess, but just trying to get it a little bit more balanced now that I've got everything brought way down. (metal music) All right, I'm almost at the point where I can start making this sound cool. (metal music) Cool. (metal music) Basically what I'm doing right now is I've been making sure that all the levels coming into these buses are quiet enough, and also quiet enough on the buses themselves, that it gives me a lot of headroom to add processing without clipping out. And it'll sound way, way better that way. So it's starting to take a little bit of shape, but now I actually would need to start mixing it. The first thing I'm doing though, I'm just gonna just try to get the balances a little bit better. And I'm going to try to get them on these right here. (metal music) All right, starting to actually need to mix. As you can hear, once other elements start to get in there, there's so much going on that it turns into a mess. But at least I've got level to play with. (metal music) Starting to get a little more balance there. Overheads are kinda destructive. Listen to how much difference the rooms make right now. And I'm gonna cut these up. (metal music) Interesting. Thought it would make more of a difference. It might be too quiet. (metal music) Okay so that's a good section right there. No guitar going, so you can kind of hear that he's playing drums in a room. Snare and kick are prominent but you can still hear the room. Things don't sound long enough because I haven't done the right kind of processing to it yet. But it's starting to sound like a drum set. Starting to get there. (metal music) Yeah I don't wanna do that. It's totally not ready to be loud yet. It'll just sound like garbage at this point. (metal music) Okay, so the next thing I'm gonna do is I'm gonna go through and start carving bad frequencies and things like that. Just getting rid of stuff that bothers me. Because when you make a mix loud, if you don't have those things taken care of they will overtake the mix. One of the secrets to getting a loud master, is to have your EQ right. So before I can turn this up, I need to get rid of some of the grossness and then little by little we'll make this louder. Then after I make it louder, I'll go over the master bus, we'll tweak that, and then get seriously into mixing the song. So as you can see, it goes in stages for me. From making sure all the routings are right, all the tracks are right, to bringing the levels down so that there's plenty of headroom for processing. Then balancing a little bit more so that it sounds like instruments. And then start doing corrective stuff, as well as start cutting microphones that I don't like. Like if I don't like that outside kick mic, now's gonna be the time when I get rid of it. For instance, if I decide that I hate one of the bass mics, or whatever, or that I love something, now is gonna be the time. Also, I'm sure you guys remember from the tracking session that there's this 300-400 buildup in the live room that we tracked in that got into everything. So that's already been removed from a lot of it. But I need to double check and just start doing some corrective stuff so that this stops hurting as much. All right. With that, I guess we will call it a wrap.