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I know this is an old topic, but I want to post what I do and give my $1. And when I say compressor, I mean a dedicated compressor, not a limiter. Also, this is again, just how I would do things. I'm

I think one of the main issues I see from newbs is too much of a good thing. That first time you use a phaser, you're going to think its the most awesome thing in the world - PUT PHASER ON EVERYTHING.

By phasing issues, I'm referring to how phase cancellation happens more audibly when you are mixing in mono. If you take two identical sine waves and overlay them spot on (in phase), they will turn ou

To elaborate on my above post, the reason the multiband compressor worked in my particular case was that I wanted the frequencies in question to be present fairly consistently, but sometimes they weren't present enough and sometimes they were too present. Regular EQ couldn't fix this because the problem was the level of the frequencies relative to themselves over time and not the level of the frequencies relative to the other frequencies. Regular compression also wouldn't work because it would mess with frequencies that weren't problematic.

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FWIW, I'm fairly certain the waves multiband is one of the most (over)used fx in pop productions... especially in stuff like kesha and company, where the unnatural sound it brings is wanted.

Does wonders on drums too, especially if you only have overheads to work with...

Basically, treat it like a ridiculously overpowered dynamic eq, and sometimes it does wonders.

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K no... if you are mixing in surround, you're going to lose a LOT if you listen in stereo. Do you not get this?

well, it does make sense.

but how come---say for instance, one of the popular mixes on OCR where it's obvious that the panning and the surround mixing is all over the place (in a good way)---when I listen to other people's music I don't hear a radical change? I'm saying that when I mix surround my minivan sound system sounds holy, my boombox sounds weak (even with the so-called "bass-boost"), my headphones sound glorious, but on sites like Youtube it sounds like things I find before flushing the toilet? Youtube has bad quality in general, but I'm asking what could I possibly be doing wrong that makes my mixes sound so different in varying sound systems?

If it's a music track, in a digital form like MP3/FLAC, then you can bet 99% that it'll be listened to on a computer or on an iPod. Yeah, maybe someone will listen to your song on their home theatre system but I bet that is the absolute minority.

.

yeah... I've lived that story several times at live shows and I don't even have know anybody personally that cares much for Home sound systems nowadays. It's usually all about headphones or vehicle sub-woofers (at least, where I live).

My biggest problem is that people often over use effects. ALL of them. For too many people the immediately think that slapping on some sort of effect on a track will just fix whatever issue they're running into. Whether you're using a soft synth on a track or are recording a live instrument, you need to get that to the point where it's the best it can be before you start messing with effects. That goes for using EQ and compression as well.

I just slapped a multiband compressor on my clarinet and fixed its overpowering muddiness in the sub-400hz range. True story.

as I trumpet player, my biggest effects turn-off is when people use the Chris Botti-amount of reverb/delay on Trumpet sounds.... FOR THE WHOLE SONG.

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another question. I know I've been asking a bunch of questions, but this is the mistake thread and I feel like I'm making a lot of mistakes:tomatoface:

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I read somewhere else in the Production forum about complaints with clipping and somebody said something about slapping a gate or limiter to fix that problem.

For several of my mixes (both arrangements and original content) I usually record and sequence my own samples through my turntable and occasionally I scratch with it. I almost ALWAYS get some kind of clipping (especially when scratching) no matter what kind of effect I try to use to manipulate the sound.

Is there a 1-2-3 step technique to fix general clipping?

If not, what is the complicated/experienced/"correct" way to adjust clipping?

What I've been doing is manually going in through my DAW to split at the obvious clip points and fading in. I'm fine with doing it on a free afternoon, but after about 40 clips in just one verse or hook it gets pretty tedious; and I'm pretty sure it's not just my turntable because I get clipping occasionally when recording slap bass or live percussion sounds.

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If not, what is the complicated/experienced/"correct" way to adjust clipping?

In many cases the output of your source is too loud or the gain on your preamp is up too high. I generally try to set things up so that a source is peeking at -10db to -8db and no more. Much of the time, that does the job.

There are cases, though, where this does not work. With certain sources (vocals and bass come to mind), it's just too easy to peek things out even at a moderate setting. That's when I use an external compressor to smooth things out. This is one situation where I find a 100% in the box setup ineffective.

Now, a good compressor can be REALLY expensive but there are plenty of low cost compressors that will do the job. Here's some stuff that I've used or have read up on:

The ART Tube PAC - This is actually a little tube mic preamp with a compressor built in. I've had one of these for like 4 or 5 years now and it does a pretty good job considering the price.

ART Tube MP Studio - I have an older version of this and it works out pretty well. While the tube part of the amp is kind of gimmicky, the preamp itself does sound fairly good. It has a built in compressor/limiter that can cover peeking problems.

Alesis 3630 - I have a really old one that's been modded but it's a decent all around two channel compressor.

Alesis Nanocompressor - They don't make these anymore and it's not as good as the 3630 but you can pick one up for REAL cheap off Ebay. I've had one for like 10 years and I still use it from time to time.

The above items won't break the bank and they'll do the job. Don't expect them to work magic, though, or compare them to the more expensive stuff. If you can afford to spend some money, here's some more moderately priced gear.

FMR RNC - I've read nothing but great things about the FMR stuff.

ART Pro Channel Microphone Preamp and Compressor - I've read a lot on these and they're pretty solid.

DBX Dual Compressor/Limiter/Gate - DBX makes decent stuff for a moderate price.

So, any of the above stuff will get you where you need to go for when you need to control a source signal before it hits your DAW. Again, don't expect magic. Learning to use a compressor is often the most difficult thing for people to grasp right off the bad.

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Instead of relying on plugins, you should understand what clipping is. It's what happens when your stuff is way too loud, and goes past the digital limit of "volume".

Instead of relying on plugins to compress your mistakes down, you should learn how to turn your volume knobs down.

A guideline for you is that the peak volume of your song should never be over 0 Db (or perhaps a little bit over is fine if you really don't notice it).

And I'm not saying don't use compressors on the master, but don't use it to correct clipping. That's what mixing is for.

Also, I'm not referring to the source before it hits your DAW as theshaggyfreak is talking about (you should only use a compressor if turning the volume down makes it too quiet), I'm talking about when you're making music and have clipping in a track.

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Now, a good compressor can be REALLY expensive but there are plenty of low cost compressors that will do the job. Here's some stuff that I've used or have read up on:

ooooohhhh man. My father and I still debate about recording methods because he prefers to use physical hardware (mixing boards, preamps, etc.) and I prefer to use mostly [or completely] digital equipment. I'll do some more research on these because these might be beneficial to my amateur turntabling recording setup! Thank you very much.

Also, I'm not referring to the source before it hits your DAW as theshaggyfreak is talking about (you should only use a compressor if turning the volume down makes it too quiet), I'm talking about when you're making music and have clipping in a track.

thank you VERY much. that made it very clear. it seems like a "duh" thing to everybody else, but [obviously with my earlier posts] I had no idea that compressors could be of anymore use other than adding more meat to percussion and lead vocals.

headed to the lab right now for some experiments.

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I'm into both hardware and software. Each have their place. Out of all the outboard gear that I have owned, I always used preamps and compressors the most. There are just certain things that make life easier if you fix it before it gets into your DAW. I suppose that's also why I own a rather strange assortment of mics.

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  • 4 years later...

I know this is an old topic, but I want to post what I do and give my $1. And when I say compressor, I mean a dedicated compressor, not a limiter. :) Also, this is again, just how I would do things. I'm not suggesting that everyone should do it. But what I do works and I like it (a lot). Warning, this is going to be long!

So, I'm gonna address these topics:
- Compressing on the master
- Mixing "in mono"
- Common mistakes I made back in the day
- Common mixing/arranging mistakes I hear others do

Compressing on the master
It's not something you necessarily need to do every single time. It really depends on what you mean by compression. (1) Do you want to "glue" your track together? That is, do you want to make your soundscape to suddenly sound a little more cohesive, in such a way that the instruments feel like they're "working together"? (2) Do you want to just even out stray loud transients? (3) Do you just want to be loud?

  1. I do this on some of my tracks. I'm not going to say "electronic" tracks, because it's too generic. I'm going to say, specifically, for my case, Electro House, Complextro, Drum & Bass, and any other genre that people generally like to group into the single term "EDM". The reason I do this is just because my instruments end up sounding more "in sync" and cohesive afterwards.

    An issue I do run into sometimes when I do this is if I forget that I have something EQ-boosted and I put a compressor on the master, if the compression is substantial (and this is completely case-by-case), that EQ boost will be a little more emphasized. As a result, I end up going back to the EQ and slightly toning down the gain on the particular EQ band that's sounding overboosted. By the way, this is not a result of me boosting far too much initially; it sounds fine before the compression in examples I'm thinking of right now. What I'm talking about here is what I call slight. Some people might not hear it at all. :razz: It's like me saying, "hey, I think this might be too loud by about 0.8 dB in volume." People would be like, "that's not a lot. Really?" And I would be like, "yeah, really. It's subtle though, I will say that."
     
  2. This I do for non-"EDM" tracks. This is more of a visual thing, really. I just do it so it'll look nicer. What I end up doing is "transparent" compression. All that means is, it doesn't sound like anything happened, but the waveform looks nicer by the end of it. And, generally, if you catch your peaks before they reach the limiter in this way (i.e. before it in the Master track signal chain), going above 0 dB will occur less often (unless your compressor ends up boosting it above 0dB without a limiter, but it depends), and if done correctly, the mix won't sound that different, just look more even.
     
  3. I don't do this to be loud. In fact, I consciously ask myself, "what's the loudest I can stand, again? Lemme check this one track..." And I look at this: https://soundcloud.com/zircon-1/level-bounce
    And if I'm somehow louder than THAT, that's a little insane. That is the loudest but still controlled song I will ever listen to. :-) So, if anyone tells you to use compressors to get louder... I'd say it's risky. Either it works for them because they know what they're doing, or they don't know what they're doing and are giving strange advice. Personally, I would only use compressors after feeling comfortable enough with them. ;-)

Mixing "in mono"
I put this in quotation marks for a reason. When people say "mix in mono to avoid phasing issues", it may have to be explained more. What they intend to say is: "When you mix in mono, you hear more phasing issues more easily than if you mix in stereo."

They are not telling you to mix in mono for the whole entire mixing process. That's just not correct. You cannot make mixing decisions regarding the stereo field while the mix is still in mono. You cannot make panning decisions while still in mono. That's just how it goes. For example, you cannot EQ electric rhythm guitars after they are already hard-panned if you leave them hard-panned for some reason while you EQ. You would have to solo each one while it's hard-panned, and it's disorienting to EQ one guitar while it's hard-panned. What I do here is I DO mix the guitars in centered mono (EQ and reverb only). Then, I actually DO do the hard-panning afterwards, check the reverb, and it works out. I only mix the guitars in mono for 'perfectionist' reasons, but oh well. It still sounds better in the end, at least for me. Gives me a 'cleaner' result.

What they ARE telling you to try is to check your mix in mono sometime, before you say it's done, and see if it still sounds fine. That's all that means. Furthermore, some people don't actually mix after everything arrangement-wise that they do (and by mixing, I mean, including panning and "stereo mixing" or whatever that's supposed to mean in your definitions), but during. In fact, I mix while I arrange. And it works for me (and zircon, if that means anything to ya). That way, I hear the context of the final result before I finish the final result, and I have a much clearer idea of where I want to go than if I waited on the mixing until the very end.

Common mistakes I made back in the day
Hah, more like two years ago. But I digress. Here are some things I don't do anymore today:

  1. Boost beyond what I can hear in changes. If I can't hear what happened, I tone it down until I start hearing a difference, and then I tone it back up until I stop hearing the difference. I hone in on the middle ground. That makes sense, honestly. It's like what you can get your computer to do if you want it to "guess your number"; it tries something, and if it's too high, it goes too low, and repeats until it gets it spot on.
  2. Not high pass instruments at all, anywhere, at any frequency. These days, I high pass if there are stray frequencies I can't hear but that I can SEE in FL's parametric equalizer, like sub bass artifacts in a sound that isn't intended to give sub bass frequencies at the particular octave. Maybe I'm using a comb filter to make a glassy "bowed bottle" type of sound. That may have odd subs that I don't want. Or, maybe I have a lead sound I don't want to use for notes below a certain pitch. Then I just low-shelf the EQ down so that most EQ below 200 Hz or so is toned down. I don't want them gone, but just much less noticeably problematic in conjunction with pads, basses, etc. The main reason is to save headroom and eliminate inaudible (and hence unnecessary) frequencies.
  3. Use compressors willy-nilly. I used to slap a compressor to catch peaks... on everything (surprisingly I stayed away from multi-band compressors!). You shouldn't do that... unless you don't hear an issue and you trust yourself highly. Anyways, my reason for not doing that "just because" anymore is so that I don't get overcompression in places where I don't expect them and so I don't get lost in what I've already done. When I use compressors, I do so with a purpose: to make my drums or bass more punchy, to even out stray lead-instrument peaks, to "glue" my entire track together, and/or to even out peaks in general.
  4. Scoop too much in the midrange. I was taught that if I wanted my leads to sound clear, I could scoop backing instruments in the midrange, but I used to do that too much. Nowadays I have a clearer and more accurate idea of how much to do it, and it's not necessary to really do that much with the scooping. I think I usually do it at most around 0.8~2.4 dB downwards (I think in ± 0.4 dB). Something like that. But above 4 dB of reduction is a touch excessive sometimes, IMO. Remember to check your context!
  5. Use too much reverb. I used to have either too washy or slightly too washy mixes. Nowadays I realize that it's because headphones have varying reverb responses. My Shure SRH240A? Pretty washy. I still have it though. My Grado SR-60s? Pretty darn nice, though slightly, slightly too washy (literally, probably about "10%", but I'm sort of making that number up, though not entirely). My current headphones? Just right. Juuuuust right. So now I'm quite sure I don't use too much reverb, usually.

Common mixing/arranging "mistakes" I hear others do
Some mistakes I hear other people make so often:

  1. Lack of transitions, or poor transitions. The least you could do is add reverse and regular cymbals. A lack of transitions leaves people having little idea of what to expect to happen in the song.
  2. Overboosted frequencies, mostly bass and upper treble. This takes time to realize though. It's because those people couldn't hear what they wanted to hear as well as they wanted to hear it, so they boost like crazy to hear it "better", when really, it's boosted like crazy. I think at some point, it would help to try to look up the frequency distribution of your headphones and figure out how to read it. Whaddayagonnado.
  3. Compressors on almost everythang. They aren't doing you BIG SERVICE. They're doing you BIG DISSERVICE. :lol: The point is, think about what you want to do before you do it.
  4. Mechanical instruments, especially guitar, piano, bass, and all orchestral instruments. Hopefully it isn't out of laziness, or out of some idea that you just "have" to fix velocities last or mix last or something. I'd like to say it's just because some people aren't used to listening for it. It is a subtle thing to hear, even "late" in your music composition days, relatively speaking. Try listening to real people playing these instruments, and pay close attention to how the instrument notes move.
  5. Too much reverb. Don't go slapping 3-second reverbs on everythang. It ain't doing you BIG SERVICE. :lol: The point is, think about what you want to do before you do it.
  6. Instruments clashing in the low-mids. Kind of inevitable, even if you use the "right" instruments. Think about it: Piano goes everywhere. Guitar has some picking noises in the low-mids. Some pads have some warmth in the low-mids. Thick dubstep wobbles have body in the low-mids. ...Check your low-mids!
  7. Not-cohesive instruments sound-design-wise. This takes time to work with. It's basically, the pickier you are, the more cohesive choices you may make when picking out instruments. :) But you may also take too long to do anything else. It's weird.
  8. Unexpressive lead sounds (bland basic synths, for example). I don't know why people do this. I guess they start out not knowing what it means to have an expressive lead sound, and they don't do it. It was that way for me, at least. Oh well. Learn to use your sounds. Don't just get what you think is good before making your own judgments and learning it yourself. In a nutshell: It's not what you have, it's what you can do with it. Take DDRKirby(ISQ) for instance---he's not one who has this issue! :)
  9. Lack of direction in the arrangement. This is hard to fix. This sometimes has to do with just writing random notes. Oops. It's just something that has to be developed through experience, IMO.
  10. Something is too loud or too quiet. I recommend starting with low settings and raising them until it sounds right. I used to find myself hearing volume increases more easily than volume decreases. Now I hear both about as well.
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Yeah. I don't mean for people to read the whole thing though. Just what they want (which was the point of the outline in the beginning). Part of me just wanted to write it out as my own reference for other things. :)

Edited by timaeus222
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things just got very bloggy, but i appreciate the effort tim lol

i think these 'common mistakes' differ wildly for everyone, and i would even be careful about calling them mistakes. i'd say, preferences shift. you know, maybe you liked to compress the shit out of everything and now you don't. or vice versa, you discovered compression after 2 years of fooling around and are overusing it. it's just part of the journey to overdo things at some point, that's part of getting to know it.

call them necessary mistakes, or something?

Edited by Nase
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Well, in the case of compression, it was honestly a bad-sounding issue for me; I was using a compressor on default settings to catch peaks. And it was Fruity Compressor if that means anything more. Essentially, I was "covering things up" instead of fixing them at the root (volume sliders), and I wasn't really thinking that much about why I was using them. I just wanted to not clip, and as a result, I got major overcompression. :-P

As for the language, I'm just speaking within the language of the topic title :lol:

Edited by timaeus222
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I think one of the main issues I see from newbs is too much of a good thing. That first time you use a phaser, you're going to think its the most awesome thing in the world - PUT PHASER ON EVERYTHING. And then for extra phaser, put it on the master. Because reasons. Yeah, i'd say the most common thing I notice is when people over saturate their mixes with cool effects.

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I think one of the main issues I see from newbs is too much of a good thing. That first time you use a phaser, you're going to think its the most awesome thing in the world - PUT PHASER ON EVERYTHING. And then for extra phaser, put it on the master. Because reasons. Yeah, i'd say the most common thing I notice is when people over saturate their mixes with cool effects.

that's what i mean with "part of the journey". i assure you, 1 out of 1000 times that phaser on everything is gonna sound FUCKING AWESOME. you might get lucky once and it might be worth it.

this is part of what shapes you as a musician. discovering hilarious stuff.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Mixing "in mono"

I put this in quotation marks for a reason. When people say "mix in mono to avoid phasing issues", it may have to be explained more. What they intend to say is: "When you mix in mono, you hear more phasing issues more easily than if you mix in stereo."

 

Can you explain what is meant by "phasing issues"?

Great post by the way.

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On 4/27/2015 at 9:11 AM, fxsnowy said:

Can you explain what is meant by "phasing issues"?

Great post by the way.

By phasing issues, I'm referring to how phase cancellation happens more audibly when you are mixing in mono. If you take two identical sine waves and overlay them spot on (in phase), they will turn out twice as loud due to the "Principle of Superposition". Assuming an x axis at y = 0, as you shift one sine wave to the right, there is a progressively increasing phase shift, and what you get is a progressively increasing phase cancellation between the negative and positive values of each sine wave.

Sinusoidal%20Wave.gif

Figure 1.  Two sine waves overlapping, at a phase shift greater than 0.

This phasing may be considered an issue when certain qualities of your sounds are made less audible because they partially cancel out, and the phasing is more audible when everything is in one channel (mono) than when everything is spread out in two channels (stereo). This phasing sounds like you're pushing down on your sound at potentially irregular moments in time. This may be hard to imagine, but let's say you drew out two identical sine waves on identically-sized pieces of paper (or you could actually do it in real life if that helps). Basically, what you're effectively doing in stereo in real life is taking those pieces of paper and aligning them approximately diagonally, in a sense, and they are approaching your ears at, let's say, 60 degree angles. So, they have less direct phase cancellation and the effects of that are less audible.

This picture below is like a top view, where the blue lines are the horizontal edges of the pieces of paper, or the top of your sine waves.

2-stereo.jpg

Figure 2.  A typical speaker setup in a home listening area.

You might find it easier if you try playing around with this Excel sheet:

https://app.box.com/s/fxbkgaxkodku2nmsk52oj7i5lotyvncc (note that 10^-16 is close enough to 0)

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When you have things playing in stereo, you don't hear issues that can be caused by phasing (which happens when you record from two different microphones), and you don't hear conflict between frequencies of different instruments as well.

 

Necro'd an old reply, 'cuz obviously still very important; you never know when you might have only one speaker to work with while listening (yes, the situation is still relevant: phones only have one built-in speaker). There are many tracks currently on this site that lose quite a bit of information after the phase cancelling. Anyone who's heard the audio the time we accidentally posted the Maverick Rising trailer in mono might have realized this. I started checking things in mono for a different reason - because I can't trust my tinnitus-ized left ear with freqs around 7kHz - but it turned out to be a good common-sense approach to mixing. FL's Stereo Shaper has become very useful for getting some of my sounds (especially pianos) to behave on one channel as well as two.

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That brings to mind a video I saw a while back, where a guy played a commercially produced song (I forget if it was hiphop or rap or something) on his computer and it sounded fine, but the engineer didn't check for phasing issues, and when he played the same song on his iPhone speaker, the vocal 100% cancelled out and was just an instrumental.  :<

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