How to get super loud pop tracks?
lucey
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15th December 2012
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Mixing while thinking about loudness is not the way to reach the musical potential in a mix. Mixing for musicality is the answer, compression will come along naturally when you let go of fear and let the music be your guide.

A good frequency balance (monitoring) plus a balance of transients to compression that suits the style (not to be loud) is all you need.

Loud is easy with a well balanced mix full of life.

Over compressed or badly limited mixes will be loud, but sound small.
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#62
15th December 2012
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I also want that pop music sound with the warm low end with max volume that all of us want in a mix. I'm experimenting a lot with maximizers and each is different in sound and some bring color to the sound. I'm still looking for a limiter and specially a maximizer that can bring the sound, dynamic and low freqs up as the original without distortion. Right now I'm testing the waves L2 vs L3, anybody uses those in a different way? Share your knowledge thanks
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Originally Posted by OwensDrumming View Post
I do. Arti Dixson is my teacher. He's played with Ahmad Jamal, Michael Bolton, Harry Connick, etc.
He's a great drummer indeed, but you don't hold your sticks like him.



Quote:
First, the mix has to be loud....I think that is applying compression/limiting at all stages of recording, mixing, and mastering, not just at the end.
This is what I was saying to avoid earlier. I demonstrated in a thread a few months ago (can't find it now) that this kind of treatment may allow the master to sound A LITTLE hotter from the get go, but requires almost as much treatment in mastering to get it up to common levels. In other words, I get a good, clean mix, I might use 2dB of soft clipping and 3dB of limiting to get a decent level and it sounds great. I get something that had 2-3dB of limiting on individual tracks and it already sounds squashed before I do anything to it... then I have to add maybe 1dB of soft clipping and 2dB of limiting to get it to the same level and it sounds even more squashed.
The mixes that are consistently easiest to get mastered to a hot level are the ones that are mixed purely for the best sound. They can take all sorts of abuse without falling apart because they're so clean.



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Originally Posted by AVSbeats View Post
I also want that pop music sound with the warm low end with max volume that all of us want in a mix. I'm experimenting a lot with maximizers and each is different in sound and some bring color to the sound. I'm still looking for a limiter and specially a maximizer that can bring the sound, dynamic and low freqs up as the original without distortion. Right now I'm testing the waves L2 vs L3, anybody uses those in a different way? Share your knowledge thanks
The L2 is a fine limiter for a little "nudging" but if you want really slammed masters like modern pop music, Elephant is much better. The L3 is useless, absolutely useless. The "warm" low end comes from the mix, not the limiter. "Dynamic" absolutely doesn't come from a limiter. Dynamics come from the source and limiters can only reduce that factor.
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Originally Posted by lucey View Post
Mixing while thinking about loudness is not the way to reach the musical potential in a mix. Mixing for musicality is the answer, compression will come along naturally when you let go of fear and let the music be your guide.
"Fear is the music killer" - to paraphrase Frank Herbert
Audio X
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Originally Posted by lucey View Post
Mixing while thinking about loudness is not the way to reach the musical potential in a mix. Mixing for musicality is the answer, compression will come along naturally when you let go of fear and let the music be your guide.
Now you just have to tell that to the Alge brothers and people that aspire to mix like them.
lucey
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Originally Posted by wado1942 View Post
The mixes that are consistently easiest to get mastered to a hot level are the ones that are mixed purely for the best sound. They can take all sorts of abuse without falling apart because they're so clean.
Bingo

Quote:
Originally Posted by Audio X View Post
Now you just have to tell that to the Alge brothers and people that aspire to mix like them.
Ah the 90s

Seriously ... there are people like Tchad who mix with 4 limiters, but not for loudness, for musicality

Fear is a killer, great quote there too.

Fear like Ambition is an energy best left for other fields
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Originally Posted by Audio X View Post
Now you just have to tell that to the Alge brothers and people that aspire to mix like them.
On pensado's place CLA said he mixes at very low volume a lot more than people think. A loud mix has very little to do with how loud the monitoring is.
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Audio X
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16th December 2012
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Originally Posted by lucey View Post
Ah the 90s
They have mixed a lot of records in the 90's but I was referring to recent 2000's (today) Chris Lord-Alge - Credits : AllMusic

Green Day, Deftones, Paramore, etc. These mixes are built for loud from the get go. samples, compression, in your face sound. It's a mix style built around loud not fear.

Quote:
Originally Posted by lucey View Post
Seriously ... there are people like Tchad who mix with 4 limiters, but not for loudness, for musicality

Whether someone mixes with 20 or no limiters or whatever processor is their perogitive. I'm not going to guess or care about the intention as it doesn't matter. All that matters is the final sound. Does it connect to the listener?

Quote:
Originally Posted by StringBean View Post
On pensado's place CLA said he mixes at very low volume a lot more than people think. A loud mix has very little to do with how loud the monitoring is.
I wasn't refering to monitoring levels.
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16th December 2012
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Originally Posted by Audio X View Post
They have mixed a lot of records in the 90's but I was referring to recent 2000's (today) Chris Lord-Alge - Credits : AllMusic
There it is... It was only a matter of time. OK, he slaps L1s on a lot of the tracks because #1, it changes the tone. He says he uses it more like an EQ than a practical limiter. #2, he mixes off of a 16-bit 48-track recorder with DREADFULLY non-linear converters, so limiters to help get above the nasty crap in the lower levels of the machine. He isn't slamming all the tracks either, it's just to get everything BARELY reaching -1dBFS on the DACs or so. Plus, he mixes on real console and there's no limiting going back into the 48-track where he records the final mix. I'm willing to bet his mixes are still lower level and cleaner than a lot of the stuff people are sending me these days.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wado1942 View Post
He's a great drummer indeed, but you don't hold your sticks like him.





This is what I was saying to avoid earlier. I demonstrated in a thread a few months ago (can't find it now) that this kind of treatment may allow the master to sound A LITTLE hotter from the get go, but requires almost as much treatment in mastering to get it up to common levels. In other words, I get a good, clean mix, I might use 2dB of soft clipping and 3dB of limiting to get a decent level and it sounds great. I get something that had 2-3dB of limiting on individual tracks and it already sounds squashed before I do anything to it... then I have to add maybe 1dB of soft clipping and 2dB of limiting to get it to the same level and it sounds even more squashed.
The mixes that are consistently easiest to get mastered to a hot level are the ones that are mixed purely for the best sound. They can take all sorts of abuse without falling apart because they're so clean.





The L2 is a fine limiter for a little "nudging" but if you want really slammed masters like modern pop music, Elephant is much better. The L3 is useless, absolutely useless. The "warm" low end comes from the mix, not the limiter. "Dynamic" absolutely doesn't come from a limiter. Dynamics come from the source and limiters can only reduce that factor.
Thanks for the tip! I agree with you and on my way to try the elephant :D
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16th December 2012
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I have found - somewhat ironically - that my hottest masters used very little compression. Too much compression flattens the sound and kills the intensity - the opposite of "loud".

Run a punchy, transient-rich mix run through a peak limiter - with the right EQ - and pow, it's a loud master that sounds GREAT!

Done.
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Here's a direct quote from Chris Lord-Alge. "You also keep your dynamics so they won't fold under the radio compression. What will anger me is when someone tries to make my final mix 9dB louder by L1-ing it to the wall, and flattens out my impact, just to make the CD louder."

He too is against the loudness war and mixes purely for the best sound.
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lucey
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Audio X View Post
They have mixed a lot of records in the 90's but I was referring to recent 2000's (today) Chris Lord-Alge - Credits : AllMusic

Green Day, Deftones, Paramore, etc. These mixes are built for loud from the get go. samples, compression, in your face sound. It's a mix style built around loud not fear.
"The 90s" was a joke, of sorts, its now a style.

They don't count, those questioning here don't know what they're doing in comparison ... when you know what you're doing you make good mixes by any means necessary. When you're looking for tips on loud masters that don't suck, frequency balance and compression to transient balance that "suits the style" is all you need to know. That's hard enough. Most people's monitoring is lacking to even do that. Nevermind the Jedi moves.
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17th December 2012
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I've had some great success using the 'exaggerate and tweak' technique from which I learnt how to properly set compressors.

Basically, take your mastering limiter and drive it way further than it ever should be driven...and find out precisely which elements are causing the distortion.

I use Slate FG-X limiter and purposely drive the mix to -5dB RMS. Usually the kick sounds like a sloppy farty mess (as it should) at this RMS, however the point is to tweak and see what cleans up your mix at this exaggerated loudness, because small changes have big impact when you have such little headroom. Does limiting the kick clean it up a bit? How about hi-passing? Try Waves RBass to take out the fundamental octave and reproduce bass through harmonics...does that help? Snare is probably squelchy...try eqing out the frequencies that are causing artifacts in the limiter...just sweep around!

Once you've identified the 'problems' at the super ridiculous loud level, back your fixes off in unison with backing off the limiter gain. There's a balance there somewhere between super loudness and compromises!

Good luck, I just did this with a mix an hour ago and it sits nicely between -6.3 and -7.1dB (which is Stupid-LOUD) while sacrificing as little bass and punch as possible! The more you practice at exaggerated settings, the more intuition you gain for how to craft a loud mix from the start!
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And when you're done with all of that, compare the mix before and after at equal perceived loudness to see if those compromises are worth the level increase. Encode both versions to MP3 at 128 and 64kbps and compare again to hear what many end listeners will hear.
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I'm a classical pianist by trade and so my appreciation for things like dynamics, feel, and tone cannot be overstated.

With that said, Skrillex is smashed to -5.8dB RMS, low-passed at 12kHz to minimize harshness, multi-band limited, and excited between 2-7kHz. And his quadrillion fans love it.

My point being -- yes, when you're done with all of that of course you should consider the damage you've done to your tracks in pursuit of loudness. But you should also consider that there's a gigantic market of iPod-headphone-loving, laptop-speaker-melting kids who want their heads torn off by their music -- so if you choose to deliver to that market, do what you have to do. I'm sure the inventor of hair scissors would be horrified by the idea of those wild "texture-layering scissors" that cut angular, horrible lines into your hair. But it's fashionable...if someone wants that haircut, you'd better deliver.

Just my 2 cents, anyways.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ferro4prez View Post
I've had some great success using the 'exaggerate and tweak' technique from which I learnt how to properly set compressors.

Basically, take your mastering limiter and drive it way further than it ever should be driven...and find out precisely which elements are causing the distortion.

I use Slate FG-X limiter and purposely drive the mix to -5dB RMS. Usually the kick sounds like a sloppy farty mess (as it should) at this RMS, however the point is to tweak and see what cleans up your mix at this exaggerated loudness, because small changes have big impact when you have such little headroom. Does limiting the kick clean it up a bit? How about hi-passing? Try Waves RBass to take out the fundamental octave and reproduce bass through harmonics...does that help? Snare is probably squelchy...try eqing out the frequencies that are causing artifacts in the limiter...just sweep around!

Once you've identified the 'problems' at the super ridiculous loud level, back your fixes off in unison with backing off the limiter gain. There's a balance there somewhere between super loudness and compromises!

Good luck, I just did this with a mix an hour ago and it sits nicely between -6.3 and -7.1dB (which is Stupid-LOUD) while sacrificing as little bass and punch as possible! The more you practice at exaggerated settings, the more intuition you gain for how to craft a loud mix from the start!
Interesting suggestion!
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18th December 2012
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Yeah, I've found the exaggerate and tweak to be of use as well. Every now and then I get a song that just doesn't feel right unless it is crushed. "Mixing in to the shit storm" definitely gives me the best result.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ferro4prez View Post
But you should also consider that there's a gigantic market of iPod-headphone-loving, laptop-speaker-melting kids who want their heads torn off by their music -- so if you choose to deliver to that market, do what you have to do. I'm sure the inventor of hair scissors would be horrified by the idea of those wild "texture-layering scissors" that cut angular, horrible lines into your hair. But it's fashionable...if someone wants that haircut, you'd better deliver.

Just my 2 cents, anyways.
Well, as long as they leave alone what's already been done - the classics from the '90s and earlier.

And I have no problem hearing 'unremastered" originals through my iPod & buds(the buds are aftermarket Philips anyhow).

People today are deafer than they were years ago.
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Mastering in relationship vs squashed.
Attached Thumbnails
How to get super loud pop tracks?-mastering-practices-correct.jpg   How to get super loud pop tracks?-mastering-practices-current.jpg  
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i used some multi-band-parallel limiting the other day and it sounded great...
(as in "holy shit this is loud!)
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Originally Posted by The_K_Man View Post
Mastering in relationship vs squashed.
Those charts make it look like there is no place at all for distorted pancakes. I'd argue that there certainly are songs that want the aesthetics of sausage...So you can't really break it up into right and wrong like you did there.

What sounds like ass on a Metallica recording might be just what is needed in an MGMT recording.

Mmmmm... pancakes and sausage. Now I want another breakfast.
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Originally Posted by Cheebs Goat View Post
Those charts make it look like there is no place at all for distorted pancakes. I'd argue that there certainly are songs that want the aesthetics of sausage...So you can't really break it up into right and wrong like you did there.

What sounds like ass on a Metallica recording might be just what is needed in an MGMT recording.

Mmmmm... pancakes and sausage. Now I want another breakfast.
Well... It's wrong when it becomes accepted/majority practice, and it's even more wrong when stuff that was produced as on the first slide is remade to sound like what is represented on the second slide.

I do agree on context, but it seems like everything from Metallica on back to Linda Ronstadt is being made that way - and that's where I draw the line.
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Originally Posted by The_K_Man View Post
Well... It's wrong when it becomes accepted/majority practice, and it's even more wrong when stuff that was produced as on the first slide is remade to sound like what is represented on the second slide.

I do agree on context, but it seems like everything from Metallica on back to Linda Ronstadt is being made that way - and that's where I draw the line.
Zzzzzzz - seriously K-man, you're volume crusade is boring at this point. You almost come off like a Priest with a Decibel Meter. I do mean this in all good fun, and you're certainly allowed to have your opinions, but i don't remember anyone making you the arbiter of what sounds good, or what good practice is. You do come off a bit evangelical.

I do agree that volume for the sake of volume is not the way to approach things, but sometimes big volume and or pushed to the max gives an attitude or puts a certain vibe into a finished record, hence the term mojo.

But, i also think it's good to practice with certain process, even just for the sake of getting peel the skin off your face volume without killing someone. Seeing how far you can push something to nearly the point of destruction, in different ways can tell you things about the tools one has, and how far they can be pushed. Because in the end, all you have to do, is back it off.
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Originally Posted by engmix View Post
Zzzzzzz - seriously K-man, you're volume crusade is boring at this point. You almost come off like a Priest with a Decibel Meter. I do mean this in all good fun, and you're certainly allowed to have your opinions, but i don't remember anyone making you the arbiter of what sounds good, or what good practice is. You do come off a bit evangelical.

I do agree that volume for the sake of volume is not the way to approach things, but sometimes big volume and or pushed to the max gives an attitude or puts a certain vibe into a finished record, hence the term mojo.

But, i also think it's good to practice with certain process, even just for the sake of getting peel the skin off your face volume without killing someone. Seeing how far you can push something to nearly the point of destruction, in different ways can tell you things about the tools one has, and how far they can be pushed. Because in the end, all you have to do, is back it off.
The point I was trying to make is when all of the busses in my example were in the same volume/dynamic range is how they sounded - not an issue of loudness but context. Mixed together like that they blend in a way that does not occur naturally.

That was my point, not the volume level.
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I keep hearing about these supposed masters that have to be Aunt Jemima flattened, ear-bleeding messes in order to sound good but I have yet to actually hear one. Maybe they're out there somewhere, but they are by all means NOT the majority. BTW, the original demo of MGMT's "Time to Pretend" done in their home studio sounds way better than the official release and there's about a 5dB difference in nominal level between them.
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Originally Posted by wado1942 View Post
I keep hearing about these supposed masters that have to be Aunt Jemima flattened, ear-bleeding messes in order to sound good but I have yet to actually hear one. Maybe they're out there somewhere, but they are by all means NOT the majority. BTW, the original demo of MGMT's "Time to Pretend" done in their home studio sounds way better than the official release and there's about a 5dB difference in nominal level between them.
Outasight... Outasight - Tonight Is The Night [Official Music Video] - YouTube DR5. Guess you aren't out in the mainstream like I am, trying to preach common sense.

And above, you said you can't find an "Aunt Jemima" mix and then you go on in that same paragraph how the home studio of MGMT sounds way better than the official release. Oops! There's your pancake.
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Originally Posted by The_K_Man View Post
Outasight... Outasight - Tonight Is The Night [Official Music Video] - YouTube DR5. Guess you aren't out in the mainstream like I am, trying to preach common sense.

And above, you said you can't find an "Aunt Jemima" mix and then you go on in that same paragraph how the home studio of MGMT sounds way better than the official release. Oops! There's your pancake.
This is what i'm talking about K-man, evangelical.

And when you show diagrams of dynamic range in audio, you are basically talking about volume..it's just semantics.

And listen, i don't mean to be calling you out on this, but how about providing some cool insights on how to make a super hot pop mix, like the op asked, instead of waving the ruler.
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18th December 2012
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Who's up for a little friendly Mastering Throw-down. I'll try and provide a minute of a track, a quick but decent mix, and see how far it can get pushed without total destruction. Then we can reveal our process (gear, converters, plugins) and see what the results are... And if someone feels that keeping their Master at -18 RMS verses someone at -8 then cool, we can debate the impact of the results.

Who's in? I personally won't post a track unless there's at least 10 engineers out there willing to dive in.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The_K_Man View Post
you said you can't find an "Aunt Jemima" mix and then you go on in that same paragraph how the home studio of MGMT sounds way better than the official release. Oops! There's your pancake.
I said I can't think of a song that only sounds great as a crushed master. MGMT's demo is about -10dBfs RMS, whereas the "studio" release is about 5dB hotter and sounds horrid, though it's largely the same production style.
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