Your volume ramp up technique!
Lackatee
Thread Starter
#1
21st July 2011
Old 21st July 2011
  #1
Gear addict
 

Thread Starter
Your volume ramp up technique!

Hi Eric,

Thanks for doing this Q&A - I asked Jules about 5 months ago if he could make this happen. So it looks like you guys made it happen!

On to the AUDIO!

One thing that's always fascinated me about your mixes, is the way the volume keeps ramping up throughout the sections. It's actually become a signature sound of yours from my perspective. There's not a lot of people that do it the way you do it. In fact, I can't think of anyone that does it like you do it. "I wanna" is a great example of the volume ramp up thing you do so well. "All Star" is also another great example of this.

In a song like All star - It really sounds like the song starts off at a fairly low volume so that you have the headroom to keep ramping things up as it shifts through the arrangement until you get to the chorus, where it's balls out.

Is this something you set out to actually do on a regular basis, or is this more of a bi-product of how you layer parts/ideas and your stylistic way of producing/mixing? I gotta know! I've been wondering this for a looooong time! Care to elaborate on how you achieve this with the consistency you do? All the juicy details are very much welcome!

And just to touch on your signature "sound" a bit more... I thought you might get a kick out of this little story. When I first heard "Gives you Hell" I was in my truck driving somewhere but there was something VERY familiar about it... Kinda like a "I've heard this sound before somewhere.." And I just thought to myself... "This sounds like something Eric Valentine would do.." When I got home I looked it up on google, you can guess who's name I saw. That was awesome!

For me, I think it has a lot to do with unique guitar sounds you achieve and some of the retro Sci-fi SFX all over your work. Even if its a new sound I've never heard, its still has your "sound" - That's pretty impressive man.

Keep up the good work man! You are an inspiration! I have a ton of questions for you.. but I need to gather my thoughts and break them up into separate threads.
#2
22nd July 2011
Old 22nd July 2011
  #2
Gear maniac
 
IonicBreed's Avatar
 

Agreed. Your understanding of dynamics and the role they play on emotion is by far one my favorite attributes you place in all your tracks.

Keep making music, I'll keep buying your records because I love them.

Aaron
#3
23rd July 2011
Old 23rd July 2011
  #3
I've noticed this as well, especially on All American Rejects "Hope It Gives You Hell". Each section just gets progressively bigger and more hifi. Love to hear Eric's answer on this topic.

And thanks for doing this. Your work has been a huge inspiration to me.
#4
23rd July 2011
Old 23rd July 2011
  #4
Gear maniac
 
ev33's Avatar
I definitely seem to have a very emotional reaction to sound and dynamics. There were a few songs that really revealed this emotional effect for me. I think a great example was "Pour Some Suger On Me" by Def Leppard. The Hysteria record came out not long before I first got a pair of Urei 813C monitors. I had always been blown away by the sound of that song, but when I finally cranked it up on the Ureis it was overwhelming. That first down beat when the band comes in after the vocal intro was so powerful and satisfying. I had just never heard low end like that before. I could literally feel a rush of adrenaline when I cranked that song up in my control room. When I started to try and figure what it was it finally struck me that it really was just the sound. I have absolutely zero connection to the lyrics in that song. I have listened to that song easily hundreds if not thousands of times over the 24 years since its release and I couldn't remember even 10% of those lyrics. I know that there is a somewhat hilarious and awkward use of the word "saccharine" in there somewhere. Yet I love listening to that song. I just put it on recently when I was making an adjustment to my control room monitoring and it is still very exciting for me. I think when I am mixing I am chasing that sensation. I am always trying to accentuate those moments that have a sonic pay off and cause one of those adrenaline rushes I get when listening loud on the Ureis.

There are a lot of records that are great at delivering emotional sonics. Here are a few that are maybe not as well known. Peter Gabriel's "Passion of The Christ" sound track. Holy shit!!! Not a lyric on it and for me it one of the most powerful, emotional listening experiences of all time. Incredible low end and incredible dynamics. The other one is Scritti Politti "Cupid & Psyche 85". The singers voice is a bit cartoonish on this record but I don't even hear the voice when I listen to it. This record was very influential for me. It is one of the ultimate ear candy productions of all time. The dynamics and transitions from section to section are amazing. A good modern example is T-Bone Burnett's solo record "The True False Identity". In my opinion, the best sounding record of the of the last decade for sure. Amazing low end, and seemingly all with organic instruments. It is really fun to turn that album up loud in the control room.

Transitions and down beats are a big deal for me. It is important to me for them to feel a certain way. The most important part of it is how the kick drum and the bass guitar interact on that first hit of a chorus or verse or whatever. When tracking directly to tape I used to make the bass player repeatedly punch the 1st down beat of sections until I had one where the phasing lined up right. With certain kick drum sounds there is almost a 50/50 chance of the low end either being additive or subtractive when it plays at the same time as the bass. There is nothing worse than having the low end cancel out right on the down beat of a chorus. If I screwed up and missed one while tracking, I used to have to mult the final bass track to an additional phase reversed channel on the console and automate it to switch for that spot to fix it. Now I can just flip it or nudge it in Pro Tools to fix those issues. I don't have to torture bass players quite as much while tracking either

While figuring out arrangements I am always looking for opportunities to create emotional sonic transitions. The are 3 main variables I play with for making it happen: Volume, spread and spectrum:

"Volume" is pretty self evident although it can get lost when there is a lot of compression at play. One of the last steps of mixing for me is restoring some of the natural dynamics and volume increases that would normally accompany changes in a performance. I do like to compress the drums quite a lot because it holds things in place and keeps them in focus. That becomes a problem for moments in the performance when the drummer is accenting something… ala downbeats of sections. I always do a round of "pushes" as one of the last steps of the mixing process. I will push the kick/crash 2 or 3 db on the downbeats of choruses. I do pushes on the guitar and bass as well but usually a little less 1 or 2 db. It is simply using volume to try and restore the sense of excitement generated by a player that hits a little harder on the down beat of a section. The perception of volume can be very relative. Things seem loud when they are contrasted against things that are soft. That is why pull outs before the down beat of a chorus are so effective (something that is very easy to over use). A good example is the little 2 bar break before the choruses in Good Charlotte's "Lifestyles". Originally the song went straight to the chorus from the pre-chorus. The transition just wasn't being a big enough event for me. I specifically added those parts so there would be a moment to "inhale" before the big "exhale" of the chorus. Volume only gets you so far because you can't continue to turn up the volume at each subsequent section without running out of headroom, that's where the other 2 can help.

"Spread" for me has been a cool subtle way to give the sense that things are expanding and getting bigger. I like to try and keep all the panning in the verses more between 70 or 80 (in pro tools terms) and save the hard panning (100) for the choruses. It is subtle but it is just another way to manipulate the size of the mix. There is a good example of using spread to create an emotional effect on the 3EB song "God Of Wine". I think I described this in a thread about 3EB but it relates to this discussion as well. the second of half of the first verse needed something to help it expand and give the sense that is moving to another level that supported the new vocal range. The guitar sound for the song already was a stereo sound derived from an array of guitar amps and room mics. At about 1:16 in the song I had Kevin play an additional pass of the verse guitar part. When mixing the song i pulled down he right fader of the main stereo guitar pass and turned on the right fader of the 2nd stereo pass of guitar. It is the same part, in the same register, played the same way as the first half of the verse but it just sounds richer and more expansive all of a sudden at 1:16. It creates a bigger environment for the vocal to live in as he starts singing out more.

"Spectrum" is using the frequency spectrum to expand the size of the mix. Sometimes i will with hold some of the extreme top end and low end in the verses and save them for the chorus. Maybe by turning down the over heads on the drum kit and turning up a hi mic that has a LP/HP filter on it that makes it more mid rangy. On my spectrum analyzer I can watch the sudden inclusion of the frequencies below 80hz and above 10K when the chorus hits. One arrangement dilemma that comes up a lot is when the bridge of the song is trying to take a step up from the chorus which is already pretty much full on. Sometimes i will sneak in a dbx sub harmonic synthesizer on the bass and add some sort of percussion element to have the frequency spectrum reach out even further in both directions in the bridge when there is no room to push the volume any more. I guess this idea of "spectrum" is basically the over all practice of deliberately restricting the frequency range in one section to leave room for expansion in other sections. I appears that I find it very useful because it seems to be all over the stuff I work on.

EV
#5
23rd July 2011
Old 23rd July 2011
  #5
Banned
 

Holy wow, that is some GOLDEN stuff you just laid out!!

Thank you for taking the time to give your wisdom EV!! My mind is racing, and i cant wait to do my next mix!
Really inspiring!

TK
#6
24th July 2011
Old 24th July 2011
  #6
Gear nut
 
engineroom's Avatar
 

No kidding... What an unbelievable way of thinking about dynamics and arrangement.

Thank you so much for all of your time and generosity... this Q and A has been a truly educational experience!

Thank you so much Eric!
#7
24th July 2011
Old 24th July 2011
  #7
Lives for gear
 
ionian's Avatar
Fantastic descriptions. Thank you Mr. Valentine.


Regards,
Frank
Lackatee
Thread Starter
#8
24th July 2011
Old 24th July 2011
  #8
Gear addict
 

Thread Starter
HUGE thanks for responding in such detail Eric. I know that post took awhile to write. Appreciate your time!

Can you clarify what it exactly you mean my "pushes"? Are you automating this stuff in or doing it by hand on faders?

Thanks again!
#9
24th July 2011
Old 24th July 2011
  #9
Excellent question and answer.
#10
24th July 2011
Old 24th July 2011
  #10
Gear addict
 
EngineEars's Avatar
 

Thank you EV. It's great to hear from another musician, producer, engineer, mixer how emotions vs. sonics come together for you on a technical basis.

It's also funny to know I'm not the only one who can still appreciate recordings for their sonics, even if I'm not paying attention to the genre or lyrics per se.
#11
25th July 2011
Old 25th July 2011
  #11
Gear nut
 

Wow..

This has been my favorite gearslutz Q&A ever so far!
#12
25th July 2011
Old 25th July 2011
  #12
Gear maniac
 
ev33's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lackatee View Post
HUGE thanks for responding in such detail Eric. I know that post took awhile to write. Appreciate your time!

Can you clarify what it exactly you mean my "pushes"? Are you automating this stuff in or doing it by hand on faders?

Thanks again!
The pushes are automation moves on the Flying Faders system installed on the UTA console. i typically set up group masters for guitars, Bass, kick, overall drums, lead vocal etc. That i way I can sit in the sweet spot between the NS10s and do all of my final level tweaks and pushes.

EV
Lackatee
Thread Starter
#13
25th July 2011
Old 25th July 2011
  #13
Gear addict
 

Thread Starter
Thanks for clarifying and revealing some of your secrets. It's not surprising that Mutt Lange's work would be inspiration for your "sound" - Those mixes on Hysteria are insane and quite an incredible achievement in mixing if you ask me. It almost sounds like the stuff was created on another planet. Like.. "Humans did this?!?!"

All of the info you have shared in this Q&A has been precious material. Your passion for this is beyond your average audio guy's passion. Including mine... And I don't really like saying that. But this is why you're where your at with your recordings and mixing. I think people need to have this kind of passion to achieve your level and that's whats key here. It's actually inspiring me to take things more seriously... not just with the audio, which is really important for me, but things like taking notes, pictures, interaction with new artists/talents, etc.

I appreciate your knowledge and experience! Thanks for sharing it! Soo many questions.. But I'm gonna let other people get some in.. I don't wan't hog all your time.
#14
9th August 2011
Old 9th August 2011
  #14
Gear interested
 

i can personally attest to EV's (justified) obsession with capturing the perfect downbeat. eric, i don't think any of us can hear the phrase "one more time" without thinking of you! haha...
#15
9th August 2011
Old 9th August 2011
  #15
Lives for gear
 
theBackwardsman's Avatar
 

Amazing!
#16
10th August 2011
Old 10th August 2011
  #16
Lives for gear
 
bcgood's Avatar
 

Seriously best Q & A ever.

Eric Valentine = "The Super"
#17
10th August 2011
Old 10th August 2011
  #17
It seriously is the best q&a ever thanks again. I'll be in touch very shortly I hopefully will have some good news!

Rick Carson
#18
10th August 2011
Old 10th August 2011
  #18
Gear addict
 
chribble's Avatar
 

Thank you!
#19
10th August 2011
Old 10th August 2011
  #19
Surrounded By Music
 
HDJK's Avatar
Thanks a lot for sharing!
#20
15th August 2011
Old 15th August 2011
  #20
Lives for gear
 
Greg Wells's Avatar
 

Good god - so brilliant. Eric is the man!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
#21
15th August 2011
Old 15th August 2011
  #21
Gear maniac
 
WiZKiD's Avatar
 

Eric, that post could humble just about anyone. Thanks for sharing.
#22
15th August 2011
Old 15th August 2011
  #22
Gear maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Wells View Post
Good god - so brilliant. Eric is the man!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Amazing when one of my favorite producer is blown away by my favorite producer. When are you doing a Q&A Greg?? Can't wait to hear the new AAR record.
#23
15th August 2011
Old 15th August 2011
  #23
Lives for gear
 
Amber's Avatar
 

Hi Eric, how long do you leave the 3db volume increase for? Just a second or so and do you drop down to the previous volume straight away or with a small fade to it?
#24
15th August 2011
Old 15th August 2011
  #24
Gear maniac
 
ev33's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Amber View Post
Hi Eric, how long do you leave the 3db volume increase for? Just a second or so and do you drop down to the previous volume straight away or with a small fade to it?
I push the fader up as fast as I can ramping into the downbeat. Then immediately start fading it back down as to emulate the decay of a crash cymbal. The fader is back to its normal position after about 1/2 a bar for slow tempos, maybe a full bar on faster tempos.

EV
#25
15th August 2011
Old 15th August 2011
  #25
Gear addict
 
funkycam's Avatar
killer thread. thx!
#26
15th August 2011
Old 15th August 2011
  #26
Lives for gear
 
opentune's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by bcgood View Post
Seriously best Q & A ever.

Eric Valentine = "The Super"
Absolutely! CouldnĀ“t have said it better!

Thanks for your time, Eric!
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