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Dynamic Range not only a Problem in Mastering.
Old 22nd June 2009
  #1
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Dynamic Range not only a Problem in Mastering.

So this goes to the mastering section because it is related to it.

I had a client for certification a mixing job at my studio last weekend.
I was wondering myself why it nearly was impossible to get punch into the drums.

So learning never stops...
I just could not get the point what was wrong I had no compression on the drums and there where nearly no dynamic range left on them.

Every drum hit had nearly the same felt loudness.
(Sorry for my bad English I dont know the correct terms)

I asked the client if there was compression on the drums during tracking.
The answer was "maybe some".

Ok I was blaming my skills and did a second try because I thought it was played like this.

But no Punch again.

So I send the mix to another mixing engineer who said:

"I guess drum compression is the problem here"

What the heck I had no compression on the drum tracks.
I just took over all the single tracks to my tape machine but very soft this could not take away all the transients.

So I learned something very important.....LISTEN BEFORE YOU START CAREFULLY AND THINK.

Clients are not telling the truth when it comes to critical questions related to the tracking session. I do not know why.
They must have been using nuclear sound engineering weapons during tracking with a massive ratio and threshold.

I tried different tacks like a transient shaper but no chance to put some live back into it.
For sure now the client is blaming me!! Not the tracking studio.
Oh I love this ....
Old 22nd June 2009
  #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mappee View Post
The tracking engineer is as important as the mixing engineer, as the mastering engineer.
But how can you fail with 3 chances to "fix it in the mix"

I asked an engineer what he contributed to a platinum recording he had mixed. he replied "all I did was bring the faders up", it was all there and rest is musical history.

In your case you have to think that lifeless drums is what they wanted and procede on with the mix. Could it be a dbx decode problem? If they have changed opinions then a retracking session is in order. Great Luck
Sorry no they are complaining about that the drums are non punchy.
But how can they expect punch when the transients are away?

So I did not fail it is just impossible with what ever tool I use to get dynamic range back in there...I tried very hard to make them punchy but tell me a tool that does wonders and brings me back the transients maybe I can learn a new tack here?

With my knowledge at this point I see no way and the client wants to keep the original drum track no replacing is allowed... what should you do?
Old 22nd June 2009
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr.HOLMES View Post
So this goes to the mastering section because it is related to it.

I had a client for certification a mixing job at my studio last weekend.
I was wondering myself why it nearly was impossible to get punch into the drums.

So learning never stops...
I just could not get the point what was wrong I had no compression on the drums and there where nearly no dynamic range left on them.

Every drum hit had nearly the same felt loudness.
(Sorry for my bad English I dont know the correct terms)

I asked the client if there was compression on the drums during tracking.
The answer was "maybe some".

Ok I was blaming my skills and did a second try because I thought it was played like this.

But no Punch again.

So I send the mix to another mixing engineer who said:

"I guess drum compression is the problem here"

What the heck I had no compression on the drum tracks.
I just took over all the single tracks to my tape machine but very soft this could not take away all the transients.

So I learned something very important.....LISTEN BEFORE YOU START CAREFULLY AND THINK.

Clients are not telling the truth when it comes to critical questions related to the tracking session. I do not know why.
They must have been using nuclear sound engineering weapons during tracking with a massive ratio and threshold.

I tried different tacks like a transient shaper but no chance to put some live back into it.
For sure now the client is blaming me!! Not the tracking studio.
Oh I love this ....
It's hard to tell from what u wrote but I am sure this is obvious when u listen to the takes.....just be sure to have an honest talk with ur client about these issues and let him know what will happen after your done mixing....btw do you have each individual drum track or a sub mix??
Old 22nd June 2009
  #4
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Yes sorry Eng. is not my native language.

I just tried to give expression here that in times of tracking alone there is a misleading information going around the musicians heads. They think they need massive compression during tracking .... so he asked me today in a mail if compression is not making everything sounding punchier and better.

I answered "NO" you killed the punch and took away the transients with your compressor.

So I guess they used a compressor during tracking and did not AB at the same SPL level and the compressed track sounded better to them because it was louder.
An d yes I got all the single tracks but it does not help there is minimal dynamic left e.g. on the base drum.
Old 22nd June 2009
  #5
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Verified Member
SPL Transient Designer. But even that is limited (no pun intended) by what you put into it.
Old 22nd June 2009
  #6
Deleted 99dc753
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mappee View Post
Expander appears what your hoping for. But none that I know of will be able to perform anywhere near properly recorded drums.
Replacement samples is a used method but they seem to have nixed that.
The solution has to consider the type of music and the format they have provided you.
Sounds like you have opened the communication door with band which is first step.
I tried an Expander and what I get is so minimal that nearly makes no difference.

Listen for your self BD and SD have every-time nearly the same level no dynamic left it is also pumping a bit:

2shared - download DRUM NO COMP.mp3
Old 22nd June 2009
  #7
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr.HOLMES View Post
An d yes I got all the single tracks but it does not help there is minimal dynamic left e.g. on the base drum.
hmmm...don't know if the sound itself has been ruined by compression or the flattening of these waveforms but do you have the patience to do this note by note (changing the volume to each note) on both the kick and the snares?? I know it sounds ridiculous but its theoretically possible....
Old 22nd June 2009
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by It'sJoeAgain View Post
hmmm...don't know if the sound itself has been ruined by compression or the flattening of these waveforms but do you have the patience to do this note by note (changing the volume to each note) on both the kick and the snares?? I know it sounds ridiculous but its theoretically possible....


I know but you know they only pay small bucks for this job and now I am hanging here correcting what is ruined during tracking and they expect wonders.....yes may I have the patience but after this I hope they call me JESUS.
Old 22nd June 2009
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mappee View Post
sounds like a drum computer from mid 80's.

oooh pan-scan, morphing reverb, manual gain ride, drawmer side chained expander tied to the bass or eq.
It's an uphill battle

Play the drums down and feature everything else.
Funny that was my first reaction as well......
I asked was it an Roland and he said no it is lived played and yes it is I also have the OH and room mic tracks.

So how can someone get real drums to sound like a drum machine during tracking?
Old 23rd June 2009
  #10
Bad player, bad gear...

Here's MY thought, if it's already squished to death, why don't you set it to maybe light compression, extremely low threshold with some long attack so it brings the punch back in?
Old 23rd June 2009
  #11
Lives for gear
 

Transient designer (maybe parallel) to get attenuation of the transients back?
Old 24th June 2009
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by donsolo View Post
Bad player, bad gear...

Here's MY thought, if it's already squished to death, why don't you set it to maybe light compression, extremely low threshold with some long attack so it brings the punch back in?
I think we do not speak about the same issue here.
Listen to the file.... it is a 4/4 and there is nearly not a 1. and no 3. so I tried transient shapers and compression tacks with expansion.... no way to get it healthy it is destroyed.
Old 24th June 2009
  #13
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Verified Member
i suggest you load up sound replacer , and get on with it..
if you still cannot fix the recording , its no big problem ,
we all get things that we cannot fix from time to time .
Old 24th June 2009
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by turtlerock View Post
i suggest you load up sound replacer , and get on with it..
if you still cannot fix the recording , its no big problem ,
we all get things that we cannot fix from time to time .
Thanks Rick.

Yes I just talked to the client about this today.
He is not a professional engineer he is a musician and just starts recognizing that the tracking engineer did a not so good job.

He paid a lot of cash for this tracking session and is for sure now disappointed.

Thanks for your advise you are right there is no reason to beat about the bush.
If the client thinks I am wrong I lose this job... but he will get the same answer from the next mixing engineer I am sure.
Old 24th June 2009
  #15
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I have had many of these jobs, and it is always frustrating and it almost always a case of "making do" when the mix is finished.

One plugin that has helped in the last few months for me is the Maserati series by Waves. There is a drum shaper in there which can be helpful on some things.

I found the bundle a bit expensive so I did not buy it but, I was impressed with it when I demoed it.

Might be worth a try?
Old 25th June 2009
  #16
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Thats Fun.

So I replaced all the important drum parts and reprogrammed the groove.
It changes the whole tune to a positive grooving thing it wiggles and makes my bud shake while listening to it...

Now I am 100% sure they took the groove away by compression
Old 25th June 2009
  #17
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DSPaudio's Avatar
 

Just wanted to mention Paul Frindle's DSM plugin is really good in situations like this.

Pro Audio DSP - Professional Audio Plugins

It's brought tons of my old performances back to life, recordings I thought could never be salvaged.

I tried the DSM on the clip posted and had the clip sounding reasonable in about 45 seconds. I choose one of the vintage rock n roll presets. Lowered the Attack a bit, upped the decay to smother the pumping and adjusted the LF/HF balance to get some space between the kick/snare.

I also spent 20 minutes on the clip hacking in the Metric Halo +DSP graph using multi-band negative ratio compression with multiple tuned sidechain inputs.

Both we're improvements but the DSM result was quite good, not just a band-aid.

Mastering engineers (who haven't already) should check out DSM.. I'm not suggesting that it should be used to fix over-compression or that this is even it's strong point, but that it could in this case suggests it's very flexible.

I have no affiliation with Pro Audio DSP or Paul Frindle, other than enjoying using their plugin.

A
Old 25th June 2009
  #18
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geez...such a big deal about all this! i heard the sample days ago and didn't think it's such a drama!!!!

Old 25th June 2009
  #19
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miro's Avatar
 

and this does NOT look like a super over compressed waveform!

Dynamic Range not only a Problem in Mastering.-bild-1.jpg
Old 25th June 2009
  #20
ill be honest. i didnt think it was that bad. not as bad as i was expecting given the comments. i think that track is totally workable. not ideal, but workable. some clever transient enhancement would work. i would try filtering out the notch for each drum and triggering a sample to beef it up, even if its just for the quick transient at the beginning of the hit. could really help the drums poke through.

those tracks aren't nearly to the point of being unrecoverable.
Old 26th June 2009
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr.HOLMES View Post
I tried an Expander and what I get is so minimal that nearly makes no difference.

Listen for your self BD and SD have every-time nearly the same level no dynamic left it is also pumping a bit:

2shared - download DRUM NO COMP.mp3
This has been hit by fast limiting. It may have been at the A/D stage (where they may be 'soft clipping') - or it may have been in the W/S.

I will have a go at restoring this and post the result somewhere - if it's worth listening to. I'll also post how I did it.
Old 26th June 2009
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Frindle View Post
This has been hit by fast limiting. It may have been at the A/D stage (where they may be 'soft clipping') - or it may have been in the W/S.

I will have a go at restoring this and post the result somewhere - if it's worth listening to. I'll also post how I did it.
Here my pretty quick effort at getting back some attack and presence to the drum loop:

2shared - download Drum loop.mp3

1. I used the DSM to just shave off the unevenly loud snare hits to make it more consistent. It's better than a normal comp because it is much more frequency selective and leaves the rest unchanged.

2. Then I used the Oxford Transmod to increase the transient attacks.

3. Finally I used the Oxford EQ to reduce some of the resonances that muddy the sound - and add a subtle extra one at a slightly lower freq to fatten up the kick drum.

To be honest this track is in many ways quite typical, it's a bit odd and needs work but not completely beyond use. I wonder about the cymbals and overheads though, were they compressed or was it bad mike technique (they are too close), or is it in fact just a bad balance? When I do drum mixes I tend to process the overheads and cymbals quite heavily to try to ameliorate the unwanted mud and spill from closer mic'd drums that tends to rattle around the space and lose your punch and definition. I always remember that most of the time it's the unwanted spill to blame rather than the individual sounds themselves.

Last edited by Paul Frindle; 26th June 2009 at 07:27 PM.. Reason: added clarification
Old 26th June 2009
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Frindle View Post
Here my pretty quick effort at getting back some attack and presence to the drum loop:

2shared - download Drum loop.mp3

1. I used the DSM to just shave off the unevenly loud snare hits to make it more consistent. It's better than a normal comp because it is much more frequency selective and leaves the rest unchanged.

2. Then I used the Oxford Transmod to increase the transient attacks.

3. Finally I used the Oxford EQ to reduce some of the resonances that muddy the sound - and add a subtle extra one at a slightly lower freq to fatten up the kick drum.

To be honest this track is in many ways quite typical, it's a bit odd and needs work but not completely beyond use. I wonder about the cymbals and overheads though, were they compressed or was it bad mike technique (they are too close), or is it in fact just a bad balance? When I do drum mixes I tend to process the overheads and cymbals quite heavily to try to ameliorate the unwanted mud and spill from closer mic'd drums that tends to rattle around the space and lose your punch and definition. I always remember that most of the time it's the unwanted spill to blame rather than the individual sounds themselves.
Wow Paul.

So you are my man with the trick in the pocket I was locking for but real saving?
There is just a little accentuation on the 1.... so my replaced drums are more alive than this now but it is an improvement.

You say it was fast limiting I just heard there was no punch left so I blamed a compressor for this.

Anyway I learned something very very important today.... THANKS.
Old 26th June 2009
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr.HOLMES View Post
Wow Paul.

So you are my man with the trick in the pocket I was locking for but real saving?
There is just a little accentuation on the 1.... so my replaced drums are more alive than this now but it is an improvement.

You say it was fast limiting I just heard there was no punch left so I blamed a compressor for this.

Anyway I learned something very very important today.... THANKS.
ABed it again and I am still wondering how you did it.
thumbsup
Old 26th June 2009
  #25
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*edit*
never mind. . .
Old 26th June 2009
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr.HOLMES View Post
ABed it again and I am still wondering how you did it.
thumbsup
And came quite to the same result after experimenting with SPL transient shaper.

I just was too shy to use the SPL more extreme....THANKS PAUL so I can throw away my replacing work now....
Old 26th June 2009
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr.HOLMES View Post
ABed it again and I am still wondering how you did it.
thumbsup
I just did it on Pro Tools LE PC because that's what I have Licenses for the Oxford plugs - and also I can run the DSM. Obviously it suffered from being decoded to wav - processed - and recoded to MP3 again - but it's gives an idea.

I'm happy to post the PT session and Plug-ins set-up files, if they are of any use to people using PT. It illustrates what I tend to do with percussion tracks that are 'soft'.
Old 26th June 2009
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr.HOLMES View Post
And came quite to the same result after experimenting with SPL transient shaper.

I just was too shy to use the SPL more extreme....THANKS PAUL so I can throw away my replacing work now....
AS you can read above your inspiration just helped.

But would be interesting to hear something about the way you do mixing good drums.

With this mix it was for me the first time that the delivered files where sounding thin as well as with nearly no transients.
It did not came to my mind to use the transient shaper more extreme like you did it.

So this shows me there is always something to learn.

Another thing I was wondering this drum sound what the client is calling for: strong and punch with transients up front.

So I had today not so much work and I had time to listen to different music out of different decades. So I came to the conclusion big strong transient BDs are a sign of the 90-00 years?
When I listen for example to Pink Floyd the BD is more small and not that prominent.
Other example old Genesis a mix where the BD is somewhere else but not real to catch by the ears.

That is interesting to me because myself I am half musician and half mixing geek.
My impression is when you make music yourself it is harder to do a mix without any other musical content in your brain.

Listening to music, after I did not had time for this for long, showed me again for the mixing part in my live there are a million tastes.

This brings the question up why do clients do not communicate their taste better?
Often I get the impression they have no glue what they want.

Any tips for better communication by the mastering department?
How can I get the clients to think more about what they expect from my work?
Old 27th June 2009
  #29
Gear Maniac
 

Sounds to me like you're confused a bit, OP.

From what I understand reading what you're saying is that the drum compression just isn't sufficient.

You are trying to keep your drum dynamics. Trust your ears, not your eyes. Just because you see yourself squaring off peaks, doesn't mean you're doing anything bad. You need to take the tinfoil hat off. Somewhat of Hyper compressed drums is a mixing choice and style of production if you want it to be and everyone else wants it like that.

Look, peaks aren't pleasant, either. You need to just sit back, think about the song, and ask yourself, "Is it supposed to be louder here?" and if it is, then whats the problem? The answer to your question, it is in the song, not here on Gearslutz. If you need to automate, then automate. Don't be lazy and let a compressor handle what you can do with your fingers.

Still, compression is perfectly normal to use.

Think of it this way. Does live music from the band come out of speakers naturally? Well, duh, of course it doesn't. Most consumer speakers and/or headphones don't apply any natural compression at point the drivers push the air, this the design you're working with and cannot avoid. You have to apply compression to some things, otherwise they won't cut through the mix.

Here let me make it easy for anyone to understand because even I could confuse myself.

A person talks to you and their throat naturally compresses the sound they make and obviously gives its directionality and intensity, and the sound goes to the listeners ear and THEIR ears ALSO naturally compress the sound they hear.

This is a live situation.

What if its not and you're capturing it in recording medium? The singer speaks into a transducer that doesn't naturally compress the sound they make. The low frequency and mid range frequency drivers that consumers have don't compress the sound naturally. You have to manipulate it, otherwise it won't be heard or present in the mix without these nasty obnoxious peaks that take up the oh so valuable headroom real estate we try to conserve for the mastering engineer to use.

Compression, use it. Its not Satan's asshole until you make it that. Use it, but don't obviously over do it. You don't even have to try to get anyway with all the compression you possibly could.

This has been a Compression 101 lecture by domokunrox.
Old 27th June 2009
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr.HOLMES View Post
AS you can read above your inspiration just helped.

But would be interesting to hear something about the way you do mixing good drums.

With this mix it was for me the first time that the delivered files where sounding thin as well as with nearly no transients.
It did not came to my mind to use the transient shaper more extreme like you did it.

So this shows me there is always something to learn.

Another thing I was wondering this drum sound what the client is calling for: strong and punch with transients up front.

So I had today not so much work and I had time to listen to different music out of different decades. So I came to the conclusion big strong transient BDs are a sign of the 90-00 years?
When I listen for example to Pink Floyd the BD is more small and not that prominent.
Other example old Genesis a mix where the BD is somewhere else but not real to catch by the ears.

That is interesting to me because myself I am half musician and half mixing geek.
My impression is when you make music yourself it is harder to do a mix without any other musical content in your brain.

Listening to music, after I did not had time for this for long, showed me again for the mixing part in my live there are a million tastes.

This brings the question up why do clients do not communicate their taste better?
Often I get the impression they have no glue what they want.

Any tips for better communication by the mastering department?
How can I get the clients to think more about what they expect from my work?
These are such good points. When I was mixing I was really a frustrated musician too :-) And in many respects this didn't always help, because I was being motivated by the tracks and what I felt was their art - whereas most of the producers and record company people were looking to copy whatever was around that seemed to be fashionable in those times. I saw many great tracks ruined as people tried to turn them into stuff that was inappropriate. :-(

When you describe the prominence of drum transients as either the 80's or 90's this is part of the whole thing of fashion that IMVHO gets in the way of the art? For instance if you are allowed absolutely no dynamic range because the A&R people want only 'loud', it is impossible to have significant percussion transients, so you have to find art that 'fits' what they want - not art that is doing anything for itself? Whilst is it true that from previous eras you can hear a whole range approaches that differ from the dirge like themes of Pink Floyd to the dramatic percussive peaks of something like Jackson's Thriller - this shows that at least in those days both were possible and accepted and were allowed to exist. With the restrictions imposed on engineers these days with the loudness wars productions like Thriller would not be possible with the same levels of impact and in fact if you were producing for the loud no dynamic range market you would engineer it very differently from the outset - even change it musically!

All I did to your track was try to recover the transients as asked, what happens to it by the time it gets mixed and mastered is another matter entirely. If transients are deemed to be 80's or 90's and therefore passe' then they will surely not make it into the final product anyway... IN this case even if you are the musician - and - the engineer, you will still end up with little or no choice. And if your tracks need percussive transients to have artistic impact, the chances are they will be deemed inappropriate and dropped :-(
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