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tips for mixing dance music Dynamics Plugins
Old 6th September 2004
  #1
Gear Maniac
 

tips for mixing dance music

Any tips for mixing dance music that would be played on vinyl in clubs. do you needs to have a lot of bass on your mix or does the size of the pa system's in clubs make everything sound bass heavy anyway. I don't want to be adding too much bass so that the whole mix ends up sounding dull.

Should you use alot of compression over the main mix using something like waves L1 or L2 or would using a multiband compressor on the bass give more punch.

Also what kind of frequencys would give a kick drum real thump ?

Any tips would be appreciated

Thanks

Krisstoff
Old 6th September 2004
  #2
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matucha's Avatar
The bass must be just right ;-) (I'm so clever), dance music has dominant bass and so when it is played loud the bass is very strong. And if not, club owner will raise the bass a bit (or DJ will).

About the kick. You have to fit the fundamental freq. between the bass frequency via tuning the kick, this is the most important IMO, phase is very important too. It is about making it work with the bass to let both be max efficient. If you need to cut something, cut the kick... cutting in the bass can make some notes to be softer.

Lots of compression during the mixing is the key to loudness and club sound IMO, put such a track into L2 and you get to -10RMS without taking more than -1dB of the top.
Old 8th September 2004
  #3
Quote:
Originally posted by matucha


Lots of compression during the mixing is the key to loudness and club sound IMO, put such a track into L2 and you get to -10RMS without taking more than -1dB of the top.
Can you explain a little further? What do you mean by only take -1db?
Old 8th September 2004
  #4
Lives for gear
 

The most important thing when mixing dance tracks for clubs is to keep the bass short and impulsive. Just open your song in an audio editor, use a filter to cut away anything above 160-200 hz and look if the kick is clearly visible as a single impulse, while the bass is at least 3-6 db quiter. If you got a single undisturbed line, the mix won't sound right in the club.
In my opinion, a club track does not need any compression on the entire mix, a little limiting should suffice - the mix should sound right without anything applied to the sum.

Since the kick is the most important ingredient in a club track, it is vital to use a good one. A good sample cd, or a bassdrum sampled from your favourite dance track is a great starter.

Next thing is the bass, depending on the style there are a lot of different possibilities.
A typical Euro-House offbeat bass should be long enough to fit the gap, but short enough not to interfere with the kickdrum. It should be a little quiter than the bassdrum, and it makes sense to take away some of the low end with a shelving eq.
A House-bass, the one that plays along with the kick has to be eqed just opposite to the bassdrum, to prevent a muddy sound. Try out for the bass to be generally deeper or higher as the kick, there are a lot of different ways. It might also be a good idea to use a ducking compressor on the bass, feeding the kick's input, so it gets quiter when the bassdrum plays.
Finally, you might try out to send the bass to a bus, highut it, use a little distortion, tape simulation, whatever, so it cuts through better. Have fun!
Old 8th September 2004
  #5
Gear Maniac
 

Good kik drum sample, all other drum samples carefully choosed that they blend together => good groove.

The bass can be deeper than the kik or with less bassbut more attack.

The arrangement must be kept minimal - the less notes synths are playing, the "bigger" they will sound. Just fill the spaces, after getting the synths right, with vocal FXes.

These are sugestions , anyway - anything that can make ppl dance can be good.
Old 8th September 2004
  #6
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matucha's Avatar
Quote:
Can you explain a little further? What do you mean by only take -1db?
I ment you do the loudness of the track in the mix by compressing single tracks a lot. So in the end you doesn't need more than -1dB or GR on your L2 whatever to get to convinient -10 or -9dB of RMS.

Choosing the right kick(s) for the bass is very important.

You could also place low pass filter @200Hz and be sure you can hear and feel the kick in the bass. Bass should be powerfull too. I'm not sure it needs to be -6dB quieter than kick, but -3dB for sure. However try to make bass and kick to be recognizable under lowpass even if they peak ~ at the same dB. And then lower the bass...
Old 9th September 2004
  #7
I see so you mean compress a little on each track instead of trying to do it all at once. So each track just gets about 1db of compression. Right?
Old 9th September 2004
  #8
Gear interested
 
HealingWarrior's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by matucha


Choosing the right kick(s) for the bass is very important.
matucha,

do you have any suggestions of what you call good drum samples to start with?

i am constantly looking for good sample material (regarding dance music/nothing like eurodance or s.th. but rather with a 'deeper' approach IYKWIM) but haven't found so much stuff that really satisfies me. so starting with choosing good sounds may become a little desperate from time to time.
Old 9th September 2004
  #9
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If u are using fixed midi volume levels (127) on any instruments be light with compression.

For example "the kick or snare doesn't fluctuate in volume"- no need to compress them- that will make only make them smaller.
Old 10th September 2004
  #10
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matucha's Avatar
I leave most of the kicks and bass uncompressed (or only very very lightly), what I do compress is the snare(s). I compress the hell out of the perc and of most of the "melodic" stuff.

Good kick is a kick that suits the bass the best, you have to listen, go through many kicks and find the right one. If it is nice but lacks of bottom, just add another with right bottom, mix to taste.

Most common is to have one synthetic kick doing the sub job (909, 808 or alike) and then some live kick sampled of the vinyl or recorded... whatever you like, this one adds the reverbation and midrange impact that will make it more appearent on smaller speakers and "harder" on big ones. You have to check the phase between those two, using short variable delay will allow you to
find the fattest blend.

The same applies to snare, you don't have to find one perfect, but you should make a perfect snare out from 2 or 3 different snares.

Well I like to compress the drum subgroup as well as kick/bass subgroup. The drums can take some amount of abuse, but kick/bass compression is only slight to make them lock a bit more.


If you don't have the right sounds first, you can forget about compression, it doesn't going to help...
Old 10th September 2004
  #11
Do you guys do any limiting to tame peaks? I find that thin spikey peaks in my snare or kick can really hurt the overall RMS. Been experimenting with different otpions. I used to overly compress with too much/little attack which is what created these peaks in the first place. Seems some comps will still produce a spike even with a very short attack, like 1ms or less.
Old 10th September 2004
  #12
Guest Moderator - September 08
 
Dave Pensado's Avatar
 

Don't panic, it's me

If a law were passed that everyone on earth had to use identical speakers, our jobs would be so much easier. Most clubs here (US) add sub bass, say 80 down. That is an area that most home studios, and for that matter professional ones also, have problems monitoring. If you can't hear it accurately, about all you can do is watch the woofers and listen when they crap out.
Compression is a book in itself. I personally don't think compression makes things "better". I look at compression as having two jobs. One, to increase the overall level, by managing the hot spots, and two, as an effect.
I agree with most of what has been said. Let me add that sometimes the most important frequencies in a kik are 3-5K. It helps your ear find it. Also be very detailed in the area from 180 to 120.
I just realized that I have been typing for 15 minutes, and haven't said a DAMN thing. I am gonna come back to this issue, because it is one of the questions I get most often. I am currently writing a book for Waves on this subject, so discussing it here will help me organize my thots.
Old 10th September 2004
  #13
Great news on the book, what exactly will it cover?
Old 10th September 2004
  #14
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matucha's Avatar
;-) 3-5kHz can be very dangerous thing... very seducting to raise it too much, bacause it makes kick very visible (and you want that when you are fighting to get kick very present in the mix). But you get more knock than kick. Doesn't have to be wrong, but there is a point when the attack of the kick sounds very very close to the hihat (so it begin to sound somehow messy and you fight again to make it cleaner... leads to hell). At this point is good to say kick, snare/clap, hats/cymbals and perc need to be in their ranges with slight overleap. Snare could easily become hihat too ;-).

Compression is very individual and tricky. In electronic music, I think it is mostly shape/transient modification that you do with compression. So you do things like long attack "snap" things and then tame the peak a bit with limiter. However more I do this music, I do this less and less... multing takes me to better places. With less EQ and less comp I got fuller and crispier results. So now I can't stand my old mixes (all of the mixes I have on my website ;-) ).

Other thing that helped me a big way was a monitoring chain. With Event 20/20 it was like sound without emotions, many important things in sound simply wasn't there (dynamics, impact, sub energy... name it) so one trying to make a mix couldn't control this.
Old 10th September 2004
  #15
Gear interested
 
br0d's Avatar
 

Mix flat. Most clubs use a smile EQ. Most attempts to cheat the bass up will result in mud and rumble. Choose very good sounds to begin with. Meaning, basslines and kicks that have the right amount of punchy filtering and presence to begin with. Most subs are rated down to only 31Hz. People often claim that humans can "feel" down to 20Hz, but how is that content supposed to get into the music if it can't be reproduced by the sound system? "Subsonic room resonances?"
I highpass at or near 31. Others may choose not to.

A lot of people will tell you to equalize, but anything other than shelf equalization IMO is a very blunt, static, and often phasey hack; if you want real power you probably want to use good initial sounds, and then duckers to fine tune the pulse, and then brick wall limiting on the whole mix. Waves split mode ducking amounts to dynamic equalization, why anyone would want to use static equalization with such a thing available is beyond me.

Most bass inadequacies are caused by a poor management of the dynamic range occupied by the bass and kick as they pulse together. They want too many of the same frequencies at the same time, and people hack the low end of the mix up with bell/notch cuts and/or boosts which really aren't necessary.

Dance music is loud. Very loud. Ignore all "dynamics purists." How you get it loud is the whole game. You can't just throw a couple of sloppy sounds together, slam them with 10 decibels of limiting, and then have a -10 dB RMS recording.

How, when, and why you manage your dynamics control and headroom is probably half of the game, the other half is arrangement--choosing sounds which fill out the spectrum nicely, and at the right times, with the right complements.

HTH
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Old 10th September 2004
  #16
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jazzius II's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Jesse Skeens
Do you guys do any limiting to tame peaks? I find that thin spikey peaks in my snare or kick can really hurt the overall RMS.

Those spikes can be nicely saturated in the analog domain (choose your weapon). Tape used to do this for free!
Old 10th September 2004
  #17
double post.
Old 10th September 2004
  #18
I got an MX70 sitting in the studio which I need to employ for that very purpose. Trying out this Timeworks Mastering Comp as well.
Vintage Warmer seems to work too. I think my problem was not treating my samples from the start and waiting for the final mix limiting to do the job.
Old 11th September 2004
  #19
Guest Moderator - September 08
 
Dave Pensado's Avatar
 

Pensado ramblings continued

OK, so this time let's focus on kik drums. Make sure you can hear the kik all the way down to 40hz. If you can't, get a synth and make up a sine wave based sample kik from about 80-40. EQ your original drum the best you can. Don't compress it, just pick a great sample. Now, take a piece of that drum (mult it, use a send etc. or if in PT make a time aligned copy) and compress the dog snot out of this "copy". A good starting point is fast attack fast Release, ration of 7-10. and knock off about 6-10dB. This will be your midrange knock, and the frequency that makes it sound loud. Add this back to the original sound. Now take another copy and compress 20-30 dB and roll out midrange, say 600-2K. This sound should only be a "tick" and a thud. Add this back in. Add the sub (sample from synth), the knock, and the tick while in the mix, so you can really tell what's going on. If I need to explain this more, let me know. Fat lo-end is a lot of work. Next we will discuss bass.
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Old 11th September 2004
  #20
Gear Nut
 

great stuff dave, glad you are back. after bass, keep it going to other elements. your suggestion to lay off the reverb for main elements has really helped out as well. let the education continue...
Old 13th September 2004
  #21
Gear Nut
 

Mate, i do quite a bit of dance music as it is. Most important thing Iv learnt is not to over do the bass. With might sound daft but dance tracks dont have as much bass as they sound.... seriously! Most a very tightly compressed and have loads of punch and on big PA's this can give a really powerful sound which many misconcieve as extra bass.

Two techniques which are text book imo:

- Layering is very important in dance music. If you want a real BIG dance kick then you really need to layer at least two sounds. Once again, dont reach for the EQ, cuz this will not help. Take a really tight sampled kick, layer it on to an electronic kick (909 is good) and send both to the same buss. If your using a DAW make sure their phases match and that they are layer sample accurate, or else you'll get some real nasty flamming. One the bus I usually use a compressor with almost instantaneous attack, short release and high ratio. What you what to achieve is a real hard squish. This brings out some nice bass towards the end of the hit with some punch at the start.

- Side chain compression is a choicy weapon which many dance producers are only just starting to notice. Its particularly useful when mixing four to the floor type tracks. For example, say you're mixing a techno track with lots of breaky percussion and a nice sharp 909 ride. Send all to the same buss, and trigger compression with the kick drum. This way you get the whole mix swelling out on the off beat, kinda like exaggerated speaker compression! I use this all the time to simulate speaker compression and get that big 'club' sound on little systems.

One final point that might or might not be useful. Iv found that when mixing dance music it can pay to be a little more liberal with the EQ. I tend to use EQ only when necessary with other types of music. But when doing dance stuff i use it practicallt every track. Why? Well Iv found that many of the drum sounds can have horrible 40 - 50Hz crap on them which really destroys mixes. This is likely caused by the fact that many of these sounds originate off old vinyl. I tend to EQ out loads of bottom end from most synth and sample based tracks, purely to avoid that sound. I think this really ties in with my earlier point about dance music being deceptively bassy. Some might disagree, but i think you need to aim for a tight punchy sound, and the rest should fall into place.
Old 13th September 2004
  #22
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally posted by tee boy
Mate, i do quite a bit of dance music as it is. Most important thing Iv learnt is not to over do the bass. Which might sound daft but dance tracks dont have as much bass as they sound.... seriously! Most a very tightly compressed and have loads of punch and on big PA's this can give a really powerful sound which many misconcieve as extra bass.
Two techniques which are text book imo:

- Layering is very important in dance music. If you want a real BIG dance kick then you really need to layer at least two sounds. Once again, dont reach for the EQ, cuz this will be of limited help. Take a really tight sampled kick, layer it on to an electronic kick (909 is good) and send both to the same buss. If your using a DAW make sure their phases match and that they are layer sample accurate, or else you'll get some real nasty flamming. One the bus I usually use a compressor with almost instantaneous attack, short release and high ratio. What you want to achieve is a real hard squish. This brings out some nice bass towards the end of the hit with some punch at the start. I suppose this is pretty similar to the technigue Dave was explaining in his post. I do often a a different kick though, sometimes adjuct the pitch to help them match. Running the higher kick through some distortion can be nice to bring out the upper harmonics and works great in those Dutch type trance tunes.

- Side chain compression is a choicy weapon which many dance producers are only just starting to notice. Its particularly useful when mixing four to the floor type tracks. For example, say you're mixing a techno track with lots of breaky percussion and a nice sharp 909 ride. Send all to the same buss, and trigger compression with the kick drum. This way you get the whole mix swelling out on the off beat, kinda like exaggerated speaker compression! I use this all the time to simulate speaker compression and get that big 'club' sound on little systems.

One final point that might or might not be useful. Iv found that when mixing dance music it can pay to be a little more liberal with the EQ. I tend to use EQ only when necessary with other types of music. But when doing dance stuff i use it practicallt every track. Why? Well Iv found that many of the drum sounds can have horrible 40 - 50Hz crap on them which really destroys mixes. This is likely caused by the fact that many of these sounds originate off old vinyl. I tend to EQ out loads of bottom end from most synth and sample based tracks, purely to avoid that sound. I think this really ties in with my earlier point about dance music being deceptively bassy. Some might disagree, but i think you need to aim for a tight punchy sound, and the rest should fall into place.
Old 13th September 2004
  #23
Gear Nut
 

tee boy, nice stuff. whats your 2 cents to the age old argument for analog mix-downs for dance stuff? necessary? very beneficial? or can fully ITB be just as hittin in the club.

i know loads of 12" (the majority probably) were mixed through what most gearslutz would consider sub-par boards (mackies, cheap soundcrafts, to say the least).
Old 13th September 2004
  #24
Gear Nut
 

I have mixed feelings on this score. First up, ITB can totally reap TOP results for dance music. This is for sure imo. Just listen to anything mixed by people like BT, the results are top notch. However, i think people tracks mixed totally in digital usually benefit from greater processing during mastering. I think at some point tracks have to go through some analog processing, being during mixing or mastering. I really dont go for this whole digital summing arguement. I think its more about a lack of analog colouring than it is an issue of poor digital summing. But hey, I may be very wrong here! I mix in Nuendo and PT, and I dont have any problems. Then again, Iv not got a 9000 series to compare against! All i can say is that the best ITB dance tracks dont sound any worse than the best analog dance tracks imo. Just compare something by BT to something by 'Way Out West' who always mix on a SSL. I think BT's stuff sounds much clearer and more precise. I guess its down to the guy behind the scenes!
Old 13th September 2004
  #25
Gear Nut
 

Opps, sorry about the double post!
Old 13th September 2004
  #26
Gear Nut
 

so i guess that BT is totally ITB before sending it out for mastering?

i would tend to agree with your thoughts. if you run certain tracks through outboard while processing and then mix ITB i think you can get the same (or just as good) results.

its so funny how religious people can get about the NEED for running it through a board (and its usually through cheaper AD/DA)... i think the apparent benefit many loive is the degredation from the converters then the dirt from the cheap board and the distortion from ramming gain on certain tracks. all this could probably be done with a pass thru a pre or a good touch of distortion via plug-in. i think it might be nice to pass tracks thru a nicerizer and/or a culture vulture.

anyone else want to comment on this as it pertains to the genre?
Old 13th September 2004
  #27
I'd disagree about BT's stuff sounding superior. Just listened to some old mixes by Kevin Saunderson and they are so big and rich sounding. BT kills all his attack transients and overall his sound is so thin. Sure he has lots of tricks going on but I can't get into the mixdowns (or music) at all.

I wonder if WOW still go to an SSL. Nick told me years ao they went to all PT but I can't remember if they were mixing down on an SSL. By now though I imagine they might not. I know they were just in Remix but I can't find the issue at the moment.

I've done my own tests taking Logic mixes out to a Neve 9098i and found no advantage in the width by using summing.

I think its more down to your source tracks. That's why I'm going back to my analog synths and older samplers and tape.

Jesse
Old 13th September 2004
  #28
Gear Nut
 

Yeh, I use the BT example purely because i like his mix sound. Not a huge fan of the mans commercial releases at present, but some of his scores were nice. I do like his mixes though, very clear imo. I can apprieciate that they arent everyones cup of tea, but i think its a sound we'll hear more and more in dance music. I couldnt tell you if WOW still mix on SSL, but Im sure i remember them saying they had access to one at their studio. I do like their mixes but i dont feel they compare favorably to BT's.

Crystal Method do a nice mix imo. Think they use a Makie, shock horror! Again, Im not am huge fan of their stuff but i just feel their mixes work well.
Old 13th September 2004
  #29
Gear Maniac
 

wow - thanks for all your replys there is so much great stuff posted its going to take me a little while to digesset - but you all have given me some great ideas about mixing and with your help i may well get closer to the sound i have in my head.

Thanks again

btw what is summing and multing
Old 14th September 2004
  #30
Quote:
Originally posted by tee boy
Yeh, I use the BT example purely because i like his mix sound. Not a huge fan of the mans commercial releases at present, but some of his scores were nice. I do like his mixes though, very clear imo. I can apprieciate that they arent everyones cup of tea, but i think its a sound we'll hear more and more in dance music. I couldnt tell you if WOW still mix on SSL, but Im sure i remember them saying they had access to one at their studio. I do like their mixes but i dont feel they compare favorably to BT's.

Crystal Method do a nice mix imo. Think they use a Makie, shock horror! Again, Im not am huge fan of their stuff but i just feel their mixes work well.
BT's mixes are deffinatly clear. I did measure the RMS of one of his latest and it clockec in around -8db! But I think he shows us both the strength and weakness of digital. Sure its very crystal clear but is that reall a good thing? In comparison the KS stuff is fairly muddy but the mixes just have a "feeling" to them thats missing from BT and even WOW's stuff.
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