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Making sure the snare won't be trashed in mastering? Dynamics Plugins
Old 7th August 2008
  #1
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Making sure the snare won't be trashed in mastering?

How do you guys go about ensuring the snare in a rock recording doesn't turn into a quiet, distorted, weak sounding shadow of it's former self once the mastering engineer squishes the song into oblivion?

The reason I ask is because in the recording I'm doing right now, every time I 'self master' to get an idea of how it'll turn out, the snare totally drops out. Making it louder in the mix just makes it more distorted in the master. Thickening it with reverb and ~500 Hz boosts doesn't seem to help much. I'm sure part of this is because the drummer tunes his snare very high, so it's a fast, high pitched sound that doesn't take up much space in the first place.

Next time I think I'll try a second mic on the shell, blended in for thickness. I have a feeling the denser sounding the source, the more integrity it'll maintain later on (using two mics on guitars, they sound thick as hell). But I worry about cymbal bleed...

Any advice you have is appreciated, thanks!
Old 7th August 2008
  #2
Seems like one likely answer is that you shouldn't depend on volume of the snare to make it hearable, but notch out the key snare frequencies from the other things sitting in that space so that it can be heard without having to be 3dB louder than everything else. That's kind of what I've been trying to get to, not just on snare but on various things in the mix. If they have space in the frequency spectrum for their important frequencies, they shouldn't have to be louder than everything else to be heard. And, it would seem, they would then not get squished a lot more than everything else in the time of squashing.

Of course that's easier for me to type than for you to do, but that's why I'm so good at the typing part :-)
Old 7th August 2008
  #3
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In my experience, most rock music gets squashed/limited to comply with about K-14 - that is with the average RMS of the song at -14 dB. Try using a good limiter and cut the peaks enough for it to comply with this RMS volume level. That might be one way to self-test it.

I would talk to the mastering engineer in question and express these concerns. That way he'll know what you're after and do his best to deliver it. I'm sure he'll deliver a master for you to listen to, and if you don't feel it measures up ask for changes or suggest a bit different trade-offs than he chose at first.

There is no RMS level that you have to stay above. You can release a CD with incredibly soft average volume and rich dynamics on it and it will work fine. The foremost reason that mastering engineers compresses/limits a mix is to raise the average volume to comply with other - competing - releases of the same genre. The trend has been to never allow your song to sound lower in average volume than your competition. It's basically the 'the one who screams the loudest will be heard' theory, and it's the basis for the so called loudness war. Today, many pop records have an RMS of about -10 or even -9 dB, it's insane. I'm rambling this to remind you of that compression/limiting is made to be able to compete in volume with other releases, but not for many other reasons. It's a trade-off between a musical sound vs being noticed by the loudness.

And finally, remember that you never have to release anything you do not approve of yourself. So you can feel safe.

Good luck
Old 7th August 2008
  #4
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sk106 View Post
In my experience, most rock music gets squashed/limited to comply with K-14 - that is with the average RMS of the song at -14 dB.
I wish! -14 to -12 is a great RMS level. Unfortunately modern rock and pop is hitting -9 for extended periods of time.
Old 7th August 2008
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Full Clip Audio View Post
I wish! -14 to -12 is a great RMS level. Unfortunately modern rock and pop is hitting -9 for extended periods of time.
Old 7th August 2008
  #6


Maybe you could copy the track, slid it back abotu 30-50mS and use that track to key an expander on EVERYTHING else. Duck all the other stuff anticipating the snare.

It would take a mastering guy a long time to bury the snare that way....



-tINY

Old 7th August 2008
  #7
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I always make the kick and snare a bit louder than I want so that when it gets squashed in mastering they stil cut through.

It used to be that you would do a mix, hear it on the radio and then have to adjust your mixing to compensate for radio. Now it's mastering instead of radio since mastering now generally does what radio used to do to the songs. Usually not by the choice of the ME of course.

My recommendation is to do a drum up pass (or at least kick/snare). It may sound distorted in YOUR mastering job, but it won't when a pro ME does it. They don't just slap a limiter on it like we do, they often go through several limiters each limiting a smaller amount and other analog stuff on the way in to get there.
Old 7th August 2008
  #8
Quote:
Originally Posted by danbronson View Post
How do you guys go about ensuring the snare in a rock recording doesn't turn into a quiet, distorted, weak sounding shadow of it's former self once the mastering engineer squishes the song into oblivion?

The reason I ask is because in the recording I'm doing right now, every time I 'self master' to get an idea of how it'll turn out, the snare totally drops out. Making it louder in the mix just makes it more distorted in the master. Thickening it with reverb and ~500 Hz boosts doesn't seem to help much. I'm sure part of this is because the drummer tunes his snare very high, so it's a fast, high pitched sound that doesn't take up much space in the first place.

Next time I think I'll try a second mic on the shell, blended in for thickness. I have a feeling the denser sounding the source, the more integrity it'll maintain later on (using two mics on guitars, they sound thick as hell). But I worry about cymbal bleed...

Any advice you have is appreciated, thanks!
It very well may be the tuning of the drums you are working on. Tuning of a snare drum in a track is key to how well it sits with other instruments, and how well it will poke when limited to death in mastering.

Is it possible that the way you have your limiter set, is really not how it would be set in mastering? Thus giving you the wrong perspective to begin with.
Old 7th August 2008
  #9
Patient: "Doc, it hurts when I raise my arm".

Doctor: "Don't raise your arm".

Jim Williams
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Old 7th August 2008
  #10
You might want to consider mixing into a compressor if you don't already. I find that when I mix into a compressor I can tune the mix the way the band and I want it, and the mastering engineer doesn't have to crush it so much when he gets his hands on it. That way, the mix stays intact and I don't want to punch skulls when I hear the final product.
Old 7th August 2008
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tINY View Post

Maybe you could copy the track, slid it back abotu 30-50mS and use that track to key an expander on EVERYTHING else. Duck all the other stuff anticipating the snare.

It would take a mastering guy a long time to bury the snare that way....



-tINY
Great idea. Assuming I have software that's capable of this (I've sidechained like this before but only on single instruments), I'll give it a shot, hopefully it doesn't create an odd pumping effect!

I'll also cut some more of the guitars like Dean suggested to let the snare through and see if that helps. But for some reason, I noticed when I removed the EQ from the guitars (which was a wide 5 dB cut at about 600 Hz), making them more midrangey, the snare sounded better! Totally opposite of what I expected. I suspect I'll end up spending a lot of time on snare and guitar EQs.

I'm comparing back to recordings I've done of myself playing drums in similar mixes (this is my first time recording another band). The problem doesn't exist when it's my snare, which is tuned lower than this guy's fairly 'poppy' punk rock snare. I tune my snare to sound broad, even and 'good' for lack of a better word. The guy I recorded tunes to be loud, fast and sharp. So I think engmix makes a good point about tuning.

Thanks for the responses everyone!
Old 7th August 2008
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by danbronson View Post
How do you guys go about ensuring the snare in a rock recording doesn't turn into a quiet, distorted, weak sounding shadow of it's former self once the mastering engineer squishes the song into oblivion?
EQ is your friend, compression is your band-aid. I find that it's usually a certain frequency range in the snare that's too prominent, which drives the limiter too hard and sends it AWOL. However, just don't be tempted to kill those transients in the mix; limiters like transients to "bite" into - a dynamically 'dead' snare will only sound a whole lot worse when it hits that final brickwall. Try to shape and carve out your mix to the point where you can push and pull the snare (or anything else for that matter) at least +/-6dB from it's optimal position and still end up with a perfectly acceptible and defined mix. You'll be surprised at how little limiting you'd actually need to get that mix to a be a good loud.

SK
Old 7th August 2008
  #13
I would suggest not compressing the snare track at all, bearing in mind that compression on top of compression is going to multiply ratios, not add to them... so if you're using a 4:1 compression on the snare track, and say the mastering engineer uses an overall 2:1 even, the snare will then be compressed 8:1, which is gonna sound terrible!

Of course it is my opinion (as it is the opinion of most informed drummers) that compressing the snare track kills the snare sound.

Perhaps parallel compression would be a happy medium...
Old 7th August 2008
  #14
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Beardhead's Avatar
 

Embed the snare in the mix frequency-wise and don't mix it too loud.
Old 7th August 2008
  #15
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Ozzy's Avatar
 

Maybe the problem lies in how your "self mastering" it. If your shoving an waves ultramaximiser over it, its the easiest way (ive found) to kill the snare.

Ive never had the snares on my mixes squashed by a good m.e. They know how to use a few limiters and comps in theyre respective sweet spots to get the rms of a track up without killing all the transients.

The reason i know this, is coz I used to do it myself and wonder how the bloody hell these ppl were getting the tracks sooo loud, and keeping the snare in place.

The answer......not using an ultramaximiser

Oz
Old 7th August 2008
  #16
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When reading the thread, I get a feeling that the Mastering Engineer is feared, like a completely unforgiving and untouchable sound mangling process. It feels like once you hand your tune over to him, all you can do is say a prayer and hope for the best.

Isn't it so that you leave the job you need done over to a man who is more proficient in pulling it off and has access to the better tools, and you have him deliver what you require? Just like a CEO leaving the procedure of legal matters over to his lawyer, because the laywer can cut it better. The CEO tells him what is needed, but the lawyer has the detailed knowhow and connections to make the CEOs needs come true the best way.

I mean, the ME is no allmighty audiotyrant that you can't affect, right? He's just a guy, like any other. Talk to him, tell him what you need
Old 7th August 2008
  #17
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I think it just comes down to your mixing skill / experience. You need to get the snare popping through your mix while still having everything else just as loud. It's a matter of everything having it's own place. The snare shouldn't be louder than everything else.
I'm finding that with rock music today, it needs to sound loud and in your face before it even goes to mastering. Check out the mix bus meter while you play your mix - you shouldn't have it jumping up 3-6db everytime they hit a snare. The level should be pretty consistent, so that the mastering engineer just raises the overall volume without squishing down transients in order to bring everything else up.
Try a limiter on the kick and snare, and maybe one on the drum bus too. This will help keep your drums sitting in the same place, up front and aggressive, and let you build the rest around it without losing the kit.
Old 7th August 2008
  #18
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my best advice is to KNOW your mastering engineer.

i have a great relationship with the folks i use...and know for the most part how to make stuff work.

i generally do have kick and snare up a bit more than the final version should be PREMASTERING....usually the mastering compression/limiting knocks em' right into place.

if i have anything to say about it....i choose the mastering person for each project...that way i KNOW what will be done to my mix.

best of luck,

jchristopherhughes
Old 7th August 2008
  #19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sk106 View Post
When reading the thread, I get a feeling that the Mastering Engineer is feared, like a completely unforgiving and untouchable sound mangling process. It feels like once you hand your tune over to him, all you can do is say a prayer and hope for the best.

Isn't it so that you leave the job you need done over to a man who is more proficient in pulling it off and has access to the better tools, and you have him deliver what you require? Just like a CEO leaving the procedure of legal matters over to his lawyer, because the laywer can cut it better. The CEO tells him what is needed, but the lawyer has the detailed knowhow and connections to make the CEOs needs come true the best way.

I mean, the ME is no allmighty audiotyrant that you can't affect, right? He's just a guy, like any other. Talk to him, tell him what you need
Listening to one of my pals' stories who primarily hires as a mix engineer, he seems to feel very much this way -- unless he's acting as producer, he generally doesn't seem to have much say in who masters or how the ME does his job. And, I can tell you, I've heard my buddy's 'scratch masters' and, in the cases where he's presented his and the ME's to listen to -- admittedly, it's generally when he's pissed at what the ME's done -- I've had to say that not only were my pal's mixes better sounding but, in at least one case, louder. (And I'm very anti-squashing, so take that intro consideration.)
Old 7th August 2008
  #20
are you using a buss compressor on the 2 mix? if you are try putting it on from fairly early in the mix and mixing into the compressor. This usually will prevent the snare going away. If you're not using a compressor on the mix buss try it
Old 7th August 2008
  #21
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Sk106's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by theblue1 View Post
Listening to one of my pals' stories who primarily hires as a mix engineer, he seems to feel very much this way -- unless he's acting as producer, he generally doesn't seem to have much say in who masters or how the ME does his job. And, I can tell you, I've heard my buddy's 'scratch masters' and, in the cases where he's presented his and the ME's to listen to -- admittedly, it's generally when he's pissed at what the ME's done -- I've had to say that not only were my pal's mixes better sounding but, in at least one case, louder. (And I'm very anti-squashing, so take that intro consideration.)
No say in who masters or how the master is done?? man, that's crazy. Why would anyone leave their hard earned creation up to such a deal? then what's benefit of using a mastering engineer at all? You could just send your -.3 dB normalized mix to CD pressing right away. I would send it to mastering to perform a need that I dictate that I can't do myself. I most certainly never would on those above conditions, it's 50/50 chance for suicide - at best - and a good mastering engineer would know what a stupid deal that would be for a client.
Old 7th August 2008
  #22
The current fashion of passing on the critical decisions regarding your project to a mastering engineer without close scrutiny and feedback are getting what they deserve, another person's artistic interpetation of your hard work. While at it, why not turn the raising of your kids to a stranger as well. (Forget that, I forgot Government Indoctrination Centers = public school systems).

One thing I learned in the 1970's. If you are not there to critique every mastering decision, you get the record you deserve.

Be there, or be square.

Jim Williams
Audio Upgrades
Old 7th August 2008
  #23
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But Jim, much of the time it's not up to the Mix engineer, it's up to the client. And if they tell the ME to make it louder than everything else, then there is little you can do other than try to compensate.
Old 7th August 2008
  #24
Quote:
Originally Posted by colinmiller View Post
But Jim, much of the time it's not up to the Mix engineer, it's up to the client. And if they tell the ME to make it louder than everything else, then there is little you can do other than try to compensate.
Better yet. Then they can get all the blaim while you still get paid. If that's their thing, nothing much you can do because the more you try and turn something down, the more they will try to turn it back up. There is something to using a moniker for those results, that way your "real", good name won't be associated with the crap someone else is responsible for. I would make my own mix for personnal listening though.

Jim Williams
Audio Upgrades
Old 7th August 2008
  #25
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Don't do anything except make a good mix that sounds great to you and the client. Let the client ruin it with poor mastering if they want to. If they come back asking why it sounds wimpy you tell them that the mastering job sucks.
Old 8th August 2008
  #26
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Be the "master" of your domain, mix into a 2 buss compressor and deliver the result to a mastering engineer who knows how to get it "loud" without changing your dynamics. Yes, these days the (apparent) soft to loud ratio need not be sacrificed in order to achieve monstrously loud masters, thanks to look ahead brick wall limiters, soft clipping and, er, just clipping.... stay away from L2 and unnecessary use of MB compression, infact, if you got your compression right at mixing you don't need any more compression, just limiting. Lotsa ME's just wanna use compressors cos they have 'em. Compression is the mixer's job, right?.........
Old 3rd September 2008
  #27
To reiterate some of the other points and add my own:

-mixing with a buss compressor helps

-push the snare (and kick) levels 1 or 2 db louder than you think they should be

-And finally, what really works for me it using some sort of envelope processor like SPL Transient designer or the Sony Transmod. I think UAD makes one as well. Increasing the attack with one of these devices will really help your snare maintain its integrity through the mastering process.
Old 3rd September 2008
  #28
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Silvertone's Avatar
Use the right mastering engineer and your kick and snare level shouldn't change at all.

This is the hardest part of the mastering craft... good luck!
Old 7th September 2008
  #29
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Was talking to a mastering engineer yesterday that I highly repsect and asked a similar question - 'how much of my dynamics can I expect to lose in mastering' (as this had happened me too, not major, but a loss nonetheless). The answer I got was 'none'! He said he uses (among other things) a multiband compressor when mastering and in his opinion if a stereo compressor is slapped across the whole mix thus removing the ability to address what's happening with individual frequencies, the result will be a loss in dynamics. He also said to watch (while mixing) the level of sub on the bass, don't overload it as this will kick a stereo compressor into overdrive and mess with dynamics also.
Old 7th September 2008
  #30
Gear Addict
 

A lot of people deal with this by bouncing stems. Drums, bass, instruments, vocals, something like that. Leaves you room to adjust the mix at the mastering phase.

Sitting in the room with the ME isn't a bad idea either.
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