Levels are not consistent in a track, missing the basics

Discussion in 'Mixing and Mastering' started by waverider, Mar 14, 2019.

  1. waverider

    waverider Kapellmeister

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    Hi, I'm working on a track, a bunch of synths with presets. Some of the synths use arps or pattern sequencers so I only have a single midi note in the editor but I hear a bunch of notes in rapid succession.

    I'm having trouble to adjust the tracks so that I can hear everything well without the master meter going into the red. I'm using Neutron2 with track assistants and also TrackSpacer on a couple of tracks.

    My biggest issue is that there is no consistency in the levels. When I play a passage, sometimes there's a loud note or bunch of notes that triggers a red level, but then I'll play it back another time and it won't trigger that. This happens when I play back from the same starting point. I make sure to start before the sequencers/arp trigger so I get the same kind of building sound scape every time. The differences are huge, sometimes it stays below 0 but then it'll go up to +0.9 or even +1.2 at the same spot.

    I'm missing something here, and I need to learn the basics. I'm completely new to mixing. Using Reaper for this at the moment. Can you just give me a few words or phrases to look up and perhaps recommend a good video tutorial on what I need to learn here?
     
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  3. Lieglein

    Lieglein Producer

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    Thats what an arpeggio is.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arpeggio

    Compression and equalizing has to be used. Maybe multiband compression.

    For the other stuff I need an example. Could be various things.
     
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  4. dbmuzik

    dbmuzik Platinum Record

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    In the final mixing stage you have to take "random" and "let's just hear what happens" out of the equation. This goes for any instruments and fx plugins that are assigned to trigger random orders, velocities, modulations, delays, filters, etc.

    If you are at the mixing stage but don't want to bounce/render all your instrument tracks as of yet.. you should at least bounce any tracks that generate random events or fx (your arp track is an example of one). Bounce the arp track a few times in real time and use the bounced .wav version you like the most. Then you can tailor the track where volume automation, clip gain changes, compression, etc. will stick.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2019
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  5. Evo

    Evo Kapellmeister

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    Just use a simple optical compressor for gain reductions and peaks or simply turn the gain down.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2019
  6. Satai

    Satai Platinum Record

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    Mixing engineers fix that with dynamic range compression. It's a big undertaking learning how to use it properly, but worth it.

    On the other hand you may be more interested in the creative direction, and far more important stuff like getting the damn track finished. In that case, the good news is that it's not the end of the world if a track pops into the red on you. It used to be a big deal, and everyone in old DAWs was scared of red since it meant nasty digitial clipping would happen. But nowadays that has been fixed, so those reds aren't as big of a deal. As long as the master channel doesn't go into red, you can most likely get away with other tracks showing red here and there.

    To deal with them cleanly, put a utility on your master and simply turn down the volume until the reds no longer bother you. If that doesn't work (the jumps in volume are too big and turning it down makes stuff unlistenably quiet for you while mixing), then put your stock limiter on with default settings. This will "smoothly" kill off anything that tries to go into the red but leave everything else untouched. You can experiment with putting that simple limiter onto the actual arps that are annoying. The simpler the limiter, the better it works for this purpose.

    The point of doing it like this is that you can finish the track. When it's finished and ready to be mixed, you take off your temporary limiter and start working with the peaky audio using compressors and other techniques. It's very normal to have to reign those things in when mixing, raw output can be inconsistent like that not just with synths but with acoustic mic recordings too.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2019
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  7. waverider

    waverider Kapellmeister

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    Hi, thank you for the information. Very helpful.

    See I had not even consciously realized it would be an actionable step to freeze or render a randomized pattern to make it reliable. What a painfully obvious thing to miss! That will help a lot. What I don't understand about this is why it would produce randomized volume peaks in the first place. Because the arps and patterns are being generated according to a fixed sequence. It should always be exactly the same when the starting point of the playback is also the same. But I must be missing something else.

    As for a compressor, I still didn't understand how it exactly works. I think having an optical plugin will definitely help so I can actually see what's happening. Like that Fabfilter plugin, should check it out. Will watch a bunch of tutorials on this.

    Thank you for the explanation about the limiter. I must admit I felt so clueless that I ended up just slapping Ozone on the master track, and its limiter took care of the reds. A limiter is so useful because it will really only deal with the reds without changing much in the other parts of the track. I don't like compression so far because it just changes the tone and feel of everything too much.

    Now, my final problem was that a lot of parts of the track were too quiet. When I use compression, it changes the loud parts too much, but I would want to leave them untouched. So I just used volume automation to make the quiet parts louder. I googled it and it appears that this is called gain riding or fader riding. I am not sure what the "proper" way of doing this would have been, but at least the quiet parts aren't way too quiet anymore.

    I always scoffed at mixing and mastering but when I finally tried it myself it's actually a big pain in the butt lol

    Have a nice weekend everyone, thank you.
     
  8. Evo

    Evo Kapellmeister

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    Poor layering my friend. The purpose in layering is creating a sound that is like if is only 1 sound, so you need to cut all the frequencies that is not necessaries like below 180hz to make space to the bass or simply be creative in midi settings like putting 1 octave higher a layered things or just something like that, be creative. The purpose is to create space without over abuse. And learn how compressor work, becouse 1 big tips is to not compress all the fucking time, example: drums -> snare-hat-whatever; use parallel compression, not use a compressor in individual if is not necessaries. For the gain rider.. why are you doing that on the layers bus or simply why are you doing that?
    Ah and in the master use only a limiter like L2 from waves, shit like Ozone if you learn how to mixing properly is useless. I repeat, look how compressor work, which type of compressors exist, which type of compression style and techniques exist and there is so many and many various type of mastering techniques that depends on what kind of track are you working. Trust me, after you spent 10 years of mixing and mastering you look ozone in another way and mastering is the last and last of the last things you need to do, use just a limiter and concentrate to finish that shit.
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2019
  9. Satai

    Satai Platinum Record

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    When a lot of tracks mix together, they start to obscure each other. Can't hear as clearly, so it might sound to you like they are too quiet now. Fixing it with volume automation is fine, but there are other ways too. You might want to start experimenting with high pass filters. Just add any eq, select the high pass (also called low cut sometimes, same thing), and slowly edge it up while listening how it makes the instrument track or group sound lighter and lighter and how other things seem to pop out of the mix better now.

    You might be amazed how much you can chop off from certain tracks and still have them sound good in the full mix. If that's the case, don't be afraid to chop it as hard as you want to. Using high pass creatively like this is the first step toward mastering EQ for mixing in general. You can get a lot done using just highpass and it will give you "an ear" after a while, which is directly useful for when you start using more complicated EQ settings.

    My EQ thinking a lot of the time in mixing goes like this: "can I get it to sound right with just highpass (and lowpass)? if no, can I get it with shelves?" Then as a last resort, I'm adding some bell filters, they will be added on top of the highpass and shelves already used and that means I can use very slight settings on the bells. You don't have to do it this way, but if you do, your EQ settings will sound better than somebody who doesn't know this because of arcane analog EQ secrets nobody remembers about, and the minimalism of only allowing yourself to use the minimum necessary filters will improve your skills a lot faster since you're always trying to get more mileage out of simple things. You end up knowing those simple things and what they can do like the back of your own hand. The order, where you first try to get away with only highpass->shelves and highpass-> bells and the lot as last resort, is what's helpful.

    Those low frequencies give everything weight and power, but they also obscure other tracks the most. Your goal is to find a balance where the instruments you want to have power have it, while the others are high passed to give everything more space in the mix. Don't put the high pass straight on the master and call it a day, not a good idea as far as mixing although in mastering it's sometimes done anyways (super carefully).
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2019
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  10. waverider

    waverider Kapellmeister

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    Sorry for not responding sooner! It's been almost a week. Thank you for writing these long responses, I learned a lot. I've been hesitant to use compression and EQs but after reading this I realize that I really have to start learning how to use them. I was aware that mix engineers use them but didn't know it was this powerful, and I have always hesitated to learn it. Gotta jump into the cold water, no way around it. The reason I like Neutron and Ozone is because to a beginner they look as if they do a lot of complicated things for the clueless newbie. But I can absolutely imagine that in a couple of years I would look at and listen to Ozone and realize I could do it better with the experience I have gotten. I think first I have to get some good speakers or headphones though. Then I can actually "listen" to stuff. Cheers and have a nice weekend.
     
  11. Baxter

    Baxter Audiosexual

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    Sounds like you need to go back to learn the basics:
    1) Proper gain-staging
    2) Subtractive mixing and subtractive EQ/filtering.
    Then comes riding faders, compression and all that.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2019
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  12. SineWave

    SineWave Audiosexual

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    Select all the tracks by clicking on the first one, press shift, then click on the last one. Now adjust the volume down on any of the selected tracks. Done. :wink:

    Why are you obsessing with pegging the master out? Just keep it down and turn the volume up on your monitors. You know, 6 or even 12 dBs won't make any difference in sound, but your master out won't be pegged.

    @Baxter, I'm beginning to be bored with liking your posts. :rofl: But they save me from posting lengthy posts, and I'm always pressed with time. :wink:
     
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  13. No Avenger

    No Avenger Audiosexual

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    As Lieglein correctly said, if you play 1 note and can hear several, that's caused by an arp or a sequenz and that's what these are made for. An easy way to get a more or less nice little melody with one single note. If you don't want that, just switch the arp/sequenz off.

    If the level meters going above 0dB bothers you, turn down the synth's output to avoid it in the channel, turn down the faders, like Satai and SineWave said, to avoid it in subgroups and the master. Piece of cake, problem solved.


    But here is where my understanding of your main problem seems to differ from those of all the other posters here.

    If the notes differ in level, no Neutron2, trackspacer, low- or highshelf or -cut and probably not even a compressor will solve the problem, because, at least as I understand it, it's probably caused by a modulation/randomization of the synth's or single osc's level. This could be done either within the sound itself or by the arp. An arp can change a lot more than only a note's pitch. Depending on the synth it can alter also the cutoff, resonance, pan, fx send, ... and ofc the level.
    To find out if it's caused by the arp or the sound itself, just switch the arp off, play or draw some notes with the same pitch and velocity and see/hear if the level still changes. If you found the basic source of this problem you have to look for some kind of level modulation/randomization (in the synth or the arp) and turn this off.


    When it comes to mixing your synths, you have to decide if one or more sounds shall add up to one single sound, that's called layer, or if they should be audible separately. In the latter case can you can set them to different pan positions, use different notes/octaves, lower some freqs in one synth and raise them in another. The more their tasks differ (pad - percussive, high - low, left - right, upfront - back, clean - distorted, ...) the better.
    Try to do this as good as you can and then you maybe don't even need a compressor, limiter, Neutron, or Trackspacer to solve the occurred problems.
     
  14. Gramofon

    Gramofon Producer

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    Also, keep in mind this could be caused by playback leftovers. For example, if you're looping that part, when it goes back to loop start it's very possible it layers over itself (the remnants of the previous loop cycle, like tails, releases, delays that build up over and over etc.) as it restarts the playback.

    It's also possible that you're modulating something too hard and sometimes it hits harder than the rest or gets too busy.

    Same thing could be happening with renders, like if you're looping a region and it's not clipping, but then you render the whole track and it does at some point. It's possible some leftovers of some previous part of the track/timeline are now bleeding into that region which could cause it to overload if it's right at the edge. That's more for the master outputs though (that is with more than one track playing).
     
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  15. waverider

    waverider Kapellmeister

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    Hello, again I have to apologize for not writing here sooner. I haven't been feeling well lately and couldn't really be bothered to care about this, but now I'm beginning to care about it again.

    Thank you for your lengthy posts. I have accepted that I need to learn a lot more basics, and I'll watch a couple of in depth tutorials about mixing and EQ and all that stuff. I was just glad that I could slap Neutron on the tracks and Ozone on the master track and it wouldn't clip anymore, but that alone didn't make it sound good, of course.

    My main problem was that if I would turn down the volume of a synth in order to prevent it from clipping, it would be too quiet compared to the rest. And if I turned down the rest, the overall volume would be too quiet. I now realize I have to actually EQ stuff, and for that I need a basic understanding of it, and so on. As for the sequencers and arps, they were intentional and I wanted them to sound that way.

    The most intuitive trick I got out of this thread is to freeze or render the arp or sequenced passages.
    Thank you again.
     
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