Bad Mix

bad_mix.pngI have to continue working on some new material, not ready yet, but looking at the waveforms, it’s not good. See image to the right. I think this is actually very common for anyone producing material, and letting a limiter do its job. The output is not clipping, but look at the top parts with flat cuts, the limiter in action.

In real life, this kind of sound works, but sound very compact, somewhat massive and also dull at the same time, no variations. This happens easily when too much material is mixed together at the same time. For example, multiple drum loops, with dynamically active low-end, could produce this result.

Remember that dance music, one aspect of it, is really moving air back and forth. If the air does not move, this dynamic part is missing.

There are workarounds, like high pass filters to remove energy from the low end, very good eq:ing across the lines, or just restrict the cases where overlapping instruments cause this. Or then just use less material.

Another simple way is just to take down the volume levels the same amount across all the tracks. It seems that the limiters and other mastering tools could do a better job if the original input is not so hot. In Logic this is easy, in Ableton Live it’s not as fun, as you can’t select multiple volume sliders, and one controls the others, as in Logic. You could also group together tracks into one specific track, let’s say all the drums are re-routed into one track, and by one volume control you could set the balance.

good_mix.pngHere’s by the way an example of a good sound wave format, this was a reference track (not mine) I listened to, and especially looked at the wave forms. When doing this, find a track that has similar characteristics you want to achieve, and then learn how it’s done. It’s quite fine to do backwards engineering with music productions.

Anyway, in this case you could see that the top peaks do not look like linear roof tops. There’s some breathing room between the pulsating drum/bass lines, and that’s good for many purposes: air is moving with big speakers, when doing MP3 compression the result sounds more airy, and in general the final production is not so massive, but still works well on both the dance floor, as well as on the iPod.