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Sound tools pt. 1: About, gain, normalize

From: Digital Audio Principles

Video: Sound tools pt. 1: About, gain, normalize

Sound tools are another category of plug- ins that can help you work with sound files. They tend to function more as utilities than as tonal enhancers or special effects. Now many of these will work at the file level and won't be available as real-time plug-ins or inserts. In this movie, we will look at two that deal with how you change the volume of a sound file. We will look at gain and normalize. So I am going to go ahead and zoom in on a sound file first. Let's set it up, so we can see it a little bit better.

Sound tools pt. 1: About, gain, normalize

Sound tools are another category of plug- ins that can help you work with sound files. They tend to function more as utilities than as tonal enhancers or special effects. Now many of these will work at the file level and won't be available as real-time plug-ins or inserts. In this movie, we will look at two that deal with how you change the volume of a sound file. We will look at gain and normalize. So I am going to go ahead and zoom in on a sound file first. Let's set it up, so we can see it a little bit better.

Make it nice and large. And we are going to deal with this glitch beat, and we are going to go ahead and change the volume of it. So through AudioSuite, I have the option of Gain, which I will grab, and what Gain allows you to do is basically increase the volume of the sound file you are working with. It renders it at a new volume, and it increases the amplitude. So this is helpful if you have files that are too quiet to kind of deal with if you are dealing in a multi-track setting and you have quite a few tracks and they are quite loud and this one you can't quite, no matter how much you turn the fader up, you can't quite hear it enough.

Gain is a helpful way to bring it up into the mix. It's also always good to remember to have your sound files as loud as possible, then use the mixer to be in the position of turning them down more than turning them up. It's always better to reduce or cut volumes than to boost them. But we are going to go ahead and take a sound file that's not quite loud enough and make it a little bit louder with Gain. So first, let's just give it a listen. Those glitches are on purpose, by the way. That's an aesthetic decision that I went for. There is a cool thing in Gain where you can see some information about the file.

If I selected it, it picks this information, preview it. That's with no change. I can fade this up and say let's add 9 dB or so. So I go for it, and it makes it huge. See how much louder it is? Let's take a listen. (drums playing) So that's great. Now I have more to work with in my mix. I can turn that up or down, I can apply effects, and I have got more signal going on there.

So this is really cool. I am going to undo that and let's switch over to a voiceover track and show you how you can use it for just little bits and pieces. Here is this infamous voiceover track that we have used quite a few times. Let's listen. Here this is--in the context of things that, oops is fairly quiet. (Female Speaker: 2006. Oops.) And let's say that that 'oops' is actually on purpose, and we want to turn that up a little bit. I am just going ahead, and we will just pick a setting and gamble and see. Let's go up 6 dB.

You can always undo it if you are not quite right. I can't quite--I'm going to have to zoom in to see what kind of damage we did there. Well, that could be in the ballpark. So we will give it a listen. (Female Speaker: For Friday, January 19th, 2006. Oops. 2000) Let's make it really loud though. Big mistake. (Female Speaker: January 19th, 2006. Oops. 2000) One of the things with gain that you have to be careful of is you get to decide how much you are going to add, and you can conceivably actually add so much that the volume of the file exceeds our digital zero level and goes into distortion.

So let's go ahead and do that for the fun of it. Say we have no concept of how quiet or loud our sound is, and we're just going to add 26 dB just to see what that does. Well, already you can kind of see that it looks pretty extreme. Let's see what it sounds like. (Female Speaker: 2006. Oops. 2000) There is some digital distortion. You hear that kind of nasty static-y sound? (Female Speaker: Oops.) So that's the thing with gain. You can use it to turn things up. We can also use this to turn it way down if we just don't want to hear that. You could turn it all the way down, get rid of it completely.

(Female Speaker: 2006. 2000. January 9) Just make silence there. (Female Speaker: January 19th, 2006. 2000. January) So Gain is great and that we have so much control over adding or subtracting the amount of volume. But it can be a little tricky in that sometimes you don't know how much you will be adding, and you can actually add too much for certain things. So it takes a little bit of trial and error to find the right amount.

Now some plug-ins will actually give you some more detailed information on how loud your sound file already is, and so you can quickly make decisions about oh, well we need to add this much, or we need to add that much, but it kind of depends on the features and functionalities of the sound tool. So adding gain is good thing to be able to do, and it's really handy for evening out volumes and tracks. Another way to adjust volume is via Normalize and the way Normalize works--let me go ahead and open up the Normalize file-level plug-in-- what Normalize does is it also increases the volume of a sound file, but instead of telling it how much louder to make it like, make it 5 dB louder or 6 dB quieter, you are able to set the maximum peak.

So I can say if I have a sound file, I want the loudest moment in that sound file to be -1 dB. Or I can set it to be zero dB, which is the digital maximum. So this is really convenient if you have a file and you just want to make it as loud as digitally possible--or in relationship to as loud as digitally possible. Maybe I want it to go up to 2 dB, and that will be enough. A lot of times, you will use it, and I like to use it and go up to about 1 dB and add some effects.

Let's take a look at what happens. I will zoom back in here. Let's go back to our glitch beat, grab this, and we will just normalize that section to -1 dB. So as you can see, big change. I will play this. hopefully it won't blow us out. (drums playing) So you can see on the meter here how much difference we have, not just visually but our magic meter.

So Normalize is really handy if you want to just bring the overall level. If you have a big file, like here I have a whole like five-minute long guitar track, if I just want to say, hey I don't want to change the volume and gamble with how many dB I should add, just make it as loud as it can be, so while I am mixing I have lots of signal to work with. I can set that to a certain level and then work with it. You will also find that using normalize when you export your final, like bounced-down mix masters, if you remember in mixing, we showed how you can kind of bounce a file down.

Then we go to finally export that to use it to maybe burn for a CD or to create an MP3, you can take that final mixdown which is one file that has all your different files in it and normalize it so that it's as loud as it can digitally be. This is really helpful in terms of making sure that when people get whatever you are making and put it into their CD player or listen to your MP3 on MySpace or in your iPod, that it's just loud as all the other ones, or at least as loud as it can be, so they don't have to go and really crank up their system and then when the next guy's song comes on, it blows it apart.

So normalize is a really good thing to be aware of, and it's great to use in the end of the process, but it's also helpful when you are just dealing with initial tracks and kind of bringing sound files up to a volume that makes working with them easier. Next, we will look at a few tools that let you change things in relationship to time.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Digital Audio Principles
Digital Audio Principles

110 video lessons · 27989 viewers

Dave Schroeder
Author

 
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  1. 50s
    1. Welcome
      50s
  2. 39m 10s
    1. What is sound?
      4m 15s
    2. Hertz and frequency response
      5m 34s
    3. Phase
      2m 39s
    4. Capturing audio
      3m 39s
    5. Sample rate
      6m 16s
    6. Bit depth
      9m 47s
    7. The waveform
      5m 3s
    8. Audio file formats
      1m 57s
  3. 7m 25s
    1. What is a digital audio workstation?
      2m 59s
    2. Typical DAW signal flow
      4m 26s
  4. 50m 33s
    1. What microphones do
      1m 57s
    2. Element types
      5m 0s
    3. Pickup patterns
      6m 51s
    4. Axis
      2m 52s
    5. Frequency response and the proximity effect
      5m 10s
    6. Phase issues
      1m 41s
    7. Microphone types
      8m 44s
    8. Miking vocals
      5m 39s
    9. Miking amplifiers
      2m 17s
    10. Miking drums
      10m 22s
  5. 16m 39s
    1. Cables and connectors overview
      2m 42s
    2. Balanced and unbalanced cables
      3m 19s
    3. Common cable types
      7m 13s
    4. Cable tips
      3m 25s
  6. 12m 16s
    1. What is an I/O device?
      1m 41s
    2. Analog to digital conversion
      3m 10s
    3. Tour of an audio interface
      4m 49s
    4. Interface considerations
      2m 36s
  7. 21m 5s
    1. What is a preamp?
      3m 21s
    2. Input levels
      5m 29s
    3. Padding
      2m 18s
    4. Phantom power
      2m 37s
    5. Phase reverse
      3m 4s
    6. Preamp demo
      4m 16s
  8. 12m 56s
    1. What is a mixer?
      5m 55s
    2. Input section
      1m 17s
    3. Channel strips
      3m 16s
    4. Master section
      2m 28s
  9. 18m 21s
    1. What is monitoring?
      2m 11s
    2. Speakers
      4m 47s
    3. Room considerations
      5m 43s
    4. Headphone types
      3m 50s
    5. Monitoring levels
      1m 50s
  10. 15m 23s
    1. What role do computers play?
      1m 36s
    2. Performance issues
      4m 11s
    3. Hard drives
      4m 38s
    4. Mechanical noise
      2m 10s
    5. Authorization
      2m 48s
  11. 6m 54s
    1. Planning for recording
      54s
    2. Doing a system check
      1m 26s
    3. Planning your inputs
      1m 42s
    4. The recording environment
      2m 52s
  12. 25m 52s
    1. Types of digital audio software
      38s
    2. Multi-track recorders/sequencers
      4m 56s
    3. Two-track recorders/waveform editors
      4m 55s
    4. Loop-based music production software
      5m 44s
    5. Plug-ins
      6m 56s
    6. Other varieties
      2m 43s
  13. 18m 59s
    1. Common components
      46s
    2. The transport
      2m 4s
    3. The toolbar
      3m 19s
    4. The Edit/Arrange window
      4m 42s
    5. The mixer
      5m 8s
    6. The file list
      3m 0s
  14. 19m 17s
    1. Setting up a session
      3m 30s
    2. Assigning inputs and getting signals
      3m 19s
    3. Input modes
      3m 28s
    4. Overdubbing and punching
      5m 14s
    5. Bouncing down
      3m 46s
  15. 19m 42s
    1. What is editing?
      1m 21s
    2. Waveforms
      2m 53s
    3. Making silent cuts and trims
      7m 1s
    4. Fades and automation
      8m 27s
  16. 1h 23m
    1. What are plug-ins?
      3m 0s
    2. Using plug-ins
      6m 11s
    3. EQs
      7m 4s
    4. Dynamics pt. 1: Compressors, limiters, expanders, and gates
      5m 40s
    5. Dynamics pt 2: Applying dynamic effects
      7m 2s
    6. Pitch shifting
      6m 14s
    7. Reverb
      9m 28s
    8. Echo and delay
      6m 23s
    9. Modulation effects: Phaser, flanger, and chorus
      9m 39s
    10. Sound tools pt. 1: About, gain, normalize
      7m 39s
    11. Sound tools pt. 2: Reverse and time compression/expansion
      6m 29s
    12. Sound tools pt. 3: Noise reducers, dither
      8m 11s
  17. 23m 43s
    1. What is MIDI?
      3m 6s
    2. Keyboard controllers
      1m 23s
    3. Computer-based virtual instruments
      1m 6s
    4. Control surfaces
      1m 6s
    5. Recording and editing MIDI
      12m 4s
    6. Virtual instruments
      4m 58s
  18. 27m 29s
    1. What is mixing?
      1m 54s
    2. Some common objectives
      3m 4s
    3. Some useful techniques
      5m 59s
    4. A quick mixing demo
      16m 32s
  19. 18m 48s
    1. What is mastering?
      2m 24s
    2. Sonic maximization
      9m 43s
    3. Final preparations and exporting
      6m 41s
  20. 13m 34s
    1. What is audio compression?
      2m 16s
    2. Popular formats
      2m 9s
    3. Bit rate, sample rate, and channels
      5m 42s
    4. Other adjustments and considerations
      3m 27s
  21. 15m 6s
    1. Essential gear
      7m 36s
    2. Voice recording setups
      1m 43s
    3. The voice production process
      5m 47s
  22. 10m 4s
    1. Analog vs. digital
      2m 48s
    2. Tube vs. solid state
      5m 6s
    3. The continual upgrade
      2m 10s
  23. 18s
    1. Goodbye
      18s

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