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Once recording and editing are finished, audio engineers can take advantage of the training in Mixing and Mastering with Pro Tools to punch up the final output. Digidesign Certified Expert Brian Lee White covers all the basic mixing tools that every producer and engineer should know, from using EQ to add clarity and focus to using compression and limiting to maximize track levels within a mix. Brian stresses the importance of setting up a solid mixing plan prior to any work in Pro Tools, and gives advice on the best plug-ins for each stage of the process. Exercise files accompany the course.
Remember how I said a De-Esser was like a frequency specific compressor working only on the sibilant sounds within a track or a mix? Well, a multiband compressor follows the same idea but works across the entire frequency range. By splitting up the compression into multiple parts or bands, an engineer can focus dynamic control within a specified frequency range, leaving other frequencies untouched. So, let me give you a little bit of an example. Pro Tools doesn't come with any multiband compressors.
So, I'm going to bring up the Wave C4 and what I have here is basically four compressors split up into four different bands I can see the graphic shows me the low-band, the mid-band and two high- bands here, and I can adjust the those. And then I have settings, my typical compressor settings for each one of those bands. So, I have a threshold for the low band, I have an Attack and Release and I also have a Range controller.
It sort of defines the maximum amount of gain reduction that's going to take place. Now, each compressor has it's own set of controls plus I have a set of linked controls to move them all up or down. Now, a lot of times, I don't use multiband compression across the whole mix bus, I think people tend to use it because it kind of gives the mix that FM radio sound. A lot of times that's because FM radio uses a specific kind of multiband compressor to sort of optimize the bandwidth of a tune to go across the airwaves but it can kind of flattened out a mix especially if it's already a good mix that has solid dynamics, I tend to avoid any kind of multiband compression on the mix bus but an example of where a master engineer might opt to use a multiband compressor would be let's say it's a two track stereo mix, it can't get remixed and there are problems in the low end with the dynamic.
Let's say the bass guitar or the kick drum was never compressed at the mix stage. What the master engineer can do is just focus only on the low end. So, he could take and solo up the low end. (Low machine-like humming.) (Music playing) (Male singing: And I'll never...) And do dynamics control just on that specific band, without damaging the other bands dynamics, right? So, you could still keep the mix open and brighter without sort of squashing the lead vocal or the snare drum, while being able to control that low end.
Now, generally like I said, I use multiband compression more on individual instruments rather than on entire mixes. And the really cool thing that you can do with multiband compressors on individual instruments as well as sub mixes and the whole mix is that because you have separate attack and release settings for each band. You can actually optimize them for the specific kind of frequencies that are running through that band. So, for example, we know that low frequencies are physically longer.
So, they oscillate much slower. So, physically, low frequencies are much longer and they oscillate much slower. So, what we need to do is actually have slower attack and release to avoid the distortion that can come up in a compressor or a limiter if you are using too fast of an attack or release setting, right. Because the compressor would actually try to trace the waveform. If you think about a really low frequency waveform, its oscillation speed can be 5 milliseconds per oscillation.
And so if you are using releases or attacks that are faster than that, that can actually compromise the waveform in a way that you don't necessarily want to do but as I move up into the higher frequency bands, I can get away with faster attack and releases. And so a cool thing that you can do is let's say you want to have the kick drum and you want to have a little snap on the high end. You can kind of work with your attack and release to gain that snap and you want the low end to be a little smoother not as much snapped or a byte to it.
And so a multiband compression is going to allow you to do that. Same thing with the vocal. You might want more control in the mid range here but in the top end, you want to kind of leave it a little bit loose, little bit sparkly. You can also use these as De-Essers too. All right, I could just bypass some of these other bands and then just dedicate one band a sort of a high frequency De -Esser for the entire mix which would allow me to add more high end EQ.
So, that's something a master engineer might do, is add multiple stages of high frequency De-Essing so that they can continue to add high shelf EQ to a mix to kind of make it brighter without being too harsh. Now, if you do want to use a multiband compressor on your home mix, my best recommendation is to understand really what it does. And if you wanted to just kind of play with one, what I would do is load up one of the presets, whichever one you have. They are going to have a preset for mastering. Load up one of the presets, let's say mastering.
Raise a threshold all the way up and then kind of bring it down until you start getting some action in the low, mid, and maybe the high mid-bands, but you are not looking to crush it. So, just like this. (Music playing) (Male singing: We hit the town.) (Male singing: And I'll never forget that sound.) (Male singing: Tonight I fell asleep at the...) So, not too much,. I'm not looking for tons of movement in here.
Now, I can also use the makeup gain on each specific band and this is actually something you want to be really careful of, because you can really screw up the balance of your mix. But the makeup gain can act, as a sort of a dynamic EQ. So, if I just boost the makeup gain in the mids, it's actually acting as an equalizer. So, something that you can do with your multiband compressor is you can compress as well as boost or cut certain bands of frequencies and again.
It's going to be sort of more painting in broad strokes, because we are dealing with pretty wide frequency bands. But you do want to be careful with your makeup gain in a multiband compressor, not to totally shift out the frequencies of your mix. So, again multiband compression is just another tool. It's not an automatic solution for mixing or mastering. Many engineers, like I said, only pull them out to treat specific problems in the mixed stage and during the mastering stage, they are getting pulled out only when a remix is not possible.
So, think about addressing things inside the mix before you do a lot of aggressive mastering if you can.
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