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Exploring the dynamic ranges of different music genres

From: Audio Mastering Techniques

Video: Exploring the dynamic ranges of different music genres

While it's easy to think that all music must be mastered the same way, different genres of music have different dynamic ranges that require a different mastering approach. Dynamic Range is a term for the degree of dynamic variation in level within a piece of music. That is it's a difference between the loudest and softest parts of the song, and it's of main concern when mastering. In mastering, we often use Compressors and Limiters to decrease the Dynamic Range so that softer parts of the song are closer in volume to the louder parts. We'll discuss how to use Compressors and Limiters to do this in other movies in this course.

Exploring the dynamic ranges of different music genres

While it's easy to think that all music must be mastered the same way, different genres of music have different dynamic ranges that require a different mastering approach. Dynamic Range is a term for the degree of dynamic variation in level within a piece of music. That is it's a difference between the loudest and softest parts of the song, and it's of main concern when mastering. In mastering, we often use Compressors and Limiters to decrease the Dynamic Range so that softer parts of the song are closer in volume to the louder parts. We'll discuss how to use Compressors and Limiters to do this in other movies in this course.

Very low values like a DR-3, which stands for Dynamic Range 3, means that there is only a 3 dB difference from the lowest to the highest peak in the song. This rating indicates that there's a lot of compression being used so there's not a lot of variation in level at all. Something that's more natural sounding might have a value of DR-12 or more, meaning that there's at least 12 dB difference from the lowest to the highest peak in the song. Here's an example of a Dynamic Range meter that shows how different the Dynamic Range is from the peak level.

Different genres of music sound different at different DR levels so. Most music will be considered unpleasant sounding at DR-6, but it might be perfectly acceptable for something like electronic music. With most pop, rock R&B, and hip-hop a DR of 8 might be quite comfortable, which will not work for jazz, folk, country, or classical music, which sounds a lot better with at least DR of 12. Let's look at some examples, thanks to musicmachinery.com. If we look at the famous Dave Brubeck's song Take Five, we can see that at its quietest it drops as low as -33 and at it's loudest it's at -15 which is the difference of 18 dB or DR-18.

On the other hand, if we look at Metallica Cyanide, we see that the range goes only from -3 to -6 dB for a DR-3, which is why so many people find it unpleasant to listen to. Led Zeppelin's venerable Stairway to Heaven goes from about -40 to about -5 dB, which is a Dynamic Range of 35. Now look at Muse's Supermassive Black Hole with a range of only 4 dB. Here is a list of different averages for different genres of music.

As you can see, some genres like jazz and classical have a large Dynamic Range, while others like hip-hop and rock have a very narrow one. Dynamic Range is one of the most important aspects of mastering, but it's all too often overlooked. As you go forward in the course, keep in mind that Dynamic Range is a major factor in the sound of your finished project.

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Audio Mastering Techniques

56 video lessons · 10498 viewers

Bobby Owsinski
Author

 
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  1. 1m 39s
    1. Welcome
      1m 39s
  2. 7m 7s
    1. Introducing mastering
      1m 22s
    2. The history of audio mastering
      3m 30s
    3. Mastering professionally versus doing it yourself
      2m 15s
  3. 10m 10s
    1. Mixing with mastering in mind
      6m 41s
    2. Mastering session documentation
      53s
    3. Printing alternative mixes
      2m 36s
  4. 6m 21s
    1. Evaluating your listening environment
      1m 33s
    2. Beginning with the basic listening technique
      3m 19s
    3. Deciding between monitors and headphones
      1m 29s
  5. 18m 13s
    1. Overview of mastering tools
      22s
    2. Exploring the dynamic ranges of different music genres
      2m 40s
    3. Understanding compression
      3m 20s
    4. Understanding limiting
      1m 25s
    5. Understanding equalization (EQ)
      1m 44s
    6. Using a de-esser
      1m 14s
    7. Metering while mastering
      3m 57s
    8. Exploring the mastering signal path
      1m 11s
    9. Listening in your digital audio workstation (DAW) using the A/B method
      2m 20s
  6. 33m 10s
    1. Making a loud master
      3m 7s
    2. Compression tips and tricks
      2m 4s
    3. Achieving competitive level
      2m 2s
    4. Understanding the pitfalls of hypercompression
      2m 10s
    5. Balancing frequencies
      3m 20s
    6. Reducing sibilance with a de-esser
      2m 2s
    7. Inserting fades
      1m 37s
    8. Eliminating noise and distortion
      43s
    9. Using multiband limiting
      4m 23s
    10. Adjusting the stereo image
      3m 24s
    11. Bringing out specific elements in a mix
      8m 18s
  7. 8m 17s
    1. Using dither
      1m 40s
    2. Using the appropriate workstation
      1m 27s
    3. Adjusting the spreads
      1m 28s
    4. Using International Standard Recording Codes (ISRC)
      1m 14s
    5. Using Universal Product Codes (UPC)
      1m 10s
    6. Creating CD-text discs
      33s
    7. Delivering or receiving a DDP master
      45s
  8. 12m 44s
    1. Encoding using the MP3 format
      3m 43s
    2. Understanding MP3 metadata
      1m 44s
    3. Creating a great-sounding MP3
      2m 46s
    4. Generating a FLAC file
      1m 18s
    5. Submitting music to online stores and services
      48s
    6. Submitting music to online song databases
      2m 25s
  9. 17m 23s
    1. Understanding AAC, the iTunes file format
      2m 28s
    2. Mastering for iTunes tips and tricks
      1m 36s
    3. The Mastered for iTunes format
      1m 29s
    4. The Mastered for iTunes tool package
      54s
    5. Using the iTunes Plus tools: iTunes Droplet
      1m 51s
    6. Using the Mastered for iTunes Audio To WAVE Droplet
      49s
    7. Using the Mastered for iTunes AURoundTripAAC Audio Unit tool
      6m 48s
    8. Using The Mastered for iTunes tools Test Pressing Feature
      1m 28s
  10. 3m 30s
    1. Mastering for high resolution
      1m 36s
    2. Mastering for television
      1m 54s
  11. 1m 19s
    1. Delivering the master to the replicator
      28s
    2. Archiving the project
      51s
  12. 50s
    1. Next steps
      50s

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