Everyone wants and needs their mix to be hot. Clients demand it, and even if you’re not sending it off to mastering, the mix still has to be competitive when compared with other songs. Here’s how to make your mix as loud as you want it, and make it sound better too.
- Everyone wants and needs their mix to be hot. Clients now demand it, even if you're going to master the song later. If you're not mastering, the mix still has to be competitive when compared to those songs. This trick for a hot and loud master will not only make your mix as loud as you want it to be, but it will make it sound a whole lot better, too. Okay, this trick is all about how to get a loud master, and this is basically for clients. If you're mixing things for your band, if you're mixing things to give to somebody else, if you're afraid they're going to compare it to a mix that's on the radio, on YouTube, whatever, a completed, finished mix, here's how to get really close to it.
Or, here's how to finish your mix if you're not going to master. It's actually fairly simple, and it requires a compressor and a limiter. So, here's the mix without anything on the master buss. (heavy metal music) Now you can see that it's not terribly loud, relatively speaking, but the peaks are actually loud. Those go pretty high. And this is important because you want to control them. So the first thing we're going to do is insert a compressor.
And there may be compressors that you like that will sound better. I'm just going to use just the generic one here, just so you know that it doesn't matter. You can make this work regardless of the compressor that you use. So now, let's listen, just with this compressor with the default settings. (heavy metal music) Now the first thing you notice is it decreased the level because there's a lot of compression. There's actually too much compression, so we're going to back that off, and we're going to equalize the level a little bit.
(heavy metal music) Okay, so now the level's about the same, but what we really want is hot levels, hot and loud levels. So this is where we're going to get our gain. (heavy metal music) Okay, so now we have a lot more gain, but if you take notice, we're also peaking into the red, which is never a good idea.
Now take notice, I didn't change any of the settings, and usually what we want is a ratio that's very, very mild. We want it somewhere in the neighborhood of two to one, three to one, something like that. So let's have a listen before and after. Here's before the compressor. (heavy metal music) And with the compressor. Now one of the problems is, once again, we're peaking, and that's not a good thing as far as distortion is concerned, and in a song like this, where it's hard rock, sometimes you can get away with that, and it might actually add to it a little bit.
But generally speaking we want to stay away from that. So, what you want is a limiter. So find a limiter. And, in this case, there's usually some sort of a limiter that's in the native plug-ins. I'm going to use the Precision Limiter from Universal Audio. It's one of my favorites. Now, watch what happens. (heavy metal music) Now we have the level, and you can see we're just knocking off the peaks.
Now generally speaking, you can get this really loud if you crank it up. But it also sounds very compressed. So, what we're going to do is get our level from the compressor, not from the limiter. (heavy metal song) Now you can see, it really got loud there.
We got a lot more relative level. We're not peaking. And this is something that now you can give to your friends, and they can compare it to some other songs, and it won't sound like it's a lot lower in level than the other ones, and that's kind of what you don't want. Now, what happens if you don't have a limiter? Well, you can actually use another compressor and make this work. And let me show you how to do that. First of all, I'm going to bypass this. So, without the limiter, here's what happens. (heavy metal song) And you can see we're peaking there.
So let's just put a second compressor-limiter in. Now here's a secret, you'll want to make this act like a limiter. So we're going to crank up the ratio pretty high. And actually let's crank it up as high as it will go. It's 100 to one right now. And now, the next secret is to bring the attack down as low as it will go. Now, watch what happens. (heavy metal music) Okay, so that's way too much compression, which we don't want, so we're going to back off on it.
(heavy metal music) And now, what we're doing is we're just lopping off the peaks here. And you can see, there's not much gain reduction that's happening. And just watch. (heavy metal music) And you can see, our level's pretty hot.
Now what we can do here is make it as hot as we can without it going over. And, that's kind of what a mastering engineer does, actually. (heavy metal music) If we bypass everything, have a listen. I'll bypass both compressors. (heavy metal music) Now once again, you can actually squeeze this so it gets very compressed, if you want, and make it even louder still.
And it will sound compressed. It will sound too compressed and it'll take all the life out of the song, so you want to be careful how much you compress it. Generally speaking, you can be kind to it, so don't hit it real hard, but you get your level from the first compressor. Now, just as comparison, let's take these out of the circuit right now. I'll bypass both of them. And I want to play you what I normally use. And you can see I'm using quite a lot of things here.
I'm using, actually, three compressors and a limiter. I can even bring my master fader up, which I had down, pretty much, before. (heavy metal music) And that's because I happen to like the sound of these compressors, but watch when I pull the SSL off for a second. (heavy metal music) See, it loses something.
And, also take notice, I'm not hitting it very hard. I'm barely touching it. Same thing with the Fairchild here. (heavy metal music) Once again, it's only a DB that I'm knocking off. And this is just rounding the bottom. And here is one of my favorites, it's the PSP. (heavy metal music) So you can see, I have these three compressors that I'm using.
And just barely using them. Let's look at what happens here with the Precision Limiter. (heavy metal music) Once again, I'm only knocking off a DB and half or so, and that's only on the peaks. So, we're keeping the dynamic range, and yet we're making it really loud, and that's how to get a hot and loud mix. Okay, to summarize, the first thing you need to do is insert a compressor across the mix buss.
It doesn't matter what kind of compressor, although some will sound better than others. Some just make a mix sound bigger and fatter, while others, they don't necessarily thin it out, but they won't sound as good. So experiment with the compressors that you have. The second thing is, you only need to add a DB or two of compression, although, you can add more if you want. After you get to five or six DB, it begins to sound kind of small, as a result. It sounds as if there's no dynamics, which you're squeezing out of by increasing the compression, so, a DB or two is usually all that you need.
You get your level from the makeup gain on the compressor, so turn that makeup gain up until you're somewhere around zero, and you'll see your peaks will be going into the red, but that's okay because, the next thing we're going to do is insert a limiter right after the compressor to control those peaks. And when we put the limiter in, we only have to set it to a ceiling of somewhere around 0.1 DB, and that way you're going to get really hot levels, and you won't have any overs.
So that's the hot and loud mix trick.
See how the pros handle the critical balance between the bass and drums. Learn where, when, why, and how EQ should be used on virtually any instrument. Become proficient in tailoring just the right effect for each particular mixing situation. And master the key to fat and punchy sounding mixes: compression. Tune in every Thursday for a new tip!
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