matching track volumes over a collection/album

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burnt toast
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matching track volumes over a collection/album

Post by burnt toast » Wed Jun 16, 2010 11:28 am

hi all,

I was wondering if anyone could give me some advice on matching the volume levels of tracks across a collection of ambient pieces myself and friend have been working on. I think we are fairly happy with the mixes within each individual track and I would hate to loose the dynamics going on there. There are probably 4 or 5 different sessions I'm cherry picking a selection from across a few years so there are a few different 'master' levels if you will.

A friend suggested dragging all of the tracks onto a timeline and then mixing them there - I was thinking maybe I should try to get the peak of each track to hit -0.1 db or something like that? I'm just mainly concerned about having jarring volume jumps between tracks which would disrupt the flow of the album, and also to avoid having the volume levels slowly creep up to dangerous levels for peoples ears.

I imagine quite a few people have done this or thought about it so it would be interesting to hear some opinions. Although I guess with the advent of shuffle and single tracks people care less about albums now. . .

Cheers

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Re: matching track volumes over a collection/album

Post by tallowwaters » Wed Jun 16, 2010 2:41 pm

I'm very wary of this as well, so here are some things I try:

Have somebody else master them. ;)

I've been doing it the old fashioned way, pulling up the stereo tracks in a wave editor, looking at the db range in a level meter and using a hard limiter where needed. Sometimes I use maximization just to get myself a bit more even, though that doesn't really affect perceived loudness. Simply advice, but rely more on your ears than what you see.

Given that, I'm sure somebody will come along and recommend some software that will do all this work for you.
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Re: matching track volumes over a collection/album

Post by filtermod » Wed Jun 16, 2010 4:48 pm

If you just match the peaks, you will still end up with some fairly large differences in the "percieved volume" between tracks.
If you are going to do it yourself, I suggest using the loudest "sounding" tracks as a baseline and adding some compression with a low ratio setting to the other tracks as needed.
There are a lot of other things you will need to do in order to really match up the tracks sonically, but that's not really something I can explain quickly over the net!

I am a mastering engineer, so PM me if you want to have the tracks mastered. We'll work out a VSE discount.
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Re: matching track volumes over a collection/album

Post by tallowwaters » Wed Jun 16, 2010 6:00 pm

(filtermod does a great job for a great price, for the record)
Brains can be used like a "stress ball," but only once.

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Re: matching track volumes over a collection/album

Post by nvbrkr » Wed Jun 16, 2010 6:11 pm

burnt toast wrote: A friend suggested dragging all of the tracks onto a timeline and then mixing them there
This is how I've done it, 60% of my material is ambient style of music without any sort of drums. Envelopes are quite useful in this process too, so there's no need for destructive editing. I've just done it all in SONAR.

Also note that there's no need to do stupid amounts of limiting on an ambient album.

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Re: matching track volumes over a collection/album

Post by th0mas » Wed Jun 16, 2010 6:13 pm

First ensure that all songs on their own are well mixed. Inspect the mixed down waveform visually for large peaks that stand out. Add compression on the final mix to try to remove these to make the overall volume of the entire track consistent.

In the past while mastering my material myself I've just burnt the whole thing after each mod I make, and listen to the whole CD through while making notes, on at least 2 sets of speakers/headphones. I then adjust the level of entire tracks only if I made the note that I perceived one quieter than the other. It's hard to otherwise determine the need to adjust volumes only through inspection, and it may not fit the material.

Or you can follow most professional music trends and brickwall compress/limit everything right to 0.0 :)

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Re: matching track volumes over a collection/album

Post by filtermod » Wed Jun 16, 2010 7:20 pm

tallowwaters wrote:(filtermod does a great job for a great price, for the record)
Hey, thanks for the endorsement Tallow! :)
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Re: matching track volumes over a collection/album

Post by filtermod » Wed Jun 16, 2010 7:25 pm

th0mas wrote:First ensure that all songs on their own are well mixed. Inspect the mixed down waveform visually for large peaks that stand out. Add compression on the final mix to try to remove these to make the overall volume of the entire track consistent.

In the past while mastering my material myself I've just burnt the whole thing after each mod I make, and listen to the whole CD through while making notes, on at least 2 sets of speakers/headphones. I then adjust the level of entire tracks only if I made the note that I perceived one quieter than the other. It's hard to otherwise determine the need to adjust volumes only through inspection, and it may not fit the material.

Or you can follow most professional music trends and brickwall compress/limit everything right to 0.0 :)
Great advice other than that last line! :lol:
Try to keep those dynamics. Nothing causes ear fatigue like a redlined/ brickwalled master :banghead:
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Re: matching track volumes over a collection/album

Post by krzeppa » Thu Jun 17, 2010 4:30 pm

th0mas wrote:First ensure that all songs on their own are well mixed. Inspect the mixed down waveform visually for large peaks that stand out. Add compression on the final mix to try to remove these to make the overall volume of the entire track consistent.

In the past while mastering my material myself I've just burnt the whole thing after each mod I make, and listen to the whole CD through while making notes, on at least 2 sets of speakers/headphones. I then adjust the level of entire tracks only if I made the note that I perceived one quieter than the other. It's hard to otherwise determine the need to adjust volumes only through inspection, and it may not fit the material.

Or you can follow most professional music trends and brickwall compress/limit everything right to 0.0 :)
I too think this i a fairly good way to go about it. I have made tons of mixes of my "album," and I am still doing so. I master it - burn it to a CD - listen to it in my car, on my stereo, through headphones, on my computer. I try to see how different the sound is through different gear. I take major notes, and I don't stop until I find a mix that sounds good on ALL of my devices.
I don't think setting everything to 0.0 dB is going to solve your problem; especially with the kind of music you are making. I think you will lose some of the dynamic and feeling of music if you do.

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Re: matching track volumes over a collection/album

Post by th0mas » Thu Jun 17, 2010 5:00 pm

Yeah, if pop rock sounds terrible at 0.0 imagine IN YOUR FACE BRICKWALLED AMBIENT MUSIC.

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Re: matching track volumes over a collection/album

Post by tallowwaters » Thu Jun 17, 2010 6:02 pm

th0mas wrote:Yeah, if pop rock sounds terrible at 0.0 imagine IN YOUR FACE BRICKWALLED AMBIENT MUSIC.
Add some sidechained bass and you've developed a new genre.
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