Avoid the loudness war, loud does not mean better
Back on March 16th this year many people raised the flag to campaign against the so called Loudness War under the banner of Dynamic Range Day.
For those of you who have never heard of the Loudness War the basic idea driving it is that "louder is always better". However those who oppose this idea state that this concept is fatally flawed and promote a sound that retains much more of its dynamic range. By "dynamic range" we basically mean the difference between the loudest and quietest elements of music, the light and shade, the contrast.
The following two minute video by Matt Mayfield demonstrates the effect of this very effectively.
Ok, but what if I want loud AND dynamic ?
I guess it comes down to a compromise of ideas and ideals. There is nothing saying that you cant achieve a track that sounds loud but also does not end up squashed and lacking dynamics. The video tutorial below was created by mastering Engineer Ian Shepherd who was the brains (and ears) behind Dynamic Range Day. He is not recommending that you make your music loud but says that if that's what you wish to do then you should at least make a good job of it and not fall foul of a few simple mistakes.
The video covers the following concepts ;
- Make the mix loud - Mix with loudness in mind - don't leave it all to the mastering stage.
- Go easy on the bass - Bass is one of the first things to distort as things gets louder.
- Retain dynamics - Without quiet there can be no loud.
- Make use of multi-band compression - Allowing you to use more compression without causing "pumping" or distortion
- Use low ratios and avoid short attack times - Keeping the energy and punch of the mix
- Use multiple stages of compression - Gentler compression in several stages is better than just heavy compression in mastering
- Dont overdo the limiting - Limiting is essential in mastering but needs to be used with care
Using loudness meters - a roundup of some of the best
This video gives you a good overview of loudness meters that you can use to analyse your tracks.
There Is Always More To Learn
The art of mixing and mastering tracks is one that can never be perfected and is always a stumbling block for not only those starting out but also those with plenty of years in the saddle. Its one of those topics where there is always something new to learn, new ideas to consider and new tools available to help you reach your goal. There are also a whole host of tried and tested methods and pitfalls to avoid though so take advice from those with real world experience, read as much as possible and scour places like youtube for those little hints and tips and slowly you'll begin to make more sense of it all.
Mastering with Multiband Compression
How to get loud, punchy masters, without losing warmth or clarity. Multiband compression is a powerful tool in mastering, but you need to know what you're doing. Ian's video and eBook gives you a practical, straightforward introduction to using multiband compression, including his "rules of thumb" and default settings to help you get started right away.
The Best of Production Advice
Ian's site is full of great information about recording and mixing as well as mastering - if you want to get all the best content in one package, he's put 23 of the most popular posts into an eBook - covering topics like using compression to add punch warmth and power to your mix, advanced reverb techniques and the seven crucial EQ bands..