Leveling / Balance / Peaks of tracks : final mixdown before mastering

Jiqzy

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Hi guys,

I'm new here.
I've been producing prog psy / psytrance since a while, but a question is triggerring me. I'll try to be as clear as possible.
If i mix my track with : My kick hitting at -10db and my bassline at -13db. So when both are playing, my master track is peaking at -10db.

But when I add elements in the track, the peaks on the master track may up go around -9db or -8db.

So my question is : do I have to always mix my tracks aiming a maximum of -10db peak on my master (because that's the kick level which is the main element) or is it "ok" to have some peaks during the track above my kick level before sending it to master ? (Which would may be fixable on the mastering ?)


Thanks a lot for your time and your help,

Have a wonderful day,

Hugo
 

Nanook

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So my question is : do I have to always mix my tracks aiming a maximum of -10db peak on my master (because that's the kick level which is the main element) or is it "ok" to have some peaks during the track above my kick level before sending it to master ? (Which would may be fixable on the mastering ?)

I'm interested to hear other opinions here...

....But my view is to pay more attention to the master, and make sure it doesn't go above -6db....

But granted, I'm a bit out of touch and reminding myself how this all works, after a long break....
 
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Cyberg

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I've been struggling with the same process for years, and could never understand why my kick and bass was never very punchy. After working with a great engineer, he advised me to pay more attention to RMS levels rather than peak levels. There are no hard rules of course but the levels I was advised to aim for are kick RMS -10db, peak -5db and the bass 3-5db less than the kick, just as a starting point.
 

Jiqzy

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I've been struggling with the same process for years, and could never understand why my kick and bass was never very punchy. After working with a great engineer, he advised me to pay more attention to RMS levels rather than peak levels. There are no hard rules of course but the levels I was advised to aim for are kick RMS -10db, peak -5db and the bass 3-5db less than the kick, just as a starting point.
Thanks for those advices mate ! I'll def pay more attention to RMS
 

Jiqzy

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I'm interested to hear other opinions here...

....But my view is to pay more attention to the master, and make sure it doesn't go above -6db....(Regardless of what tracks peak above kick)

But granted, I'm a bit out of touch and reminding myself how this all works, after a long break....
We all need some reminders sometimes haha

Cheers mate
 

NabLa

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It doesn't matter at all when you're mixing into 24 or 32 bit audio due to the ridiculous amount of headroom available. As long as you aren't clipping your instruments at origin don't worry too much about it. At those resolutions you can simply lower your master level when exporting to give the mastering engineer the required headroom to work with, as you won't be clipping the master.

It's different with 16 bit audio though. Also, if you're mixing through an analog console then the above doesn't apply. But mixing software into software? Don't sweat it too much and watch for individual instruments not to clip.
 

Continuum

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I mix to the K-20 standard and I use this meter to get the level right
kmeter
1632587114931.png
Keeping everything low down means there's loads of headroom for mastering and it seems to make for nice open well balanced mixes with fewer mistakes that I only notice when its too late
 

nab

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Hi guys,

I'm new here.
I've been producing prog psy / psytrance since a while, but a question is triggerring me. I'll try to be as clear as possible.
If i mix my track with : My kick hitting at -10db and my bassline at -13db. So when both are playing, my master track is peaking at -10db.

But when I add elements in the track, the peaks on the master track may up go around -9db or -8db.

So my question is : do I have to always mix my tracks aiming a maximum of -10db peak on my master (because that's the kick level which is the main element) or is it "ok" to have some peaks during the track above my kick level before sending it to master ? (Which would may be fixable on the mastering ?)


Thanks a lot for your time and your help,

Have a wonderful day,

Hugo
Surely adding instrumentation is always going to increase the peak level? Am I missing something?

I would have thought that a kick which lacks punch is due to too much instrumentation in the arrangement and perhaps too much other detail at the bottom end?
 

nab

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Hi guys,

I'm new here.
I've been producing prog psy / psytrance since a while, but a question is triggerring me. I'll try to be as clear as possible.
If i mix my track with : My kick hitting at -10db and my bassline at -13db. So when both are playing, my master track is peaking at -10db.

But when I add elements in the track, the peaks on the master track may up go around -9db or -8db.

So my question is : do I have to always mix my tracks aiming a maximum of -10db peak on my master (because that's the kick level which is the main element) or is it "ok" to have some peaks during the track above my kick level before sending it to master ? (Which would may be fixable on the mastering ?)


Thanks a lot for your time and your help,

Have a wonderful day,

Hugo
one of the standard mixing approaches to layering up multiple parts so they don’t swamp the mix is of course to duck it under another part, and filtering out unnecessary frequencies of those parts.
 

nab

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If all my instrumentation parts together result in big peak at a climax part of a track I often automate the volume of those parts down a little, bit of course leaves drums and bass untouched. That helps to stop a too dynamic mix.

However I dunno. With streaming now pushing people towards more dynamic masters, does it matter so much if a track has a few more peaks and troughs?
 

Jiqzy

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If all my instrumentation parts together result in big peak at a climax part of a track I often automate the volume of those parts down a little, bit of course leaves drums and bass untouched. That helps to stop a too dynamic mix.

However I dunno. With streaming now pushing people towards more dynamic masters, does it matter so much if a track has a few more peaks and troughs?
Hey mate,

Thanks for your answers and tips !

Well it's a lil paradoxal because its in the middle between saving dynamics and pushing the loudnest war which is really a thing since a few years imo
But I guess it doesn't matter that much to have a few peaks in the track hitting above the kick / bass level , I was just wondering if a master engineer would have to tools to fix that and master well the track, or would he say hey you need to fix all your peaks before sending it to me
 

Jiqzy

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I mix to the K-20 standard and I use this meter to get the level right
kmeter
View attachment 25218
Keeping everything low down means there's loads of headroom for mastering and it seems to make for nice open well balanced mixes with fewer mistakes that I only notice when its too late
I def feel that a little more headroom than a -6db mixdown is always safer to work on the track for the master engineer
 

Jiqzy

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It doesn't matter at all when you're mixing into 24 or 32 bit audio due to the ridiculous amount of headroom available. As long as you aren't clipping your instruments at origin don't worry too much about it. At those resolutions you can simply lower your master level when exporting to give the mastering engineer the required headroom to work with, as you won't be clipping the master.

It's different with 16 bit audio though. Also, if you're mixing through an analog console then the above doesn't apply. But mixing software into software? Don't sweat it too much and watch for individual instruments not to clip.
Thanks mate appreciate the answer ! I guess I def care and sweat too much for things that may not matter that much ^^ but because I sometimes really dont know the answers, I feel a bit lost in what to do
 

nab

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I def feel that a little more headroom than a -6db mixdown is always safer to work on the track for the master engineer
Always worked ok for me. If they want a bit more headroom they can always turn it down. The above I’ve always had from mastering engineers is that they don’t teally mind as long as it doesn’t clip.

The only problem with the mix being “hot” in the digital environment would be if there’s distortion in the gain staging.

Other than that I don’t think it matters if it peaks at -4db or -12db as long as your gainstaging is good and it’s well mixed and good arrangement.
 

nab

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Hey mate,

Thanks for your answers and tips !

Well it's a lil paradoxal because its in the middle between saving dynamics and pushing the loudnest war which is really a thing since a few years imo
Yes pulling down multi layers of instrumentation and watching the peaks is probably something I did quite a few years ago when everyone was obsessed with the loudness wars. I don’t bother so much with that nowadays come to think of it.
 

nab

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I assumed from the opening post I think that you were looking for a loud mix
 

NabLa

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Thanks mate appreciate the answer ! I guess I def care and sweat too much for things that may not matter that much ^^ but because I sometimes really dont know the answers, I feel a bit lost in what to do
On the contrary mate those things are important, and it's good to get into good habits like starting out your mix from a good loudness point and watching out for rms creep. 24 bit audio just makes it less sweaty than otherwise it could've been.

I personally zero the mix once I'm "done" with arrangement and mix anew from scratch over a span of a few days, using https://www.voxengo.com/product/span/ to keep it honest.
 

nab

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Even if you did have a bit of a dynamic peak within a track masterers have dynamic compression these days so they can set a one off compressor for a big peak which will level things off before they reach the limiter
 

Faction

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Different bit depths only really come into play during very quiet passages; quantisation distortion is only really audible as the level approaches -oo. 24-bit fixed-point audio will clip at 0dBFS; 32-bit floating-point audio will not, however if you're mixing loud enough to exceed 0dBFS it's likely that you're not getting the best out of your plugins, since many compressors and most if not all analog-modelled plugins are designed - like the hardware they are based on - to operate best at a fairly low average level, allowing headroom for unexpected peaks. If you feed these plugins with audio around that level (usually 0VU=-18dBFS) you will find they respond better and sound less forced and more natural... and you will automatically be mixing at a good level with no need to worry about clipping.

If you have a lot of layers playing at once, they will often add up to a peak level higher than any of them on their own. This is to be expected and personally I would not recommend automating stuff just to make sure the kick drum is the highest peak in the waveform. It's easy to get lost in the visual aspect of what things look like - how flat the spectrum is, what the waveform looks like, a specific RMS value etc, but it's often the case that the things that sound best don't look like you think they should.

I too start out with the kick peaking at -10dB on its channel meter and mix around it, resisting the temptation to make it louder if it gets lost and instead working on everything else to make sure it comes through the way I want. It's not unusual for my mixes to peak around -6dBFS or higher. As has been said, the most important thing to make sure of when sending a track to be mastered (other than making sure the track sounds as good as you can make it sound without putting any mastering-style plugins on the main output) is that it doesn't clip. I'm wary of engineers who insist on a specific peak level because there is no need for it that I can see, since the first process in any mastering chain worth paying for is a gain control and a VU meter.
 

Kick-Flip

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Awesome question and great info here!!!!

If I may add my 2 cents, here is what I have come to learn. I have heard different ranges for where exactly to set kick and bass, and while these are all good ballparks, they are ballpark. Sometimes, due to clever saturation etc you can make your bass perceivably louder while actually reducing RMS. Waio said he mixes his kick / bass at almost the same level. This is an art in the end, and that ballpark area still allows for a lot of variation, believe it or not. The MAIN thing you want to bear in mind is keep the kick / bass in tact. One technique is to finally have two groups; One for KICK/BASS and the rest for all other elements then you can control the whole other group of elements as a whole. While thats neat. I don't think that's the most important thing.

Think about this: Your kick is mostly always going to be the loudest and most important element in your track. BE VERY CAREFULE applying compression to the kick/bass as a whole or the master mix unless you know what you're after. A compressor will effect the kick before it affects anything else so you want to keep your compression transparent. I have laid awake at night pondering this problem as sometimes I stuggle to keep a very consistent kick throughout the whole track if you know what I mean. Sometime if feels like I lose the smack of the kick when there are many elements playing. This is the last track I'm working on and trying to keep the kick intact is something I'm paying attention to more now.

PS I just moved into a apartment three weeks ago and have new monitors that I'm still adpating my ears to. Hope the levels are sounding OK.


Very curious to read more opinions.
 
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