Academy Dashboard Forum Production Mastering Mastering chain Reply To: Mastering chain

#3703
nhamiel
Participant

    Okay, so here is how I will explain this and the process. If you think about it there is a difference between "level" and "volume". Level is something that can be measured like, "Hey all my tracks are hitting -6 dB RMS". Volume is the perception of that level (don't know if there is an official definition somewhere), so even though all tracks have the same relative level, since we all perceive frequencies differently and are more sensitive to others, some tracks will appear louder. Depending on the type of album you are doing there could be more or less of this.

    So a rock album that was all recorded and mixed in the same place will probably be fairly balanced across all of the songs, a compilation album on the other hand could be a bit of a nightmare with balances that are all over the place. Ultimately, like just about everything in audio, you need to use your ears.

    There are a few things you can do here. Start with choosing the song that seems the best to you and most well balanced and use that as a baseline to set your levels with. Or if a majority of the songs sound similarly, use one of those songs instead. After that go through the songs and master them how you would normally do that, referencing the first song to ensure you are in the ballpark. The problem here is if you have mixes that aren't balanced similarly it can get really odd if you try to make them fit, for example you may try to make the song brighter but you start getting odd reverb sounds or the high hat starts shearing your face off. You can only do what you can do with a mix.

    When you want to make a song be perceived as being louder, make some slight adjustments in the most sensitive area of our hearing. You have to be careful here though as I mentioned, you could end up bringing something out of the mix or changing the position of an instrument in the mix that wasn't intended. You may also end up making things overly harsh and almost distorted sounding. Which would make the mix worse instead of better. You can also trying focused saturation that adds harmonics at certain frequencies, but you can end up with the same issue as previously mentioned. It's all about compromising at this stage and the right amount of compromise that makes a project a success.

    I typically lay the songs out on different tracks in the same timeline. That way it makes it fairly easy to go back and reference a finished song or make any changes necessary.

    In the end talk to the artist/producer and let them know the challenges and get their feedback. At the end of the day you work for them. If they say just do what works best for each song, keep your levels set where you want and do what you do. If they are happy then you should be happy 🙂