Academy Dashboard Forum Production Mastering Do professional mastering engineers let their tracks clip? Reply To: Do professional mastering engineers let their tracks clip?

Niki Pichler

    heho kain,

    the trick is to have a nice balance in your mix. Sounds easy? It isnt... The problem is if some tracks are "too loud" to be balanced then they will compress first on your limiter and you get an overcompressed sound if you compress (or in that case limit) harder and harder.

    my approach is to compress everything as much as needed before summing and even compress some busses slightly, before compressing again on the master bus before limiting. the problem is that each stage has to compress a bit but not much but also not too less to have no effect, and thats hard!

    there are some tricks but there are no shortcuts on this one as everywhere.

    one series of tricks that helped me alot is how to get drums slamming as they make a fair amount of energy for your loudness:

    first make every track sound great to your ear on its own

    excerpt from my inside thinking:
    (i know many will say but what about not soloing that much... it is the first step! before you make a pile of crap you should look for your gold inside each little piece of crap to make a pile of gold. if you have your pile of gold you can put it together to a ring and then you need polish. presenting it in a nice environment in your store is the last thing you need to do! these are my mixing stages! first solo tracks, second mixing together, then change individual tracks or busses to make it sound balanced, after that polishing with my masterbus chain (thats not mastering its still mixing), last but not least is getting it loud and radioready with mastering (presenting it in the store!) every step is as important as every other to get it loud, not only mastering!)

    second blend the drum tracks together to have a nice balance in the drums

    then hear closely to your kick and snare and think what they need to be really fat (we are talking about rock arent we?) setup samples that have the missing parts.

    setup verbs for your kick and snare samples to sound in the same room as your live kick and snare. (only on the samples otherwise it gets muddy and messy!)

    sum kicks to a bus and snares to another bus and make the last moves to get the drums together on these busses for all tracks together not on individual ones.

    i tend to get kicks with too much sustain so i normally pull up an 1176 style plugin (you can do this with any compressor it is just my favorite!) set the attack fairly slow and set the release as slow as it needs that the kick is tight and punchy (gain reduction is about 5-6 dB)

    snares are normally too attacky and have too less sustain (verb is not working for all that sustain!) so for getting rid of the unnatural fast transients i pull up a saturation plugin and "distort" the snare as much that the transients are naturally lower but the power stays where it was (it should not sound distorted if you dont want to have a distorted snare) and pull up a transient designer (you could also do this with a stock compressor but its easier and faster with an transient designer) and boost back some of the attack so you have the total control of your transient (this mostly is the problem with mastering that you limit the crap out of your snare because the transient isnt controlled enough and then it loses punch!)

    after that i compress the whole drum bus for a gain reduction of about 3dB just to glue all drums together to one kit

    last but not least i dublicate the drum bus as is and compress the crap out of it on the dublicate (fastest attack fastest release and about 20-25dB of gain reduction) and then blend it in with the normal drumbus (usually the compressed one is about -10 to -15dB in relationship with the normal drums)

    thats shortly what i do with the dynamics of my drums. i use things like that on every element of my mix so the whole mix isnt that dynamic before the mastering anymore. then you have to play with eq and verbs to change the sit of your instruments and use a bit less of the volume aspect to create depth!

    for sure this is not a holy grail and you wont make slamming drums because you know my tricks! you have to practice practice and again practice! there are no shortcuts!

    another thing that is crucial for loudness is the arrangement! if you compare a singer songwriter with 2 acoustics, some jazz style piano and drums with a catchy bassline and vocals to a metallica track you will never get the same loudness feeling altough the singer songwriter song could be technically as loud as the metallica track. there are so many tricks how additional producing can change the felt loudness of a song!

    i think i am overdoing it again xD i could write for hours and hours about this but i have to go to work now ^^

    hope my wall of text is helping you out! if somebody has questions you can add me on facebook (you will find me in the plapa groups, name is Niki Pichler) and ask me things per messenger. (beaware of timezones i am from austria (europe) and i have a full time job so it can take a bit until i reply!)

    cheers, Niki