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Old 04-08-2015, 09:56 AM   #1
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Avoiding clipping in a mix with lots of elements

Hey guys, so I've done a fair bit of music writing but am still god awful at mixing. Recently I've been trying to do complex stuff with a lot of parts, but I've been getting the problem of the master track going into the red. The individual elements are at a low volume themselves but all together, it makes the master track clip.

There are a couple of ways I thought of preventing this like making the elements balanced and spaced out in the EQ spectrum, and I know compression, especially sidechained, would be useful for this, maybe grouping tracks into buses or something?... However I am still figuring out how to successfully implement compression so this eludes me. And i guess i could always just turn down the master, but that feels like I'm doing it wrong.

Could you guys be kind enough to give me some tips on how to work with this? Maybe how you specifically use compressors to make things sound "louder" in the mix while keeping the mix itself quiet?
Thanks a lot in advance

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Old 04-08-2015, 11:04 AM   #2
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Re: Avoiding clipping in a mix with lots of elements

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Originally Posted by Alfred_Faber View Post
And i guess i could always just turn down the master, but that feels like I'm doing it wrong.
Why would that be wrong?
Actually none of the solutions you brought up are wrong.

Leaving headroom on your raw mixed tracks is as basic lesson. So yes, pull that fader down a bit, and don't be afraid to go too low. -4.5dB to -5dB works for me on every track.

Now if the problem is coming from the fact that you have too much elements playing at the same time, then i guess high-precision EQ is the only solution. Dump out all the frequencies you don't need on every track. Then you could use compressors to limit that clipping, but that's not a good idea imo.

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Old 04-08-2015, 11:07 AM   #3
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Re: Avoiding clipping in a mix with lots of elements

I don't use compressors to make things louder when composing, I use them more for glue. I wouldn't think about compression or limiting at this point to prevent clipping or to bring loudness. Your issue is one of gain staging and you just need to pull the faders down more.

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Old 04-08-2015, 11:34 AM   #4
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Re: Avoiding clipping in a mix with lots of elements

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alfred_Faber View Post
Could you guys be kind enough to give me some tips on how to work with this? Maybe how you specifically use compressors to make things sound "louder" in the mix while keeping the mix itself quiet?
Thanks a lot in advance
To make a track louder you keep it simple, with minimum tracks. Less is usually more when it comes to loudness.

Also, [Only registered and activated users can see links. Click here to register]
helps if you have many tracks (yes, it's as simple as turning the gain/volume/fader down, keeping each sound from going hot). Mixing and individual processing is also helpful, to get all sounds to sit well in a mix. The Mastering Engineer (ME) is the one who will help you with additional/final loudness.

Edit: Compressors can actually be evil sometimes when you have many tracks, as they all compete and ALL try to be loud. If you overcompress the mix becomes flat and boring. One trick is to use moderate parallel compression on certain tracks (or busses even).

Last edited by Evelon; 04-08-2015 at 12:12 PM..

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Old 04-08-2015, 12:39 PM   #5
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Re: Avoiding clipping in a mix with lots of elements

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Originally Posted by Alfred_Faber View Post
Could you guys be kind enough to give me some tips on how to work with this? Maybe how you specifically use compressors to make things sound "louder" in the mix while keeping the mix itself quiet?
Thanks a lot in advance
Agree with the other posters that technically your strategies are sound... the thing is, you can follow these rules and STILL you are dissatisfied with the end product...

There is no easy answer. Sound is magic... Even the pro engineers down at the main commercial studio in my city are paranoid about what they are working on and extremely critical of their own past work. Wearing both the creator and engineer hats - there are some tracks that just work, and others that just won't... You have to decide which of the stubborn ones are worth the extra effort...
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Old 04-08-2015, 03:58 PM   #6
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Re: Avoiding clipping in a mix with lots of elements

Sub Groups! Buss similar tracks together and mix from subgroups! You can get the balances you need between all tracks and then just adjust the group volumes accordingly.

You can also compress louder elements without adding makeup gain. The compressor should only be reducing gain, not adding.
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Old 04-08-2015, 09:36 PM   #7
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Re: Avoiding clipping in a mix with lots of elements

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alfred_Faber View Post
Hey guys, so I've done a fair bit of music writing but am still god awful at mixing. Recently I've been trying to do complex stuff with a lot of parts, but I've been getting the problem of the master track going into the red. The individual elements are at a low volume themselves but all together, it makes the master track clip.

There are a couple of ways I thought of preventing this like making the elements balanced and spaced out in the EQ spectrum, and I know compression, especially sidechained, would be useful for this, maybe grouping tracks into buses or something?... However I am still figuring out how to successfully implement compression so this eludes me. And i guess i could always just turn down the master, but that feels like I'm doing it wrong.

Could you guys be kind enough to give me some tips on how to work with this? Maybe how you specifically use compressors to make things sound "louder" in the mix while keeping the mix itself quiet?
Thanks a lot in advance

Compression (mainly itb compression) can only make things loud upto a certain point.there's a fine line between lifeless and actual reinforcement of the sound plus additional loudness,and it doesn't live in the smashed to shit range

lower ratios and really LISTEN to the attack and release.don't even pay attention to the amount of gain reduction,just listen to how each tweak sounds and then judge for yourself where you think you have done something beneficial to the sound versus just took some peaks away for the sake of taking away peaks,i know it's sort of common consensus that if you have lower attack settings and quicker release settings and add make up gain with X amount of gain reduction you end up with X amount of additional RMS (sort of loudness) but it's simply not that black and white when it comes to applying that to X sound,e.g you may find that if you compress a snare at a really low ratio with a quite long attack and medium release with a certain amount of gain reduction seems to provide more 'natural' sustain than smashed to shit paralell compression (which i personally loathe. death to the 1176!!!!!).if you want that flat and lifeless sound which is all the rage now,then opt for option B.this kind of perception wont happen overnight,but keep at it and something will eventually intuitively tick for you


That comment about having to do minimal arrangements to get loud mixdowns is simply not true.minimal arrangements make it easier to get loud mixdowns,but then you need to rely alot on gain reduction and eq,plus it wont sound terribly deep unless you know how to effectively utilise reflections(no,not swamp everything in reverb and use sidechain to duck it out).the best way i have found to do it is just tonnes upon tonnes of 'effective' layering,purely for frequency density purposes rather than any kind of timbre enhancement and being extremely liberal with the placement of attacks and releases at every stage of the sound (arrangement),gain riding,voicing and "effectively utilising reflections",tiny bit of decent saturation goes along way aswell,to just subtly bring up those sustains abit more and reign in the peaks a tiny tiny tiny amount that you crafted with the sound design/arrangement (hopefully)


in summary,don't rely on compression or even levelling for that matter to try get loud mixdowns.you want loud?,you have to start loud and finish loud.or yano,there's always the majority EDM option of just tacking on compression and distortion everywhere then chasing your tail and notching out the "unpleasant" frequencies that both these methods introduce


Option C is get hardware lol.it just seems to take the grunt of this stuff alot better without becoming lifeless too soon,less guess work,don't really need to worry that much about peaks etc,infinitely easier to mixdown and get within or beyond the ballpark (this option is partially humorous.partially)
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Old 04-08-2015, 10:09 PM   #8
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Re: Avoiding clipping in a mix with lots of elements

Don't overcomplicate things.

grab all your channels' faders, lower their levels proportionally - this way your mix will keep the same consistency , and more headroom will open up.

Also - screw compressors (for that particular task - balancing overall mix)

- don't touch your master

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Old 05-08-2015, 12:05 AM   #9
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Icon4 Clipping prevention

Something I used to do which helped alot:

1) edit all my drum samples in a standalone editor one by one to reduce transients and compress them slightly to fatten them up. It essentially got rid of all the huge amplitude spikes which usually come from percussion.

2) in reaper, set track defaults to around -18 dBfs so that all new tracks start out at -18 dBfs. It seems like a pain at first, but it really helps more and more as track count goes up. It's a good gain staging technique (i hope).

3) use plugins like gGain to monitor at various spots within the VST chain and attenuate wherever needed.

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Old 05-08-2015, 01:13 AM   #10
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Re: Avoiding clipping in a mix with lots of elements

I started having that issue not too long ago myself, I turned everything in my mix WAY down (-30 db) and gave my amp a bit of a workout (I set it 2-4 times as loud while mixing as I do listening to mastered material). Just make sure whatever volume setting you turn down is AFTER your effects chain, if you modify the signal before then, it can change how your sounds are processed. After I finish the mixing, a gentle master compressor with a pretty low ceiling (usually around -10 db) can bring back a lot of the volume without taking out too much dynamic range. I typically don't let my master compressor compress much but the empty space I left above my sound in the first place.
Also, if you have a lot of stuff playing together, eq-ing/sidechaining it into each other helps it compete less. In that same vein that I haven't seen mentioned here yet, is to make use of automation to modify the volume of your different parts over time. I'll often start with a lead at some arbitrary amount (say 50%) and find I need to go down in volume as I introduce more elements. By the end of the song, it might be half that, but still audible and sitting well in the mix. I was able to salvage a mix that was peaking at +8 db and retain a dynamic range of 8 or 9, so it's not the end of the world.
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Old 05-08-2015, 01:52 AM   #11
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Re: Clipping prevention

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nystagmus View Post
Something I used to do which helped alot:

1) edit all my drum samples in a standalone editor one by one to reduce transients and compress them slightly to fatten them up. It essentially got rid of all the huge amplitude spikes which usually come from percussion.

2) in reaper, set track defaults to around -18 dBfs so that all new tracks start out at -18 dBfs. It seems like a pain at first, but it really helps more and more as track count goes up. It's a good gain staging technique (i hope).

3) use plugins like gGain to monitor at various spots within the VST chain and attenuate wherever needed.
yes...honestly using a soft clipper on individual sounds can save a ton of headroom!
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Old 05-08-2015, 08:04 AM   #12
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Re: Avoiding clipping in a mix with lots of elements

Thanks guys a lot of help, i'll keep this open next time i'm mixing

if you feel like giving me any more advice on my mixing my first released track is up here
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Old 05-08-2015, 12:40 PM   #13
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Re: Avoiding clipping in a mix with lots of elements

Dammit, nobody mentioned watch the timing of your tracks. If you have a lot of things hitting precisely on the downbeat, the transients line up and end up stacking quite a bit. Adjust the timing of elements slightly so that they don't stack like this, for example try placing the snare just before the kick, hihats a little later, etc. This can also have the effect of making things much more audible because of fewer masking issues, meaning you might have to then turn things down a bit.

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Old 05-08-2015, 01:08 PM   #14
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Re: Avoiding clipping in a mix with lots of elements

Someone has probably covered this, but when you talk about turning the master down for me personally I tend to try and avoid this and rather turn down each individual channel leading to the master. Ultimately you want to be working below the 0dB threshold of the master at all times as any amount will obviously clip. If you simply turn down the master, then the input to that fader is still overloading the channel. Most DAW's are built to handle the extre bandwidth apart from the final master channel, however certain plugins may act differently and cause issues.

In Cubase there's an input gain for each channel which can be adjusted, but you have to be careful of how the change in dynamics will affect the plugins. Sometimes I also have the issue of altering volume of a channel if automation is present, which in this case you can use groups/bus channels. Or you can go into the plugins and alter the volume. I've been meaning to start changing the way I work actually by adding a volume plugin at the last stage of the inserts to use for automation rather than the channel itself leaving each channel useable. Really I think each channel would have been better if it had two faders with one specifically for automation and the other to set the levels.

I tend to put a limiter on the master channel too, but often leave it at 0 do ensure I'm not getting clipping either unknowingly, and sometimes I'll even ride it a bit as a test to see how it all gells together, but will go back and forth adjusting it as it can make things more difficult to work with when squashing the signal.

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Old 05-08-2015, 06:51 PM   #15
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Re: Avoiding clipping in a mix with lots of elements

I give shit enough gain not to clip and typically turn faders down where necessary. I don't know if that's correct, but avoiding clipping shouldn't be an obstacle, maybe more like second nature.
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Old 05-08-2015, 10:42 PM   #16
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Re: Avoiding clipping in a mix with lots of elements

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Originally Posted by TheWizar View Post
Dammit, nobody mentioned watch the timing of your tracks. If you have a lot of things hitting precisely on the downbeat, the transients line up and end up stacking quite a bit.


I kinda did with this comment "being extremely liberal with the placement of attacks and releases at every stage of the sound (arrangement)"

although that is vague,it does also incorporate sliding things around.i've gotten out of the habit of doing this though just for the reasons mentioned in this post,it can make the rhythm sound abit lopsided even if it is just a few milliseconds,the groove of the transient can sound abit off in places which alters your perception of the entire rhythm itself.not always for the better either.usually though,you'll find the best timing for the parts musically,also happens to correlate to technically 'correct' also,ER's will allow you to get away with more dramatic use of time displacement,though that wont make anything sound lopsided cause of the uncorrelated nature of the attack in ER's,and used effectively,you can gain some RMS too with very little attack trade off.
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Old 06-08-2015, 09:45 AM   #17
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Re: Avoiding clipping in a mix with lots of elements

so what I'm trying out right now is sending except the bass to a send, then sidechaining that to the bass so that the most prominent bit limits everything else when it's playing - working pretty well but a bit confusing having to mix everything into a send track
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Old 06-08-2015, 12:46 PM   #18
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Re: Avoiding clipping in a mix with lots of elements

You're sidechaining to the bass? Well, whatever works I guess.

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Old 06-08-2015, 01:07 PM   #19
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Re: Avoiding clipping in a mix with lots of elements

As they say, there are no rules.
Although, I would just shrink the furniture and the people to fit them all inside a (un-resizable) room.

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Old 08-08-2015, 07:17 AM   #20
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Re: Avoiding clipping in a mix with lots of elements

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Originally Posted by TheWizar View Post
You're sidechaining to the bass? Well, whatever works I guess.
Maybe I got the wording of that wrong, excuse my noobness - the bass is the signal which reduces the gain in all the other tracks, diminishing the volume of them while the bass is playing. Would I word that as sidechaining the bass to the others? Compression is still something I dont entirely understand.

And yeah Evelon I'm mixin up some beef right now and just experimenting with different shit thanks guys

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