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-8 to -3db for kick drums (mix to master)

Discussion in 'Drums' started by rjuna, Sep 25, 2007.

  1. rjuna

    rjuna Guest

    Hi everybody! I'm new here, but producing music is my life (I'm only 21 now) and I have been reading EVERYthing about the subject for the last 4 years. I absolutely LOVE compression, ENDLESS eq, and volume balancing, and basically every technical tidbit I can get my hands on... yes, this is my whole world, and yes, I think of everything I ever hear in terms of frequencies. I like NOTHING more, than learning eve *one* technical tip that improves my productions however slightly.

    Well, the question is about standardization in the *mastering* process. What I do now is, I mix my kick drum to -8 when soloed in the mix down process. THEN, I mix all of my other sounds around this reference point, so that the overall mix is between -5 and -3db. If it goes over, ever, I start over, and adjust levels until the balance is correct. I eq everything, and clarity and punch are my 2 biggest goals. I read somewhere that a mastered kick for dance music should come up to around -3db on the meter. My question is, once I have my clean mixdown loaded into Ozone 3 (all I can afford for right now) how do I go about _standardizing_ the process so that not only a) my tracks sound the same on my album, but b) they compare to professional levels. Of course I have read the manual of Ozone through, and know and can use (well, always need to know more, as you all know!!) the individual components, but often, even when the mix sounds great, the kick will be different volumes track to track (read: not necessarily -3db). Of course, I know common responses are "each track is different" blah blah blah, but, for me, having concrete, numerical goals, (such as keeping my kicks at -8 in the mixdown) REALLY help me to limit myself. Rather than just saying "it's whatever sounds good" I firmly believe that there ARE rules, and numbers that greatly help. SO, given that, what are steps that I can take in Ozone to bring everything up to not only the same level, but a level that is standardized, easily duplicable, still clean, and will fit in with other professional songs?

    I'm already at the level where I can DJ my own songs on club systems and have them sound good and clean and not have people notice the difference, but I want to be the best damned sound engineer and producer I can be, and I never sleep when I'm writing or learning something new!

    Sorry about the long post, but I look forward to being on this forum, and I can't wait to hear some tips!

    OH! If you would like to hear a song as a demo of where I am, look at my myspace page, the first one "plus 2 percent" is a good indication of my current mixing skills and practices. Thanks, all!

  2. Link555

    Link555 Distinguished Member

    Mar 31, 2007
    North Vancouver
    Are you recording live instuments or using samples? What I am getting at is:

    Is room noise an issue?
    What is your noise floor?

    If it is low enough final bus volume changes at the mixing stage are possible.
  3. rjuna

    rjuna Guest

    Ah! Sorry! I record digital music, with occasional, but heavily processed recordings dotting them. I mainly use synthesizers and digital tools. If I do use samples, they are mainly for drums, and then pitched, eq-ed, layered and compressed. So, my only noise issues would be when I use a vocalist, as the great majority of what I do is entirely clean and digital. I'm not sure what noise floor means, but, I imagine that it's close to 0.
  4. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Sep 26, 2005
    You don't know what noise floor means but you have been reading everything? I don't think so. Noise floor is where you enter the nightclub and all the dancing is. Headroom means that you will not bump your head while jumping up and down like a monkey on the noise floor. But you must twirl quickly while slapping each knee to look cool. Girls will go nuts over you like John Travolta. It would be even more impressive if you show them your jet in your driveway. I would think you were much better engineer if you had a Harley-Davidson instead?

    When I was your age... A long long time ago, I watched the meters quite carefully, especially while tweaking multitrack analog tape recorders but even that I did audibly sometimes without meters. Really? Yup, learned that from John Stephens. It's cool adjusting bias with 10 hertz sinewave. You listened for lowest modulation noise, which is really tricky on the dance floor. I later realized that meters except for measurement purposes are completely counterproductive when mixing music. I no longer really bother to watch the meters. Plus, you have to know what kind of meters you are looking at? Actual, real honest to God VU meters? Imitation Chinese volume meters that say erroneously VU. European ppm meters? Software meters that can be anything? In that respect, your criteria is not valid. True broadcast style ballistically controlled VU meters present a completely different view than any other type of meter and actually don't move much for drums. You cannot go by what you think you are seeing and going by. You're trying to do this mathematically and there is no mathematically about it. So in spite of your accelerated learning curve, you need some more solid educational reading and research.

    I don't work with any kind of sample drums or other sample blah blah. I'm a real recording engineer that records real instruments, really well. Really. On much of my rock-and-roll drum recording, I love MD421's on bass drum, snare drum, tom toms, even as overheads on occasion, but my favorites are the 414 for overheads 451/452 on hat, with the 10 DB pad. On bass drum and snare drum, I'll frequently add copious amounts of UREI 1176 with all 4 buttons depressed, sometimes just 4:1. Fast attack, slow attack? Whatever works. Fast release, slow release? Depends on how much apparent loudness I want. I'll then follow that with an antique Allison research KEPEX I, downward expander/gate that gets a little mushy sounding but since they can't catch the initial peak, I just get more meat and fat, I love cholesterol in drums. That coupled with plenty of EQ going in and coming out. And then, after tracking that to the machine later, in the mix, I'll likely add additional equalization and/or compression until it feels like I'm getting CPR. Oh, I'll frequently also flipped phase just on the bass drum. I don't do that to the others unless it's the bottom snare drum microphone. That gets phase flipped also. I like a bright condenser under the snare drum but I'll also use another SM57 instead. The snare drum gets similar treatment going into and out of the recorder. Oh my! You can't undo that if you record it that way. LOL HaHa, I don't care, if it sounds good. Besides, I can record both processed and unprocessed to separate tracks. So I don't care. That's what I do. Where are the meters? They're in the console where they're supposed to be. Moving? You bet. Maybe to Tampa? Nashville?

    Bass guitar? Again all 4 buttons pressed on the 1176. I take the bass direct from the output of the amplifier head or, an active direct box, right out of the bass. I really use a microphone on the bass cabinet but I have if I like the Cabinet. Sometimes both.

    So how much can you read and do so much recording without ever picking up a microphone? That's not recording. That's just playing with your computer like a kid. So stop reading about equipment and software and start reading about how to make recordings, with real instruments, real microphones, real preamps, with real skills and talents. You need to get your friends together and have them bang out some music. That's the tough part.

    Attending the AES for my 35th year
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  5. rjuna

    rjuna Guest

    Damn! Nice reply! Touche... So... in your opinion just personally working on these things is the best? I know there are schools out there that help teach these things in a professional studio environment, and I *want* to know how to do ALL of what you mentioned, and learn all micing techniques, you name it. The question then is, what is the most reasonable way to learn this knowledge? Interning for a pro studio? Going to sound engineer school? Just recording friends' bands? Of course, I can use a fairly cheap microphone, but, I don't have a soundproof studio, for example. I know I'm just a kid messin around, but this is ALL I want to do, and the only thing that really excites me. Sometimes, I'm unclear as to what the best channel for my energy is. I want to know everything I possibly can, until I am the one defining what other people learn, or teaching others, but, one of the main reasons why I like sound so much is that there is ALWAYS more to learn, no matter who you are. So, I guess I am just curious what you think a good place for a budding young enthusiast to start might be. I don't have a very good microphone, but I'm sure I could learn a lot by recording bands, I want real skills too, I want it all!
  6. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Sep 26, 2005
    rjuna, I was very much like yourself at probably your age. When I was your age, there were no recording schools per se. You went to college to major in mass communications or, electrical engineering but they're really weren't many other choices. I/we couldn't afford college because my parents were poor musicians, even though both were world-class musicians and a former Metropolitan Opera star. Thanks to my parents musical background, I was raised around the finest musicians the fine arts world had. No pop music in my family, except the violin tracks my father would occasionally play for Motown. He hated that job. But it was to make extra money for the family. When I saw their studios at seven years of age, I knew I would be doing this the rest of my life. That hasn't changed.

    Broadcasting was the other choice. I was able to obtain my third class FCC radiotelephone license when I was 15. You needed to learn a little about electronics to obtain a third class FCC radio telephone license. The other possibility was becoming an amateur radio operator. For that, you had to learn a fair amount about electronics and then you had to learn this new language called Morse code and become quite proficient with it. I was bored as a novice and didn't much like five words per minute in Morse code. Beep beep beep is nothing more than variations on a note and is about the most boring music I've ever heard! The next step up was 13 words per minute and I couldn't cut it. Crap! But I was able to get a handle on the electronics and eventually obtained my first class FCC radio telephone license which was equivalent to the highest license of an amateur radio operator, only better! I could work on the real transmitters which I didn't like to do. Too much voltage. Too many opportunities to die like so many other engineers did. But no, I wanted to be more the operator, disc jockey, recording engineer as opposed to the guy who gets a call at 3:45 a.m. with "the transmitter has just been hit by lightning and we're off the air". Screw that! But that electronics background gave me the knowledge needed to assemble my own home project studio before that term ever came into being.

    I was really lucky in that at age 12, I got a 1943 Western electric 23C radio console along with an old fool track mono Magnechord tape recorder. An old Recocut and Bogan turntable, NAB cart machine and a couple of Electro-Voice 636 Omni directional microphones. It was a lot of fun and I actually cut some radio spots on that stuff when I was just 12!

    But when we moved, it all had to go away. I was devastated. Eventually, I stepped up to a couple of quarter track Sony stereo reel to reel recorders. That coupled with a pair of Shure M67 mixers, a BSR consumer octave graphic equalizer and a stereo Sony cassette deck with a built in limiter! Wow! That limiter was so cool! My first experience with a limiter. After that, I knew I could never live without one. Then I discovered the Hammond reverb springs. You know, those funky garbled sounding springs you find in the bottom of an old Fender TwinReverb guitar amplifier. I built my own reverb at 14. Up until this point, I learned this all on my own. Thankfully at 15, I was introduced to a gentleman who had a master's degree in electrical engineering, a small studio and he became my mentor and other father figure after my parents divorced. It was this person that thought me the most of what I know today. He worked for Johns Hopkins hospital electronics division went after 23 years, he was laid off because he didn't have a Ph.D.. Go figure, he was the man who worked at Bell laboratories in 1948 that developed the circuit that made vertical hold lock up! He made commercial television possible and because he worked for Bell laboratories, we owned everything he created and later sold his circuits to RCA that later introduced the first commercial television's in late 1948. He never so much as got a thank you nor a bonus on his $63 per week salary. That kind of crap wouldn't happen today. Today he'd be a millionaire. Instead, Thomas Bray lives in my memories, daily. A man I owe all my love to. He and his wife have both past but I still keep in touch with his son was younger than I. He tells me he touched many people's lives as he keeps hearing back from people like myself. OMG I was so lucky. I wish I had the ability to provide you with the same knowledge and opportunities be provided for me for over 15 years. 15 years of private instruction. He always answered all of my questions about technical things. My friends who have electrical engineering degrees both bachelor's and masters tell me that my knowledgebase exceeds there's and yet I have no degree. Just doing it. Doing it as much and as often as I can.

    I approach things quite differently than most engineers I know. I'm quite unconventional probably because of a lack of education? I'm lucky in that I have some kind of built-in intuitive nature for this kind of work. Never mind that I took technical training seminars to become an authorized service technician for Ampex, MCI & 3M analog tape recorders. Eventually I became the quality-control manager and final test technician for Scully another legendary tape recorder company that made some of the first good professional disk cutting lathes before tape recorders came into existence. Bottom line is, you have the passion. Passion is the most important ingredient in this business. Not the equipment. Not the music. Not the education. Although I'm not an electrical engineer like Thomas was, I've learned enough to be able to create and build large-scale recording consoles from scratch. Thankfully many companies make very nice pieces of electronics that can be conveniently utilized. When utilized in the proper manner, you've got a console. Of course not too many people decide to take on building a "kit" console that cost in excess of $20,000. It's quite overwhelming to look at these thousands of pieces in boxes that have no relationship to one another and until you begin to figure out where you want all of the wires and signals to go! It's one thing to be able to build it. It's another thing to make sure that it sounds like an API, a Neve, SSL, Harrison, et al.. We're not talking about your mamas Heath Kit here. My boss was pretty nervous when we went to switch it on for the first time. He asked me if it would blow up? I said quite possibly. He had an ulcer and at that moment he began to drink a large quantity of Maalox! When the big moment arrived, all of the VU meters popped up and then gently settled to zero. It made some marvelous recordings and was maintenance-free for over 10 years! One of my greatest accomplishments. When it was decommissioned, I was able to salvage two thirds of that desk which I keep to this day as a souvenir of my accomplishment. No directions. No instructions. No guidance. It was an All-American console with parts and pieces from Los Angeles California.

    Years later, in 1991, I got my hands on a salvage junked Ampex MM 1200-24 with only 16 channels of electronics and No wiring harness nor transport logic cards. After months of searching and work, I had a working 24 track Ampex. A year later, the ADAT came out, then Windows 95 and the whole world changed.

    I think most of us in this business who have been at it as long as I have, I have had to reinvent themselves numerous times. It's actually quite an effort for me these days to try and keep up with technology. After 37+ years, I'm getting a little worn around the edges. Tired and lazy is more like it but you can't make money that way. So here I am at 52, trying to figure out how I'm going to top myself again. So it never ends. Not until you want it to. I don't give up. "Don't stop till you get enough." I think Michael Jackson got enough? I haven't.

    Still looking for Aural orgasms
    Ms. Remy Ann David

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