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Recordings/mixes too quiet...

Discussion in 'Recording' started by fattydq, Oct 29, 2009.

  1. fattydq

    fattydq Active Member

    Hey guys...a major issue I'm having with all my recordings is that they're all way quiet compared to any professional music. I record using a Tascam digital recorder, but I've also been doing recordings at a friends studio with a Mackie Console and Alesis harddisc recorder, and I feel like I have my mixes as loud as I can without them clipping, but they're still way too quiet...

    The only good suggestion I've gotten in person is to use a master limiter, but I don't want to narrow down the dynamic range of my final mix, I just want to make it louder. Wouldn't using a limiter basically just be applying intense compression?

    Any tips are welcome!
  2. natural

    natural Active Member

    Yeah, well, it's not a perfect world.
    There is no free lunch.
    You don't get something for nothing.

    If parts of your track are hitting full code, then either those parts need to go away, whether by remixing them lower or using a limiter, and then the rest of the track can be brought up in level.
    Or you maintain the integrity of your dynamic range and have a lower overall sound.

    However, having said that, you might be surprised that the peaks that are hitting full code might be things like a gtr pluck somewhere or one snare hit somewhere, that if brought down just 6 db, might make your entire mix twice as loud and you might not even notice the reduced spike.

    Or it could be just mixed badly with a big subharmonic bass bump or ultra high freq that only dogs and children can hear.

    There's just way to many variables. Maybe post an example

    But You've got nothing to lose by trying a limiter and see what happens. Don't be afraid to experiment.
  3. fattydq

    fattydq Active Member

    I'm about to hit the hay, but I'll post an example tomorrow.

    But in response to what you said...I'm just not sure I agree. I have, for example, a recording of just vocals and guitar (This is what I'll post tomorrow I suppose, since it's the simplest example) , with not too much dynamic variance, and it's still absurdly quiet (I feel like compression/limiting would take away what little dynamic range it already has!) and even my peaks at 0 dB are absurdly quiet to the point where I have to turn my speakers or headphones up to max just to get medium levels.
  4. bent

    bent No Bad Vibes! Well-Known Member

    Natural did say "You've got nothing to lose by trying a limiter and see what happens. Don't be afraid to experiment."

    What about that do you disagree with?

    That belief, my friend, is the key to becoming a recording engineer - it's not a title you get overnight, nor is it one you get by going to school. It's one you arrive at through trial and error.

    It takes a lot of trial and error AND experimentation- lots of times trial and experimentation wins...

    When error wins, well that's the reason they made CTRL-Z (or rewind for us old dudes)...
  5. I would suggest sending at least one of your tracks to a professional mastering house...these guys are pros at this.
    You can then use that track as a reference to mix all your others to.
  6. Guitarfreak

    Guitarfreak Well-Known Member

    I don't think he is using anything to master. What I got from the original post was that he is not on a computer system but making home recordings through a portable digital unit. OP, you can bounce your unaffected mix to mp3 (WAV or AIFF is preferred) and then import it to a software package of your choice for mastering.
  7. fattydq

    fattydq Active Member

    I didn't mean I disagree with trying a limiter, in fact I was experimenting today with it, and it works pretty well with my recordings that aren't all that dynamic to begin with like with just vocals and guitars, but I REALLY don't want to kill the dynamics of pieces with a lot more dynamics, percussion, etc.

    And yes I'm aware I can bounce files down and mix them on software, I'm not THAT clueless. But if I just amplify the files in software such as ableton or audacity, and get them to a decent level, they clip.

    I really don't see why sending my tracks to a professional mastering house would be necessary. Does every single musician with home recorded tracks that aren't ridiculously quiet send their tracks to a mastering house? Definitely not.

    After some more careful listens I find this problem exists more with tracks I recorded on an Alesis harddisc recorder through a Mackie Console, and is much less of a problem on my cheap ass tascam digital recorder! This leads me to believe that maybe the Mackie Console's preamp just blows, and I should invest in a decent preamp to get the levels up a bit? Any comments on this?
  8. Guitarfreak

    Guitarfreak Well-Known Member

    When you imported the mix into your software package where was the mix peaking?
  9. natural

    natural Active Member

    Yeah, I don't think you need to send it out. You can narrow this type of thing down at home.

    But, we're going to need a sample to see what you're talking about.

    You could be recording something with a lot of transients, that don't really have anything to do with your dynamic range. It could just be some unwieldy source that's spiking.

    Do you use any compression on anything during tracking?
    And what happens if you use the limiter on your more dynamic material. Does it bring the level up to acceptable levels or does it still 'seem' too low? (I'll explain why I ask that later)

    Here's a cup, please give us a sample
  10. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Most commercially available recordings have a quite limited dynamic range. Therefore if you want to retain a large dynamic spread in your music you will not be able to get the mix as "loud" as the commercial 'music'. In addition to limiting there is also (hopefully) judicious use of compressors and downward expansion (same animal different stripes).

    Great commercial mixes give the illusion of dynamics by proper voicing of the instruments and pacing of the rhythm to match the voicing.

    Of course there used to be a little more dynamic spread commercially but that was a long time ago in a land far, far away. Mastering well is as much it's own Art as being able to record a whole band well with a minimum of fuss and time.
  11. AwedOne

    AwedOne Guest

    Check your owner's manuals for these two pieces of gear, and see if the outputs you are using are -10db instead of +4db. I have the same problem with my setup using an older Tascam console, and I have to really goose things with a limiter on the stereo bus to get even close to 0db. (I usually mix it to -6db and let people turn up their volume knobs.)
  12. bent

    bent No Bad Vibes! Well-Known Member

    Sorry for the hijack but I'm curious - Bill, which model Tascam are you talking about?

    When I first opened RC, back when I was owner and it was called Production One, we had an old M520. Balance Amps, RCA inserts, A couple of burned out VU lights, etc...

    Same one?
  13. AwedOne

    AwedOne Guest

    Hi Bent.

    It's an M-3500 24 channel. The tape outs/in and line ins are all unbalanced -10db. Designed to be used with Tascam's 8 track recorders.
  14. bent

    bent No Bad Vibes! Well-Known Member


    Those were a bit newer.

    Man, I miss my 520, made some pretty darn good recordings on that monster before I sold it.

    It just sounded, well, a little dirty I guess (gotta love contact cleaner).
    I sure put that thing through it's paces. And sprayed it weekly.

    Hell, who am I kidding? I miss my Mackie SR24x4 equally...

    Here's some fun. These tracks were recorded on the M520:
    Blood Splattered Bride
    Soul'd Out

    This one on the SR24x4:
    Devilskin Suitcase
    I still love the flangy goodness in the break on Devilskin...

    I know, I know... I've posted these links before... I apologize for the repitition.

    And sorry fattydq, seriously - end of hijack...

  15. AwedOne

    AwedOne Guest

    C'mon Bent, man...ya gotta stop livin' in the past.
  16. bent

    bent No Bad Vibes! Well-Known Member

    Hehe, yeah, I suppose...

    Man, I am so friggin' happy that the time changes today!

    Oh, found this on youtube, also recorded on the M520:



    /hijack (again, man I'm bad about that, huh?)
  17. Space

    Space Well-Known Member

    How can you get excited about the time change?

    It's going to be dark when I walk the 1/4 mile from the RSA building to the parking lot...all those street people, I hate that!!
  18. bent

    bent No Bad Vibes! Well-Known Member

    I prefer the dark.

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