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Playing wit dynamics (not compression!)


i'd like to know what you guys do to seperate the parts of a song dynamically.
i often find when i mix something, although i like the overall sound, there's no real seperation between, let's say, the verse and the chorus. i'd like the chorus to be "louder" than the rest without just making it louder.

what i do is emphasize the first bassdrum stroke, to get the "kick" on the one, but it's not enough. would it help to raise the drums or guitars, when going into the chorus? or maybe the bass?

do you lower the guitars, when there are vocals, and raise them when there are none?

what do you do to emphasize certain parts in songs? how do you get your dynamics?

i'd like some pro advice! ;-)

maybe it's helpful to know, that i'm doing mostly rock and metal, with 2-3 rhythm guitar tracks (hard left - hard right - center, usually on the chorus for a bit extra power, with a little stereo enhancing, so it won't interfere with the vocals), bass, drums and synths (pianos, organs, pads, fx...)



Member Sun, 05/07/2006 - 16:28
One word, automation. Don't know what software you're using, but do some experimentation.

Panning helps spread things out but if you're looking to get a bigger sound on one section of the song, you could automate the tracks to increase in volume at that particular section and/or double them.

RemyRAD Sun, 05/07/2006 - 20:23
ouzo77 You're talking about REAL MIXING! What a concept! If you want a "dynamic mix", you have to mix dynamically. It's that simple. Another reason why we love automation as much as we do. In the past, we would have 2 engineers behind the console shoving faders around while an assistant engineer was helping to keep track of the tape counter so everybody would know when to move the faders. Then we got automation in 1972! We could update our mixes as often as we wanted until the time lag from multiple passes would cause all of your volume changes to miss their mark. Quite a drag. So we would play back the automation channel through the record/sync head but that only worked to a point. Now you can move virtual faders or play with rubber bands to make your mixes as dynamically as you want.

Conversely you could also try to add some selective compression and/or limiting where you want to emphasize a part of the music, speed up the release time and you will create a greater sense of density and apparent loudness without clobbering the redline. Now you can do that easily within software and keyframe your changes.

And of course regarding keeping instruments in their place so nobody gets shoved around in the stereo sound field, careful and exacting equalization can certainly enhance what you're after? That is because every instrument have their place. I am an engineer that fully believes in bandwidth limiting a lot of things. Everything does not need to be completely high fidelity. It will be high fidelity when you finish your job.

One contradiction that I do find confusing is "maybe it's helpful to know, that i'm doing mostly rock and metal". I have just never experienced all that much in the way of dynamics in anything metal?

You knew I was confused.
Why do you want to make it worse?
Ms. Remy Ann David

ouzo77 Mon, 05/08/2006 - 04:52
thanks for your replies!

i use logic and i do use automation a lot. but what instruments/tracks do you raise or lower to get more power in the chorus? or do you just raise the volume of the whole mix to achieve this?
would it help to boost the drums or guitars or bass or a combination?
is there a general approach in how you achive this? or does it depend on the song and style?

One contradiction that I do find confusing is "maybe it's helpful to know, that i'm doing mostly rock and metal". I have just never experienced all that much in the way of dynamics in anything metal?

well, maybe it's about time! ;-)
my goal isn't dynamics like in jazz or classical music, but a certain amount does apply even to metal, i think.

maybe an example of my music helps some more. this is a song of mine i did a few years ago. i'm remixing some of my older stuff and will record a few new ones to finish my cd at last, which i've been working on for the last 5-6 years but never had the time, or experience/skills to finish it the way i want it.

by the way, remy, this ain't the greek cd but my very own one. i'm still working on the greek stuff. got the vocal recordings last week, cause they did them in greece. couldn't be there unfortunately.
but they turned out fine, mostly. just for info.

i'm already trying that bandwidth limiting for each track. it's not easy, but i'm working on it.

maybe you can give me some tips on the song where it's needed the most.

thanks again.

RemyRAD Mon, 05/08/2006 - 10:54
Gutten tahg! (My German sucks)

I thought your rock-and-roll number was quite a bitchin' recording! I found it quite professionally done. I loved the panning synthesizer part. I thought the vocals sounded quite good but found them to be a little too soto voce' at times? I might suggest a little more aggressive compression on the vocalist with perhaps a faster release time? I think your material did have some " dynamics" to it for such a urgent sounding rock and roll number. And you German guys are quite precise in everything you do. How come you didn't win the last war? Either way, I'm glad you didn't. But much thanks goes out to your cousin Werner von Brown for getting us to the moon!

I think much of what you're asking here really depends on the song style and flavor of the composition and mix? There are no set hard and fast rules as to what you should dynamically adjust during your mix. When I started mixing, I try not to mix at peak levels since I may want to increase a solo or accented point without clipping the loving BeJesus out of everything. To make that happen you have to keep your mixing levels conservative so that you have the headroom to bump things up when you need to. Once you're done with your mix, that's when you go into mastering to make some of those final postmix adjustments. But all of the meat and potatoes needs to be in place first before you sit down to dinner.

My only recommendation in the example that you provided was that since I love the human voice so much, I would certainly like to hear a little more of the vocal inside the mix. Some people like to bury their vocals? I like vocals right in my face. It's all personal taste. Otherwise I thought your recording was quite a fine job quite a good mix.

So go about what you were doing because you're doing it right and continue to do it. Keep it rockin'!

Commander Remy Ann David
commandant in charge of listening to everything

Member Mon, 05/08/2006 - 14:29
Nice track. This is maybe the third time today I've been surprised at how professional a track sounded. I always assume that people that post their tracks on forums are newbies like myself who don't and probably never will have a record deal, etc... But I'm always reminded at how much really good music exists that relatively few people will ever hear. Bummer. I hope I hear your song compressed beyond all recognition on the radio some day.

ouzo77 Mon, 05/08/2006 - 14:32
Guten Abend, Remy! (it's late evening over here)

i'm also glad we didn't win the war. since i'm only half german, i wouldn't be here! polluted blood ;-)

good to hear you liked it.
i have to admit that i'm one of those guys who likes to bury the vocals rather than having them stand out too much. especially when it's my voice...
but i think you're right. maybe i should bring it up a little bit. but only a little.

seems i'm just gonna have to try what would work best...
isn't there a plug-in with one knob that can do that for me? :lol:
someone should invent something like that. the developers of mp3 are just one town away. maybe i'll write them...

thanks again for your highly appreciated opinion.

kali nichta! (means "good night" in my other native language)

BobRogers Mon, 05/08/2006 - 16:58
I definitely like the way the song is put together, and I agree with Remy that the vocals should be brought forward in the mix. My feeling is that you could distinguish the chorus by bringing the pad elements (the synth and the bg vox) up in the mix - maybe even eliminate them during the verses. Maybe you should rethink your approach to the chorus in terms of playing rather than mixing. (The biggest problem is not the mix but the arrangement. None of the parts are making a big distinction between the A and B sections. Knock some of them out of the verse and see how it sounds.)

Davedog Mon, 05/08/2006 - 19:23
I was building up to it when I got to Bob's comments and now I want to emphasize one of his points.


When you ask 'which instrument', it cant be the same one for every situation...its a song by song basis that determines this.

Here's the tricky part when you are mixing someone elses material....

Which parts do you leave OUT when you want the dynamics to go way down to emphasize a particular part...say vocals or something that needs space around it for clarity and that 'forward feeling'...The guys who get hired to make these decisions make the long dollar because they can and DO make decisions, not based on some elses ego, but on whats best for the SONG.

I look for the part that is distracting away from this space. Be it guitar,keys,snare, bass...whatever.

Listen to the song with your eyes closed.....A lot of the problems folks have in getting that great mix ITB is they tend to start WATCHING the screen rather than HEARING the song....As you listen, find the pieces that are drawing your attention away from the part you want to be the focus. Is it on a slider? Turn it the f*^k down. When its time for everything to start hitting in there hard, bring it back. EQ it a bit on the return so theres a slightly different tone to it. Find frequencies that are exciting. This will make it seem like more when in fact the overall volume is little changed. When the mastering compressors hit this area it will turn it on.

peace......BTW, I have no qualms at all making those decisions. ever.

My part, your part, her part, their part....if it aint right it dont stay.

Now wheres my beer and my long dollar?!

ouzo77 Tue, 05/09/2006 - 02:19
hmm, i guess you're right. i do tend to pack the song with fx sounds and stuff. though i do like it that way, cause it adds some density to the whole thing and i like it when you can still find something in a song after you've listenend to it several times. i gotta put some of that stuff more in the back.

when you mix someone elses stuff it's easy to throw things out (until the artist comes to listen to it ;-) ) but with your own music it's more of a personal thing. so you think twice (or thrice) before throwing something out. but i guess that's part of the learning process.

so maybe i'll just leave the bass...

thanks, bob and dave!