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"The Loudness Wars"

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I'm producing a few tracks, and i'm trying to bring their levels up to par with that of a fully mixed / mastered modern rock track (think along the likes of yellowcard)


I have a multipressor (hard compressed) and an adlimit on the master chain, however, I feel as if the level itself is still not up to par compared to other recordings. My question is, what is the secret to boosting the volume of todays modern rock tracks? Is there a standard way to do it? This process has always confused me.

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If there's any way you can avoid it, I'd go that route. Most playback systems now have a level equalizer feature anyway.


Otherwise, I know of no standard way that would work, foolproof, on every song. Try to find optimal frequency ranges on the multi-band compressor, sometimes cascadine separate dynamic processors works well, and some third-part plugins can help with specialized parts of this.

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May I suggest "Mastering Audio" by Bob Katz.


I don't call myself a mastering engineer, but I wondered how to do this at home since I like to do alot of rock and metal. I have a channel strip setting that I generally use as a starting point when I'm doing things like demos or mixes for bands that want a polished sound without having to pay a mastering engineer (though I'd always prefer that someone else master it if it's being released for wide distribution or something).


Put a lever meter and view your output and see what RMS value is. Most rock that is hard limited (SMASHED) is probably -11dB RMS to -6dB RMS (extreme). -6 is probably really bad and extremely distorted but unfortunately people do make their stuff that loud (your music will have absolutely no dynamics). For me, I usually shoot for -13dB to -11dB RMS, it depends on the music of course.


I usually do a light compression, 2:1 and bring the threshold down until you're getting just a nibble of gain reduction. Just a little bounce on the main hits and beats. Experiment with that and see how you like it and even experiment with different types of compressors.


I usually add a favorite "coloring EQ, doing a highshelf or baxandall style from 12k and on up to brighten up the mix and add airiness, making it sound a bit larger than it is.


The trick really is to make sure you're not using additive EQ for the most part. Take out what you don't want and you'll find you'll have much more room to make it "louder" if that's what you're trying to achieve. I always suggest mixing louder, theres different schools of thought... Some are conservative with their faders but when I mix metal I mix around a kick drum that is usually about -8dBRMS.


Lastly, limit. Honestly, the only way to make a mix louder is to limit. If you're listening to radio or a popular rock/pop rock track it's probably limited pretty hard. Not much to it but crank the threshold until it sounds like crap. Haha. I think music deserves a little more than a hard ceiling limit but I'll try not to go there.


Now most real mastering engineers use multi-band compressors ( at least the ones I know of), but I find that I'm not skilled enough or comfortable enough using those. Instead I use stereo compressors and try to do a solid EQ job making sure my mix balanced and I'm usually pretty happy, including the band.


Hope that kind of helps what you're trying to achieve.

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