You know what they say, there’s more than one way to skin a cat…whatever that means.
But when it comes to mastering your music, sometimes it seems as painful as skinning something. 🙂
One common question has to do with volume.
How loud should your mastered mixes be? Are there any rules?
Hillel, one of my subscribers, asked it this way:
“Normally when doing a basic mastering of my tracks, I put my speakers and interface volume knobs halfway up and then try to bring up the volume so its at a nice normal listening level. Would you consider this a good practice? Or should I be attempting to get the volume up to a specific level?” (more…)
In the latest podcast I did with Graham, one of our 5 mixing “hacks” was to mix at lower volumes.
Lower volumes. What’s the fun in that?
I’ll be honest. I’m not great at doing this, but there are a lot of good reasons to mix at lower volumes. Here are a few:
- Less ear fatigue – Mix for longer periods of time without wearing out your cute little ears
- Forces you to listen more carefully – When the speakers are blaring, it can actually become more difficult to hear everything. Turning ’em down makes you listen more carefully.
- Makes your room less of an issue – Yes, you should acoustically treat your room, but mixing at lower volumes gives your room less of a chance to mess with the sound before it hits your ears. Blasting sound into your room will cause those room issues (and we all have them) to become more pronounced and exaggerated.
- Nowhere to “hide” – Sometimes a mix sounds better simply when you play it louder. Forcing yourself to mix at lower volumes forces you to get a good-sounding mix BEFORE you crank the volume.
- Flatter response – It’s a fact, louder music actually sounds more “hyped” to our ears. A loud mix seems to have more bass and more highs…even if that’s not really the case. A lower volume gives you a “flatter” response to work with…which is ideal.
“How loud should I mix?” you ask. Some folks like to get SPL meters and measure it out. I don’t. Graham made a great point in yesterday’s podcast. Mix at a level where you can still comfortable hold a conversation with someone next to you.
Hey, it’s worth a shot.
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Welcome to Day 22 of 31 Days to Better Recordings.
Have you ever played the red light game?
No, not “red light, green light.” I’m referring to the game you play while you’re mixing a song. You’re so close to being finished…you can taste it. You make a little tweak here, a little fader move there, then BAM.
The red clip light goes off.
You hunt down the light, click on it to make it go away, then adjust the level of that track down a bit. Okay, crisis averted, back to mixing.
But wait, now the mix doesn’t sound quite as good as before. Since you had to turn that one track down (because it was clipping), you need to turn down all the other tracks a little bit to make everything balanced again.