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(mastering) My song is too quiet and I don't know why.

Postby Carsonic » Wed Jun 18, 2014 4:10 am

Hello.

I've just finished my latest song. Mixed it, and mastered it. When I put a professionally released song into my Ableton project for AB'ing, I notice that it goes above the 0db marker and clips. Is this a thing? Do mastering engineers use controlled clipping to make the tracks louder? My song doesn't clip, and I have it going through the Waves L3 maximizer. It's the last thing in the chain. I got it as loud as I could without clipping, but I'm wondering if I should allow it to clip, as I see almost every song that I AB with clips. Is it because I'm mastering in the box, or is it maybe because of my mix, and the perceived loudness just isn't there? Please share your thoughts!

Here is my track:
My Soundcloud

Here is a professional track:
Pro's Soundcloud


Cheers,
Carson
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Re: (mastering) My song is too quiet and I don't know why.

Postby Tony O'Shea » Sun Jun 22, 2014 11:17 am

Hi Carsonic,
Before saying anything I have to say that I, and I'm sure all the other professional mastering engineers here, have seen questions similar to yours many, many times. Sometimes they are are genuine but often they are from those trolling a forum. I'll assume that it is the former.

I can't really say for certain why your home master doesn't compare with a commercial track but the perceived volume of a track has much to do with the composition and arrangement. It is also affected by the quality of the recording and mix.

Mastering engineers use what equipment and techniques they need to achieve the requirements set out by the producer. There isn't a set formula of techniques and/or equpiment used to make tracks 'louder', what is used and done depends on the specific track and the requirements of the producer. Many of us prefer not to clip audio or shear waveforms whether to achieve preceived volume or for effect. When we are required to we often 'clip' the ADC hardware by affecting the analogue gain structure rather than by using software vsts.

Depending on the source the clipping that you see on a commercial track may be due to other issues rather than deliberate clipping by the mastering engineer.

So if your track isn't achieving the perceived volume first look at the composition and arrangement and carefully consider how that affects things. Then look at your mix and how that affects things.

Best,
Tony
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Re: (mastering) My song is too quiet and I don't know why.

Postby The Elf » Sun Jun 22, 2014 12:03 pm

As above. This has been covered many, many, MANY :D times, so a search should yeild good info for you. There was also an SOS article covering the topic, so search in there too.

The bottom line is that if you want your songs to sound 'commercially loud' it starts long before 'mastering'.
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Re: (mastering) My song is too quiet and I don't know why.

Postby JonathanRace » Sun Jun 22, 2014 4:42 pm

Very precise attention to detail with regards to dynamics.

Making sure there isn't too much going on in the low end. (our ears are most sensitive to the upper mids so tracks with more energy there will appear louder but going overboard can sound harsh)

lots more reasons and I'd love to post a link to a blog that has a post regarding loudness etc but as this is my first post I'll hold off on that for now :)
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Re: (mastering) My song is too quiet and I don't know why.

Postby SafeandSound Mastering » Mon Jun 23, 2014 7:36 am

The only thing I would add here is that when you mention "professionally released song into my Ableton project " is this from a compressed source such as MP3 or AAC ?

If so then when it is decoded they are often converted into a .wav file as most sequencers cannot natively deal with lossy compressed formats. As such what you see is often clipping caused by peaks overshooting the original limiter ceiling caused by the decode filtering which is part of the perceptual masking DSP. Some filters change audio phase relationships in a complex waveform have the ability to cause peak levels over and above 0dBFS.

It does not mean all masters are clipped by default and it should be seen as a last and potentially regrettable last resort to intentionally clip audio.

Having the actual .wav file master is always the best way to reference audio against your own as you can also better hear the damage that high level mastering has often done.

When doing critical listening/technical checks always best to start with the highest quality source possible.

Barry Gardner
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Re: (mastering) My song is too quiet and I don't know why.

Postby Tony O'Shea » Mon Jun 23, 2014 9:55 am

Agree 100% with Barry above. It's also why I mentioned the source material.

Best,
Tony
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Re: (mastering) My song is too quiet and I don't know why.

Postby Carsonic » Mon Jun 23, 2014 4:06 pm

My mixing reference tracks are .flac files though. Thank you soooo much for the information about mp3's though. I'll do my best to keep that in mind in the future!
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Re: (mastering) My song is too quiet and I don't know why.

Postby James Perrett » Tue Jun 24, 2014 9:42 am

Just had a quick listen to parts of it on a laptop and to me it sounds like the compression is being over used and the bass end is causing the compressor to bring everything else down. I'd try doing a mix with much less compression and take a little time to make sure the sounds sit together properly.
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