I realise this is a BIIIIIG area, but does anyone have any tips when it comes to mixing/mastering their own tracks. I have noticed that mine usually seem really quiet when comparing to others’ on comps. Am I just being too scared of the red line? :slight_smile:

Resources or tips for mixing monome-manipulated ambient/sampled sounds?
Latest tracks + videos

Suggestion: Be sure to normalize the tracks once they are in your DAW. That should provide appropriate levels for further adjustment.


I wouldn’t normalize anything ever unless maybe you were preparing samples to be processed or something like that (manual gain adjustments are usually good enough for a mix) - normalizing is only going to effect the max peak volume which may or may not have an effect on perceived volume; for example, if you normalized some very spiky transient sounds the result might not sound that much louder, whereas if you normalized a quiet drone it’s going to sound massively loud - too loud.

Basically you want to be doing your mixes so they peak between -6 and -4 db (unless you’re going for very very quiet material or pure drone, and you have to judge rms levels based on the material… it’s really all about how you want it to sound. Then, once mixed town, you can raise the overall volume with a limiter.

There’s all kinds of advanced techniques to gaining volume and to metering etc etc, but they are all quite dependant on the material and the desired sound, so they can be hard to talk about generally.


bookmarking this thread

i have been casually learning by trial and error for a few yrs and hit a similar wall feeling my music didnt match A B comparisons to the tracks i love listening to (or independent work of peers)

Possibly. I pushed the limit ( got familiar with where that is in my daw) then began dialing it back and refining my technique.

There are so many variables involved and I’ve taken time to try learning and upgrading: knowledge of mic placement; digital/analog conversion and soundcard settings; how compression, reverb, and other fx affect percieved loudness and actual db levels…etc


[quote=“analogue01, post:3, topic:4907”]
I wouldn’t normalize anything
[/quote]I play by this rule

Cant recall if i read it or learned it from somebody else (King Britt?) but I know after testing i didnt like it.

However, I strongly encourage you to try it and see the results…it might fit the way you work.


Some software allows you to set the ceiling for normalizing, so it might be useful to, say, normalize to -12db if you accidentally recorded something too quietly, but if I need to do something like that I usually just make a manual adjustment by ear.

I’ve noticed too that not all normalizing processes are not created equal. I have no idea why, but it sounds terrible if you normalize in Ableton live when exporting a session - much worse than Logic - but really you should never never never normalize a mixdown.


you may check the bob katz metering system (or K-system). i find it very usefull.
(of course the system doesn’t do anything by itself. there are a lot of tips, vids, words, etc. about how to use comp and limiters to get the loudness level you want)


OK, yeah it’s the blanket preset normalization in Logic I was first exposed to.

For me, I recorded something wrong if I’m leaning toward a broad “solution” like that. It’s usually less painful to just buckle down and do another take than kill the vibe and use extensive energy fussing with fixing the recording.


Some random thoughts on the topic (sorry for the length, I’ve been mulling this stuff for the last year or so):

Hands down, this is the best thing I’ve ever read on the topic: How to actually master your own music. Short, explained, to the point - and every step is understandable and not shrouded in mysticism. The explanation of how to use a reference track, and why, is gold.

If mastering for YouTube / SoundCloud / Spotify / iTunes, etc… basically a service that will MP3 or otherwise deliver the audio compressed (in the information sense, not the audio sense) - after reading tons, since I don’t want to master for each separately, I make sure the final master for upload is -1.5dbFS. That’s enough headroom for them to “do their thing” without undue artifacts.

I ignore all that is written about loudness. And, “now that the loudness wars are over”, which is because the above services all have their own normalization strategies, there are different tips on how to not run afoul of said strategies. I mix and master so it sounds “right”, then normalized so encoding is okay. Done.

I wouldn’t go to vinyl without a professional mastering engineer experienced in vinyl.

I tried three automated mastering services and set up a double blind listening test(*) with them, and my own master. I did this for two tracks, and had the band listen to them under multiple listening situations. There were differences, but no obvious winners, and the differences were different between the tracks. In end we decided they did no better than I did on the whole, so not worth money or workflow hassle.

(*) Ask me how… full of geeky goodness - using hashes in a way that even I didn’t know which was which!

If you really want to obsess over those last db, and which metering system to use, there was this recent article, which despite it’s name was not bad: In The Box Mastering – The Ultimate Guide. But in the end, I’m not interested in fiddling that much to get some boost on Spotify! (I don’t even have a Spotify account…)


Here’s a great interview with Rashad Becker (he’s a bit of a counter-point to Bob Katz et al - not that the k-system will yeild bad masters by any means), for those who really want to get into this: http://roberthenke.com/interviews/mastering.html

Also his RBMA interview is crucial:


Thanks for the link. Becker is such a charming dude :slight_smile:


that link is gold

i’m halfway thru and have learned tons


what do you mean by that ?
(i’ve no idea about their respective point of view about mastering. i’ve heard a lot of great albums mastered by rashad becker. and i couldn’t name one mastered by bob katz, although i’ve surely heard one or two).


The word I’ve gathered from working with different professional mixing / mastering guys who also make their own records is to not mix or master your own work.


In a perfect world! Haha that’s probably an easy thing for pro mixing/mastering people to say

@mzero thanks for this link!


this is a general rule of thumb, yes, but I think the OPs desire to boost sound is well within the range of mixing a musician with a daw and some outboard gear can handle (with practice)

it’s up to him

I personally break rules like this not to seem like a counterculture rebel or due to ignorance…someday I would like to see what another engineer** would do with my music but right now all $$$ goes to gear, software and records I like before I’d consider sinking it into session time at a proper studio or sending tracks to someone else

I don’t use monitors either so take this with several grains

** (yosi horikawa, giusepe ielasi, matthewdavid, daddy kev, taylor deupree)


Rashad Becker mastered a release I worked on, can’t say enough good things about his work, and I love that interview with Robert Henke, was a big part of why we asked him to master our work in the first place.

In addition to helping with dynamics, he also did some amazing things with the low end frequencies, clearing out some of the mud, and bringing out the fundamental. Think the individual steps and techniques of mastering can be quite subtle, but taken together make a really significant difference. You would certainly be able to tell the difference between his work and me slapping a limiter and compressor on the stereo mixes.

That said, the #1 tip I’d give to anybody considering mixing and mastering themselves is putting in the work to make your listening environment as accurate as possible, otherwise every decision you make is going to be distorted, no matter how good your ears and gear are.


fantastic advice


also, what release were you referencing above?


DThis is one of the topics where the response should take into consideration what experience and resources the OP has at his disposal. Decisions made in a fully equipped sound studio are fine, but are impractical for what a guy can do with limited tools. The theory is the same, but the toolset may not be. Another difference would be for the intended use, i.e.: Pono or Soundcloud.

My suggestion to try normalizing tracks before mixing seemed okay considering the OP said all of his tracks seemed quiet, and intimated that he was recording perhaps close to the red or in the yellow zone.

I’ve had similar results. Normalizing the tracks gave me the basis for further tweaking and balancing levels at mix while producing a final track that is closer to an optimal volume for the piece.

Just a suggestion.



Sorry if it seemed like we were piling on…that was unintentional