Broadcast Quality Issue - Reprise

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Re: Broadcast Quality Issue - Reprise

Postby andygabrys » Wed Oct 24, 2018 10:26 am

Here is what I think:

LongBlackNight wrote:....I get the idea behind the side chaining, thanks to your and Lester's explanation. Will go back to that and make it work, as the sum total message I'm getting from diverse sources is pretty clear that it's not optional......

Using sidechaining just allows you to get a cleaner tighter mix than without. Its easy to set up once you understand it. I have it in my production / mix template all ready to go so I don't have to start from scratch every time.

LongBlackNight wrote:....Up to now I've fiddled with levels and EQ and compression in an attempt to get more bottom end (on this and other songs) with limited success. At some point the kick just thuds and distorts, and I just have not been able to capture the solid "boom" I hear on so many other pieces. So I hope side chaining is the missing ingredient.....

Here is several things to think about and may make a difference in how your approaching things:

1) "getting more bottom end" is relative. When you mix you should have gobs of headroom. You should be able to turn the bass and kick up to silly unbalanced loud levels compared to all your treble sources without peaking your master output at all. If you cannot do this, you are likely having every channel in the mix too loud to begin with.

2) Headroom - Getting a lot of headroom means trimming every sound source that can have sub bass frequencies that don't contribute to the music. Everything that is not a kick drum or bass instrument can usually be high passed at somewhere between 75hz and 200 hz (even higher for hi-hats and tambourines and shakers). You cannot make your bottom end really loud (or make your mix super loud either when "mastering") if the kick and the bass have too much sub bass frequencies either (lets say below 50hz). So what is the usual hearing range of humans? Let's say 20 hz to 20 kHz and as you get older you hear less high end. What is the range of the speakers we are listening on? 8" studio monitors reproduce down to maybe 50hz. Bigger subs give more of the sub bass. My answer: trim off everything below 20 hz even on kick drum and bass instruments. Then find other places you can cut on the same instruments.

2b) Mixing kick and bass using subtractive eq - a 22" acoustic bass drum usually has a resonant frequency somewhere around 65 hz (tuning matters of course but as a rule of thumb). So give it a little additive eq with a Q of say 2 or sharper at 65hz will make it "bloom" a little. Conversely, a bass instrument often really speaks between 100-300hz. So why not cut to the maximum dB at 65hz with a really sharp Q on the bass? That totally works. It gets rid of a bass zone that you don't need and don't hear so much of, and all of the sudden the kick just pops out. Then if you boost a little 200 hz on the bass, and maybe cut a little on the kick, you get rid of some kick that maybe you don't hear, and the bass instrument frequency sounds solid. Does that make sense? Dovetail the eq curves of your kick and your bass. You can take this all the way up into the high frequencies too. Kick drums often "speak" at 1 kHz, 3 kHz, 5 kHz, 10 khz. If you add a little boost at one or several of these frequencies you can make the "nail in the paddle" stick out. You hear the attack. Taken to an extreme its the hammering effect of double pedal kicks in metal. Maybe you can cut the bass instrument at the same frequency that you boost the kick.

3) Harmonics - Our ears do amazing things. We hear a series of harmonics above a fundamental note. Guitarists know this because you can hit an open string, and then the harmonics at the 12th, 7th, 5th (and so on) frets by lightly touching the string and plucking. All that stuff is in any note. So with bass frequencies, if the sound equipment doesn't reproduce the fundamental note at the bottom, it will still reproduce the series of harmonics above it. Like take a bass guitar 5 string - the low B string I think is 31 hz - it may sound a little less loud on some systems that don't reproduce down below 50 hz - like those 8" studio monitors. That is because you are hearing the harmonic series, but not the fundamental. Its less loud.

So what does this mean: If you want to give clarity to a bass instrument or a kick especially when wanting to hear it on crappy small speakers like ear buds or TVs - you can add harmonics. Your ear recreates the sound of that Low B on the bass by hearing the series of harmonics, whether or not you can hear the fundamental down at 31 hz.

How you can use this: For years I have used a parallel overdrive / distortion setup on my bass channels in my production / mix template. Taken to the extreme it makes the bass grungy which is great for hard rock. But add a little bit, and suddenly the bass can be heard actually doing what its doing in the song. Its clear, you hear the attack, and yet you didn't have to add tons of bass level.

Same thing works for kicks. You can set it up in your template or use a distortion plugin on the kick sound channel like SoundToys Decapitator and use the MIX knob to add a little or a lot as needed.

4) "Boom" - If you you mean the kind of boom that comes from a slightly flabby drum head in a big room? We are often using samples either with an acoustic style drum VI or something more electronic. The ADSR envelope of the kick matters. If it doesn't have boom, Swap it out. Get one that has more of a tail on it. Choose something else. Its possible to make things sound way different using plugins, but sometimes different isn't better and its way more work.

Having said that - extreme compression brings up the room effect on any instrument. So if that kick drum has some room tone in it, compressing it like mad will bring up the boom, the more resonant drum head sound. You likely would want to use the compression on a parallel channel of Kick so you can mix it under the main sound - just to give it a touch of boom.

5) related to #1 - a mix has to work not peaking the master output. If you can't hear it, turn up your monitors instead. Then when you "master" the piece, that is when you can turn your monitors back down and use your fancy plugins. Again trimming some bass on the master channel with a light touch can have a clearing effect and allow the entire mix to be much louder - without a perceived lack of bass.

LongBlackNight wrote:.....What should be the main source of the bottom end? The kick or the bass? I've been coming to the conclusion that it's the kick that should be the main cannon with the bass just oozing enough sound to give it a pitch +/-....

100% of the time its a balance. And that was what I was trying to explain by saying Kick attack > bass sustain.

image.png (9.33 KiB) Viewed 297 times

which comes from this article which actually summarizes some of the same things I have said here ... d-balance/

When kick and bass are not balanced - its usually a special effect.

One thing that is pretty common in pop music these days is a really banging kick playing over a sustained synth bass note. The synth bass isn't playing a "baseline" its just holding down a low note. An example from Taylor Swift's Shake it Off at 2:05

or Empire State of Mind at 2:10 or so

The other time that kick drum takes a back seat - is a lot of "pop" music produced in the early 70's and before. Like EWF. Lotsa great Verdine White bass - and the kick is still heard, but its back a bit from todays fashion. Like in the Stone - or September

Even farther back - think Mowtown and James Jamerson - LOTSA Bass. And the drum kit was more ambient, and a lot of it had to do with styles of the times and overall recording fidelity although the records sound amazing like What's Going On

You can still pick out the kick though because its playing a steady groove, and Jamerson played around a lot so didn't double all the kick patterns strictly. Love that stuff.

anyways - hope that helps.
Last edited by andygabrys on Thu Nov 08, 2018 2:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Broadcast Quality Issue - Reprise

Postby DannyWeber » Thu Nov 01, 2018 3:37 pm

“Happy Alec” is a totally ”Positive, Inspiring, Mid-to-Up-Tempo Instrumental Cue” in how it is written. However, it is obviously, totally “in the box” by that I mean, you are lacking any acoustical/analog harmonic elements that come from using microphones in your engineering. (which IMO would make your track sound more “Broadcast Quality”). You could also try new synth patches as well.

I think in your case the word “ACOUSTIC” (in the listing itself) should be your focus. I highly recommend, Waves Maxx Bass (or similar plugins) for making digital instruments sound analog. It’s a plugin that simulates analog harmonic frequencies extremely well.

When used correctly, you can make the cheesiest synth sounds, sound like they were done using microphones.

Analog warmth is key, when trying to make digital instruments sound.. “Broadcast Quality”.

By the way, Maxx Bass has been around for years and Waves has the occasional sale from time to time. I know it sounds like a product endorsement or commercial. But the way it has helped my music sound more analog, is well worth the $30 dollars I payed for it, on sale! (I think I have that price right).

It seems you have been at this one track for a long time. Most of the time, it is good to just move on from troublesome tracks to new ones but this one seems close to your heart.

If a new plugin is not the right option for you.. you might try something I’ve heard ML say in some of the TAXI listings I’ve seen over the years which is... Run some or all of your digital instruments through speakers or amps and record them with microphones instead of the cloning them with your computer. You may gain some analog warmth and ambiance that way and add some mid to low frequency effects you just can’t get from digital recording.

While I have never heard of composers using this method for synth sounds, it can be effective when using amplifier simulator plugins for Rock guitar to add some authenticity. Just a thought.

I hope this Forum topic has been helpful to you! Everyone deserves a little help along the way!

Good luck and the kindest regards,

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Re: Broadcast Quality Issue - Reprise

Postby CTWF » Fri Nov 02, 2018 1:07 pm

Many thanks to the replies on this thread, and especially to benefactor Andy Gabrys who always is very generous with his time. This thread is not only useful to the original poster.

I have something EDM-inspired submitted for a custom critique (not "Watch out for the Germans"), and might expose it on here, once I get some recommendations and will have had time to improve it a little. Always good to hear people's opinion and advice. Punchy bass/synth vs. kick - exactly one of my main issues in that piece as well. And how it messes with my arpeggios. :mrgreen:
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Re: Broadcast Quality Issue - Reprise

Postby LongBlackNight » Mon Nov 05, 2018 8:13 am

I took one more plunge into the song just to see what I could do with all these ideas. It's version 15d.

I tried the side-chaining and did get it to work. In the end the song just sounded better with no side-chained compression on the bass -- a little punchier. I did tighten the bass with its own compressor and generally worked on the bottom end to be tight without being thuddy. Maybe in the next piece I can the side-chaining to be a net positive. One place where I did get side-chaining to work is on the ride, triggered (ducked) by the snare. I think it clears things up a bit and gives it a little more groove. Many thanks to Andy for his in depth explanations.

I went back and tamped down the "haze" generated by the ride and percussion and added body to the snare with a low-Q bump at around 200. In the same vein I mellowed out the piano. Maybe this takes care of the "brightness" problem that Lester noted.

Finally, I played around with Maxx Bass as per Dan. I liked what I heard when I put it on the master. It mellowed things a bit and did make things sound more "natural." Also tried it just on the bass, and it was also effective. In the end, I felt I didn't really know how to use it effectively, and I was afraid I'd get something that sounded good initially due to the "wow" factor, but then regret it later as I listened on other systems. Maybe I can work it in on the next song. As for "touching analog," I should do that and will pursue that on the next piece. I've had luck with it before.

And I think that's a wrap for this piece. I've had an opportunity to try a lot of techniques on this, thanks to the great comments and suggestions. Time to move on.

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