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Thread: Recommended dB levels for each instrument in the mixer before mastering?

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    kratos is offline Senior Member
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    Recommended dB levels for each instrument in the mixer before mastering?

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    sorry if this post has been done before but i couldnt find it!
    So basically is there a recommended dB level for each instrument like drums, bass, strings, guitar etc before mastering to commercial dB?
    any links or advice would be helpful!

    Thanks

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    bouldersoundguy is offline Modulator
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    I can't see why there would be a "right" dB level for individual instruments once the song is mixed, just so the mix peaks below 0dBFS. I tend to mix around -12dBFS.

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    noisewreck is offline Sound Destroyer
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    Quote Originally Posted by kratos View Post
    sorry if this post has been done before but i couldnt find it!
    So basically is there a recommended dB level for each instrument like drums, bass, strings, guitar etc before mastering to commercial dB?
    any links or advice would be helpful!

    Thanks
    Not for individual tracks. That would be specific to a given mix. But you want to leave some headroom in the overall mix for the mastering process.
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    Dogbreath's Avatar
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    The way I started doing it awhile ago began with tracking each instrument with all faders (including the master) at unity and adjusting the input trim to get my levels between -18 to -12 all across the board. I might have got this from Massive. Not sure so if it's wrong, don't blame him.

    From there the mixing got a little easier. I just shoot for an average level of around -18 to -12 for the mix itself with the individual tracks being what they need to be. I try and get it so there are no peaks above -6.


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    kcearl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bouldersoundguy View Post
    I can't see why there would be a "right" dB level for individual instruments once the song is mixed, just so the mix peaks below 0dBFS. I tend to mix around -12dBFS.
    same .

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    Armistice's Avatar
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    ^^^ what they're sayin' ....

    I used to track too hot thinking I had to get as much signal as possible... made mixing a bit of a nightmare and somehow didn't seem to sound as good either...

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    Mix to your ears, not to the meters dude.

    Anybody could chime in and give you a formula on dB levels for guitars, bass, drums, vocals etc., but what's it worth if it sounds like a pile of poo?

    Use reference tracks (just make sure to turn them down to match your mixing levels), and try to follow the sound of the reference. If you manage to get the sound you're looking for, but the kick and snare are still peaking a few dB above everything else, it's perfectly fine. In fact, I'd say that a lot of mixes go for mastering like that.

    The drums are nearly always the loudest things in my mix, sometimes the vocals - judging by the meters. But it always sounds fairly even to me.
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    Quote Originally Posted by philbagg View Post
    Mix to your ears, not to the meters
    Absolutely.

    I'd even take it a step further and say mix to your mind. That is, take the tracks you have and think and imagine what you would like them to sound like when you get them together. What role does the guitar play? The drums? etc. Is it a power anthem, a quiet ballad, or something in-between? And what role does each track play in that arrangement? Where are the hooks you want to stand out vs. the minor accompaniment roles? Is it about the lyrics or the riffs, or both at different times?

    The mix is in many respects nothing but an extension of the arrangement and composition, and the relative levels of each track should support that function.

    The only worry you should have regarding absolute numerical levels is to keep them conservative enough to avoid clipping the mix. Within that sole limit, mix to the demands of the arrangement and the music.

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    well you and phil killed this thread

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    I just shoot for an average level of around -18 to -12 for the mix itself
    How do you hear it? I mean, you must have to turn your speakers up to full to hear it.

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