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Trance Forum » » Forum  Production & Music Making - Keep it RAW
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Keep it RAW

IsraTrance Junior Member

Started Topics :  46
Posts :  204
Posted : May 31, 2017 13:47:16
Sup guys

Hope all is well. Just thought I’d share something that changed my music for the better.

When I started music production I followed the rule that if it sounds good then do it. I wasn’t really clued up on anything like EQ, phaser, chorus, compression. I remember that my first tracks I released wasn’t EQ’d at all. (High pass on leads etc)

It sounded ok back then but not like commercial tracks. So as I tried to improve my music I started using FX plugins to spice up my sounds. (i.e. using a chorus, phaser or reverb like 100% wet etc.)

Then also not realizing the issues with room treatment there were obviously frequency masking, also increases in frequency amplitudes – when sounds in the same frequency range played together.
So… I EQ’d every sound individually, like medium to wide cuts in the mid range of a sound. What I heard were actually - room harmonics making certain frequencies louder, due to room reverberations.

Then, playing the track all together made it sound duller and duller. Eqing the whole mix down and down into inaudibility. I actually struggled a few years like this, because reading advice on the web can be confusing. i.e. If someone spoke of EQ or reverb they were not clear on which situation it should be used. So you would think he’s talking about EQ or reverb on a kick and bass, when he meant on a lead or pre-production where he talked about post-production.

In the end I thought that all sounds should be EQ’d, Chorused, Reverbed or Phased untill it sounded pleasant, but what I did not get was it was already pleasant and it was only room harmonics causing the problem. This clearly ended up at the same result where the track did not fit well at all.

Lets look at Why.

Imagine there are a bunch of people playing together in a band. When they practise in a garage they would tweak the instruments at their source. Meaning volume levels, distortion on guitars and a small amount of EQ on the Amps etc. And the song fits well together.

However, with DAW’s and electronic music we have all these goodies – fx plugins to spice stuff up, cause the source might sound crappy. i.e. mid frequencies on kickdrum was always my issue, but cut it away and it sounds lifeless in the track. Lost its punch kinda. Worst would be Eqing a kick drum like that and then build a track around it. You end up equing everything to match the dullness of your origin sound.

What is the issue here. Well always remember that any EQ, phasing, chorus or reverb will change the sound and balance of everything – if say the WET knob is set too high. These FX causes a sound to sound processed. Which is bad, cause human hearing can clearly pick it up and it will always be a bad thing for your epic mix.
This is why today I recommend not using any FX at all in pre-production. Not even reverb. Unless you know what you are doing – like being a pro n all. It is because of the very basic fundamental rule that RAW sounds fit together and wrongly processed sound don’t fit with RAW sounds. Thus the processed sounds will fool your ears and you will end up processing everything – ending with a bad sounding mix, and you wonder WHY does it sound so shit.

The reason why I ended up doing what I did was because processing a sound is a quick fix. Fitting RAW sounds together is hard. So if this sounds like your problem then here are some pointers that changed my music completely.

1.) When composing a track only use volume changes, filters, delays and minor distortion (if that is your style of music). Save a clean (no env or res) high pass and also low pass filter preset. FL studio’s Love Philter works great, because you have the options of Single, double, triple etc filtering intensities. But any good filter will work. Place your main focus on cutting the Lows on mid leads and background fx – a subwoofer is recommended. Only cut highs if completely necessary (not on every sound). The higher the frequency range, the more activity can be present.

2.) Tweak the source of the sound to get better results. Like the OSC, FM, Distortion and filters.

3.) When using presets, take off all effects modules within the plugin. People design sounds in their plugins to make the plugin sound fantastic – not to fit in your track. You can realize this when you import a commercial track into your DAW and play a RAW saw tooth wave together with it. It will fit nicely without processing.

4.) Get a good overall balance by only using the tools mentioned in point 1. If you want to cut mids out of the kick, rather decrease the DB level. The low end will still push through even if it does not sound loud enough.

5.) Remember that louder and softer is an illusion. It’s all about finding a BALANCE between everything. Does not matter what amplitude level you are working on.

6.) Then when the track is done – render all sounds to WAV, if it’s not already and save the project as “Project name mixing”

7.) Now you are in the mixing phase. NO, don’t throw reverb, panning, Eq and compression on everything cause that is what people told you to do. Rather listen to the track together and make minor adjustments in panning, eq and reverb only where needed. To separate sounds in a busy area of the mix. Mixing on low volume levels and also Mono helps alot to find a great balance, cause on lower levels your room harmonics does not play a role that much anymore.

8.) When using Phasers and Choruses always keep the RAW dry sound loud and present, and add the effects only by a few %, like 10-30. Reverb aswell, except if you use the reverb on one or two sounds as a reverb effect (not mixing reverb).

9.) Add compression on sound parts that has crazy/unpredictable dynamic range throughout time. Or to make a single sound more punchy, but again don't make it sound processed.

10.) And lastly remember that if you hear a great track on the radio or web, know that the track sounded almost exactly like that before mixing and mastering took place. Mixing and mastering ain’t gonna make a crappy kick sound great. Concentrate on using the best samples and source material.

Cheers ;-)

          " We are together in this matter you and I, closer to death, yes, closer than i'd like. How do you feel? - There can be no division in our actions, or everything is lost. What affects you affects me. "
IsraTrance Junior Member
Started Topics :  10
Posts :  1352
Posted : Jun 7, 2017 14:40
On principle, I do agree. Music production is all about creating and using good sources. A lot of mixing problems can be avoided by simply using sounds that play well together.

I'm under the impression that when you go through all the stages a lot of times, the later stages (mixing and mastering) will inform you on how to better cope with the production part, even down to the arrangement.

Having said this, don't fall into the trap of thinking that fx are just "makeup" to spice up otherwise boring sounds. You can be (and should be) very judicious about them and they're certainly an integral part of sound exploration.

IsraTrance Junior Member

Started Topics :  46
Posts :  204
Posted : Jun 9, 2017 11:13
No definitely man. Keeping everything dry with no fx does tend to be boring. Just cause we are so use to basic synth sounds in 2017. I mean many tunes of the 80's today sounds a bit meh. But back them they were this new thing.

So to today's standards we have to keep creating new and unique sounds.

I know many guys would prefer to EQ and fX their sounds in pre-production, but that is more for people that knows what works - thus they can implement it earlier.

Another thing I would add to my post is it's also fundamental to know what a chorus or phaser actually does to a sound. Cause just using ur ears without knowledge would put you in the dilemma that where is the correct balance really.
Like I said if you put heavy EQ or lets say something crazy like a chorus on a kick. And try to blend all other sounds to it - your mix balance would just be plain wrong. But how would you know - if ur not experienced. Or knows what sounds right.

Here I would also say how important A/B'ing FX and EQ's are. Never stray too far from the RAW sound, but at the same time add FX to get a certain result. The best way to say it. EQ a sound which when you A/B it, you cannot hear the EQ effect on it. As mentioned earlier, talking about shaping not cutting unwanted resonant peaks. Also when mixing - use reference track loaded in your DAW. Again knowledge is required.

Many guys in youtube vids would say EQ as much as u want, it doesn't matter. Which is clearly bad advice, due to the fact that EQ causes phasing/latency between frequencies. Go ahead and eq everything like crazy and you would soon end up with a clearly unfocused stereo image and ear fatigue.

Last few points obviously not aimed at ur post frisbee. I have seen in many posts that u know ur shit.

          " We are together in this matter you and I, closer to death, yes, closer than i'd like. How do you feel? - There can be no division in our actions, or everything is lost. What affects you affects me. "
IsraTrance Junior Member
Started Topics :  10
Posts :  1352
Posted : Jun 9, 2017 14:31
It's funny what you've said about the 80's.

I understand what you said about the raw sounds, but for me this era is also associated with, at the very least, reverb abuse. They're embracing the new sounds and technology to the point it merged with popular culture, made its way into some of the most famous movies and tv shows of the era, that left an enduring memory on people like me (that grew up during this time) and that's now being made fashionable again through the rise of revivalist genres like Synth Wave or Retro Wave (perhaps there's other names for it...), such as the lovely OST on Stranger Things or even Daft Punk's work for the Tron Legacy and other similar stuff.

In a way, we see this revivalist tendency on the technology as well. I mean, today you can get a model D mini Moog again - or just grab the infamous clone for less then half the price of that, or a plug-in. You can get several emulations or reissues of most famous gear, either instruments or effect racks. There's tons of offerings giving you (or trying at least) the sound of the past in the form of tape reel-to-reel emulations, vinyl, non linear console behavior, pre-amps (!!!), etc.

Ok, so now let's comment on what you're saying about using EQ sparingly. To be honest, I don't know...

EQ does indeed create both phase shift and cancelation, it's just how they work. It's the combination of this two factors that allows it to reinforce or tame the selected frequencies - and this is done to great effect.

I don't think there's a cumulative negative effect that you need to worry about due to this, much less to the point of worrying that it might mess up your stereo image.

While I wholeheartedly agree with the part where you advise to work on those sources, I think in this case it's really about what sounds best and trusting your ears. You can even use several EQ stages in series without any noticeable effects, even on just one channel, even on a mastering chain. So worry about the detrimental effect that your choices might have on the material, rather then on the cumulative effect of this phase shift, because the lack of it, to me at least, sounds definitely worse in most situations - and that would be linear phase.

I don't know what you mean about the latency, except if you're talking about Acustica... Most hosts should compensate for any plug-in introduced latency these days, so it shouldn't really be a concern - except if you're recording.

So, it is my opinion that you're exaggerating the dangers of a regular EQ. You shouldn't really worry about that. Just pay attention to how it sounds and tweak with light hands and sharp ears.

There's however the possibility that engaging, say, a high pass filter on top of a carefully tweaked short sound, with an attack which you're really proud of and the phase shift has caused this to, well, shift, thus ruining your beloved transient. This can indeed happen, but it's also something I think people shouldn't worry too much about, except on the rare instances where they should, of course - like perhaps for bass sounds, during mastering, when deciding between zero latency or in between that and linear, manually adjusting this phase shift...).

To sum it all up, I think I've been there. That's a side effect of knowing the tech behind your devices and believing that you need to watch out for it. Bare in mind that EQs have been around for a long time and this people have studied all this inside out and that phase shift and cancelation are just natural side effects of filters, and a part of why they sound like they do and why we like them so much, from our plug-ins to the EQs on those fancy big consoles that some lucky (bastards) people work with.

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