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Mixing extremely dynamic music for vinyl #2996921 07/02/19 01:12 AM
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New&Improv Offline OP
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Wow, this sounds like a great forum.

I run a small studio, and I've been getting a few bands that are going for a very specific sound/style where the music starts very softly and builds to being extremely dense and loud. Imagine a tune that starts with a barely amplified electric guitar being strummed as softly as possible, with maybe a little delay, maybe a whispered vocal, and over the course of 12-20 minutes, growing to multiple guitars through multiple full stacks, drum kits, (maybe) screaming vocals, synths, strings, etc. I'm currently in the middle of mixing 3 projects that are like this. 2 of the three bands are definitely releasing the material on vinyl, like 1-song per lp side. I've tracked the bands and I am mixing, but the tracks will be professionally mastered, especially for the vinyl releases.

I'm kind of frustrated with the results I'm getting, if I preserve the dynamics of the original tracking, I can get mixes that sound full and clear at the end sections, but the intros, which can go on for 5-7 minutes are barely audible, especially in any normal listening environment. If I compress the 2-bus to a point where the intro is audible and present, the ending is an over-compressed mess. I've tried automating the compression on the 2-bus, with varying success, but it kind of feels like I am losing some of the dynamic the bands are looking for. Also, this approach feels like I am limiting (no pun intended) the options of the mastering engineer.

Bands identify what they are doing as Post-rock, post metal, prog, doom. Similar bands might be Isis, or Godspeed You Black Emperor.

So I guess my question to the mods and readers of the forum, if you were getting a project like this to master for vinyl, what would you like to see. What can I do to make this dynamic work?


Turn up the speaker
Hop, flop, squawk
It's a keeper
-Captain Beefheart, Ice Cream for Crow
Re: Mixing extremely dynamic music for vinyl [Re: New&Improv] #2996927 07/02/19 01:46 AM
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Justin P Offline
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I find myself doing a fair amount of level automation in mastering these days. Instead of adding (more) compression, I can simply automate more level before the final limiter and that can help keep the quiet sections from getting lost in noisier listening environments. It also prevents the endings and big sections from getting too squashed.

I usually do this after my capture from analog, but before the final digital limiter. Often when clients want to hear a louder version, usually automating up the quieter parts without squashing the already squashed loud sections even more does the trick.

Here's a screen shot of a recent single I mastered for a rather particular client that wanted it of course loud but dynamic. Classic.
WaveLab Screenshot

This isn't super common but it does happen. Again, this is after my capture from the analog chain, but before the final limiter...so near the end of the mastering process.

Now getting this on vinyl, that's where having an open line of communication with the cutting engineer can make or break the situation. I typically keep all this automation and most of my processing, I just remove (or really ease up on) the final digital limiter for the vinyl pre-master for cutting from to provide a more vinyl friendly starting point for whoever is cutting it.

Last edited by Justin P; 07/02/19 03:36 AM.
Re: Mixing extremely dynamic music for vinyl [Re: New&Improv] #2997042 07/02/19 11:29 PM
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New&Improv Offline OP
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Thanks for the response, Justin! So, it sounds you are doing the automation kind of in the middle of the mastering process, after running the track through analog processing, but before the final digital limiter? So, as the mixer, it seems that I should mix so that it sounds full at the loudest sections, and expect that the mastering engineer will bring up the quiet sections. This is good info.


Turn up the speaker
Hop, flop, squawk
It's a keeper
-Captain Beefheart, Ice Cream for Crow
Re: Mixing extremely dynamic music for vinyl [Re: New&Improv] #2997104 07/03/19 01:30 PM
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Justin P Offline
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Originally Posted by New&Improv
Thanks for the response, Justin! So, it sounds you are doing the automation kind of in the middle of the mastering process, after running the track through analog processing, but before the final digital limiter? So, as the mixer, it seems that I should mix so that it sounds full at the loudest sections, and expect that the mastering engineer will bring up the quiet sections. This is good info.


Well, I wouldn't expect every mastering engineer to automatically do this. You may want to communicate ahead of time that you're concerned that the mix might be too dynamic and if they need to automate up the quiet sections it's OK. To my ears, automating up the quieter sections is way more transparent than adding more limiting and crushing the entire song to get the quieter sections up.

Sometimes I'll do something like this on my initial pass, but sometimes I do this after a client hears the first version and suggests that it's not loud enough. In that case, I will try pushing the overall level higher but if and when the loud sections get too crushed by going louder, another option is to also automate up some quiet sections incase their reason for suggesting going louder is based more on those quiet and medium sections.

Usually that does it.

Like most things, communication is key.

I like to work in a way that doesn't paint myself into a corner so a change like this would be pretty simple if the first version isn't correct. Other engineers may work differently and a change like this could be more involved.

Last edited by Justin P; 07/03/19 02:22 PM.
Re: Mixing extremely dynamic music for vinyl [Re: New&Improv] #2998171 07/11/19 03:03 PM
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StephenMarsh Offline
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As Justin mentioned, level rides are what I've found to be the most transparent solution. Very common when mastering score, which features extreme Dynamics as well.


Marsh Mastering
The Lathe Room
Los Angeles, CA

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