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Normalizing / Different patches = different volumes


Tom Fiala

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Here's a feature I would like on my ROMpler - a "normalization" feature. It would, when activated, make the outputs of the different sounds the same volume, so when I switch from patch to patch, the overall level would remain approximately the same, and just the timbre of the sound would change.

That way I wouldn't have to frig with the mixer or foot pedal volume controllers.

 

Maybe you all know of an easy way to do this for live performance...?

Tom F.

"It is what it is."

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A limiter would be a good option for this kind of application. I would suggest a compressor, but it would probably suffer from pumping and undesirable tonal changes, especially if you are only seeking normalization.

 

The best way would be to put a limiter on each sound source, not the overall mix, to also avaoid ducking.

"For instance" is not proof.

 

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I struggle with this in a live performance context.

 

Rather than a normalizer (though part of me likes the idea), the solution is a bit of work that I somehow keep putting off - and that's to set the internal volume of each patch so it's where it needs to be in relation to the other patches. Some patches need be quieter than others, and a simple 'normalize' function would wreck that.

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Originally posted by coyote:

I struggle with this in a live performance context.

 

Rather than a normalizer (though part of me likes the idea), the solution is a bit of work that I somehow keep putting off - and that's to set the internal volume of each patch so it's where it needs to be in relation to the other patches. Some patches need be quieter than others, and a simple 'normalize' function would wreck that.

This is true. I am going to go through my MP9000 and set up some patches for solo volume, others for rhythm volume, and the kind of patch has a lot to do with how loud seems right.

 

Normalization only makes all the peaks the same level. Peaks don't have much to do with how loud sounds seem to us. What matters in this context is getting the patches to the right perceived levels, the peaks are mostly irrelevant to this. So normalizing is not the right approach. For instance, and organ without percussion has little peak activity, and a piano sound has big transient peak at the attack. So if you normalized the two, the organ would be as loud for it's whole sustain as the piano was at it's loudest- the organ would be much louder than the piano.

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I adjust the settings on my midi controller to be pretty accurate for each patch. On a job I always have to do a little bit of tweaking but not too much.

 

I really find it annoying when the levels in the module itself are not consistant with itself. (Are the design engineers reading this?)

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I hope I'm not stating the obvious or missing something myself, but why don't you guys just edit the patches themselves, such that they have the same perceived volume? That's what I do on all my banks. I also do it for all the sound collections that I publicly release.

 

A key word above is "perceived" volume. Using level meters is a great place to start for getting your patches to sound like they're playing at the same level, but from there, you really need to do it by ear. Due to the way our ears and brains work, we're more attuned/sensitive to mid frequencies. As a result, you might have a patch that registers very high on your level meters because it contains high levels of very high or very low frequency material, and yet... it sounds relatively low in volume compared to other patches. You really just have to trust your ears.

 

For this reason, a normalizer, limiter, or compressor probably wouldn't do an especially good job at this task, anyway.

 

It helps to do this work on a decent sound system with a relatively flat frequency response. I usually do my "volume leveling" in two passes - once using level meters only, and then a second pass through all the patches making tweaks by ear. Actually, I usually do a third pass as well, just as a double check.

 

Of course, you can't edit the presets of some synths, but you can certainly copy the presets to a user bank to edit them.

 

Hope this helps.

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Ski:

 

Of course, for the patches that are editable, that solution would indeed work. However, not all patches are editable. Take, for example, my Yami Motif rack. Only a few of the banks are user editable. Most are "as is"...and there isn't enough memory to edit every single one and put it in the user bank.

Tom F.

"It is what it is."

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Yeah, this is a big issue.

 

I'm hoping to tame it by getting an SRAM card for my Alesis QS71, and copying ALL the Program & Mix banks to it. This would allow me to edit them at will, while eliminating the need to overwrite any of the factory User Programs & Mixes.

 

My understanding of it is limited though. So far, I know I need SoundBridge to load samples onto the 8mb Flash card. If I get the SRAM card, I'd hope to be able to save to it the same way I currently save to the User bank.

 

Dave Bryce, can you tell me if this is how it works?

 

Originally posted by Tom Fiala:

Of course, for the patches that are editable, that solution would indeed work. However, not all patches are editable. Take, for example, my Yami Motif rack. Only a few of the banks are user editable. Most are "as is"...and there isn't enough memory to edit every single one and put it in the user bank.

I used to think I was Libertarian. Until I saw their platform; now I know I'm no more Libertarian than I am RepubliCrat or neoCON or Liberal or Socialist.

 

This ain't no track meet; this is football.

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Originally posted by Tom Fiala:

Of course, for the patches that are editable, that solution would indeed work. However, not all patches are editable. Take, for example, my Yami Motif rack. Only a few of the banks are user editable. Most are "as is"...and there isn't enough memory to edit every single one and put it in the user bank.

Tom, I agree, but I already addressed that point at the end of my first post:

 

Originally posted by Ski:

Of course, you can't edit the presets of some synths, but you can certainly copy the presets to a user bank to edit them.

It's still a pretty simple solution. Besides, I don't know about you, but I end up copying any presets I like to user banks anyway, since I invariably want to make other minor tweaks in addition to volume balancing. Also, even the Motif Rack has 256 user Voice (a.k.a. "patch") memory slots, plus 32 user Drum Voice memory slots. Is 256 Normal + 32 Drum slots not enough to get you through your basic gigging/home/studio playing needs?! :eek: If not, then yes, I can see how you have a bit of a problem there! :D

 

For the record, though... yes, I think that the synth manufacturers could do a better job of "volume balancing" their presets. That would make everything a lot easier for the players, and would do a better job of making a more professional presentation of the manufacturers' products.

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I rarely use more than 25 or so sounds in a gig. I usually program every one on my master keyboard or main synth, with the appropriate levels of the various splits/layers already set, including expanders. Then at the soundcheck, I ask the sound man to leave some headroom on the mixer for me, because I'll make a few small adjustements from my submixer in the course of the night. This system has worked very well for many years.
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Maybe I shouldn't have filled up those user banks with those extra cool sounds I bought from motifator.com!

 

I know I use more than 25 sounds per gig. That would barely get me through the first set....

 

Regardless, I wish the ROMpler makers would balance the volume levels better.

Tom F.

"It is what it is."

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Some of this may be caused by manufacturing companies hiring several patch developers for a single synthesizer. Companies need to assign a single person to balance those sounds. Multi purpose sounds are almost impossible to balance for every situation. Perceived volume is a factor of the patch AND how many notes you play. When balancing patches should take the number of notes usually played on that patch into consideration and how loud the patch is to be in a mix. Balancing all bass sounds is an easy project. Two fisted organ or pad patches are very different than lead or piano or sound effects.
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WRT the *number* of notes played... Excellent point, Bob. I totally forgot to mention that.

 

It's an especially big issue when comparing monophonic patches to two fisted poly patches. When doing the volume balancing on a poly synth, I'll play each of the patches with a specific big open chord that covers a pretty good range across the keyboard. When I hit the odd mono patch on that synth, playing the big chord of course isn't an option. Making the mono patch equal in volume to a single note played by the poly patches doesn't quite work, though, either. That usually causes the mono patch to seem too loud. The best volume usually lies somewhere in between. Again, that's why I only use the level meters for a first pass at volume balancing. After that, I think it's best left up to your ears.

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I've had this problem too while playing live with a Korg 01wfd. There were so many patches involved, (mostly multis) that I didn't bother to edit all of them.

 

One of the worst offenders of volume inconsistencies that I have now is the K5000s. It's a bear of a synth to edit! Well, it's easy enough to edit the volume, but keeping the same tonal characteristics is the hard part. :rolleyes:

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