5 Tips for Getting a Louder EDM Mix
One of the trickiest aspects of finalizing a record is getting it to be loud.
I’ll start by saying that I don’t think having thee loudest record on the planet is truly important to either the reception or the success of the record. But, it’s a consideration, and it’s an expectation within the EDM genre.
So here’s a few tips on how to get your record playback level louder.
1. It Starts in the Arrangement
Having a loud endgame means knowing what you’re going for to begin with.
Very dense arrangements tend not to get loud without resistance. It seems counterintuitive because more stuff should be louder. But in reality, the less elements you have in a mix, the more easily you can get the apparent loudness of a record up without going into irritating distortion land.
Now, I do feel that the actual musicality and creativity of the record should vastly supersede the playback level, but if you’re going for loud, you probably want a more minimal leaning production.
2. Increase the “Presence” of Bass Elements
While we’re on the subject of physical resistance, the more bass you put into a record the less apparent loudness you can get.
Now, I’m a big proponent of “natural” bass — that is, bass that is physically reproduced over loudspeakers and vibrates the body. I love that. That natural bass eats up a lot of headroom though. So if you want louder playback, one approach is to sacrifice a bit of natural bass and make up for it by making the bass more “present.”
The basic key to this idea is that the overtones of the bass (the harmonic content) is easier to hear, and essentially tricks the ear into thinking there’s more bass than there actually is.
Bass enhancers, EQ in the 150-300Hz range, and distortion/saturation can all be used to accomplish this goal.
3. Super Sidechain
In addition to the pumping effect that sidechain compression creates, it also serves the purpose of moving things out of the way of the kick.
The deeper the pump (or the greater the gain reduction of the sidechain) the more stuff is essentially getting out of the way of the kick.
This can free up some room to push the levels a bit more.
4. Play up Brighter Frequencies
Unlike bass, upper-midrange frequencies appear very loud to the ear.
By playing up elements that have a lot of upper-midrange, or by enhancing the upper-midrange in key elements, you can create a much louder overall playback level.
Be wary, it’s a fine balance between loud and annoying when doing this.
5. Maximize Level in Stages
Slamming the mix through a limiter is definitely one way of getting a record loud. But it’s a method that comes with a cost. The tendency for the record to either distort, become “flattened”, or both is pretty high when pushing a limiter.
I find that using compression to inch the overall level up before using a limiter tends to be a bit smoother and preserves a better sense of dynamics.
Don’t be afraid to use one or even two compressors doing just a bit of gain reduction, and fine tuning that attack time to be as quick as possible without removing significant punch. This takes some of the burden off the limiter.
As you can see, all these techniques (except arguably the 5th) require some degree of compromise.
Be it how you compose the record, how much physical bass you have, how much pump movement you have, or how edgy the record becomes, there’s always some amount of give and take.
But if you take precaution to make small concessions along the way, it can add up to a louder record at the end of the day.
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