Pro Audio Files

Buss Compression in a Hip-Hop Mix w/ Slate Digital Plugins

Transcript
Hey folks, Matthew Weiss here — weiss-sound.com, theproaudiofiles.com, and weisstuts.com.

This tutorial is going to be about the mix buss. I don’t spend a lot of time teaching about mix buss, but I think maybe that should change a little bit.

So what is the mix buss? Well, that’s the stereo left and right channel that all of the other channels in our mix feed into, so it’s everything coming together as one. Now, I am a big proponent of hiring a mastering engineer. If we’re not hiring a mastering engineer, I really like ariamastering.com, but that does not mean that I ignore my own master channel. I still do processing over the entire mix, and I consider that part of the mix process.

The most important part of doing this is getting to a point where you’re already happy with the mix itself. So I’m just going to jump on in here, hit the play button, and give you a little sample.

[mix]

So I like this mix, I think that balance wise, it’s in the right spot. I think the drums are hitting, the bass sounds good, it’s full. Everything is pretty good.

So the number one thing I’m always looking to check off my box before I even start thinking of mix buss processing is, “Am I happy with the mix already?” Because if there’s something specifically that’s bothering me, the answer is not to try and reverse engineer it from the master channel, the answer is to go to that one specific thing and fix it up there.

Now, that said, there are some engineers who mix into compression, or mix into EQ. There is nothing wrong with doing that. I definitely recommend experimenting with it. You might find you like it. I personally do not do that very often, because one of the things I like to do on my mix buss fairly often is absolutely nothing. I will leave my mix buss completely empty.

Sometimes I feel that’s the best way to do it, sometimes I don’t. So in this particular case, do I feel like this needs any mix buss processing? Yeah, I think it needs a little bit, and not a lot. Just a touch. I think that there could be a little bit more dynamic control. The drums are hitting really hard, but there’s this pretty distinct difference between where the drums are hitting and like, where everything else in the music bed is, and where the vocals are, and I wouldn’t mind those kind of getting a little closer together.

Now, I could turn the drums down a little bit, but that’s not really going to create the same effect as using compression. Because compression ducks out the entire record when the drums hit, it still creates the impression of a louder drum sound, even though we’re reigning all of the dynamics in together. So a lot of the times, people will call this glue. You can call it what you want to call it, I just kind of think of it as like, holding everything together a little bit.

So the first thing that I’m going to do is I’m going to pull up this Slate FG Red. It’s interesting, I was on a Slate forum the other day, and people were saying that they don’t see a lot of stuff with Slate Digital being used for Hip Hop, which I think is weird, because I use Slate Digital stuff probably as much or more in my Hip Hop stuff than in Rock stuff, but I mean, neither here nor there, certainly useable in Hip Hop. No reason not to.

So anyway, I’ve got this FG Red. This is my go-to mix buss compressor in the box.

[mix with FG Red]

So it kind of keeps the drums in the same place and brings everything else forward in a subtle, but kind of important sort of way.

I’ll give you the quick overview of what I’m doing. I’m not going to go too far into detail on this one, because I kind of want to get through everything kind of quick, but if you do want to get into detail, I have some really great in depth tutorials that can be purchased. Those are at weisstuts.com, and of course, there’s a lot of content on this YouTube channel and on theproaudiofiles.com website.

Anyway, I’ll give you the quick overview. The important things here are threshold, our ratio, attack, release, and this thing that says, “HPF.” That’s what I’m going to go over real quick.

So, the basic idea of a compressor, if you don’t know, is that when something gets too loud over a certain threshold of volume, the compressor says, “Oh, I should probably turn that down.” It’s basically like an automated volume control. So any time something gets too loud, it goes, “Oh, let’s turn that down real quick.”

That’s going to be starting with the threshold. Where that compressor is kicking in, that’s the threshold level.

Now, how hard the compressor is going to kick it in, that’s going to be the ratio. We could be turning it down just a little bit, when it kicks over the threshold, we could be turning it down, like, all the way. It really depends on what we want, and the higher we turn the ratio, the more we’re going to be turning it down.

Now, the attack and release timing, that is how fast we’re turning that volume knob. So if that drum hits and goes over the threshold, we could turn it down instantaneously, or we could turn it down kind of slowly and start adjusting the knob in a slower way, and basically, the slower the timing constant, the more relaxed and gentler the compression is going to be.

Now, here on my mix buss, very often, I’ll have a slower attack and a faster release, which means I’m turning the knob down slowly, but once the compressor is no longer kicking in, and it’s time for us to bring the volume back up, it’s going to do it really fast, and that’s what creates that effect of everything moving forward.

The very last thing I want to talk about here is the HPF. That is a sidechain filter. Right now, I have the sidechain filter cutting out everything that’s below about 100Hz. I’m rolling it off, and the reason why is because there’s a difference between what the signal level is, and what our perceived levels are.

When we hear signals, if we hear the upper-mid range signals at the same level that we hear the bass signal, that means the bass is actually much louder in terms of its actual amplitude, because we perceive upper-mid range more readily.

Two sounds playing at the same decibel level, one being bass, one being upper-mid, we’re going to hear the upper-mid one more. So the reason why we use this sidechain detector to get rid of some of that low end is so that the compressor is reacting to the record the way that we hear it, not the way that the actual signal levels are coming in.

So this is going to react more uniformly to both the snare and the kick than if I were to have the high pass filter off, and I’ll demonstrate that right now.

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[mix, with HPF on FG Red]

So at every point here, I’m between about one and three dB of gain reduction. Now let me turn off the sidechain.

[mix, no sidechain]

Notice that that needle is swinging a lot more whenever there’s low information going? It’s not crazy. Sometimes it’ll be even more than that, so maybe I’m a little bit light in the low end. I think I actually did EQ up some low end, now that I think about it.

Okay, so what else is going on? Well, not a lot here. I’ve got only two other little bits of processing. The first one is this virtual mix buss. This virtual mix buss is meant to sort of emulate what it would be like if we were mixing on a console. Of course, I didn’t put the virtual channels in line with everything else, so it’s not really exactly the same. I’m basically just using it as some very subtle saturation, and all of these different little modes here, this Brit 4k, Brit 4k G, USA, Brit N, this little Trident symbol, the RC Tube, they’re all just basically different saturation signatures, with a little other stuff going on under the hood. But for simplicity’s sake, we can go with that.

So I’m going to bypass it and bring it in.

[music, without and with VCC]

Now you might be saying to yourself, “Wow, that is really subtle,” and to yourself I would say, “Yes, self. You are correct.” It is very subtle. If we were to break down what we’re really hearing, there’s only maybe two or three really noticeable differences.

The first is that it’s sort of putting this sort of fiery harmonic into the upper-mid range, like between the band of maybe about 800Hz to maybe about 3kHz. Like, a pretty wide, smooth band, and you hear it most distinctly on the vocals actually.

[song]

And I would say next to the vocal, probably hear it in the piano the most. It brings out the piano in a nice little way, but more importantly, it’s putting a harmonic kind of thing over the entire record, which helps it feel a little bit more bonded together. The other thing that it’s doing is it’s ever, ever, ever so slightly rounding out the drums in a nice way.

Any more than that, I would say it would be too much actually, but let’s listen again.

[song]

So super, super subtle. So there’s only one other thing that I’ve got going on here. It’s just a touch of EQ, and it’s just to bring out the lowest sub tones, give it that Hip Hop punch, and to bring forward the midrange, which is mostly again, the vocal. It’s sort of the meat of the record, and also some of the reverbs and ambiences in there, and I’m really just tapping it forward ever so slightly. You can see these knobs are barely turned. But here’s the before.

[mix, before EQ]

And the after.

[mix, after EQ]

So I’m going to give you the before and after one time, and then we’re going to wrap up.

[mix, before and after processing]

So it’s not really very different. It’s pretty similar, but it’s every so slightly better, and it feels like the difference between like, a mix, and like, a polished mix. So we’re really walking that line a little bit, but that’s sort of how I conceptualize my mix buss. I really don’t rely on it for a lot.

Now, the other thing that’s important for us to recognize is while it sounds a little bit louder and a little bit bolder when I have this processing on, the levels are actually the same. In fact, I think the peak level is actually a little bit quieter in my processed version, even though the overall record sounds bigger.

Usually, that’s a pretty strong indication that we’re moving in the right direction with this kind of stuff.

Anyway, if you guys liked this tutorial, dig what I’m doing and you like this channel, click that like button, certainly hit that subscribe button, and don’t forget to check out the tutorials if you want to get a little bit more in depth.

Alright guys, until next time.

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Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss

Matthew Weiss is a Grammy nominated and Spellemann Award winning audio engineer from Philadelphia. Matthew has mixed songs for Snoop, Sonny Digital, Gorilla Zoe, Uri Caine, Dizzee Rascal, Arrested Development, 9th Wonder, !llmind & more. Get in touch: Weiss-Sound.com.

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