Jump to content

  • Log In with Google      Sign In   
  • Create Account

FREE SOFTWARE GIVEAWAY

We have 4 x Pro Licences (valued at $59 each) for 2d modular animation software Spriter to give away in this Thursday's GDNet Direct email newsletter.


Read more in this forum topic or make sure you're signed up (from the right-hand sidebar on the homepage) and read Thursday's newsletter to get in the running!


How to make music sound "big"?


Old topic!
Guest, the last post of this topic is over 60 days old and at this point you may not reply in this topic. If you wish to continue this conversation start a new topic.

  • You cannot reply to this topic
18 replies to this topic

#1 destron   Members   -  Reputation: 184

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 02 April 2007 - 08:26 AM

Hey, I'm a sort of a music composer (not a pro or anything, I'm kinda bad at it, that's why I'm asking for help), and I've got this terrible problem - I can't seem to make my music sound "big". Sorry if that seems vague, but I can't seem to put it into words. Take, for example, these samples: http://www.sonymediasoftware.com/audio/laswell3%2Fbeat%2031.wav http://www.sonymediasoftware.com/audio/laswell2%2Fbeat%2037.wav And this song, from Half-Life 2 (it may not be legal for me to use it, but here it is anyway :\ ) I don't get it! All of my music and songs sound high-frequency and just "thin". Any help would be great.

Sponsor:

#2 Sharrky   Members   -  Reputation: 122

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 02 April 2007 - 10:50 AM

Quote:
I don't get it!
All of my music and songs sound high-frequency and just "thin".
Any help would be great.


Well, you pretty much targeted your problem right there. Your two samples are a bit too heavy on the high-frequency which makes it sound "thin". Try EQ-ing it to make the bass louder, and a little less on the treble and maybe the mids. See how that works.

Oh, and just curious: what did you use to make those beats?

#3 destron   Members   -  Reputation: 184

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 02 April 2007 - 11:19 AM

I'll try the EQ; see what I can get.

Maybe you misunderstood. Those samples do sound "big"; they're not mine. I can't get my stuff to sound like that.

#4 nsmadsen   Moderators   -  Reputation: 4358

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 02 April 2007 - 11:24 AM

What you need to do is get a frequency analyzer (many DAW programs come with one) and watch the meters while playing your song. Take notice of where the peaks are. For example are all of them high, mid or low range?

Having too much high range makes things sound thin. Sharrky was right- EQ your music and add warmth to the sound by making the lower ranges more present. But don't over do it! That would give you a muddy, unclear sound.

EQing is truly an art, and you have to take time to really learn how best to modify sounds. I'm still learning things everyday, and suspect I will for a long time.

It also might be your samples themselves. Post some of your music and let the community take a listen and get back to you. It could a production problem, or a musical arrangement-composition problem. It is kinda hard to help if we can't hear what the problem is though.

Thanks,


Nathan Madsen
Composer-Sound Designer
Madsen Studios

#5 nsmadsen   Moderators   -  Reputation: 4358

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 02 April 2007 - 11:25 AM

Oh, and for the record, I feel like those samples do sound a bit thin.
Nathan Madsen
Composer-Sound Designer
Madsen Studios

#6 Sharrky   Members   -  Reputation: 122

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 02 April 2007 - 11:28 AM

Quote:
Original post by destron
I'll try the EQ; see what I can get.

Maybe you misunderstood. Those samples do sound "big"; they're not mine. I can't get my stuff to sound like that.


Ah, well I still agree with Nathan in that those samples did sound too "thin" for my taste, and I misunderstood and thought those were your samples. And posting your own music so we can hear what they sound like would help in remedying your problem. :)

#7 destron   Members   -  Reputation: 184

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 02 April 2007 - 11:47 AM

Well, they defenitely sound bigger than what i've got... I guess that's a bad sign :
Anyway, I'll work on some stuff and maybe post it so you can hear what I mean.

#8 anthemaudio   Members   -  Reputation: 301

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 03 April 2007 - 12:14 AM

(Pardon me for copy and pasting a post I made over at Music4Games.)

It's a new dance craze sweeping the nation!

Voxengo!

Actually, they make kick ass plug-ins. Plenty of them for free.

Voxengo SPAN



It's a real-time spectral analyzer. Pop it on a track and you can see what frequencies each instrument is using most prevalently and catch abnormal freq spikes. Or slap it on a master bus and you can monitor the output of your entire mix. Quick and easy way to see what is missing or what you have too much of. I find this invaluable when you have to work with headphones for too long or if your mixing environment is less than suitable (most bedrooms aren't suited for mixing, BTW). By showing you the real frequencies being produced by your music, you can also carve frequencies cleaner for those who like to compartmentalize tracks by their frequency ranges.

As far as "big" you could also be dealing with spatial issues. At least when it comes to mastering you'll be dealing with plenty of that by adjusting phase. That's a whole topic right in itself.

Tony

#9 destron   Members   -  Reputation: 184

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 03 April 2007 - 04:33 AM

Thanks a lot, I think that's going to help.

Quote:
Quick and easy way to see what is missing or what you have too much of. I find this invaluable when you have to work with headphones for too long or if your mixing environment is less than suitable (most bedrooms aren't suited for mixing, BTW). By showing you the real frequencies being produced by your music, you can also carve frequencies cleaner for those who like to compartmentalize tracks by their frequency ranges.

Well, you just described my mixing environment right there. Good thing you recommended that plug-in...

So, let me get this straight (apologies for music noobishness on my account),
The analyzer shows me what frequencies are being hit and at what volume; so when I find out all that, then what? I know I should be doing something with EQ; but should just make the lower frequencies louder or what?

#10 Sharrky   Members   -  Reputation: 122

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 03 April 2007 - 07:13 AM

Quote:
Original post by destron
Thanks a lot, I think that's going to help.

Quote:
Quick and easy way to see what is missing or what you have too much of. I find this invaluable when you have to work with headphones for too long or if your mixing environment is less than suitable (most bedrooms aren't suited for mixing, BTW). By showing you the real frequencies being produced by your music, you can also carve frequencies cleaner for those who like to compartmentalize tracks by their frequency ranges.

Well, you just described my mixing environment right there. Good thing you recommended that plug-in...

So, let me get this straight (apologies for music noobishness on my account),
The analyzer shows me what frequencies are being hit and at what volume; so when I find out all that, then what? I know I should be doing something with EQ; but should just make the lower frequencies louder or what?


Use it to see which frequencies you have too much of and which ones you need more of. If you have too much of a certain frequency (let's say 5k) then use your EQ to lower that frequency. And if you need to boost a certain frequency (such as 100), then up the volume on it a little bit. But remember to not over compensate, which would just make it sound worse. That's a good program there, Tony, thanks for posting.

#11 makeshiftwings   Members   -  Reputation: 394

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 03 April 2007 - 07:29 AM

I get the feeling that what you really want when you say "big" is not more low end, but more reverb. The common thing in the three samples you posted were that they were all awash in reverb. If that's what you're talking about, most music programs have a variety of different reverbs that you can put on the whole track. You probably want something like "Warm" or "Hot" reverb, which will focus more on the low and midrange. Sometimes there will be reverbs specific to the sounds you want, like "Large Drum Room". Try a bunch of them and go with the one you like.

#12 blueEbola   Members   -  Reputation: 464

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 03 April 2007 - 11:22 AM

Reverb and delay can really add some depth and give the whole song a bigger sound. Don't use too much though, it's not the 80s anymore :).

Along with adjusting the EQ to level out the frequencies in the mix, try exploring the stereo space a bit more. Use panning to move certain instruments around, don't be afraid to space them out quite a bit. This gives your music that "surrounding" feeling and makes it sound much bigger.

#13 Sharrky   Members   -  Reputation: 122

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 03 April 2007 - 11:54 AM

Quote:
Original post by blueEbola
Reverb and delay can really add some depth and give the whole song a bigger sound. Don't use too much though, it's not the 80s anymore :).

Along with adjusting the EQ to level out the frequencies in the mix, try exploring the stereo space a bit more. Use panning to move certain instruments around, don't be afraid to space them out quite a bit. This gives your music that "surrounding" feeling and makes it sound much bigger.


I think that might be the solution (though I can't say for sure cause we haven't heard any samples yet. :)). Panning and reverb will definitely give your song more "space" and make it sound bigger. In addition to instrument panning, try adding some stereo imaging to each track. This makes it sound like it would in real life, with one side being slightly delayed. I hope all of this helps.

#14 Muzo72   Members   -  Reputation: 346

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 03 April 2007 - 12:09 PM


Most people should examine the arrangement of their compositions before assuming that the problem lies in EQ, Reverb, Panning, Compression, or any of the other myriad audio tools. This is especially true if you are relatively inexperienced.

As an arranger and orchestrator, I get handed stuff all the time and told, "Make it sound big." Usually the first step is not to dive for the EQ or pour on a can of reverb. If things are sounding too thin and shrill, look closely at what you wrote.

Are your high notes supported by anything below?
- Try doubling the melody down an octave or up an octave if its a low melody. Also doubling the bass notes in octaves can make things sound bigger.

Are your instruments playing in the extremes of their ranges?
- Perhaps there is a different instrument/patch that will sound more rich and full in that range. There's a reason we have both guitar and bass guitar, or soprano, alto, tenor, bari, and bass saxophones.

Are you forgetting to use harmony or counterpoint to support your melodies? Is your composition just a beat and a single line with a simple chord?
- Try using other lines to add interest, color, and depth, to the music

When you look at all the notes together in one chord or measure, are there gaps of an octave or more between them in the range of middle C and above?
- Try voicing the harmony so that the notes are more evenly distributed without huge gaps within chords.

Any of these techniques can really fill out a composition. Carefully considering these issues will do far more for your sound than any plugin. Plus, they don't become obsolete and need to be updated every few years! [smile]

#15 destron   Members   -  Reputation: 184

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 03 April 2007 - 05:40 PM

Thanks for the heads-up, muzo, but this is mostly drumbeats and such - but I will remember that, might come in handy.

Anyway, I tried the EQ and everything, and while it sounds better, I think I tracked down the biggest problem to my samples... basically I use a lot of free stuff since I'm doing this on my own time - it's not for a project yet; basically I don't have access to the best samples and tools, although I'm thinking about buying FLStudio.

Thanks for all your help guys, hopefully I'll be able to buy some real software and get some better music going.

#16 3BuckAudio   Members   -  Reputation: 122

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 04 April 2007 - 01:19 AM

There are many aspects that have been covered in this thread, but one other very important one is the sound source itself.

Thick sounds are layered multi-samples and if you begin with something that is thick to begin with, less tweaking has to be done to come up with a great result.

In the 80's & 90's the only way to produce a thick keyboard sound was to layer MIDI upon MIDI and that's why keyboard players had gigantic rigs with lots of keyboards and outboard gear.

But today most electronic keyboards come equipped with fantastic sounding patches.

#17 Themystro1   Members   -  Reputation: 144

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 04 April 2007 - 09:29 AM

Let's just put it this way:

In the digital realm (and analog too) you only have so much room to work with. Digital realms depend a lot on your sampling bit rate and depth (Cd's are 44.1khz and 16bits). Read wikipedia if you don't know what sample rates and bit rates are. Both in Digital and Analog you can screw up your sound by improper application of eq's, compressors, and a certain types of reverbs and delays and phasing.


That being said:

"Big Sound" somewhat subjective as to what this exactly means. I have made crappy samples sound big by sending them through a series of compression and expansions, boosting the harmonics and slightly changing the eq around. Now understand that doing a spectrum analysis on a sound and to try to match those frequencies is not the right thing to do. Each sound has a color to it, basically you have a fundemental frequency and then a bunch of harmonics within TIME that make the "color". These harmonics can be affected by something called transients. And since we have two ears, there are timed-phasing considerations as well to which frequencies that interfere with other frequencies. (hint: if you want something to sound wide, ofset the left side from the right side by about 5-10 ms, that will help make the sound sound big!)

EQ can help change an undesired color or give room to another color that is masked by that color. Say you have a cymbal that is interfering with the sound of your snare drum, changeing the 800hz range of that cymbal could help bring out some of the mid-thwap, from the snare. Using a multi-band compressor (ie a compressor that affects frequency ranges) can also be useful. But matching an over-all eq to a mix you like with a specturm analysis is not right. Especially when you are dealing with time. IT IS USEFUL FOR OVERAL ALL MIXES IF YOU USE YOUR EARS AND MATCH!!!! IF you want to learn your frequencies and what you like to hear, then use a spectrum analyser and HEAR the differences.

I could go on and on about this, but to make it a bit easier....

1) Use your ears, and experiment like crazy. Listen A LOT to other mixes.
2) Learn the functions of Compressors, Expanders, and learn your Frequency Ranges
3) Get some decent equipment/software, more often than not, it's the poor digital encoding of programs that make mixes sound thin. (USE PROTOOLS OR NUENDO) Digital 1/0s are not handled the same by any program and certain programs will actually decrease the quality of sound, even when they are using the same bit rate and sample rate.

4) Understand concepts like Head Room, distortion and transients.

etc.etc.etc.

Hope that helps some.

#18 tehsma   Members   -  Reputation: 102

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 07 April 2007 - 12:31 AM

If I may make a suggestion regarding software EQ, remember there is a limited amount of headroom (DB 0) in which all of your sounds must fit. One technique I employ often to try and make my tracks sound "bigger" is to try and visualize the dimensionality of the song as a whole. Just remember that in any given song, there is a limited "space" in which all of your elements must fit. To define this space, you can say that the first spatial dimension corresponds to a limited width of the space, a dimension of frequency range (20hz to 22,000). Now you can say that the height of the space corresponds to amplitude or volume, which defines how loud a specific frequency is at a given point in time. The most important part about the amplitude dimension is that there is a maximum value, 0 DB. Now you can say that the "length" dimension of your song can be defined as time, which carries information about how elements of your song vary in amplitude and frequency.

Now that you have your "song-box" visualized, take into account that any two sounds you add from here will fight for control over the space, IF they contain some of the same frequency components. The reason this is important is that distortion will always occur when sounds are combined recklessly. Sometimes this distortion is preferred, and for many purposes it is required. HOWEVER, to maintain loudness and clarity between multiple layers of sounds, you must deploy filters (lowpass highpass bandpass) or frequency cuts (locuts and hicuts) to prevent sound elements from competing with one another. Now that i'm in the habit, I place filters or cuts on every single sound I add to the mix. What iI mean by this is, say for instance you have a situation where a low frequency kickdrum and a low frequency bassline are fighting for control over the low end of the spectrum. Because a kickdrum will include bass frequencies that will interrupt the waveform of your bassline, I would most likely first place a locut (Steep drop off of all frequencies below a certian point) on the kickdrum channel, and a hicut (steep decrease in high frequencies) or lopass (gradual decrease in high frequencies) on the bassline channel (frequency depending on how many mid frequencies you need to preserve in the bass, if any). As you begin to filter unwanted frequencies, you will find both elements are quieter. This is good because now you can adjust (increase) the gain on the channel and make BOTH elements loud, AND have them not redline (push eachother over 0 db and distort). Here are some loose guidelines you can follow for filtering other sounds to get a bigger sound. Take these with a grain of salt, they are based around my preferences- there is no right answer, and there is no right frequency.

Snares - Locut around 150hz to keep any possible ultra low end from interfering with other sounds

Kicks Electronic - I like to Locut them around 50-60hz but it depends on how wide (frequency wise) my bassline is. I also lowpass (1 pole lowpass for smoothest cut of high frequencies) my kicks to keep any possible high end frequencies from interfering with hihats / synths / ambience

Synths Melody - I always hipass my melodic synths (say around 1000hz or above, because they have no business being in the low freq range unless they were designed to be)

Hihats Electronic- for electronic hats there are tons of extra frequencies that are just going to mess with other elements, id say use a steep hipass (4 pole) at around 4000hz or higher.

Bassline - Always lowpass at some setting

If you Imagine the sounds you are combining as objects that take up space, you will more easily locate problem areas where filters must be deployed.


Another suggestion I really want to stress is SUBTRACTIVE EQ and why its important (I will try). Lets say for instance you have an acoustic snare sound that sounds muffled and lacks energy in the highend- You want to make it snap and less of a dull thump. Because EQs arent going to boost frequencies that aren't there already, Id advise against the instinct to simply boost the "sharp" frequencies at around 6000hz by many db, what you will end up with is a grossly distorted redlining beast that hurts your ears. To work with a muffled sound i advise instead to LOWER the low frequencies that are taking up too much space, and then raise the volume of the channel. You will find that this has a better effect than boosting the frequencies you thought were missing. I urge you to take this into consideration whenever you EQ anything using a software EQ. Try subtractive EQ first! Remove first what is too loud, adjust the channel volume, and THEN apply a small amount of positive eq if you must, to emphasize one peak over another. ESPECIALLY for natural sounding sounds you want to clean up, like say, a sampled live drum sound. (the subtractive eq rule applies less so with purely synthetic sounds). So in my opinion, the key to loudness is filters and subtractive EQs. On every single element. Individually.

Sorry this turned into a rant of sorts, I hope something proves to be useful.

#19 tehsma   Members   -  Reputation: 102

Like
0Likes
Like

Posted 07 April 2007 - 12:33 AM

Another thing I forgot to mention, regarding bass is that you should run your sub bass in mono to get the maximum effect.




Old topic!
Guest, the last post of this topic is over 60 days old and at this point you may not reply in this topic. If you wish to continue this conversation start a new topic.



PARTNERS