Mixing & Mastering In Logic Pro X


#1

For those of us whose sales would barely pay for a cup of coffee, not to mention professional mastering, I’m starting this thread

While mastering or mixing music in logic Pro X, I’m struggling with a lack of depth. This is particular to piano. Using logic presets seems to help a little, but I’m still not satisfied with the sound. While I use good Kontakt pianos (Alicia Keys, Piano In Blue, etc.) it never comes out sounding as full and rich as I want.

I have noticed that removing most of the reverb from the piano track helps a bunch.

I’ve heard some incredible mixes here on AJ so please share some of your mastering secrets. Do you use the presets?

Do you leave “headroom” in the mix before mastering?

Note: Please don’t tell me that Google or YouTube is my friend. I know this! I have watched nearly every video on YouTube that pertains to this subject. What I’m looking for is a discussion and a fresh perspective from people who do this every day like the folks here at AJ.


#2

Upload your unmastered track, and ask authors to master it for you. I’ve done this before and the results were fascinating.

Lack of depth usually comes from poor reverb choices. Lack of width, is a stereo imaging problem. Additionally, EQ can help - but if you want a rich sound, it’s a combination of these things.

So yeah, upload an unmastered file (the drier the better) - and we can probably help. Most authors will explain their process and upload their own file for you.

Also, perhaps upload your version, so we can compare.

EDIT: for reference, you can see an example of this (sorry, the files are removed) - from this very old thread.

Additionally, a bigger and more recent thread on this topic:


#3
garethcoker said

Upload your unmastered track, and ask authors to master it for you. I’ve done this before and the results were fascinating.

Lack of depth usually comes from poor reverb choices. Lack of width, is a stereo imaging problem. Additionally, EQ can help - but if you want a rich sound, it’s a combination of these things.

So yeah, upload an unmastered file (the drier the better) - and we can probably help.

Also, perhaps upload your version, so we can compare.

Wow! I had no idea this was even a remote possibility! I will definitely take you up on this offer for help.

I agree about the fever issue. I was working in a song last night and removed the reverb from the piano and it got much better. I also panned the piano to a nearly mono state and it sounded so much better. Interesting to say the least!

Question. Do you convert all midi tracks to audio files before a final mix? I have been leaving them in midi. Is that wrong?


#4

It doesn’t make a difference really, you’re still ‘mixing’ audio. MIDI is just data that is triggering audio samples.

I do mixing in most projects separately though, unless there is a time constraint, just so I can isolate the composition and mixing process, which often for me are very different things.


#5
MusicBoxStudios said

I also panned the piano to a nearly mono state and it sounded so much better. Interesting to say the least!

Don’t do this. Just export your piano from Alicia’s Keys or whatever you are using with the default setting minus reverb, I (we) will do the rest.


#6

To answer your question regarding headroom, it’s definitely good to leave some prior to mastering. Usually leaving about 6db helps with clarity so you’re not sending such a loud signal to the limiter.



Regarding reverb, it helps to possibly use less reverb than you need as the compression from mastering will bring that out. I’ve also heard that some engineers use mono reverb to help with clarity. If you can also expand on your meaning of “depth”, that’ll help with advice.


#7

Well, I just finished mastering this: https://soundcloud.com/auralaxiom/zimmer-piece-mastered

Obviously, that’s not an AJ marketplace piece :wink:

In any case, that “depth” you are talking about is often achieved by subtle boosts to your lows and highs. And no, DON’T get rid of your reverb…bad idea. What you need is the right reverb. Space Designer is really quite good, but you have to work with it. Here are my suggestions for verb:

Have 3-4 verb sends. I have one verb send for each section in the orchestra–brass, woodwinds, strings, and percussion. Before each instance of my reverb (which is East West Spaces–well worth the money, and the best convolution reverb out there IMO) I have an instance of Ozone. That way I can create some space in my EQ spectrum and it doesn’t get too cluttered/phasey. I usually tend to do wide, shallow cuts in the highs, and high pass filters (i.e. cutting the lows). This can free up some much needed frequency bandwidth in your mixes.

As for piano in particular, you should be able to get plenty of depth with Alicia’s Keys. Generally, for cinematic stuff, you want a warmer sound–some subtle low-mid boosting helps. Just be careful that it doesn’t get muddy. A little bit of compression wouldn’t hurt, although I’ll admit I rarely use it. I also like to brighten it up with broad shallow boosts around 6k-7k.

For mastering, a really big secret is mid-side EQ. Mid-side EQ is exactly what it sounds like: One set of controls EQ’s the middle of the stereo image, while the other set controls the extreme sides of the stereo field. VERY subtle boosting–we’re talking around .5db–in the low mids in the center and very subtle cuts in the highs, coupled with boosting the highs in the sides and cutting the low mids can add an incredible depth to your master. I generally crisp up the sides with a 1db boost around 5k with a narrow band, then boosting everything past 16k. I like Native Instruments Passive EQ for this. It’s well worth the money and this technique can also be used on piano tracks.

Now, another huge (bigger than the mid-side EQ stuff) effect that can add depth is a quality stereo imager, like the one in Ozone. Most orchestral mixes have a lot of phasing issues around in the fundamental frequencies (lows and low mids), so you’ll want to narrow those bands–otherwise, your masters will sound kinda squishy and won’t have a good center. Then, you can expand the stereo image in the highs. Ozone has four bands, and I usually set the crossovers from 0-150, 150-1200, 1200-5000, 5000 on up. Then I usually scale back the stereo image on the lows to around -30%, -25% low-mids, 12% highs, 15% past that. These are just general numbers here, obviously you’ll have to suit it to your mix.

Otherwise, for my mastering chain it’s: compressor --> mid-side EQ --> (sometimes another compressor, sometimes not) --> Ozone. In Ozone, I do a little bit more EQ’ing, set the multi-band compressor to be lightly compressing most of the frequencies (tends to smooth out the mix), and then use the stereo imager and the limiter.

Also, to add perceived broadness, subtle boosts around 100 will help tremendously.

This is just my way of doing it, and I’m sure some of the things I do are “wrong.” But if you like my mixes (and you might not), that’s how I get them.


#8
Auralaxiom said

Well, I just finished mastering this: https://soundcloud.com/auralaxiom/zimmer-piece-mastered

Obviously, that’s not an AJ marketplace piece :wink:

In any case, that “depth” you are talking about is often achieved by subtle boosts to your lows and highs. And no, DON’T get rid of your reverb…bad idea. What you need is the right reverb. Space Designer is really quite good, but you have to work with it. Here are my suggestions for verb:

Have 3-4 verb sends. I have one verb send for each section in the orchestra–brass, woodwinds, strings, and percussion. Before each instance of my reverb (which is East West Spaces–well worth the money, and the best convolution reverb out there IMO) I have an instance of Ozone. That way I can create some space in my EQ spectrum and it doesn’t get too cluttered/phasey. I usually tend to do wide, shallow cuts in the highs, and high pass filters (i.e. cutting the lows). This can free up some much needed frequency bandwidth in your mixes.

Incredible piece!

Lots of great infer in your post. I need to break it into pieces to respond. First off, the way I interpret what you’re saying is that I need to avoid placing individual verb on each track, and instead bus them in sections to one verb per section?

Example:

Piano/Glockenspiel/other to Bus 1
Mid - Hi Strings to Bus 2
Drums/Percussion to Bus 3
Low Strings/Bass to Bus 4

Like this?


#9
MusicBoxStudios said
Auralaxiom said

Well, I just finished mastering this: https://soundcloud.com/auralaxiom/zimmer-piece-mastered

Obviously, that’s not an AJ marketplace piece :wink:

In any case, that “depth” you are talking about is often achieved by subtle boosts to your lows and highs. And no, DON’T get rid of your reverb…bad idea. What you need is the right reverb. Space Designer is really quite good, but you have to work with it. Here are my suggestions for verb:

Have 3-4 verb sends. I have one verb send for each section in the orchestra–brass, woodwinds, strings, and percussion. Before each instance of my reverb (which is East West Spaces–well worth the money, and the best convolution reverb out there IMO) I have an instance of Ozone. That way I can create some space in my EQ spectrum and it doesn’t get too cluttered/phasey. I usually tend to do wide, shallow cuts in the highs, and high pass filters (i.e. cutting the lows). This can free up some much needed frequency bandwidth in your mixes.

Incredible piece!

Lots of great infer in your post. I need to break it into pieces to respond. First off, the way I interpret what you’re saying is that I need to avoid placing individual verb on each track, and instead bus them in sections to one verb per section?

Example:

Piano/Glockenspiel/other to Bus 1
Mid - Hi Strings to Bus 2
Drums/Percussion to Bus 3
Low Strings/Bass to Bus 4

Like this?

Yep, but the output for all these tracks will still be you stereo out…you just send however much of each instrument you want to those busses (and makes sure that the verb is 100% wet on the busses). Logic’s “send” control is that little circle above the bus slots (it took me a while to find that control lol). Another good rule of thumb is to, at the end of your mix, turn down your verb busses by about 1.5db. Once you hit the track with a compressor in your mastering session, all of that verb will get louder–compressors of course make quite things louder and louder things quieter.

And in your mixes, be sure that you’re applying high pass filters to EVERYTHING (remember–high pass filter = cutting low frequencies; I always thought the terminology was weird). I just take Logic’s EQ, take the low shelf and cut everything off until it starts affecting the sound, then I back it off just a little. Of course, on your dedicated “bass” isntruments (bass drum, cinematic rumble, bass section, etc.) you’ll probably want some low pass filters so they’re not competing with the instruments that belong in the higher frequency bands. Still, alot of people cut off anything below 30 hertz in EVERYTHING.

Also, I forgot to mention, at LEAST 3db of headspace is necessary. And DON’T have any effects on your master out when mixing. You want it to sound as good as you can make it before the mastering session. Remember, mastering isn’t meant to “fix” anything; it can polish a turd, but it’s still a turd.

Again, take all of this with a grain of salt. I’ve had some formal training in this stuff, but it’s mostly trial-and-error for me.


#10
Auralaxiom said
MusicBoxStudios said
Auralaxiom said

Well, I just finished mastering this: https://soundcloud.com/auralaxiom/zimmer-piece-mastered

Obviously, that’s not an AJ marketplace piece :wink:

In any case, that “depth” you are talking about is often achieved by subtle boosts to your lows and highs. And no, DON’T get rid of your reverb…bad idea. What you need is the right reverb. Space Designer is really quite good, but you have to work with it. Here are my suggestions for verb:

Have 3-4 verb sends. I have one verb send for each section in the orchestra–brass, woodwinds, strings, and percussion. Before each instance of my reverb (which is East West Spaces–well worth the money, and the best convolution reverb out there IMO) I have an instance of Ozone. That way I can create some space in my EQ spectrum and it doesn’t get too cluttered/phasey. I usually tend to do wide, shallow cuts in the highs, and high pass filters (i.e. cutting the lows). This can free up some much needed frequency bandwidth in your mixes.

Incredible piece!

Lots of great infer in your post. I need to break it into pieces to respond. First off, the way I interpret what you’re saying is that I need to avoid placing individual verb on each track, and instead bus them in sections to one verb per section?

Example:

Piano/Glockenspiel/other to Bus 1
Mid - Hi Strings to Bus 2
Drums/Percussion to Bus 3
Low Strings/Bass to Bus 4

Like this?

Yep, but the output for all these tracks will still be you stereo out…you just send however much of each instrument you want to those busses (and makes sure that the verb is 100% wet on the busses). Logic’s “send” control is that little circle above the bus slots (it took me a while to find that control lol). Another good rule of thumb is to, at the end of your mix, turn down your verb busses by about 1.5db. Once you hit the track with a compressor in your mastering session, all of that verb will get louder–compressors of course make quite things louder and louder things quieter.

And in your mixes, be sure that you’re applying high pass filters to EVERYTHING (remember–high pass filter = cutting low frequencies; I always thought the terminology was weird). I just take Logic’s EQ, take the low shelf and cut everything off until it starts affecting the sound, then I back it off just a little. Of course, on your dedicated “bass” isntruments (bass drum, cinematic rumble, bass section, etc.) you’ll probably want some low pass filters so they’re not competing with the instruments that belong in the higher frequency bands. Still, alot of people cut off anything below 30 hertz in EVERYTHING.

Also, I forgot to mention, at LEAST 3db of headspace is necessary. And DON’T have any effects on your master out when mixing. You want it to sound as good as you can make it before the mastering session. Remember, mastering isn’t meant to “fix” anything; it can polish a turd, but it’s still a turd.

Again, take all of this with a grain of salt. I’ve had some formal training in this stuff, but it’s mostly trial-and-error for me.

I will definitely start using the high pass filters on individual tracks.

What’s your opinion of the Multipressor in Logic? Use? Don’t use? It seems to apply a blanket effect over the project. While it saves time, I think it may develop into a bad habit of trying to cut down mastering time. No?


#11

Definitely use! A multiband compressor is a must in most mastering chains. It helps to smooth out the mix. You don’t want a bunch of frequency peaks in a mix. If you’ve ever used Ozone to analyze commercial tracks, you’ll see what I’m talking about (a good way to do this is to import a model track into logic, cue up Ozone, check out the EQ, set the spectrum analyzer to 3 seconds and see exactly what’s going on).

If you don’t have Ozone…buy Ozone. Don’t bother using any of the presets though. Start from scratch. Ozone can (and often is) be easily abused. But it is a fantastic tool for analyzing and finishing off a master. Their limiter is top notch too.

A multi-band compressor, as you know, is just a compressor that only acts on certain frequency bands. In Ozone, you can raise the volume of an entire frequency band and then compress it to add thickness to that frequency range. Or you can just set it to compress without raising the volume of those frequencies. I typically set my crossovers at: 0-200, 200-1200, 1200-6000, 6000-whatever’s at the end (Ozone gives you a max of 4 bands to work with, which plenty). Of course, again, you don’t want to use this while mixing unless you have an unruly instrument that EQ isn’t fixing. Keep your master bus clear of any effects, bounce your project out, leave plenty of headspace, and then open your pre-mastered track in a dedicated mastering session.


#12
garethcoker said
MusicBoxStudios said

I also panned the piano to a nearly mono state and it sounded so much better. Interesting to say the least!

Don’t do this. Just export your piano from Alicia’s Keys or whatever you are using with the default setting minus reverb, I (we) will do the rest.

I’d really like you to take a crack at the song I’m working on now. I have mixed this thing for 3 days now and just can’t get it sounding right. How do you suppose I get it to you? In separate tracks or perhaps bounced to a 24bit wave?


#13
Auralaxiom said

Definitely use! A multiband compressor is a must in most mastering chains. It helps to smooth out the mix. You don’t want a bunch of frequency peaks in a mix. If you’ve ever used Ozone to analyze commercial tracks, you’ll see what I’m talking about (a good way to do this is to import a model track into logic, cue up Ozone, check out the EQ, set the spectrum analyzer to 3 seconds and see exactly what’s going on).

If you don’t have Ozone…buy Ozone. Don’t bother using any of the presets though. Start from scratch. Ozone can (and often is) be easily abused. But it is a fantastic tool for analyzing and finishing off a master. Their limiter is top notch too.

A multi-band compressor, as you know, is just a compressor that only acts on certain frequency bands. In Ozone, you can raise the volume of an entire frequency band and then compress it to add thickness to that frequency range. Or you can just set it to compress without raising the volume of those frequencies. I typically set my crossovers at: 0-200, 200-1200, 1200-6000, 6000-whatever’s at the end (Ozone gives you a max of 4 bands to work with, which plenty). Of course, again, you don’t want to use this while mixing unless you have an unruly instrument that EQ isn’t fixing. Keep your master bus clear of any effects, bounce your project out, leave plenty of headspace, and then open your pre-mastered track in a dedicated mastering session.

OK, Mutipress for sure. I noticed you said keep the Master clean of effects. This is new to me! I will try that right away.


#14
MusicBoxStudios said

I’d really like you to take a crack at the song I’m working on now. I have mixed this thing for 3 days now and just can’t get it sounding right. How do you suppose I get it to you? In separate tracks or perhaps bounced to a 24bit wave?

Make a ZIP file of separate tracks AND a single track mixdown (unmastered)and send it on WeTransfer or a similar file-sending service. I’ll take it from there.

Remove all compression / EQ, etc…

Also, send your ‘finished’ version just so I can compare with yours.


#15
garethcoker said
MusicBoxStudios said

I’d really like you to take a crack at the song I’m working on now. I have mixed this thing for 3 days now and just can’t get it sounding right. How do you suppose I get it to you? In separate tracks or perhaps bounced to a 24bit wave?

Make a ZIP file of separate tracks AND a single track mixdown (unmastered)and send it on WeTransfer or a similar file-sending service. I’ll take it from there.

Remove all compression / EQ, etc…

Also, send your ‘finished’ version just so I can compare with yours.

I’ll go to work on it as soon as I get home. Got your email also.


#16

Garethcoker, that is a very nice thing to do. That’s why I love this community!


#17

As Ryan and Gareth already mentioned. Using reverb is really important in the mix. But you have to choose the right reverb, use it on a bus channel and EQ it. Boosting the high frequencies of the reverb channel will make the reverb audible. Taking the highs down will push the reverb back. Digging reverb EQ around 400 Hz will make the dry vocal signal more intelligible. You can really color the main signal by EQing the reverb. Try it with snare drum and you will see!

If you are not trying to do a special thing, the listener should not understand if you are using reverb or not. To achieve that; take all the reverb down, slowly give it back till you start hearing the effect. Than take it a little down. The effect level shoul be at a point that you will feel its absence when you mute the aux channel but you will not shouldn’t hear it in the mix. Reverb effect gives depth to mix. By adjusting the reverb amount, you can bring instrument front or push them back (blend).

While using reverb with percussive instruments, try adding pre-delay to reverb. This will give you the chance to apply serious amount of reverb without drowning the dry channel ( especially for snare). One more trick for the snare drum… Use a pitch shifter on the reverb bus and take it down like one semitone or two semitones. If you set it right with the reverb, you will have a huge snare ( I do this for heavy rock tracks ).

There are good info in the previous posts. Try to practice. I will add just one thing for the use of multiband compressors. A multiband compressors work like an EQ but it works when the band exceeds the threshold. For example; if you used too much instruments with low end in the chorus section, the low band will compress the signal more in the chorus section. If you do it with EQ and cut the lows, this will affect the entire track from start to end. Multiband compressor comes in when needed, so it will handle the problems without affecting the entire playtime.

Let’s try to keep this thread alive and share more knowledge.

Cheers.


#18

Hello everyone, I also use Ozone and I can tell you that is a great low-cost tool for mastering! I absolutely agree with Garethcoker!


#19
NoizMan said

As Ryan and Gareth already mentioned. Using reverb is really important in the mix. But you have to choose the right reverb, use it on a bus channel and EQ it. Boosting the high frequencies of the reverb channel will make the reverb audible. Taking the highs down will push the reverb back. Digging reverb EQ around 400 Hz will make the dry vocal signal more intelligible. You can really color the main signal by EQing the reverb. Try it with snare drum and you will see!

If you are not trying to do a special thing, the listener should not understand if you are using reverb or not. To achieve that; take all the reverb down, slowly give it back till you start hearing the effect. Than take it a little down. The effect level shoul be at a point that you will feel its absence when you mute the aux channel but you will not shouldn’t hear it in the mix. Reverb effect gives depth to mix. By adjusting the reverb amount, you can bring instrument front or push them back (blend).

While using reverb with percussive instruments, try adding pre-delay to reverb. This will give you the chance to apply serious amount of reverb without drowning the dry channel ( especially for snare). One more trick for the snare drum… Use a pitch shifter on the reverb bus and take it down like one semitone or two semitones. If you set it right with the reverb, you will have a huge snare ( I do this for heavy rock tracks ).

There are good info in the previous posts. Try to practice. I will add just one thing for the use of multiband compressors. A multiband compressors work like an EQ but it works when the band exceeds the threshold. For example; if you used too much instruments with low end in the chorus section, the low band will compress the signal more in the chorus section. If you do it with EQ and cut the lows, this will affect the entire track from start to end. Multiband compressor comes in when needed, so it will handle the problems without affecting the entire playtime.

Let’s try to keep this thread alive and share more knowledge.

Cheers.

Great helpful stuff!


#20

What about parallel compression and side-chain techniques? Do you use them a lot?