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223 posts since 3 Oct, 2012, from VA, USA

Postby audiosupernova; Fri Feb 08, 2013 7:06 pm [TUTORIAL/INFO] How do I get my sound? Mastering and production

I've had a few people here, and around the web in various dark places ask "how did you achieve your sound?" I'm in the process of putting together a few posts to cover some of the details. To enlarge the photos you're gonna have to click the links, not the preview pic.

The second post of this thread, has sound samples, check it out.

I'm going to stick to mainly general concepts of mastering, EQing, "proper use of Shreddage" (whatever that means), and trying to give you tips on getting a good mix. I won't cover how to make your amp sim sound good, this is really a personal preference, and I can't tell you what amp sounds good and what doesn't(personal preferences). I'm also not going to tell you how to write cool songs, I'm still trying to figure out how to do that myself. What I will do however is try to steer you clear of any "bad habits", and give you some tips to make your music composition a little easier.

Here's a partial view of my guitar amps:
As far as how I get my guitar tone from Amplitube...you'll just have to experiment, I'm using 2 amps in stereo for each instance of Shreddage 2, one for left, one for right. It took me some time to "perfect" this, and get something I truly love. I still tweak these daily though.

You'll see the EQ curve I'm using as well to create the sound I want by removing excess bass and treble frequencies, this makes room for the bass guitar and kick drums, and on top makes room for guitar solos, vocals, etc. Part of the reason this needs to be done, is every instrument, effect, and voice occupy nearly all parts of the audio spectrum. While your voice is imperceptible at say 30Hz, if you speak into a spectrum analyzer, you'll see there is SOME audio there. The same is true of your voice at 20Khz. Because of this factor, you'll need to make room for instruments or else you'll suffer audio clipping, buffeting, and other strange audio artifacts.

If you listen to any electronic music, you'll notice on a lot of songs the bass kick almost mutes all the other sounds temporarily. The reasons for this are varied from track to track, but for some, it's due to extensive compression. Bass notes carry the most energy, hog your compressor, and will stand out more than any other frequency(except maybe high pitch notes in the 4-8KHz "sibilance" range). High frequency notes also contain a great deal of energy. It's the midrange notes that actually have the least effect on compression. Considering I will recommend compression on your final track later on, you don't want to overdue the bass before hand, or else it'll get out of control. If you don't drop the bass a bit on the guitar through the EQ(depending on how much bass your amp setup is producing) it may compete with the bass guitar for "presence" on the musical stage. Too many sounds at the same frequency will muddy, and tend to blend together. Having a mix that just blends together too much causes some people to react by bumping up the track volume on a specific instrument, when really, it's just competing for audio spectrum with something else.

Here's my Shreddage 2 screen:
http://img145.imageshack.us/img145/438/ ... uttons.png
Notice I have the SCREAMER PEDAL, AGGRESSIVE EQ, and COMPRESSOR enabled. This really makes Shreddage 2 sound better in a distorted, metal setting. I leave the Screamer Pedal off for clean guitars, and the other two, I leave on (for now). This is a personal preference, but try it out just for fun, it's a very different beast with/without. Having all three of these enabled will allow you to get a really thick metal tone, with a lot of attack and presence.

Here's the guitar part:
Note: lots of single notes. This guitar part moves around a bit, not excessively so, but when making complex parts, don't be afraid to use single notes. For most "riffs", a guitarist would probabaly only use a few 2 or 3 note chord patterns, and single notes. Anything beyond that will typically be for open sustained chords. You'd be surprised how many single notes real guitarists use(I PLAY REAL GUITAR TOO), and I get most of my guitar advice from my friend who's been playing for about 15 years. He helps me to keep my parts "realistic"...at least to as much a degree as is possible with a VST.

Here's the lead guitar part:
Nothing highly complex here, but remember that overlapping your notes forces Shreddage 2 to use hammer-ons, so note transition is smoother. A real guitarist doesn't actually pick every note, many times the fingers simply change frets, taps a string, resulting in a smooth note transition without the harsh guitar pick sound. If you never use hammer-ons, your lead guitar WILL sound fake. My hammer-on overlaps are very tiny, so they not be immediately visible. The length of the overlap doesn't matter a whole lot, differing lengths will create different sounds though, so experiment a bit. Hammer-ons are also useful for emulating tapped guitar parts, like arpeggios, and a lot of "shredded" guitar parts. I'd go so far as to say that half the notes played in your average guitar solo(a good one mind you), aren't even plucked with the guitar pick, but are done with finger tapping instead.
Last edited by audiosupernova on Sat Feb 09, 2013 3:46 pm, edited 17 times in total.
223 posts since 3 Oct, 2012, from VA, USA

Postby audiosupernova; Fri Feb 08, 2013 7:07 pm

Here's some information on mastering and why I use the Maximus plugin on my master. I'm including audio samples of a section of track I made for this tutorial(I just posted new example tracks below in the SoundCloud players...a generally more interesting riff):

Here's the rhythm guitar parts: 2 instances of Shreddage 2, single tracked. 1 panned 45% left, 1 panned 45% right.
http://soundcloud.com/audiosupernova/gu ... us/s-PNYuP

Now here's the exact same part, but without Maximus on my master output channel:
http://soundcloud.com/audiosupernova/gu ... us/s-r1jzb

BIG DIFFERENCE. Try not to pay as much attention to the volume difference, as that's only one part of the equation.

Maximus does a number of things...key features:
3 independent user-definable Low Mid High (LMH) frequency bands.
Custom look-ahead for the LMH bands and Master compression envelopes.
4 compressors/limiter: One per LMH band plus a Master wide band compressor/limiter.
Each compressor has an infinitely variable, multipoint compression curve. Create any shaped knee or special effects (limiting, compression, gating or expansion)
Fully configurable. Any of the LMH or Master compressors can be bypassed to configure Maximus to suit any compression task
Two saturation types per LMH & Master bands, with independent gain
Mixing between the frequency dependent compressors and the master, perfect for parallel & NY-style compression
4 Independent stereo separation control per band

^^That was just copy/pasted from Image-Line's website description for it, better than me typing that all out.

Now on to other instruments...

Here's the drums:
http://soundcloud.com/audiosupernova/dr ... us/s-6Tenk

Without the Maximus plugin:
http://soundcloud.com/audiosupernova/dr ... us/s-j9iJd

They sound pretty pathetic without it don't they? Not metal at all....interesting...

Last but not least, here's the clip of the song I'll share with you:
http://soundcloud.com/audiosupernova/wi ... us/s-XkMgq

And of course, without Maximus:
http://soundcloud.com/audiosupernova/wi ... us/s-xhsvy

So, Maximus, Ozone...various collections of multiband compressors, limiters, reverb units, etc., can all pull off this sound. You don't need to spend big money, but you need to be creative. Buying Ozone isn't going to magically make your song sound better, but creative use of compression and EQ can help a lot. If you don't have a fancy all-in-one program like Ozone(the popular choice), or if you're not an FL Studio user (Maximus is FL only I think), you can still get this sound with a little work. Make use of multiband compression, some subtle reverb, and a limiter, and you can get this or a similiar effect without spending any extra cash on plugins.

You don't actually have to run these mastering tools on the master channel, and you can get away with using them all on each indivual channel as well. One thing to remember, is that your EQ should ALWAYS come before the compressor. The reason is because the compressor increases quiet sounds, and drops some of the louder ones. If you have sibilance(the "S" sound) problems on your vocals for example, compressing might actually make the "S" louder, and even more annoying. You can use specific tools designed to de-ess, or you can just EQ the vocals. You can try putting an EQ drop between 4 and 8KHz, but it really depends on the vocalist. Everyone's sibilance range is different. You'll then want to boost the EQ back to normal after 8KHz to put some "air" back in the mix. You won't need to drop the sibilance range all the way down, but a dip in the EQ at that range can work wonders. This is also true of an instrument that has a harsh sound at a specific frequency you don't like. Try finding that frequency, and reducing EQ at that location on the audio spectrum.

EQ can be a sore spot as well, so be careful. Don't boost frequencies unless you absolutely have to. I'd highly recommend you cut frequencies you don't want, rather than boosting the "good parts". If you're in the habit of constantly boosting, eventually you'll run out of room to further increase volume, and have to redo some work(possibly). Boosted EQ's also don't always sound very natural, and can be harsher on the ears...but this might simply be because most people go way overboard on EQ boosting. Remember: minimalism is your friend.


So once you have your EQ set up, compression is a great tool to bring up the volume, and give your mix some real power! Compression reduces volume spikes, and increases the lowest sounds, minimizing available dynamic range(the different between loud, and quiet basically). If you reduce the dynamic range too far by using excessive compression, your entire song will sound LOUD, and this isn't necessarily a good thing. Too much compression will also hurt your accents, so your soft acoustic guitar section is just as loud as your blaring grindcore blastbeats. With most effects, I recommend using them subtly, and trying not to go overboard.

(more soon)
Last edited by audiosupernova on Sat Feb 09, 2013 6:03 pm, edited 15 times in total.
223 posts since 3 Oct, 2012, from VA, USA

Postby audiosupernova; Fri Feb 08, 2013 7:24 pm


This is a dirty word with some people, and I know people hate presets. Worry not, as I am not going to suggest using factory presets for amps or anything, but what I'm going to suggest, is building your own templates and amp presets from scratch, and reuse them over and over again.

This technique is something I highly recommend if you're writing metal tracks in MIDI, and you're generally focused on a specific genre. In my case, I do mostly progressive metal/rock stuff, sometimes with odd time signatures(5/4, 7/4, etc.), clean sections with piano and guitars, heavy riffs, and guitar solos. I have a template I built for this style, and anything I write in this style only needs to be tweaked ever so slighly.

What I did is over time, I put together an FL Studio Template file, that has all my instruments, amps, effects, mastering, levels, and everything already done. It's very handy because now, all I have to do is focus on writing, and the mastering is already done up front. These templates slowly get tweaked as I go, and I can then save the presets from each effect or instrument chain, and backport those changes to old songs. I then save a copy of the new song, but delete all the notes so it's a blank track again, and this becomes my new "ProgMetal Template" file.

The biggest benefit of a template, is that all your songs will have the same sound profile, volume levels, etc. This means I can write an album, and all the songs go together from the get go. If you start changing amps on your rhythm guitars between songs, this may change things like volumes, dynamics, EQ, etc. I try to use the same guitar tone for a whole release, or series of tracks. For Neo-Terran Front, all songs had the same guitar amps and cabs. For my upcoming EP I have another different set of amps and cabs, but for each release they're the same from track to track. This gives the record some continuity, and makes it sound like they all "belong together." You can use a different amp setup for every song, but this will make you work harder to get it all to fit together in the end. There is nothing wrong with that approach however, so change up your guitar sounds as you see fit.

This method is simply something I use as a time saver to prevent needless rework. Working 60 hours a week, and having a wife and 2 children is cause for very little free time, so I've learned to maximize the time that I do have. With this method, I was able to put out a 50+ minute, 8-track progressive metal/rock album in about 3-4 months. Some days, I was even starting, and finishing a track in 2-3 days when really productive. I've heard some people say that mastering is 90% of the work, and only 10% is writing and recording your music, so maybe this will help cut that number down and give you more time to write.
Last edited by audiosupernova on Sat Feb 09, 2013 8:26 am, edited 4 times in total.
223 posts since 3 Oct, 2012, from VA, USA

Postby audiosupernova; Fri Feb 08, 2013 8:04 pm

Comment away! I may add more, so I'll leave this post here just in case. For now I need to get to bed...I have some OVERTIME to work tomorrow. :hihi:

EDIT: Feel free to ask any questions, if you need me to further explain anything. I intend to add more to this over the weekend...
340 posts since 16 Oct, 2011

Postby warfighter67; Sat Feb 09, 2013 7:42 am

Oh my god, thank you soooo much!!! I've only skimmed it now as I'm a little tight on time, but this is a marvelous tutorial!
4410 posts since 15 Mar, 2004, from Columbia, MD

Postby zircon; Sat Feb 09, 2013 1:40 pm

Thank you very much for this outstanding writeup! I'm going to sticky this :)
Peak Rider 2: Advanced Dynamic Processor, now available!

Impact Soundworks - Electric + acoustic guitar, big metals, world instruments and more!
2973 posts since 18 Oct, 2004

Postby Arglebargle; Mon Feb 11, 2013 7:37 am

If you don't mind me asking, what did you do in Maximus to effect that change in the various parts?
223 posts since 3 Oct, 2012, from VA, USA

Postby audiosupernova; Mon Feb 11, 2013 8:53 am

Arglebargle wrote:If you don't mind me asking, what did you do in Maximus to effect that change in the various parts?

I'll cover that, and try to show how to get the same effect with other free tools. Maximus costs money, so does Ozone(not everyone has money though), but every DAW has EQ, compression and convolution/reverb. If for some reason they don't, www.vst4free.com has a lot of free plugin to cover anything you might need for basic functionality.

I ended up being a little busy this weekend, but I'll continue to tweak this guide and add new content. I'll make a post when that happens so people know it's been updated.
236 posts since 2 Jun, 2012

Postby metalheart; Mon Feb 11, 2013 3:26 pm

thanks for sharing your knowledge Audiosupernova!
340 posts since 16 Oct, 2011

Postby warfighter67; Mon Feb 11, 2013 6:58 pm

Hey Audiosupernova! I followed a lot of your advice and made a test song for you to critique my mix and guitar realism! I took a tab straight from a song I know and love: Therion: Land of Canaan, picked out a few of the beginning riffs and mashed them together. How does it sound?

Anyone else here can also comment, as I appreciate all kinds of constructive criticism!

Edit: It might be a good idea to include my test song!!

https://dl.dropbox.com/u/10679993/A_My_ ... erion1.mp3
7 posts since 31 Jan, 2013, from Vlissingen

Postby Michiel666; Mon Feb 11, 2013 7:36 pm

nice guide can't wait for the update:D
i really waqnt to learn/understand working with eq's and compressors properly.
4410 posts since 15 Mar, 2004, from Columbia, MD

Postby zircon; Wed Feb 20, 2013 10:28 am

I'm not sure if you mentioned this at some point, but what drums do you use?
Peak Rider 2: Advanced Dynamic Processor, now available!

Impact Soundworks - Electric + acoustic guitar, big metals, world instruments and more!
340 posts since 16 Oct, 2011

Postby warfighter67; Wed Feb 20, 2013 11:20 am

zircon wrote:I'm not sure if you mentioned this at some point, but what drums do you use?

He uses SD2/EZDrummer Metal Machines EZX
223 posts since 3 Oct, 2012, from VA, USA

Postby audiosupernova; Wed Feb 20, 2013 6:01 pm

That would be correct warfighter, EZDrummer, and the Metal Machine EZX expansion pack.
4 posts since 24 May, 2012

Postby seeyoupes; Thu Feb 21, 2013 4:57 pm

Ahoy all,

This is a project I have been working on since July of last year, and thanks to Audiosupernova's tutorial, I have finally brought it to this current level of polish. I am anxious to hear what you all think.


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