General Cubase mixing and mastering question

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pgg911
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General Cubase mixing and mastering question

Post by pgg911 »

I'm very new to the more technical functionality of cubase and to mixing and mastering in general and I'm not even sure if this kind of question is permitted in the forum as it's not so much a question regarding cubase as much as technique so I apologise if I have breached protocol by posting here.

Anyhow, I'm just wondering with regard to automation and compression. It seems that some compression is often recommended in certain situations so was wondering if one was intending to write automated volume changes into a track, would it make more sense to do that before or after applying compression to the track?

Most likely another really stupid question from me but would appreciate the views of others if anyone has a view and the time to give a quick response.
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Neil B
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Re: General Cubase mixing and mastering question

Post by Neil B »

A quick opinion, and I'm no expert by any means:
A compressor will make the louder bits quieter and the quieter bits louder (laymans terms). So think funky guitar that has a huge range of volume dynamics. Compressed this will even out the levels making it easier to mix.
So, it makes sense in this case to compress prior to automation.
The same could be argued re reverb - makes things sound further away.....
My technique in a few lines:
Write the music.
Set up group tracks for say Drums/perc, strings, synth pads, bass, vocals etc.
Solo each group and get your levels right for each group - and eq's etc
Set up a marker track for each section of your song (intro, verse, chorus, outro)
Start setting levels for all groups for each section (let each one loop)
Write a track sheet- notes for each track for things like the level and pan in each song section.
Apply automation to suit to your volumes etc.
This doesn't take into account any work prior to mixing of choosing your synth sounds, exporting your midi/VST/instrument tracks to audio, adding effects such as compression, reverb etc.

Simply - don't start automating a mix until the rest of the hard work is done.
Don't spend too long on it due to ear fatigue. Do a bit, walk away. Have another listen, do a bit more.
And this IS the general forum - there is a forum for bugs, issues etc, so a general forum is where we can share things like this.

Finally - backup regularly and keep saving different versions of your track.

I'm sure that everyone else will have slightly different methods.

Hope that helps.
Neil B
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John Cafarella
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Re: General Cubase mixing and mastering question

Post by John Cafarella »

As you might expect there is no hard and fast rule for this.

Compression is like an automated volume control. I've often explained the compressor controls like this: (your forgiveness if it sounds condescending!)

A compressor is like a little man that has his finger on the level slider on the mixer. When he hears sound he will pull the slider down according to certain rules that correspond to the controls found on the front panel of the compressor. the louder the sound, the more he will pull it down. Some compressors however don't allow setting of all the controls, they are preset.
Attack is how fast he pulls the fader down
Release is how fast he pushed it back up.
Threshold is the point of loudness where he'll start to respond and pull the fader down.
Ratio is how far pulls it down.

Why tell you all this?? Well it depends on how the compressor is set. If you set a slow attack and slow release (say above 0.5s), it will work to level out the volume differences between louder and softer passages. This is very similar to what you might do with automation, so maybe no point in doing the automation if the compressor is set like this.

However compressors are often used to alter the dynamics of individual notes. For example by setting attack a little bit slow and release quite fast, you can make an electric guitar sound like it's punching you in the face, but the same setting would sound awful on a vocal. If you're using the compressor like this, then automation to bring the overall level up or down in different parts of the song would make sense.

Hope this helps
John Cafarella

Windows 10, 16G RAM, UA Apollo 8 +satellite+ UAD2, Cubase 10, Wavelab. A bunch of old mics and preamps and a couple of ok rooms to put it all in.

pgg911
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Re: General Cubase mixing and mastering question

Post by pgg911 »

thank you to both respondents for your time and effort,,,though maybe compression is less of a volume control - and more of a gain range-restricter...?

I'll try to make it a little more clear what I was talking about:I have (for example) a project consisting of a few audio tracks and a couple of midi tracks. One of the midi tracks is midi 'strings' say. When I'm gainstaging for the mix I think it's a good idea to go to the midi editor and just level off all the velocities to max as when I'm putting the project together i'm only interested in getting the midi notes in and not in playing dynamics.

But later i want some dynamics on the midi track - for example I might have a note stretching out over a few bars and I want that to swell in volume over time. Or i might have a series of short notes and i want them to be alternately louder and softer (for example). Of course I do that with automation and that's pretty straightforward on a midi track because really I'm not going to need to use any compression on that track individually because midi tracks are like that and I can just make sure the dynamics are within an acceptable range.

However I might also have an audio track that has a few sharp peaks here and there and is a bit quiet at times and probably generally needs some compression just to bring the average level up while cutting the peaks down before they clip. But maybe also i want a certain chord or climactic note here and there to have a bit more dynamic contrast than what was picked up in the recording. This I'd be doing with automation, but I guess that if I automated and then compressed and found I wanted more dynamics I could always do another automation on the compressed track as long as I knew where I was going with levels for the mixdown. Or I could compress and then automate keeping levels in mind...

i think it makes sense....but can't be sure...
Cubase 7.07 64 bit/ Windows 7 64 bit

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John Cafarella
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Re: General Cubase mixing and mastering question

Post by John Cafarella »

However I might also have an audio track that has a few sharp peaks here and there and is a bit quiet at times and probably generally needs some compression just to bring the average level up while cutting the peaks down before they clip.

Agreed, a compressor would do this perfectly, it will tidy up the track nicely.
But maybe also i want a certain chord or climactic note here and there to have a bit more dynamic contrast than what was picked up in the recording. This I'd be doing with automation,

Yep, that's the way to go.
but I guess that if I automated and then compressed and found I wanted more dynamics I could always do another automation on the compressed track as long as I knew where I was going with levels for the mixdown. Or I could compress and then automate keeping levels in mind..
The first 6 insert slots on the channel strip are pre-fader, which means that if you insert a compressor in one of those, when you automate the channel fader, you will be just changing the level of the already compressed and tidied up track. This is definitely the best way to do what you are describing.
John Cafarella

Windows 10, 16G RAM, UA Apollo 8 +satellite+ UAD2, Cubase 10, Wavelab. A bunch of old mics and preamps and a couple of ok rooms to put it all in.

pgg911
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Re: General Cubase mixing and mastering question

Post by pgg911 »

Thanks for that.

For some reason I have no slots in my inserts rack in the mixing console. Nor are there any slots in the track inspector insert rack. Both are just blank and I can't get any inserts option up. Any ideas about that?
Cubase 7.07 64 bit/ Windows 7 64 bit

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John Cafarella
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Re: General Cubase mixing and mastering question

Post by John Cafarella »

There are lots of option for making parts of the mix console visible or not, so it's possible that this is why you can't see the slots.

The track list, inspector, and mix console all have an "e" button (edit), this will bring up the "channels Settings" for the channel. the insert slots will be on the left.

If you don't see this, then it's possible you're doing this on a midi channel.

I can't get more specific than this, I'm not in front of cubase, just now :)
John Cafarella

Windows 10, 16G RAM, UA Apollo 8 +satellite+ UAD2, Cubase 10, Wavelab. A bunch of old mics and preamps and a couple of ok rooms to put it all in.

pgg911
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Re: General Cubase mixing and mastering question

Post by pgg911 »

Thanks - yes I am aware of at least some of those options but can't discount the possibility that I'm missing one here. I guess I must be!

I'm definitely doing this on an audio channel. And if i hit the 'e' button - yes - the channel settings window opens and yes the 'inserts' section is on the left, but just as with the track inspector and inserts rack in the mix console there are no slots to speak of. It's just all black and blank. No slots (ie no rack) appears at all.

If i go to a midi channel the midi inserts rack has big beautiful slots in it, but the plain old 'inserts' (even in the midi channel) doesn't have any slots in it either (maybe it's not s'posed to in the midi channel...)
Cubase 7.07 64 bit/ Windows 7 64 bit

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John Cafarella
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Re: General Cubase mixing and mastering question

Post by John Cafarella »

Well that sounds pretty weird. If the Channel settings window doesn't look like page 205 of the manual, I reckon you need to contact Steinberg support, theres something wrong.

I'll be offline for a couple of days, may get an opportunity to call back in tomorrow sometime though. Good luck!
John Cafarella

Windows 10, 16G RAM, UA Apollo 8 +satellite+ UAD2, Cubase 10, Wavelab. A bunch of old mics and preamps and a couple of ok rooms to put it all in.

pgg911
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Re: General Cubase mixing and mastering question

Post by pgg911 »

yeah - even if you haven't touched it there should still be a rack of slots saying 'no effect' ( i do look at the manual too occasionally), but i haven't got that. it's just blank.

might have to contact support like you say. Thanks for all that.
Cubase 7.07 64 bit/ Windows 7 64 bit

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCejtSw ... YNVM-bsTuw

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