A good song almost always has interesting volume changes between, for example, verse, bridge and chorus, or really all the time, for that matter. Listenable music is seldom static, but in constant motion, just like energy. There is often talk about how the latest plug is guaranteed to help you with good sound, but the fact is that it is often the dynamics that create excitement and drama, not an equalizer, compressor or other effect.
If you compare two short parts of a song, where one is stronger than the other, the stronger part is perceived as more powerful. This depends on how we hear and can be explained with the Fletcher-Munson curve, which I previously wrote about in the previous Friday tip. Make sure that your mix works optimally at all sound levels
The technical term for the difference between strong and weak in music is dynamic range, or dynamic range (DR) as it is also called. A small dynamic range occurs if you compress and limit too much, which almost always results in the music feeling lifeless. In the long run, this means that you lose clarity, as the transients disappear and that the systems from, for example, a vortex drum are lost. Now I do not advocate that you should skip compressors and limitation completely, just that these should be used with the utmost care. Especially today when virtually all digital music is normalized on streaming services such as Spotify, iTunes and Youtube. Read more about the phenomenon here: How voluminous should your mix be in 2020?
But how do you do that to get a dynamic mix? Actually, it’s all very simple. Firstly, you should be careful to compress with a ratio over 4: 1 and secondly, you should work with volume automation, which next week’s Friday tips will be about.
There are various tools for measuring the dynamic range of your music, where my personal favorites are the TT Dynamic Range Meter (can be found for free online if you search a bit) and the meter plug Meterplugs Dynameter. A good value to strive for is DR11. The lower the number, the less dynamics. Less than that, for example DR8, means that your music is more compressed than necessary and that it will probably sound weaker and worse on all streaming services. Another thing to take into account due to volume versus streaming services is LUFS, you can read about this here: How high-volume should your mix be in 2020?
If you feel insecure and generally confused about all this, you can almost visually see if your mix is healthy or not, after you export test it. Below are two examples:
A healthy mix with a lot of dynamism that is not unnecessarily limited.
A mix with a bit of dynamics that is severely limited.
In short: Do you want your music to sound as good as possible? Think about the dynamics and do not compress unnecessarily.
Feel free to ask questions or comment on the article in the comment field below, and we will spin the topic together. Or if you prefer to discuss mixing in the “Mixing and mastering” section of the Studios forum here!
Fredagstipset is a recurring series where Studio writer Jon Rinneby shares tips every Friday in, among other things, recording and mixing. Here you will find all Friday tips.