Levelling Issues Part I

Bob Katz Leave a Comment

From: ken bankston

I do have two short questions for you. 1) I record my drums and sometimes a few other instruments like strings to digital audio via midi, BUT MY MIDI DOESN’T COME IN VERY HOT, EVEN WITH MY SOUND MODULE CRANKED. So Iv’e been normilizing those tracks and then mixing them accordingly. I don’t hear any artifacts, and to be frank I don’t totally understand the way the computer processes the data. Should I be worried about cumalative distortion?

Yes. It is always preferable to avoid normalizing, which is a degenerative DSP process. Always try to record at the highest possible level into the A/D converter. I’m surprised there isn’t enough gain in the module or your A/D. Perhaps you are set for +4 input instead of -10?

2) When I am tracking vocals on some songs, there is a big difference in the levels of the verse and the chorus, especially when the chorus starts on the 5. I need to be able to keep the dynamics under control. Would you suggest multiple compressors and if so what approximate ratio’s. Or would you go with a compressor peak limiter combo. Or do yo have some better option? I have a Joe Meek VC1Q ( which is a mic/pre with their compressor on it. I also have an A.R.T. tube channel with their optical compressor on it. And I have Waves Native/with their C1 compressor and L1 limiter.

Often, Ken, it’s a GOOD thing that the chorus is louder than the verse. This is often a problem with “amateur” mixes. Please read my article on compression very carefully as I include some segments on that in rock mixes. However, some compression to control the choruses is often a good thing too. It should sound good, but still sound lively and not squashed. In that case, it is very difficult to do…. you should do it as much as possible in the mix, and as little as possible with the compressor. An experienced mix engineer will integrate the compression of the vocals with riding their level and it all continues to sound great, with a nice dynamic chorus that doesn’t stick out too much, but still sticks out somewhat! If your compressors are automated, this can help. You may need two different amounts of compression for verse and chorus. I don’t suggest the L1 for this. I suggest a compressor with a ratio of (typically) 2:1 to, maybe 6:1, depending on your taste and the style of music.

Best wishes,


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *