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View Full Version : Need Help Normalizing A Group Of Songs


Blanket Jackson
08-24-2010, 07:59 PM
Is there a simple, intuitive tool (for Mac) that I can use to normalize / master a group of songs with differing gains (RMS)? All the tools I have come across are either very expensive, complicated, or actionable one track at a time. Is there a way to apply a global gain setting?

I don't want to spend a few days trolling the internet for a folder of contradictory information, and I don't need to become an expert in mastering along the way. I just need a simple easy to use tool.

Thanks!

Scott Whigham
08-25-2010, 12:29 PM
Have you tried a limiter? Check out Massey's L2007 mastering limiter (http://www.masseyplugins.com/plugins/l2007). Their free version lets you do everything except save presets mostly.

FWIW - I haven't tried it. I just remember chrisgraff mentioning it: http://www.thegearpage.net/board/showthread.php?p=8831774#post8831774

Blanket Jackson
08-25-2010, 04:49 PM
Thanks Scott - will definitely check that out, but I'm not sure if it's Pro Tools specific (I'm still learning about all these plug-ins and stuff).

Mike Fleming
08-26-2010, 11:51 AM
I know it's not what you want to hear, but you should really think about doing it song by song. The thing is each song has different peaks to contend with - there is no one way to make songs all sound the same without causing unintended effects by leveling those peaks automatically. I don't use protools, so I don't have specific plugs to recommend, but there are lots of limiter plugs designed to tame peaks for this purpose. You set a threshold, you start raising the gain of the track, and you listen to see if you're ok with the sound of the adjusted peaks, or if they are getting noticeably distorted or making your track sound weird. And using your ear, you get all the songs to levels that sound good with each other.

If you want to spend more time, you would work with a compressor first, probably a multiband, to more gently shape the peaks of the track. But like you say, you're not trying to get too into mastering, you just want to adjust track volumes quickly. So you might probably do fine with a peak-eater type of limiter plug. But at least think about going track by track. It won't take much time and you will probably end up with much better sounding tracks.

Blanket Jackson
08-26-2010, 01:26 PM
I know it's not what you want to hear, but you should really think about doing it song by song. The thing is each song has different peaks to contend with - there is no one way to make songs all sound the same without causing unintended effects by leveling those peaks automatically. I don't use protools, so I don't have specific plugs to recommend, but there are lots of limiter plugs designed to tame peaks for this purpose. You set a threshold, you start raising the gain of the track, and you listen to see if you're ok with the sound of the adjusted peaks, or if they are getting noticeably distorted or making your track sound weird. And using your ear, you get all the songs to levels that sound good with each other.

If you want to spend more time, you would work with a compressor first, probably a multiband, to more gently shape the peaks of the track. But like you say, you're not trying to get too into mastering, you just want to adjust track volumes quickly. So you might probably do fine with a peak-eater type of limiter plug. But at least think about going track by track. It won't take much time and you will probably end up with much better sounding tracks.

Thanks Mike. I would do track by track if I need to, but I would still be faced with the problem of scaling one track against the next by ear. Is there some kind of absolute scale that can be used for peak measurement? I think that dB is a relative measure, scaled to that track's particular 100% peak, right?

Sunbreak Music
08-26-2010, 02:32 PM
The only way it can be done accurately is by ear. There is no automated process for "loudness", although RMS leveling might put you in the ballpark depending on the material.

Mike Fleming
08-26-2010, 02:33 PM
I don't do anything like that, because to me it's all perception. The way your ear perceives one song versus another. The instrumentation, mix, performances, compression, all make it very complex.

And this talk about peaks - look at waveforms of a couple of your songs, then look at a waveform from a CD you own. This is what makes it hard. On your songs you will probably see lots of little peaks around the same level, then some big spikes, then some REALLY big spikes. Those are what you need to modify if you want to increase the level of your recording. Because if you just normalize to those highest peaks, you won't really get anywhere. And if you just chop them all off blindly with a limiter to achieve a certain number, you could cause a lot of distortion and other bad sounding effects. That's why it's helpful to take each track, have a quick look at the waveform to see what you're dealing with, and then work through compression and limiting to get a level and sound you like (I'm not getting into adjusting track volume envelopes and compression to prevent those peaks - because i know you are trying to do this quickly). Or in your case even if you skip the compression and just use a peak-eater limiter plug, still at least work through it a minute to get a level you like without creating unwanted sounds.

And scaling one track to another by ear isn't hard, in fact its easy, you know when stuff sounds good and when it doesn't. The limiter will keep anything from going over a certain level, like -3 or whatever you set. So you get your first track sounding real good with a good level, maybe compared to a cd you like (that isn't insanely loud). Then you do this for every successive track, and compare it to the first one you did, so they sound good to you. then when you're done, listen to them in sequence and see if you want to adjust any of them again.

It sounds like a huge process, and yeah it takes a little time, but not really very much, and you will probably be real happy with what you accomplish.

Nelson89
08-27-2010, 12:05 PM
+1 for comparing it to something else. I usually get a song of a similar genre and general instrumentation and compare and adjust that way. When comparing to commercial material like this, your ears won't get lazy and think that constant change is better. Depending on how loud you wanna get your stuff...i wouldn't recommend JUST using a limiter, by the time you get to the desired volume, you've smashed your drum tracks. Try taming some of the peaks a little with a couple of compressors, and THEN a "brickwall" limiter, it'll actually come out a bit more natural sounding than just using the limiter on its own.

Blanket Jackson
08-30-2010, 10:48 PM
Thanks folks --- looks like there is no way around the footwork of using my ears and my noodle. Too bad, but good to know in a way that a person's skill in this area has not become replaceable by technology yet.

Nelson89
08-31-2010, 03:14 AM
Thanks folks --- looks like there is no way around the footwork of using my ears and my noodle. Too bad, but good to know in a way that a person's skill in this area has not become replaceable by technology yet.

Lets hope it doesn't haha...a great saying is that the most valuable piece of gear in a multi-million dollar studio is the ears of the engineer...