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#3088361 03/02/21 04:39 AM
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EB5AGV Offline OP
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I am an amateur Cubase Pro 11 user and enjoy composing small pieces on it, using mainly my piano VSTs. I have found a pesky problem with audio levels.

I have my system configured as follows: as audio interface I use a Yamaha MG10XU mixer, which includes USB audio, connected to JBL LSR 305 monitors. To set my reference level, I put all gain controls on the MG10XU to 0dB and then, using an audio track of a pop song (checked with several), adjusted the gain on the monitors to have a powerful enough sound.

But then, when using a piano VST, setting all mixer levels in Cubase to default (0dB), and even volume on the VST to maximum (example: 0dB on VSL Synchron pianos), audio is pretty low.

I understand pop music is mixed adding plenty of compression... But doing that with piano recordings, while works somewhat, seems to me as a bad idea.

I am sure some of you record using DAWs and I hope I am just missing some basic point here!

Thanks for your help!

Jose


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On a piano you can play a single note with max velocity. And then you can (theoretically) play 88 notes simultaneously with max velocity and produce 88x volume compared to a single note. That is why there’s a huge headroom left, and the piano VST will sound quiet. Once recorded, you can normalize the peak level.

It’s VERY wrong to compare to a pop song where there’s basically no dynamics. The entire track is usually dynamically compressed to be loud.


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Exactly like CG wrote. Play one key, check your db level in DAW. Then, play one chord, check again. Then, play mega loud chords using all your fingers. I suspect in the last case you can get >0db loudness levels. Piano is an instrument with very wide dynamics. I don't know which VST you are using, but usually there is some setting for dynamics - try to lower it a bit.


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EB5AGV Offline OP
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Thanks for your answers!

Yes, it seems I goofed on my reference. I have just read this from a very good article on the subject:

Related to this issue is the use of mastered mixes as mix references. Using references is a great way to train your ears, become accustomed to your speakers and help get your mixes into the right sonic ballpark. However, the mastering process strips off the headroom margin that was present during tracking and mixing. Anyone unaware of this might assume that the aim is to produce a raw mix that hits 0dBFS and has an average level up around -6dBFS, or whatever! This is most definitely not the case. Lower the level of your reference CD tracks to regain that headroom and make them more comparable with your mix level.

The full article can be found at:

Gain staging in your DAW software


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Compression also is used on professional classical music recordings so is not necessarily bad when used judiciously.

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I guess my problem is failing to understand the mastering process as a separate thing from mixing. I need to study more! eek


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Hi Jose,

There is a famous music producer from Valencia who offers music production classes (he also develops audio production plugins). I'm not sure if the classes are on hold due to the pandemic. If he doesn't do classical music, he will know who does. You can ping him here:

https://www.instagram.com/gbsoundlab/
https://gbsoundlab.com/

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The proper classical music recording shouldn't rely on compression. But I guess when doing multi-microphone recordings of big orchestra, that's sometimes used to balance the mix. But I'd still prefer as untouched recording as possible. Like, being in the hall. When the orchestra is arranged carefully by the conductor and is playing as expected by the conductor, a simple microphone pair should be enough to record a sound that will approach what you as a listener would hear.

But compressing a piano would be abomination in classical music. I understand the appeal of compressed classical piano recordings and I've heard some of those, very intimate and in your ears, similar to a jazz/pop solo piano. However I don't like that. I guess it'a a matter of taste though.


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Well, when you are actually critically 'listening' to music, too much compression is not a nice thing, but.. many people listen to music during work, driving a car, in public transport etc. - it wouldn't be a pleasurable experience without some compression involved. Also, our ears and how we as a human percieve sound and particularly music played live is much different from listening to a recording on speakers/headphones, even made by really great microphones. From physical/anatomical perspective.


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Yes, CG. I, too, dislike compressed classical.

But ABC is right: compression is important when there's background noise, as in the car, on a bus, at work, etc.

Then again ... in the age of ear buds background noise shouldn't be a problem, eh?


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