Maintaining Consistent Volume Between Tracks Within Session View

Ableton

rhincephalon

almost 7 years ago (edited)

I'm curious to know how others who are keeping all of their tracks in one big session file go about maintaining a consistent volume between them. I am often frustrated with the tracks I purchase because of the huge difference between their relative recorded volumes. Even more, I find there is often a HUGE difference between the volumes of the different click and guide tracks. Sometimes the guide tracks are easily 20 db louder than the rest of the tracks! My method is to go within each song and find the loudest section and then adjust the individual clip volumes to try and make them consistent from song to song and then repeat this process with the guide and click tracks. The problem is that sometimes different parts need to be mixed and adjusted individually. I can't just take all the clips and adjust them uniformly up or down 5 db. I find my method works but quickly becomes cumbersome and very exhausting as you can't simply 'set it and forget it'. I have to keep making adjustments week to week and have to remember where the ciips are that I made individualized adjustments too so that I don't accidentally override these changes. Anyone have a better way?
covenantspokane

almost 7 years ago

Hey JP! I find the same frustration, so you are not alone. If I am understanding you correctly, you adjust the volume of each clip by doing the double click on the clip and changing the volume down below and not on the actual mixer fader correct? Unfortunately this is probably going to be the most efficient way of doing it in my opinion. Some tracks export their stems at lower volumes because they have so many tracks. When a song has a lot of tracks at decent volumes, all the summed signals will quickly clip the master fader. So to fix this they end up bouncing the tracks at a lower volume to give some headroom for the master. Now the caveat to this is that some band export them at the exact signal level that was recorded and then bring the master fader down. On more than one occasion I have opened an Ableton session from Multitracks and found that the Master fader was at -5db or as much as -8db. Needless to say this makes your tracks volume sit all over the place. 1. Adjusting each song's clips to get a target volume is important. Some loops may only be more pad/piano and gentle synth. This will create a significant drop in volume compared to say Planetshakers "Get Up". 2. Consistent signal is incredibly important, both for quality and for gain structure in the board. If the signal changes a lot between songs, this will mess up not only your FOH mix but all your monitor mixes as well. 3. Being an engineer as well as a musician, I am most comfortable with the Pro Tools click. What I did is downloaded the default click that I liked and replaced it with the Pro Tools click. This makes your click nice and consistent across songs! So every time I get a new song, I just Ctrl-Click the ProTools Click to the new track. There are a few songs that arn't on the grid correctly when they bounced so I have to adjust the "Start" "End" time to get the Pro Tools click correctly lined up with that song; "We Believe" by the Newsboys I think had that issue. 4. One thing that can work tremendously well for keeping steady levels for tracking is using a Waves Plugin called "Maxx Volume". This plugin is actually on sale right now this weekend for $99 and $49 if you have the $50 off coupon. This plugin is great at keeping consistent volume by using upwards and downwards compression. Typically used for keeping steady levels in a broadcast setting MaxxVolume can increase the volume of low sounds below a certain level and gently bring down high levels in rocking tracks. It also has a "Target Volume" setting which you can set to the desired volume you want to achieve. Either way, if you may want to do some sort of gentle compression on your master track if you are having that much issue. Here is a link to the Waves plugin, I highly recommend it for any Ableton User! http://www.waves.com/plugins/maxxvolume I also attached a smaller Ableton Session that I have to illustrate what I do with my click tracks Does that help?

Ableton.jpg

covenantspokane

almost 7 years ago

Sorry, when I mentioned the MaxxVolume plugin, I meant to say you could put it on your master track in Ableton :)

maxxvolume.png

rhincephalon

almost 7 years ago

Hi Seth! Thanks for the feedback. I am following the same method you are and definitely recognize the importance of points #1 & #2. I have considered using Ableton's built-in click as you are doing with a different sound to make that level consistent. I haven't gone forward with it because I thought it might create other problems for me. I appreciate how the commercially produced click tracks follow the song exactly (i.e. they start and stop when I fire off the song and when the song stops) so controlling the click is one less thing I have to think about doing while leading. I don't have to worry about the click continuing to pound away in all of our in-ears if I stop to say something. I definitely like the idea of using that MaxxVolume Plugin. I think that could really help out my FOH guy. Too bad it can only be placed on the master track as that won't help our monitor mixes. Any idea how I can obtain one of those coupons? Thanks again for your thoughts!
covenantspokane

almost 7 years ago

Hey JP! Why won't that work on your monitor mixes? Assuming that you are sending a stereo track to your mixer, the MaxxVolume will level the audio before it hits the board. That way the track volume to the board (and all monitors) should be level. Who is triggering your tracks and do you have some sort of midi pedal? If you have a midi pedal that has a volume pedal, you can assign a pedal to your click volume. This way if you want to turn the click off, you can turn it down yourself. I am the lead worship leader and I trigger the tracks as well as use both my midi volume pedals to control: 1. Click volume 2. Transition Pad Track I end up having total control of the whole session. I can turn the click on or off and I can also turn a transition pad/atmospheric track up or down.
rhincephalon

almost 7 years ago

Yeah - I misstated that... what I meant was that MaxxVolume wouldn't work on the click and guide levels where I also need it to work. I send the tracks in stereo to the FOH on 1/2. I have been sending the click and guide down the same channel (3), but I am going to isolate them into 3 & 4 for more individualized control for the rest of the team. I trigger all of our tracks from a Looptimus Pedal. Maybe it takes more practice, but I just don't really feel comfortable trying to mess with controlling a volume pedal while I'm trying to lead/sing/play guitar. I have enough problems just trying to hit the correct footswitch on the Looptimus Pedal to fire off the next song while I'm singing because I can't look down at my feet (without turning away from mic)!
kferris

almost 7 years ago

I am doing the same....individually adjusting the clips to get the levels set. I'm stealing the pedal idea on the click...i like it. For monitors.... i create my own monitor mix for the band and muting out unnecessary instruments and send it to it's own channel (Mon MIX) and the band uses that as their mix instead of all of the tracks being used...hope that makes sense. I leave all the clean pitch reference tracks and that's it. Click and cues are on their own separate channels. THe band members can control their levels with their iphones.