Beginners Guide To Mastering DJ Mixes
Page 1 of 8 12345 ... LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 73
  1. #1
    DJTT Moderator Dude Jester's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    New Zealand
    Posts
    12,370

    Thumbs up Beginners Guide To Mastering DJ Mixes

    Hey folks. I thought we should start a dedicated thread related to post recording techniques we can use to make our mixes sound awesome.

    Here's a great article i found covering the basics of mastering your mix:

    Finishing a DJ mix can be an exciting occasion. The satisfaction of knowing that you seamlessly blended and weaved an arsenal of your favorite jams is tough to beat, coupled with the excitement that comes from sharing it with your friends for the first time. However, before you race off to your Soundcloud and Facebook pages to post your new creation, there are a few steps you should take to give your compilation that extra level of polish.

    This tutorial is geared towards entry-level DJ’s (many seasoned veterans will probably find this information redundant). It is a quick crash course on how to master your mix right from your computer before uploading the MP3 to the web or burning to CD

    1. Software and Sound Card

    It can be safely assumed that if you are successfully recording mixes out of your bedroom, you have a DAW or wave editor up and running on your computer, as well as a sound card which can handle recording. However, if you have NEVER recorded a mix before and are on a tight budget, you absolutely need to purchase a special sound card that records audio; most stock computers do not have the ability to do so out of the box. Griffin’s iMic is a great entry level soundcard that can be purchased for $25 at various outlets. Because it is USB, you can plug it in to any computer and there are no drivers to worry about.

    Sourceforge’s Audacity is one of the best audio recorders out there, and it is FREE. This is a program which you can use to record your mix and edit once you are finished. Both PC and Mac versions are readily available. It is a basic WAV editor as opposed to a full-fledged DAW.

    Ableton’s Intro is a little more pricey ($100), however it has one VERY important tool which can help enhance the mastering process of your mix: the Limiter (discussed below). In fact, Intro includes all of the devices that its’ big brother (Live) has, it’s main limit being the number you are able to use simultaneously in a single project. However if you are just recording a DJ mix, as opposed to producing original music, Intro should fit your needs.


    2. Creative Post-Production Effects

    Although you may have toyed around with the roll and flanger filters on that fancy Pioneer mixer of yours in the recording process, the creativity doesn’t end there. Once you have your final WAV or AIFF file saved to your hard drive, you can add additional effects to the entire recording. The key here, however, is to make any adjustments from this point onward as transparent as possible. It can become very easy to get carried away, and you have to remember that, by default, these adjustments affect the ENTIRE mix.

    With basic WAV editors such as Audacity, the changes you make will be destructive, so you need to remember to save your audio as a copy. However in a DAW such as Live or Intro, you can add or take away these effects as you please.

    The screen grab shows two effects I added to a mix of mine that I recorded last year: A saturator unit as well as a reverb. Adding a reverb can make the mix sound like it is being played in a large space such as a concert hall. Subtle delays are used to create this effect. Note how low the dry/wet level has been set. Using too much reverb will instantly destroy the impact of your percussion and make everything sound like a washed out mess. Additionally, many of the songs in the mix already have reverb applied; so even though adding a little more can help gel things together, be careful with how much you add!

    Ableton’s Saturator was another insert effect I used, however once again, I was very frugal in the amount I applied. Saturator creates a distortion-like effect which intensifies the signal. If applied in small doses, it can make your mix a bit more pleasant sounding. Adding too much can literally cause it to become fatiguing to listen to over long periods of time, but a little bit can add a fair amount of life to the overall mix.

    With a full-fledged daw such as Ableton you can even draw in envelopes in places you would like to intensify effects such as the two I mentioned above, but obviously there is a time and place for where they are appropriate. For me, I apply any effects I add to the entire mix, as any creative effects (i.e. long reverb trails, etc.) have already been added to the tracks by the original producers themselves.


    3. Volume Levels, Limiting, and Normalizing

    Unless you want your listeners reaching for the volume knob on their iPod or car stereo every 4 minutes, you are going to need to fix any noticeable increases or reductions in volume throughout the course of your recording. Ideally the levels are already consistent throughout the mix, but the DJ might fail to notice that an incoming song played off a CDJ which has a much louder gain structure than the currently-playing vinyl record causes the levels to increase sharply on the final recording.

    There is one sure-fire way to achieving the best results with making the volume consistent throughout: simply listening from start to end, drawing volume envelopes where necessary. Although it is very tedious, it is well worth the effort. DAW’s like Ableton allow you to pencil in where you want the increases and reductions to happen and are completely non-destructive, meaning you can go back later on and re-edit if desired.

    WAV editors such as Audacity have the ability to edit as well, however their capabilities are limited at best. Audacity’s envelope tool will actually let you add non-destructive points on the waveform, but only lets you make very simple fades by default. On the other hand, for basic volume adjustments, this may be all you need in the first place.


    The limiter is probably the most useful tool in my arsenal for helping smooth out the overall levels. In essence, limiters turn down the loudest parts of the mix, and turn up the rest of your audio relative to these peaks. Decreasing the differences between the loud and quiet parts not only help make the levels more consistent, but also makes the listener perceive the overall mix as being “louder”.

    Once again, let me remind you, that using a plug-in such as a limiter should be applied in absolute moderation. Adding too much can severely damage the overall dynamics of your audio, so do not apply a gain setting of more than a couple decibels.

    Live and Intro’s limiter works great for smoothing out DJ mixes, however a plug-in such as Izotope’s Ozone, while more expensive than Intro ($250), does a great job as well and can be used as a VST with both WAV editors and DAW’s alike.

    Some choose to normalize their mixes, however this is an effect I tend to avoid. What normalizing does is it determines the loudest parts of the mix and sets its’ overall level according to that. Although in theory this might sound similar to limiting, normalizing generally has very little effect on the perceived loudness of the mix like limiting does. It can also be debated that normalizing can degrade the audio signal more than limiting as well, however I cannot argue for or against this and is out of the scope of this tutorial.

    4. Almost Done! Split the Tracks And Add Artwork

    Once you have your final, mastered WAV or AIFF file, you will want to do two things: Make an MP3 for online distribution, and split up the uncompressed file into individual tracks, which can easily be done in Audacity.

    If you want to hand out physical CD’s, I will tell you right now that single-track mixes WILL put off listeners. Say someone wants to go to the halfway mark of your mix after popping the CD in the player. Do you really want them to hold down the fast-forward button for five minutes to get there? Making the product you give to your fans as useful as possible should be your number one priority, so there is no excuse for not splitting your CD into individual tracks.

    Burning the CD can be done with iTunes, just make sure there are no gaps between any of the tracks. This setting can be applied under “Preferences” when you have a blank cd inserted in the disc drive of your computer.

    Save a copy of your original WAV file as an MP3 as well if you want to distribute online. Take advantage of services such as Soundcloud and Mixcloud.

    File size: You need to set the sample rate at which you export your MP3; and find a balance between sound quality and file size (they are inversely proportional). I’ve always felt that 192kbps is a happy medium. Mixcloud has a limit in terms of the file size of MP3’s you are allowed to upload, so use your judgement here. Remember that portable devices such as iPods and iPhones do not have infinite amounts of memory, and making an MP3 too large can be a determining factor in terms of what your listeners end up deleting off it when it comes time to free up space.


    >> Source

    Feel free to add your own tips, or ask questions.

    Great Post here on the blog to check out http://www.djtechtools.com/2011/09/1...ith-mastering/
    Last edited by Jester; 11-11-2011 at 05:25 PM.
    Acer E5 i7 2TB 16GB ~ 512GB SSD ~ WIN 10 ~ TSP 2.11 ~ AUDIO 6 ~ X1 ~ DN-X1600 ~ X1 ~ SPECTRA ~ TWISTER ~ ATH-PRO500 MK2 ~ AT2020 MIC

    "This aggression will not stand, man."

  2. #2
    Tech Guru Zaniac's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Gold Coast, Australia
    Posts
    860

    Default

    Should the same steps be taken when recording on my kontrol s4?

    I have seen in earlier post of yours about mp3gain as well. i run all my tracks through there, should i be running my recordings through there as well?

    Where to start, where to stop lol

    Poor simple brain, so much to process.

    thinking i will check out audacity. does this convert wav to mp3 as well.
    "Wow! I wanna be just like your friend! Thats honestly what i told my mom and dad when i was about 11 years old...i said when i grow up i wanna dj for rich people"

  3. #3
    DJTT Moderator Dude Jester's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    New Zealand
    Posts
    12,370

    Default

    mp3gain can be used to normalise your mix. Sometimes thats all thats needed if it sounds a little quiet.
    Acer E5 i7 2TB 16GB ~ 512GB SSD ~ WIN 10 ~ TSP 2.11 ~ AUDIO 6 ~ X1 ~ DN-X1600 ~ X1 ~ SPECTRA ~ TWISTER ~ ATH-PRO500 MK2 ~ AT2020 MIC

    "This aggression will not stand, man."

  4. #4
    Tech Guru Zaniac's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Gold Coast, Australia
    Posts
    860

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Jester.NZ View Post
    mp3gain can be used to normalise your mix. Sometimes thats all thats needed if it sounds a little quiet.
    Thanks, just done a search for (convert wav to mp3) and found out i can do this through itunes. so i will keep it simple for now and practice my mixing.

    But in regards to splitting mixes up into individual tracks (as all my mates i have given a mix to have said "bro it would be choice if i could flick through the tracks eh!") so audacity is the best option for this in your opinion?

    big ups to you and all the moderators for all your knowledge on this site. even though i spend more time doing my djtt homework at night and get to wired with knowledge to be bothered having a mix ha ha.
    "Wow! I wanna be just like your friend! Thats honestly what i told my mom and dad when i was about 11 years old...i said when i grow up i wanna dj for rich people"

  5. #5
    DJTT Moderator Dude Jester's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    New Zealand
    Posts
    12,370

    Default

    Yea you can add markers to the wavform and split the file up into individual tracks with audacity.
    Acer E5 i7 2TB 16GB ~ 512GB SSD ~ WIN 10 ~ TSP 2.11 ~ AUDIO 6 ~ X1 ~ DN-X1600 ~ X1 ~ SPECTRA ~ TWISTER ~ ATH-PRO500 MK2 ~ AT2020 MIC

    "This aggression will not stand, man."

  6. #6

    Default

    Great post. Props. +1

  7. #7
    DJTT Infectious Moderator photojojo's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Sherman, TX
    Posts
    13,939

    Default

    Great find Jester!!

    I always record my mixes on the quiet side. I can always add volume, but if it's clipped there's nothing you can do.
    Chris Jennings FHP

    Podcast - Soundcloud - Mixcloud - Beatport Charts - x

  8. #8
    Tech Mentor
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Posts
    337

    Default

    Why not just use Normalization instead of tinkering with every little bit?

  9. #9
    DJTT Moderator Dude Jester's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    New Zealand
    Posts
    12,370

    Default

    Example of "Hard Limiting" by Jester

    Here is an example of a recent mix from my soundcloud group, "Haze Day" by DJ Prowe. The Editor I am using is Adobe Audition CS5.5 64 bit.



    As you can see there are some rather obvious spikes in the recording, these are the transition points in this mix.



    Zooming in to the first transition, we can see that the wavform has flattened off at the 0db mark which isn't good, but the rest of the mix is fairly level at around -3db. What we want to do is beef up the level of the rest of the mix but reduce the level of these peaks along the way. The tool we will use for this is a Hard Limiter, which in Audition looks like this:



    So for this mix we will set a maximum amplitude of -1db and a boost of 2db. This will level out the mix a bit. The "look ahead" time and "release" time you will need to experiment with for the best results.



    Now after 15 hours of processing, here is the same section from before after the hard limiting process ..



    And zooming out, we can see the overall levels of the mix are nice and even, and hopefully sounds awesome

    Acer E5 i7 2TB 16GB ~ 512GB SSD ~ WIN 10 ~ TSP 2.11 ~ AUDIO 6 ~ X1 ~ DN-X1600 ~ X1 ~ SPECTRA ~ TWISTER ~ ATH-PRO500 MK2 ~ AT2020 MIC

    "This aggression will not stand, man."

  10. #10
    Tech Mentor Tigris's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    Hannover, Germany
    Posts
    266

    Default

    I would recommend using Garageband to make your mastered mix into a podcast. You can set marks with Links and afterwards have a) a online-version which can be skipped through and a CD with CDTEXT and individual songs.
    I mix stuff on my things...

Page 1 of 8 12345 ... LastLast

Tags for this Thread

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •