DJ Mix levels from Ableton? Need to use Editor?

Discussion of music production, audio, equipment and any related topics, either with or without Ableton Live
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buckman
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DJ Mix levels from Ableton? Need to use Editor?

Post by buckman » Sun Sep 20, 2015 3:00 pm

I have done many DJ mixes from Ableton, and love it, but just wondered whats the best way to get a nice even pumped up/maximized mix straight from Live itself as a Master File rendered?

Everytime I do a DJ mix, with the tracks being so different in volume, I find myself having to go to another editor to pump up certain songs/waveforms, so that they are consistent and all flow at a similar volume due to the nature of different tracks and records...

How do others do this? Can you really just put a Waves or Live Limiter on the master track, and get all the volumes consistent over the mix without any further tweaking?

I hear that Pete Tong uses Ableton for his Radio 1 Essential Selection shows, including his voiceovers etc, which would make sense.

With the amount of new records every week that he must play, surely he must not have to go in an tweak tracks here and there to get a nice maximized waveform?

Any tips on DJ mix (maybe all tracks at say -20db) and any tips on what should be on my Master Channel so that I can master properly directly out of Ableton? ie: RMS limiter/compressor

thisodd
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Re: DJ Mix levels from Ableton? Need to use Editor?

Post by thisodd » Sun Sep 20, 2015 5:46 pm

You can indeed use plug in's on the master channel to get a more consistent level but, the main thing I would try to do tho, is mix more consistently. It's not that easy but if you use your EQ well while you're mixing you can actually make up for the most part of the volume indifferences, in fact that's how we used to do it on vinyl back in the days... Try to avoid overlapping loud sounds simply by EQ'ing them out when possible.

Make a few mixes where you try to keep the level constant just with the mixers EQ, check the files afterwards and see/listen where you can improve, try to hear the mistakes you make when you launch a track, this requires a lot of practice, but it's well worth it and it's on your mixer for a reason!

Sorry if I didn't get more technical about master effects, but it's really more about mixing better in the first place than simply smashing another limiter on the whole mix and at the same time sacrificing sound quality, in general everything you mix is already so squashed that adding more only takes the life out of the tracks.

Cheers, hope I could help.

buckman
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Re: DJ Mix levels from Ableton? Need to use Editor?

Post by buckman » Sun Sep 20, 2015 7:54 pm

Very helpful thanks, but not only the mixes and transitions, (which I can do with more careful eq) but I'm also on about the tracks that vary in volume (not so much int eh mixing/overlapping) but when the next track comes in the whole track (looking at the master waveform) looks and sounds a lot quieter...

I know Dance music today is limited and the loudness war varies to some real brick wall limiting, but it just seems that I take more time editing the Master track afterwards than the full mix itself?!

I just wondered if there was a plug in chain or settings for a compressor or limiter that would do most of this job for me just levelling the final mix into a more 'even' sounding mix?

thisodd
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Re: DJ Mix levels from Ableton? Need to use Editor?

Post by thisodd » Sun Sep 20, 2015 9:39 pm

buckman wrote:Very helpful thanks, but not only the mixes and transitions, (which I can do with more careful eq) but I'm also on about the tracks that vary in volume (not so much int eh mixing/overlapping) but when the next track comes in the whole track (looking at the master waveform) looks and sounds a lot quieter...

I know Dance music today is limited and the loudness war varies to some real brick wall limiting, but it just seems that I take more time editing the Master track afterwards than the full mix itself?!

I just wondered if there was a plug in chain or settings for a compressor or limiter that would do most of this job for me just levelling the final mix into a more 'even' sounding mix?
Well first of sorry for my half post earlier on glad that you liked it but let me complete, Of course I don't know which mixer you use, but most mixers today have a knob to listen to both tracks inside the headphone, which you can use exactly for that purpose, of course the main level of each track should be as well considered when I said EQ which was also only half the thing you can do with a mixer. So yeah basically you can level inside the phones using EQ and Gain of each track and also back in the days on some mixers we didn't have iPhones but we where that far at least :p

For the Master I would really not put anything except a limiter, and only to avoid crackle and what not. So I would of course try to go as far as possible, and of course there are many tricks to boost and go loud as hell while trying to keep it under the pain level but then pain level also varies it's not easy. Anyway I would really practice on level awareness and use the tools you got as explained, focus more on what you can do with the mix "which automatically pushes you to keep a good balanced level", and also what tracks work well together those are more important aspects and need some attention if you wanna make some good mixes.

Peace

buckman
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Re: DJ Mix levels from Ableton? Need to use Editor?

Post by buckman » Mon Sep 21, 2015 7:49 am

Thanks, I should probably point out for any confusion that I'm not using a mixer or decks, just Ableton for mixing the whole DJ mix together, so all the tracks start and end within Ableton :)

thisodd
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Re: DJ Mix levels from Ableton? Need to use Editor?

Post by thisodd » Mon Sep 21, 2015 10:29 am

Ok, I didn't expect that at all, now I'm curious what your setup looks like, especially sound card and operating system. On OS X I know you could probably setup an aggregate audio device to be able to cue both sound card outputs into one headphone in order to accomplish the same without external mixer.

But yeah without details about your setup, I can't help.

buckman
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Re: DJ Mix levels from Ableton? Need to use Editor?

Post by buckman » Mon Sep 21, 2015 10:47 am

Sorry, again I am not doing this live...

I am just creating a DJ mix by mixing and overlapping tracks, in the arrangement view to make a recorded DJ mix (albums etc) but here, is where after rendering that the master file still looks all un-even, so am thinking maybe mix all tracks at say -12db or -20db? use EQ as in a live situation (I use EQ3 like a DJ mixer to swing off the bass etc) and then have a master channel plug in chain to pump everything back up to a loud Dance Master? (without me having to do it all in another program?)

:)

thisodd
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Re: DJ Mix levels from Ableton? Need to use Editor?

Post by thisodd » Mon Sep 21, 2015 3:54 pm

No worries, just wasn't clear to me when I read your first post, I was of course thinking mixing DJ sets in front of audience. Now the question arises whether you are playing and recording those tracks on the fly, lets say from Session view into Arrangement view, which is a possibility, or are you simply laying those tracks down and adjusting them in order to overlap perfectly where you want them to overlap and so on and then bouncing from the master channel into an audio file?

Because if you are just bouncing a mix, it should be quite easy to keep a balanced level. Also If you see a 1 hour mix that looks like a straight sausage and think this is how it should be, think again because that's exactly how it shouldn't be, meaning most likely that mix is squashed, or over compressed and what not, and most likely doesn't sound as good as it could (Just Loud).

Actually it is good to have something more dynamic looking in the end, like a landscape with mountains, you should only trust your ears on that one and listen to the overall level. It should be quite easy to spot which tracks are too loud or silent, and then it would be quite easy to simple bring the level up or down where it's needed.

Again, what you explained with bringing it down like -20dB and so on is totally possible, I would rather go for -6dB should be more than enough, then depending on your version of Live you should have a folder under Audio Effects > Audio Effect Rack > Mixing & Mastering in the browser, there are some pre made effect racks from Ableton that should be able to squash and limit your mix to your liking, check out all those ending with "Master" just grab one at a time throw it on your master channel and see what you like and check for results maybe that's really all you need in the end.

JDFS
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Re: DJ Mix levels from Ableton? Need to use Editor?

Post by JDFS » Mon Sep 21, 2015 5:58 pm

I do the same with Traktor (with Auto gain) and Ableton, throwing "Analog tape Master" preset or something like that on the Master for even things out even further. I love my setup and like the sound of it, it's very gnarly and saturated.

Shift Gorden
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Re: DJ Mix levels from Ableton? Need to use Editor?

Post by Shift Gorden » Mon Sep 21, 2015 6:14 pm

So, if you're in arrangement view, I guess your just using a couple of channels and then pre-loading/mixing your individual tracks as audio files on either channel 1 or 2?

You could use the gain function in Ableton's audio editor to either make up or reduce the volume for each individual audio file. Use the meters in session view to make sure each track is more or less them same volume, maybe have them peaking at about -3db.

Once everything is the same volume, you could then put a limiter on the master track and adjust the threshold so it's just limiting the odd peak now and again. That way, you should have a pretty loud mix overall, with everything being a similar volume and still preserve the dynamics of the original records.

102455
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Re: DJ Mix levels from Ableton? Need to use Editor?

Post by 102455 » Mon Sep 21, 2015 8:39 pm

I have a question...

Why are you doing this in Live? Surely the best way of recording a "DJ mix" would be to use some DJ software (it's designed for the job) with one of the numerous USB DJ controllers?

That way you'd have far better control and feedback over levels, EQ etc. and be able to make adjustments in real time.

When DJs play live, they are checking levels and EQ when they cue the next track, to make sure that it's not vastly different to what's already playing.

Even if you did it with DJ kit though, you will always get ups and downs (over the course of the entire waveform) during a long mix. Don't worry about it too much. Ears adjust to these things.

JDFS
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Re: DJ Mix levels from Ableton? Need to use Editor?

Post by JDFS » Sun Oct 11, 2015 1:36 pm

I record all my decks in seperate channels in Ableton, and that is the only thing that is "static". EQ, FX, fader movements and even tempo changes are recorded in Arrangement View. So when I screw transitions up, I can edit them afterwards. I have been using this setup with succes for 2,5 years now. First with Ableton 8, now with 9, SoundFlower and Traktor Pro.

For volume indifferences I use the "Analog Tape Master" FX preset (or something named like that) and Traktor Audio Gain. With the FX preset, I can compress if necessary and with the Saturator in it, it sounds very "analog".

Warmonger
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Re: DJ Mix levels from Ableton? Need to use Editor?

Post by Warmonger » Sun Oct 11, 2015 7:14 pm

Every DJ mixer has per channel gain control and yes, you are supposed to use them in DAW as well.

One warbing though - don't add gain at sample volume, as it will overdrive and distort. I use negative gain on individual tracks and then limiter on sum to get right loudness without clipping.

Stromkraft
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Re: DJ Mix levels from Ableton? Need to use Editor?

Post by Stromkraft » Sun Oct 11, 2015 8:56 pm

102455 wrote:I have a question...

Why are you doing this in Live? Surely the best way of recording a "DJ mix" would be to use some DJ software (it's designed for the job) with one of the numerous USB DJ controllers?
Well, if you're doing a mixed album release with your own songs it makes sense to do the mix directly in Live. I can see upsides doing it in Traktor for instance, but these days there is no redo there and making the mix in Live is then sensible.
Make some music!

Stromkraft
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Re: DJ Mix levels from Ableton? Need to use Editor?

Post by Stromkraft » Sun Oct 11, 2015 9:02 pm

buckman wrote:
Everytime I do a DJ mix, with the tracks being so different in volume, I find myself having to go to another editor to pump up certain songs/waveforms, so that they are consistent and all flow at a similar volume due to the nature of different tracks and records...
If you use a proper RMS Meter, like Sonalksis FreeG and Utility for adjusting volumes for different tracks, a great limiter — or more gentle compressor plug-ins like Waves MV2 for instance —  on the master, then mixing ready made tracks should be a piece of cake. Just think like a DJ and do it.
Make some music!

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