Levels in Mastering for the Various Streaming Platforms (and what happened to the K-system of metering)

Sage Audio and Mastering the Mix both wrote great articles on the levels required for the various streaming platforms so I thought I would share these as this is a common concern for music producers. I’ll also tell you how I am rationalizing my mastering.

First, the link to this great article by Sage Audio: https://www.sageaudio.com/blog/mastering/mastering-for-streaming-platform-loudness-and-normalization-explained.php.

Mastering the Mix has an equally excellent one here: https://www.masteringthemix.com/blogs/learn/76296773-mastering-audio-for-soundcloud-itunes-spotify-and-youtube

(I also don’t use the K-scale or K-system any more thanks to the inventor of it, Bob Katz himself. Scroll to the bottom to see why.)

Updated: 12-October-2021

Here is how I am currently mastering my music:

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How to Replicate Biosphere’s Shenzhou Track Using Loops and a Few Effects

I like Biosphere’s (Geir Jenssen’s) music very much and one of my favorite albums is Shenzhou. The album is made up of repeated looping of Debussy orchestral track samples. The title song is particularly interesting to me as I like the depth and width of the sound. I was able to figure out how to remake it and I’d like to show you how I did that.

Last updated: 09-Febuary-2021

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On Musical Loops

Making music with loops is not a new process. However, after thinking about it, I was surprised at how many different ways there are to loop samples to make music. I’ll add to this as I discover more, but the list is long right now.

Last updated: 26-December-2020

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Adding Interest by Using LFOs

To make my synths and drums more interesting, I sometimes use a simple trick – adding a LFO.

I learned this whilst studying Boards of Canada’s music. It often has a wobbly frequency or envelope to it, and I can often replicate this without hardware, but within a DAW using LFOs.

Here’s a simple method that takes less than a minute to apply and gets great results.

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Getting Beautiful and Realistic Sound From a Piano Simulation

Simulating a Real-World Piano

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After having been to Budapest and found an 1896 C. Bechstein piano in the lobby of The Continental Hotel, I’ve learned much more about how I can make the same sound of it or any other piano within Pianoteq or via other vst instruments and effects. But, in fact, I aim to make it sound even better. Here’s what I have learned so far.

Last updated: 04-October-2019

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Creating an OTT-like Preset Using Pro-MB

Last updated: 26-February-2019

I had the goal of creating a great multi-band compression/expansion scheme using Pro-MB. Fortunately for me, Xfer Records gives away a free plugin effect called OTT that is a three-band compressor. It performs upward and downward compression and is a recreation of the Ableton Live OTT setting  (Over the Top) in their compressor.

I like it because it gives a bright and vibrant sound quality to any track it is applied. Also, it is free.

But, I wanted more control like I can get from Fabfilter’s Pro-MB multi-band compressor. So, I set out to replicate it (kind-of). While not the same as OTT, I found it quite easy to get the sound I was after once you know what the OTT is doing:

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Brian Eno’s Sound

Brian Eno is, to me, the undisputed king of ambient music. He coined the term, “ambient music” in his groundbreaking album “Music for Airports.”

Here I will revel in his sound-creating process and offer some captured bits of what I know of it – not as an attempt to deconstruct, per se, but more as an aspiration to his greatness.

As I learn more, I will post more, and update this one.

Last updated: 1-March-2019

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Glitchmachine Plugins and How to Use Them

Glitchmachines makes some fantastic plugins for making music. Their plugins are generators and effects or combinations of each. They are packed full of features and are intimidatingly complex while being simple to use. I find that I experiment for hours with them.

I am trying to learn how to use them effectively in my music process and will be updating this post as I progress.

Last updated: 06-March-2019

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U-he Satin Preset for Giving Air to Synths

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Air is a term used to describe that high and lofty feel to a mix. Sometimes your mix may get muddy or you just want to get a bit more high frequency into it. “Air it out” so to speak.

The U-he Satin plugin is based on tape and there is an old trick that studios did to air out a mix using tape. It was to record at a high speed and playback at a lower one. I’ve made a preset for it and you can download it. Here is what I did to replicate it and how I use it.

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U-he Satin Preset for Simulating Cassette Tape Recordings

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Cassette tape is a medium that many bands recorded their sound on before mastering them. I wanted to reproduce this effect using U-h Satin so I made a preset that approximates that.

The U-he Satin plugin does not come with a preset for this, but I can choose the cassette speed of 1 and 7/8 inches per second (i.p.s.). I’ve made a preset for it and you can download it. Here is what I did to replicate it and how I use it.

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U-he Satin Preset for Simulating Dolby HX Pro

Dolby HX Pro Headroom Expansion was a method used in tape recordings in the 80’s to give an improved signal-to-noise ratio. As a result, the recordings were much more powerful-sounding with clarity and presence as well as low-end strength. It did this by introducing a bias signal at the high frequency to push the recording out of the inherent non-linearities of tape.

I had one of the tape decks that could record in HX Pro and it made every recording just shine. I wanted to achieve this with today’s vst plugins and I believe I finally have with the U-he Satin tape simulating plugin.

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Creating the Xfer Records Dimension Expander in FL Studio

Xfer Records Dimension Expander is a free vst plugin effect that makes any synth or instrument sound much “wider.” This means more presence and stereo effect.

I wanted to create this in FL Studio using the stock plugins, so first I had to understand what the Dimension Expander plugin was doing. It seems to be modeled on an old trick where the incoming signal is split and the split-half is phase inverted and then fed back into the main signal that is not. Then there is some delay added. This is what powered the Roland Dimension D, a piece of hardware from the 80’s.

Fortunately, you can get something that sounds quite similar, and maybe even better, from FL Studio. I used the Fruity Stereo Shaper plugin. Continue reading

Xfer Cthulhu MIDI Out to Piano Roll in FL Studio

Xfer Records Cthulhu program creates arpeggios and chords like none other. Lots of patterns when used with the correct synths, can sound a lot like deadmou5 and this makes sense as Joel Zimmerman has been known to use Cthulhu made by his associate, Steve Duda.

I find that often it is desirable for me to get the actual notes Cthulhu creates out to the piano roll in FL Studio so they can be edited individually and outside of Cthulhu.

I’ll start by showing you the basic set-up and then the one where you can get at those individual notes.

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