raising volume of garageband recordings -- help?

Discussion in 'Digital Audio' started by ataylor, Feb 13, 2009.

  1. ataylor macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2008
    #1
    so i'm finally going to try and learn how to do something that has puzzled me for a while now. i'm doing some basic acoustic recordings in garageband and it seems that whenever i export them to itunes, the recordings i make are noticeably quieter than "professional" recordings from the albums i've imported. how should i go about getting them up to about the same volume levels without clipping or losing clarity? no, i don't want to send them to be professionally mastered -- is there a way for me to do something about it on my own? thanks!

    for what it's worth, i am recording vocals/acoustic guitars simultaneously through a blue snowball usb mic into garageband on my 24" imac.
     
  2. Luap macrumors 65816

    Luap

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2004
    #2
    As you have found, this is essentially what mastering is about.
    At it's most basic level, you can normalise your tracks. I don't know if GarageBand does this (I don't use it) but any basic audio editor can do it. All it does is raise the level of the audio to the maximum permissible level (digital full scale) before clipping would set in.
    Then there is compression and limiting. This is really what beefs the levels up to more 'professional' like levels that you are used to. The problem is, it isn't easy to apply properly (even many of the pro's are getting it wrong these days and over doing it). It takes a long long time to learn how to use compressors and limiters effectively. There is no 5 minute course to tell you what to do, and no magic button that does it for you in 1 click. Plus it's different for every genre of music, and generally different for individual tracks too.
    Some audio editors have a semi automatic mastering mode/plugin which will get you much of the way there. But the rest is trial, error, experimentation and using your ears and taking your time.

    Good luck!
     
  3. Mattaut macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2008
    #3
    ^What he said. Also, you said you're recording the vocals and guitar simultaneously. How is your mic placement? If you record guitar and vocals separate you can get better mic placement for each and get a better signal. Get your original recording/performance the best you can before you start messing with comp. and limiting.
     
  4. zimv20 macrumors 601

    zimv20

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2002
    Location:
    toronto
    #4
    as Mattaut indicates, step 1 is making sure you get good signals. though one can use compressing and limiting to bring up some signals, i do *not* suggest you do so on the entire mix to match volumes in itunes -- you'll kill the audio. same thing with normalizing -- avoid it.

    that makes step 2: use your volume knob.
     
  5. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2006
    Location:
    Redondo Beach, California
    #5

    Along the same line as above. The rule I read, that I like says that the stuff that matters the most is the part of the chain that is farthest away from the computer. So you start with the singer. if the vocalist sucks there is little you can do. The musician matters the most, practice, practice practice.

    OK next in the chain is the "space" between the sound source and the mic. 2 inches vs. two feet matters a LOT. As said above if there are two source and one mic you just can't ever get this "space thing" right. Next in the chain is the mic and then the preamp and so on. But the preamp is closer to the computer than the mic and should matter less then which mic you selected. By the time you get to mastering you are all the way at the end of the chain.

    Better mic placement will provide a better signal that can withstand the "abuse" of further downstream processing. It also allows simple things like different EQ setting for vocals and guitar.

    Seems to me the way your system should evolve is that the nest step is to add a second mic, then work on placment and then later the next step might be better mics and room treatments. It will never end as you just change one thing at a time.
     
  6. Mattaut macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2008
    #6
    You got the right idea, except its arguable whether the pre or the mic is more important. If you have a ****** pre, then no mic will be able to reach its full potential. If you have a $3000 pre then any mic will sound good through it. I think with mics its more important to have the proper mic rather than a good mic. Some vocalists do better with condensers some do better with moving coil(aka dynamic), it takes experimentation and experience to know what the proper mic is for a certain situation.
     
  7. ABFjake macrumors newbie

    ABFjake

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2009
    Location:
    Oklahoma
    #7
    Definitely try to get a pure sound first off. Track everything individually.
    If you really want to get pro audio levels, experiment with a lot of compressors and limiters.
    As a fellow Garageband user, I use the "peak limiter" setting to keep everything from clipping. Mess around with the compressers. Also, keep in mind that EQ is a big part of what makes your tracks clip. Experiment with different frequencies to see what's making your tracks clip.

    Finally, if you don't want to do all of that, just go and bring up the volume using the "options" setting on the song in iTunes.

    hope I helped!

    -J.
     
  8. zimv20 macrumors 601

    zimv20

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2002
    Location:
    toronto
    #8
    if i may, it's much better to record at lower levels and not rely on any hardware or software to watch your levels for you.

    i found that everything sounded (much) better, especially when the track counts start adding up, when i tracked at ridiculously low levels, like -18 dB or even -36 dB. "in the lower third of the level meter."

    sounded more open, easier to mix, more depth, etc.
     
  9. ABFjake macrumors newbie

    ABFjake

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2009
    Location:
    Oklahoma
    #9
    Agreed. I tend to go that direction when recording ambient/post rock music, since it allows for improved dynamics. I only really rely on the peak limiter for when I'm mixing deathcore/hardcore bands that have one dynamic: heavy. haha

    But for sure, recording quiter is a must.
    *note* don't play soft, just turn your levels down, other wise you get tons of noise later. :)
     
  10. pkoch1 macrumors 6502a

    pkoch1

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2007
    Location:
    Boston
    #10
    If you have a great preamp then a crappy mic will sound like a crappy mic through a great preamp. You're just polishing a turd. If you don't have the right mic, you won't get the right sound. Period. Yes, there's something to be said about a great preamp, and I think its an important step in the signal path, but what you said is inaccurate.

    That doesn't add any depth at all. It adds noise. If you're set to record to 24 bit, you're probably using around 8 bits, and raising the noise floor in your recordings.
     

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