Level Normalization Workflow (Live Preperation)


#1

Hello! I’m going through the process of preparing for a series of live sets I’m doing with the Rytm mkII. I’m looking for some feedback on workflow for volume normalization and maybe setting up some macros and scenes. I have an idea of how to approach it, which I’ll explain, and then you guys can hopefully confirm I have the right idea, or give me some tips on how I could improve the process and maybe get better results. I’ll give a little bit of background information on how exactly I’m using my Rytm in hopes you guys might be able to give me more specific advice.

This kind of turned into a long post, so here’s a TL;DR with the questions I have about everyone’s workflows:
-When you normalize a kit, do you make all track volumes the same?
-When normalizing a Kit, do you normalize everything at the sound level (ie each sound’s post-drive amp output), or with each track’s volume?
-If I want to swap out a sound in one of my kits live, is normalizing every single sound on my Rytm ahead of time the only way to avoid changes in volume when I load a new sound within a kit?
-Do you use meters while normalizing all of your sounds, or do you do it by ear?

  • Is there a better workflow than this: normalize sounds, then balance kits, then normalize kits?

I’m part of a duo, and for the last year or so I’ve been functioning as the “drummer” of our duo. We’ve been making a track per day where we jam for an hour or two and then edit everything together. While we’ve been writing these songs, my workflow has more or less been one pattern per song, and usually a build a kit from scratch for each song. So at this point, I have a large collection of kits and sounds that I’ve made.

We’re now trying to transition to more of a set oriented approach; we condense what we would have done in an hour previously into about ten or fifteen minutes, then transition to the next song. We have a very improvisational approach to the way we’re playing our sets. I loosely use the patterns from all of our “studio jams” (ie when we spent an hour or two making one song) as a starting place for our live sets.

I’m now running into some volume normalization issues as I start swapping out sounds in a pattern’s kit, or switch between patterns. I know it’s technically my fault for not having a standardized process of making sounds and kits, so I’m trying to go back and fix my volume issues at once.

I know track volume is tied to a kit, and not to a sound, so that doesn’t seem like it should be the place to start normalizing everything. I also know that track volume is tied to each individual output’s level which complicates things a little more for me. I’m using two individual outs of the Rytm and removing them out of the master out. I take the BD out for it’s own channel, and I’m going to be taking the SD individual out and using the Dual VCO machine one it for either synth-y sound design type stuff, or for bass lines. Everything else will be going through the master out and go through an Analog Heat together.

So as far as I can tell, the best approach to basically have a huge template for live sets would look something like this: Go through all my kits and turn the BD and SD tracks to max so that they have maximum signal coming out of their individual outputs and then I can gain them appropriately on our master mixer. Then go through all the other voices and set each track to the same level (like 90, to maintain some headroom). That would mean any difference in track volume would be from the sound itself, so the next thing to do would be to go through each sound, drive to taste, and then balance all of the sounds with their post-drive amp levels. At this point, a single kit should be balanced, but this is where things start to get a little fuzzy for me: If I changed each sounds amp output level from what is saved with the sound, that change is NOT saved with the sound, correct? It would just mean that when I load the kit, the sound is set to the right level in regards to balance of the whole kit. But what happens if during my live set I want to swap out one of those sounds? If the change in volume was only saved in the kit, I run the risk of having a newly loaded sound being too quiet or too loud. To me that implies that if I want to swap out sounds, I have to normalize EVERY SINGLE SOUND I’ve ever made (hundreds at this point). That sounds like a huge pain in the ass; am I missing something that would ensure each sound is the same volume?

If I do have to go through each sound and normalize them, what would be the best way to do that? Go through one voice at a time or something? Like starting with the BD voice, and loading one by one each BD sound and adjusting them one by one? What would I be comparing it to, the previous sound? This is where I have no idea what the best workflow would be, and I’m hoping that someone who has gone through all of the before might be able to save me some headache and share their best practices.

So let’s assume now that I’ve gone through and normalized every sound (before normalizing kits). Every time I load a new sound into a previously existing pattern, there should theoretically be no change in level (assuming I haven’t used any P-Locks). So now if I change patterns or kits (again assuming no P-Locks are used in the pattern), any change in volume would be more or less because of the kit; more specifically each track’s level. So then I should go through and normalize each kit relative to each other. Because I have each sound normalized, I would have to maintain sound balance within a kit using the track volume…which means NOT normalizing kits by using track volumes. That would mean in order to normalize one kit relative to another, it would have to be done in the kit’s FX section, specifically on the compressor page…alright, that makes sense I think.

So the workflow seems to be: start off by normalizing sounds (This makes swapping sounds safe while playing live). Then go through each kit and balance the sounds to taste with the track volume (This keeps each kit sounding musical and not just like a wall of sound). Then go through and normalize kits relative to each other via the kits compressor FX page (This makes kit swapping within the same pattern safe while playing live). These things combined should mean that I can swap out sounds AND kits as a please while playing live, which I think is everything I want to do (at this point at least). Please let me know if I’m missing anything, or if you know a better way to do all of this, or if you have an even better idea than mine!

The last thing that comes up is that I’ve completely neglected to make macros and scenes for my kits. I figure that because I’m going to be going through each sound and kit in such detail, it would be a mighty fine time to start setting them up. This has turned into ultra mega long post so I’ll save questions regarding that workflow for another time.

If you made it this far into my post, thank you SUPER much for taking the time to read all of this and consider the workflow issues I’m facing. Any and all help and advice would be very, very much appreciated. Be well everyone!


#2

This is a technique I use, as well as many others including:

TLDR “Mix the levels of all instruments in relation to a kick drum that hits the same dB level in your mixer”

  1. Set master volume on your Rytm to 80% or so, don’t ever touch it again
  2. Plug Rytm into your mixer
  3. Load up a kick drum sample, make a four-on-the-floor pattern with only the kick sound
  4. Look at the volume meter showing the level the Analog Rytm input…not the volume meter of the mixer’s master output.
  5. Adjust the mixer “channel input gain” of the Rytm’s input channel so that the level meter on the mixer hits about right in the center of it’s range (not hitting 0 dB / unity / the last green led)
  6. Cut a triangle of fluorescent tape and tape that little arrow to mark the point where the kick drum volume reaches
  7. Do not ever change the Rytm’s master volume output, kick drum track level, or instrument level ever
  8. Using Rytm track volumes, velocity, instrument level, etc… bring up all the levels of your other instruments to sit well in the mix in relation to your kick drum. Save the kit.
  9. Every time you make a new kit or call up a kit you’ve already made…normalize everything to your KICK, which now has an actual level which can always be referred to.

Does that make sense?

At any given time, your kick should always hit that point on your mixer’s VU meter, because that represents an absolute value. Everything else should be mixed to fit around that kick.

If you do this correctly, changing patterns will not be much of an issue. If you mute out all instruments except that kick, you should be able to jump around to any pattern in your Rytm and the VU meter showing the level of the Rytm channel should always hit the level you’ve marked with the tape. Don’t deviate from that.

Good luck!


#3

Thank you very much for the response!

It makes perfect sense to me, and thankfully I’ve been doing something very close to this. The input level meter is a sweet tip and is something I totally overlooked. I’ve been metering in a DAW to show peak and rms dB levels, as well as a LUFS meter, but the advantage to doing it your way means I don’t have to do all of this in front of a computer any more.

The only issue I potentially see in this is that I always always always use my kick on the individual out and take it out of the main mix. I would hesitate putting it back into the main mix because the kick would influence how the main FX distortion and compressor sound and ultimately what a kit’s balance would be like relative to the kick. So I guess to adapt your original comment a little bit:

Take the kick out of the main mix, normalize all kicks both as sounds and within kits, and then balance the rest of the kit while monitoring through the main out.

Thanks again SUPER much for the advice. It’s really appreciated.