Context:

I've been composing for years now and am still shaping my sound. Within the past week or so, the issue of equalization has come up. When I first started composing, I would just turn everything up to FF and adjust envelopes as necessary to get the drums, leads, etc. that I wanted. Then I learned to turn my instruments down and that they could sound just as good at A7 and lower. Most of my work has the volume turned up to between 7 and 9 with harmonies at 5-6 and snares at 6-8. The WAV channel varies, but I rarely set the volume higher than 20-40 at the start end of the waveform and usually make it dip in volume from there

Problem:

When I compose, everything sounds fine in headphones. When I perform however, depending on the venue's acoustics, certain stuff is equalized weirdly. My snares/NOI instruments are too loud and my pulses seem too rambunctious. Maybe it's the kind of music I try to make (four-on-the-floor stuff, i.e. the stuff most people on here probably don't want to hear anyway). Adjusting high end with my (basic) mixer during performance results in pulse sounds getting turned down with NOI sounds (duh).

Rules of thumb I've learned reading up on various chiptune sites:

"Turn your instruments down" - Roboctopus
All equalization should be done in LSDJ - some person I unfortunately don't remember

Questions:

If there is a good rule/set of rules of thumb for equalizing the different channels on the DMG:

- at what volume should the pulse channels be, in general?
- at what volume should the WAV channel be, in general?
- at what volume should the NOI channel be, in general?
- does it make a difference if the melody is in the WAV channel?
- how loud should harmony be?

If there is no rule of thumb, what advice can you give in general to give composing/recording/performing a level playing field regarding sound?

Tl;dr: I'm a n00b at equalization and need help making stuff sound just as good coming out of house speakers as it does in my headphones. Plz help

This is called mixing, not equalization.
I recommend reading up on that, and equalization (ie applying EQ) as well. There is not a golden rule for what volume an element of a track should have however. A good mix is more about listening to which elements should protrude more or less, and create a balance between them.

Last edited by _-_- (August 8, 2017 6:04 pm)

Technically EQ is a kind of mixing where you adjust the relative volume of a sounds harmonics. tongue

Sound design in your instruments is a good place to start with your mix, the less you have to eq, the better as the process tends to make bad sounds worse.

There are no rules for what sounds go where in LSDJ, put a kick in noise or pu2 or whatever.

There are no rules for what sounds go where in LSDJ, put a kick in noise or pu2 or whatever.

Oh, hex yeah! I have no trouble putting pulse kicks wherevs. That's no problem at all.

There is not a golden rule for what volume an element of a track should have however. A good mix is more about listening to which elements should protrude more or less, and create a balance between them.

That's what I've thought, and it is most helpful, thanks. I suppose a better question would be "at what volume should my instruments be in general"? Should they be lower in general? If so, how low?

Sound design in your instruments is a good place to start with your mix, the less you have to eq, the better as the process tends to make bad sounds worse.

Thanks for your reply as well. Just for clarity's sake, are you saying that if I equalize something after it's "done", it sounds worse than it would if I didn't equalize it after the fact?

Usually, I start composing with mixing my instruments and, like I said, I usually place the lead around 7, the harmony around 5 or 6, the snares and hi-hats around 6 or 7, and the bass between 20 and 40. I'm told that this is too loud, though. Maybe I just need to turn down my NOI instruments?

speaking as someone who also has had problems making everything too loud, i actually think performing live is its own thing. lately when playing live i've heard things in the venue differently than i do in headphones or through mixer/monitors at home. when i'm at home i listen through the internal headphone amp with headphones, or through prosound jack plugged into a mixer with some EQ to boost the bass and possibly mids. when i've played live, i've noticed PU leads to be too loud or noise instruments to seem harsher - i think it's because the high end can have some extra boost to it, depending on the sound system and acoustics of the venue - there's nothing wrong with turning down the high end on your mixer here. after a live performance, record some notes on what you thought seemed out of place in which tracks. then, go back home and listen again through headphones and see if you can make some compromises. maybe the pu leads or noi snares / hats can actually be lowered a bit. maybe you can throw in an M command or two for extra dynamic variation (since 4 bits is not a lot of dynamic range to begin with). maybe experiment with extra E commands on your instrument tables. e.g. have your snare env set to 80 or something and then

--
S10
S10
E51
--

so you get a bit of a transient, if that makes sense.

there is also another thing you can do which is this: test your song on as many different sound systems as you possibly can. headphones, phone speakers, the internal game boy speaker (seriously), your car, your (or a friend's) TV/entertainment/stereo system, studio monitors, anywhere you can plug into basically. that way you can get an idea of how it's going to sound regardless of what system it's played on, and make compromises that way too.

re: EQ'ing after the fact, the phrase "polishing a turd" comes to mind. like it's just generally a good idea to eliminate extra steps if possible. like as an example instead of EQ'ing the high end out of your kick, try designing a kick with less in the high end to begin with. otherwise you're just creating extra work for yourself trying to compensate for something that might not have been that good of an idea to begin with. if your pulses and snares sound too loud, lower the volumes, rather than trying to compensate for it by turning down the high-end in the mixer EQ. EQ on a mixer should (ideally in a perfect world) be for fine-tuning only.

all in all though, it sounds like you're getting the hang of it actually. just keep playing, the more you do it the better you'll get.

edit: VV yes this is very true!

Last edited by urbster1 (August 9, 2017 9:35 am)

Think at the frequencies: if instruments plays in the same range they fight for standing in the same place, affecting each other sound. Otherwise if it plays alone in that range you can put down the volume and hear the instrument clearly
In my experience high envelope on cymbals and hihat can really fuck a track so I suggest to lower down hihat and cymbals on NOI, you will hear it anyway (like E5x or less), same theory on PU when used in high notes melodies: probably it act in a freq range alone so no need to boost the volume.

Last edited by iano (August 9, 2017 4:53 am)

urbster1 wrote:

when i've played live, i've noticed PU leads to be too loud or noise instruments to seem harsher - i think it's because the high end can have some extra boost to it, depending on the sound system and acoustics of the venue - there's nothing wrong with turning down the high end on your mixer here. after a live performance, record some notes on what you thought seemed out of place in which tracks. then, go back home and listen again through headphones and see if you can make some compromises. maybe the pu leads or noi snares / hats can actually be lowered a bit.

...

there is also another thing you can do which is this: test your song on as many different sound systems as you possibly can. headphones, phone speakers, the internal game boy speaker (seriously), your car, your (or a friend's) TV/entertainment/stereo system, studio monitors, anywhere you can plug into basically. that way you can get an idea of how it's going to sound regardless of what system it's played on, and make compromises that way too.

These are excellent ideas, and I never thought of them! Thank you for your advice!

urbster1 wrote:

re: EQ'ing after the fact, the phrase "polishing a turd" comes to mind. like it's just generally a good idea to eliminate extra steps if possible. like as an example instead of EQ'ing the high end out of your kick, try designing a kick with less in the high end to begin with. otherwise you're just creating extra work for yourself trying to compensate for something that might not have been that good of an idea to begin with. if your pulses and snares sound too loud, lower the volumes, rather than trying to compensate for it by turning down the high-end in the mixer EQ. EQ on a mixer should (ideally in a perfect world) be for fine-tuning only.

This is something I needed to hear. I'll experiment with lower end snares in the NOI channel.

urbster1 wrote:

all in all though, it sounds like you're getting the hang of it actually. just keep playing, the more you do it the better you'll get.

Thank you very much for your encouragement. I haven't gotten too many opportunities to perform over the past few years and have been trying to start a chip scene in south Florida. I and some other have gotten a small group going and have recently found a good spot for a home base for performances plus one other candidate.

iano wrote:

Think at the frequencies: if instruments plays in the same range they fight for standing in the same place, affecting each other sound. Otherwise if it plays alone in that range you can put down the volume and hear the instrument clearly
In my experience high envelope on cymbals and hihat can really fuck a track so I suggest to lower down hihat and cymbals on NOI, you will hear it anyway (like E5x or less), same theory on PU when used in high notes melodies: probably it act in a freq range alone so no need to boost the volume.

I have noticed this when playing two pulses at the same frequency. As a result, I usually put my harmony/rhythm chords about an octave or two lower (depending on where the bass is) and lower the volume a step or two below that of the lead. I suppose it's always been a second-nature kinda thing to me once I noticed it, but your stating it just solidifies it for me. So, thanks!