From 4 April 2007 I will start to add music related tips and tutorials to this page.
My first tutorial concerns using analysis of the audio waveform to make the best use of sonic "space". It's quick and it's easy! First, copy a 5 minute classical solo piano track from a CD - one with quiet and loud passages; next copy something by Madonna from the Ray of Light album. Open both wav files side by side in a wave editor. The Madonna track fills the rectangle - it has been very skilfully squeezed and squashed into the sonic box - all of the quiet bits as well as the loud bits sound loud - but the quiet bits still retain the essence of quietness. The classical piece on the other hand has lots of peaks and troughs where the live capture and reproduction of the classical instrument retains it's real life loud and quiet characteristics. Squashing the sound into the sonic box, as I have termed it is achieved by use of input volume compression and limiting - and that can be achieved using software - most DAW packages have these workhorse effects. Experiment with different levels of compression and limiting on the classical piece. Compression boosts the quiet bits whilst limiting caps the the loud bits and ensures the overall volume does not get too loud and distort the final mix-down. In Cubase you can achieve all of this in the Dynamics Window. Or you can buy dedicated plug-ins - I recommend the PSP Vintage Warmer an excellent compressor with lots of classic presets. Wikipedia carries a full explanation of Dynamic Range Comprssion. My own working method involves applying gentle compression to each piece to ensure high overal volume, then at mixdown put another compressor AND limiter across the output signal OF THE WHOLE ALBUM and listen through end to end with a clean set of ears - ie rest for a day to restore objectivity. Nudge the settings up and down to optimise use of the sonic space - the amount of compression and limiting you use varies with the genre of music you are producing. For Heavy or dance music sounds apply lots of compression and limiting, and for classical/sensitive music, apply sparingly. (Just enough to squash any disproportionately loud peaks.)