We need to understand there are two different processes at play when we are trying to make a track loud: the production/mixdown stage and the mastering.
Ilpo, you’re missing one. There are three.
In my recent guide, I cover the three production stages where loudness should be considered: composition, mixing and mastering.
Composition is more than ‘use good quality sounds’. It’s about making choices about which sounds to include and what role they have in the music. From the guide:
When choosing sounds for loudness, you have to understand what kinds of sounds and instruments sound loud. When arranging sounds for loudness, you’ll have to understand how to combine sounds in ways that maximise the desired effect. As discussed earlier, there are two fundamental attributes of sound relevant the way we perceive loudness – length and frequency.
You could compose your music using nothing but long notes in the upper-mid pitch ranges. That could make for a very loud recording, but it probably wouldn’t be very pleasant to listen to. As you know, most music that is interesting to listen to requires a wide expressive range. That means you’ll need some low notes, some high notes, some short sounds and some longer sounds. Confused yet?
But don’t worry, not all is lost. To bring some sense to it, we’re going to introduce another concept – depth. This is the difference between foreground and background.
Quite simply, the foreground sounds have a much greater impact than the background sounds on the final recording. The greater the depth (the ‘distance’ between foreground and background), the greater the effect. Furthermore, the fewer sounds in the foreground, the greater the loudness potential.
This stuff makes a big difference to the potential loudness of a track. If you don’t think about loudness until mixing and mastering, it’ll be too late. Decisions about foreground and background have already been made. Decisions about pitch and timbre and tone have already been made.
Don’t wait for mixing and mastering!