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How to make a Section of Music seem Louder

Discussion in 'Recording In Progress' started by WrayGun, Sep 13, 2017.

  1. WrayGun

    WrayGun Tele-Afflicted

    May 5, 2006
    Pittsburgh, PA
    I have a song I am recording, and I want the parts where the hook kicks in to be perceived as being louder/more intense than what is leading up to it. Does that make sense? Other than literally making those tracks louder, is there a psychoacoustic trick to accomplish this? I don't want the non-hook parts of the song to be too quiet. Think of pretty much every Nirvana song, that goes from moaning to screaming. (No offense, I love Nirvana)

    Hope this makes sense.

    BTW, I am using a fairly ghetto setup, but I can manage to get some pretty good sounds out of it. Thanks yinz guys.

  2. LKB3rd

    LKB3rd Friend of Leo's

    Jan 10, 2013
    Automating the volume is one way. You can just turn up the hook a decibel or two. Another way is through the mix, where certain parts come in louder when you want the extra juice. You could double some parts and bring in the doubles on the hook for example.

  3. paratus

    paratus Friend of Leo's Ad Free + Supporter

    Dec 2, 2010
    +1 on these comments.

    You could also take all the tracks except for the drums, send them to a buss, heavily compress that buss, then fade it in at the sections you want to beef up. You will be able to hear the difference it makes. It can be as subtle or noticeable as you want, depending on the amount of compression and how much you turn up that buss.

  4. MDent77

    MDent77 Tele-Holic

    Jun 13, 2016
    New England
    I agree.

    Doubling parts can work well.

    Some times accentuating the bass part by adding a clean guitar playing the identical notes.

    Or add a percussion instrument doubling the tempo/notes.
    WrayGun and fendrguitplayr like this.

  5. fendrguitplayr

    fendrguitplayr Poster Extraordinaire

    Oct 11, 2006
    Greater Boston
    Duplicate the track with a different EQ setting.
    teletimetx and WrayGun like this.

  6. Pualee

    Pualee Tele-Meister

    Feb 5, 2014
    Since you imply you aren't exactly sure what you want by asking "does that make sense", I'll offer another option.

    What you really want isn't volume, but tension. Increasing volume is one way to increase tension, but there are others. You could look up some different ways, but off the top of my head - increase speed, increase pitch, add notes that create tension within the chords, key change... anything that has to be resolved will create tension in the music. Or you could just play louder :D

    you could add a drone note to the riff, or play 5ths, octaves, 4ths or anything else instead of just the melody. It is hard to give good suggestions without the actual music.
    WrayGun, tintag27 and Chicago Matt like this.

  7. beyer160

    beyer160 Tele-Afflicted

    Aug 11, 2010
    On Location
    Listen to the Pixies, which is where Nirvana got it from. Late-'60s Pink Floyd like "Careful With That Axe, Eugene" does it, too.

    Play softer in the verses, harder in the chorus. Done.
    WrayGun likes this.

  8. Frank'n'censed

    Frank'n'censed Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 27, 2011
    Parts Unknown

  9. studio

    studio Poster Extraordinaire

    May 27, 2013
    All of the above suggestions are cool.

    So we can tell by now that there's more than one way to
    accomplish what you want.

    Pualee is right, without the music itself, it's hard to
    determine what's the easiest, fastest or trickest solution.

    If we take a certain song, maybe we can dissect the process:

    Nirvana is cool, however this might have a little more modern approach,
    utilizing the tools we have available to us now.

    listen to how they build up the instruments and how they take away
    instruments to give the perception of dynamic content while still
    maintaining the hot radio mastering quality.

    What do we hear that keeps us engaged?

    Somebody mentioned tension. The tension notes are in there, aren't they!
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  10. WrayGun

    WrayGun Tele-Afflicted

    May 5, 2006
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Okay, I think I can link to a snippet of an MP3. This is a rough draft, so please don't judge the whole song by this! The hook/chorus starts at about 0:17. It is just a doubled or tripled guitar on the lowest two strings. It just really loses momentum :(


  11. Sean_D

    Sean_D Tele-Meister

    Jul 12, 2017
    Sacramento, CA
    First thing I noticed is the drum beat stays the same between both parts. A good fill will signal the upcoming change and then a different variation on the drum beat helps. The distorted guitar part is definitely quieter than the clean guitar before it. So definitely bring the volume up on that. If that is as loud as it will go, then you will have to get a better capture of that part.
    WrayGun likes this.

  12. LKB3rd

    LKB3rd Friend of Leo's

    Jan 10, 2013
    I would try turning down the guitar in the first part doing the riffs and the parts that come in at 17 up. I'd try to make the hook guitars sound as aggressive as possible if I wanted that part to jump out like you're talking about. You could try making the guitars in the first part sound as pretty and smooth as possible, so when the aggressive guitars come in it's a bigger change. Like some compression to smooth it out. Also, some cymbal hits would give some good accents I think. Imagine Dave Grohl going apesh!* on the cymbals lol.

    This song in addition to adding more parts and subtracting them, is using reverb and delay to give the big parts a lot of bigness. The song is loud right from beat one even in the quiet parts if you look at your meters. But the "quiet" parts are dryer and smaller reverb/delay wise.
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2017
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  13. WrayGun

    WrayGun Tele-Afflicted

    May 5, 2006
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Thanks all. These drums are just there for a beat to play along with, but point taken on how those could build excitement. And I guess turning down the verse and turning up the next part is an obvious way to help. What about layering in a higher harmony or something?

  14. tintag27

    tintag27 Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

    Jan 18, 2010
    Macclesfield, UK
    Well it's a good start!
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  15. Hexabuzz

    Hexabuzz Friend of Leo's

    Dec 13, 2014
    Northeast PA
    4 words...

    Bullet With Butterfly Wings...

    Great example of contrast - no mistaking the verse from the chorus...

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  16. AAT65

    AAT65 Tele-Afflicted

    May 29, 2016
    Edinburgh, Scotland
    Head over to and start reading some of Alan Pollack's masterful analyses of the Beatles songs. Look out for all the things he points out that the Four Lads (& George Martin, of course) would do to build up songs and highlight different sections: layering in instruments, changing drum patterns, adding harmonies, changing key, contrasting open and closed chord patterns -- there's a song-writing / arranging masterclass in there.
    WrayGun likes this.

  17. AAT65

    AAT65 Tele-Afflicted

    May 29, 2016
    Edinburgh, Scotland
    Sometimes the other way round for the Pixies: loud in the verse and quiet for the chorus! Gouge Away is the classic example, all built on one 5-bar chord sequence: and when the last chorus stays loud, for a change, it really kicks.
    WrayGun likes this.

  18. LKB3rd

    LKB3rd Friend of Leo's

    Jan 10, 2013
    I think adding to the :17 part would be a good idea. High parts low parts. How about a lead guitar throwing in some accents like a high chord slid down WAHHHHHww every 4 bars like. You could to do the standard big guitars trick of two takes of exactly the same thing panned left and right. If you want to really go crazy do a doubled low part, and a doubled high part even. The first section guitar has more going on and in order to make it sound like the small part you've got to beat it with your loud part :p
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2017
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  19. Stisch

    Stisch TDPRI Member

    Jun 18, 2017
    Silver Cliff, WI
    Something to consider if it hasn't already been mentioned. Use automation to keep the Soundstage a bit more narrow during the quiet parts. When your louder parts come in double some tracks and use automation to widen the soundstage.
    WrayGun likes this.

  20. blowtorch

    blowtorch Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    May 2, 2003
    Dynamics in performance. Everything is relative, in its own context. You make one part loud by making other parts relatively quiet.
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