THE PINK NOISE BALANCING TECHNIQUE
The pink noise balancing technique is a fast and easy method to quickly get a mix-down into a rough balance, ready for further refinement. By following this simple guide we can remove the need to make difficult balance decisions early on in the mix process. this can save a lot of time and frustration and help the producer to quickly move forward with finishing the track.
This method can help new producers quickly get in the right ball-park is the pink noise technique.
Like the name suggests, this involves playing pink noise within the DAW. Pink noise is equal energy per octave, which is similar to how the human ear hears sound, whereas white noise is equal energy per frequency, which makes it better for testing electrical equipment.
The method is as follows:
- Play some pink noise within the DAW (many synthesisers are capable of generating pink noise.)
- The level of the noise is fairly irrelevant, it’s the fader levels relative to each other that are important rather than the absolute levels themselves.
- Make sure that all other tracks are muted and faders are set to zero
- Unmute the first fader and raise the level so it is only just audible above the pink noise. Re-mute the fader.
- Repeat step 4 for the rest of the tracks in priority order
- Remove the pink noise. This should leave you with a rough balance in which every part can be heard over a given threshold (the level of the pink noise)
- Select all of the tracks and adjust them simultaneously to a level that allows plenty of headroom on the master channel. (Peaking around -10dBFS is a good figure for correct gain staging.)
The disadvantages of this method are:
- We don’t get a good indicator of whether certain parts need further dynamic processing.
- This is only a rough balance that will still need further adjusting.
- Relying on this method too heavily can result in all mix-downs sounding flat and similar.
When using this technique always remember that it’s the relationship between the different parts levels that is important. Not the absolute levels. The final absolute level is adjusted by selecting all the faders in step 7.
This article is an excerpt from book 2 of our Ableton Mix Series and is also covered in more detail in our tech house 2017 video course.