Altering Master Volume changes the Mix

We are mixing a new song & have hit a problem that’s dogged us before but now weve found this forum maybe we can get the answer.
We have the mix sounding good but as weve added tracks the master volume is peaking badly & when we turn it down the mix changes completely & some tracks lose volume far more than others.
It is very annoying to have to alter all the track volumes to compensate, what is wrong?
Hoping you guys can come to our rescue!

Tina Sarah & Allison

Hi. Try settings > prefs > options > reduce vol when adding tracks box. Just a thought.

Another good tip is to put a good compression on your master channel… in another page on here, someone had a link to a classic mastering limiter, which will heavily compress your sound, if you wish

All the Classic gear is solid:-) The Master limiter is very user friendly and depending on the style of project, can be pumped to boiling point.
Their delay is cool - auto BPM.
Flanger - juicy.
Reverb - Phat.
There are more.
Cheers Phoo.

I’m fairly confident I know the answer to this one.

When adding new tracks, you need to think of a half circle in terms of separation/pan.

For example, you record drums then bass and now some guitar, but then you notice the guitar is being buried in the mix and the master is peaking over red line.

Now all recording engineers,(like I’m a real engineer I wish), but what I’ve learned in the past is to make sure each instrument, be it drums, or guitar, has it’s place on the volume circle, meaning the way you pan each instrument. Now everybody has a different way of doing this but I can tell you if the kick drum for example is 40% left and right and the guitar is 40% left and right then the two of them will try to cancel each other out and drive up the master volume. So, as a rule of thumb, what I do is, try to avoid over driving the master volume by following a basic rule of thumb.

Drums 70% to 80% pan (read this in a magazine)
Bass 30% to 40% pan (keeps bass centered low, good punch)
Lead vocal 50% to 55% pan (Makes vocals stand out between drums and bass)
Main guitar 40% to 50% (Complements vocals)
Backup vocals 55% to 70% pan (Hay I have backups singers in the back ground)
Lead guitar 80% to 100% pan (With a little reverb makes it stand out above the crowd, so to speak)

The idea here is to give each instrument it’s place in the circle of stereo/pan so that there is very little overlap, adding pan automation or panning an entire instrument to one side only is also done on many tracks these days and even in the old days (Santana for example). The whole idea is to spread things out so each instrument has it’s place within the spectrum of the panning/stereo circle. How you pan is entirely up to you, but keeping the bass around the 30-40% mark and the drums in about the 70 to 80% mark and then panning everything else in between and around is a good start. This should help with the master being over driven as the sound is now being spread out with little or no overlap in regards to the panning stereo circle.

Not to over do things for you but once you got the idea you can improve things even further as n-track has support for surround sound as well, where you can pan to a single corner, back or front.

Hope this helps,
Best of luck,

wow thanks everyone, theres a lot there for us to try.

Tony - Found the box to decrease volume when adding tracks, will use that in future. We have the Classic plug ins but havent used them much.

Danny - We have never useda limiter before, didnt know exactly what they did, so we’ll try using one.

Paco - Your reply was very, very interesting but we dont know exactly what you mean by thses percentages. Our pan controls go from 0 to 100 both left & right. When you say Drums 70% pan, do you mean pan the drums 70% left or do you mean two identical drum tracks 1 panned 70% Left & 1 panned 70% R. or have we got the wrong idea?

But can we ask again why should reducing the master volume change the mix so drastically that some tracks almost become inaudible?

Check that box and do a remix.

First, let me mention that mixing a song and then adding tracks generally means starting over each mix.
Paco is on the right track, panning will help. But another important thing to consider is the frequency range of different instruments. There are some charts that show both the primary and secondary or harmonic of instruments. sound engineers talk about “carving out a space” for the different instruments, limiting the frequencies that are interfering with other instruments ( sounds.) You have to listen to the total sound of a recording - you can get the guitar sounding perfectly when playing only that track, but when the vocal is added, the vocal is dead - the guitar is taking away from the vocal, you may have to “carve out” /lower the frequencies on the guitar track to get the singer sounding full. Odds are that the guitar will sound fine in the mix because it is not the focus of that section. And an important principle is to turn down the EQ - the temptation is to keep turning it up. And remember to check the harmonic frequencies, they can make a big difference in the sound. As you add tracks, sound cancellation from phasing becomes a bigger problem - try switching that on some of the tracks that are fading.
And be aware that humans prefer to hear certain frequencies better than others, so sounds placed in those ranges appear louder - you can’t trust a VU meter by itself to guide you.
There is more, a lot more things to consider, but those three, Panning, EQ, and phasing are a good place to start. Then you can get into “ducking” and “Side-chaining.” There is also the “proximity effect” of mics.
I never use the auto volume setting that was mentioned, it will not actually solve the problem. You may have to turn down the Master as you add tracks, get a “sound level meter” and set up you speakers to give you about 85 db. That is in the “normal” range. Turn up the sound a lot higher and the mix may change, turn it down and it will change. Put the recording on a car stereo, on those crummy old speakers you never threw away. When it sounds good on all of them, you are getting there!
I have avoided specifics here, there is just too much to consider - do a search for the information and select from what you find.
Good luck and welcome to the frustrating and exciting world of sound recording.

Yes if you have 2 tracks, drums for example, you’d pan one left-70% the other right+70% to give you stereo separation. When dealing with a mono track you can copy and paste the same track to another new track then pan the two left and right. The problem there is you end up with two virtually identical tracks, thats where “track offset” can add a little more separation in terms of delay to the track to give it a stereo sound-effect between the two. A range of 01.0 can delay the track enough to give you a separation feel, however oscillation can occur. Adding more off set can counter this. Bax3’s explanation is very technical even beyond the scope of my primitive thinking, (no offense Bax3), but it’s good read Bax3, none the less.

As side note: about testing the mix in your car or other sound systems you like, I couldn’t agree more. I do the same thing. If it sounds good on my 6 speaker 2250w Pioneer in my car (2x12" subs in the trunk) it sounds good on anything. I have found, for those that managed to read through all this, that the Alesis m50 headphones, which I recently bought, I should know later this year how they do in regards to mastering/mixing. For now they are better than what I was using, which were just Sony bud ear phones, (pretty good), followed up with, in car testing which was and still is a pain in ass. Hopefully the new headphones do the trick and I won’t have to do the inside/outside every few minutes mixing/master with “me” car…(British accents there me lovelies))

Best of Luck,

Here is the link for the best limiter I’ve found so far:

Classic Mastering Limiter

What a limiter does is much like compression, it boosts the volumes of all your tracks, making the overall song louder, while putting a “ceiling” on the master channel, so that it doesn’t start clipping. The limiter is especially useful if put on individual tracks (such as voice or drums), as it can bring them out in the mix. I’ve experienced what paco describes concerning the volume spectrums myself, and I often get around this by having drums, bass and vocals centered in the mix, then everything else is varying amounts to the left or right channels.

Rotsa Ruck, Raggy!!!

thanks everyone for the extra advice, bax this recording lark has started to sound complicated!
We daren’t lose sight of the fun element, or cooking, laundry & cleaning will sound preferable!

Anyway we’re rather pleased with ourselves. Sarah found out why turning the master volume down caused such a drastic change to the mix.
she found 3 little buttons never noticed befrore on the mixer by the 4 aux channels we have.
3 were set to post master volume,
1 was set to pre master vol.
& other tracks dont go thru the aux channels.
so turning the Master vol. affected all these types of tracks differently!
Anyone got a quick fix inthe light of that so we can salvage our mix but reduce the volume so it doesnt go in the red? This is the biggest project weve attempted!

Thanks for all the information.


Kjaerhus is out of producing plug ins I guess. The page linked above has something totally different now.

Yes but we managed to download it from another site.
We didnt like what it did to our mix though.
We used the tips the guys here gave us instead & have the song finished.
It goes into the red a bit but rock n roll should sound a bit dirty dont you think! It sounds awesome in my car.
I think we should play a gig in my car!


What a shame… varakeef…
If what you are saying is correct…
I have many, if not most-or-all of their Plugs…
The Pro Limiter_SE is the top Limiter Plug I have-and-use…

Torben and Flavio managed to guide me through some sticky registrations issues to get their Pro plugs to run with-in n-Track…
Way back when…


Free Kjaerhus Audio Classic Series are still available (as a bundle) HERE

Hi plumbum:

You’re correct…
If anyone doesn’t have those plugs in their collection, they are missing the boat…
If yea don’t have them, get busy and download them…


TinaM. I hope I didn’t throw too much out there at one time - you are quite right it needs to be fun for sure. Sometimes I get too lost in the science. You’ll pick up what you need along the way, or you may find it better to just do good takes and let someone else mess with the “finishing” of the recording. Probably the easiest and most effective fix for a mis is with panning and that doesn’t require as much science as it does a since of feel.
Have fun! :)

Thanks Bax we appreciate your reply.
I’m going to speak my mind here & say that this forum scares off a lot of less geeky & less technically minded people like us. We came here a couple of years ago & were completely alienated by all the tech speak & cliquey, nerdy attitude we found. I think weve proved you can use ntrack reasonably successfully without being obsessed with the science & technology.
After all its the music that made us all buy the thing & that doesnt require any superior technical ability. I wish this forum would dumb down a bit, you might see a bit more activity on it if it did.


Quote: (TinaM @ Oct. 01 2010, 6:10 PM)

I wish this forum would dumb down a bit, you might see a bit more activity on it if it did.

I'd have to disagree, there are a number of forum members willing to help those even from scratch, in fact there are some that can't even navigate the more fluent applications at all, where n-track excelled in ease of use. With any program as dedicated as n-track is, the learning curve is still steep regardless. I appreciate your comments and lock forward to any and all contribution's you make here. As a stepping stone, n-track is good stuff and what you gals have done is more than most can even dream of. Tracks, videos as well, most of us can only wish, but you gals are living the dream and I'm jealous. Keep up the good work.

As a side note, I've made 4 albums and I'm still jealous.