Before you export the arrangement you’ve created for your performance set, you’ll need to do a little basic mastering. Here, we are getting into one of those subjects where no matter what I say, someone will shriek with horror that I would ever suggest such a thing…so first off, lemme tell ya:
I’m a pretty good mixer. Not a great mixer, but good enough that in a short period of time I can get everything to the point where it basically sits in the right place and has decent impact and separation. This is a prerequisite to doing a good quick & dirty mastering job.
This is meant to be encouraging. You don’t have to be Bob Clearmountain to create a usable mix for a live set. Your goal should be to be decent at it. If you’re not, study the subject and practice, practice, practice. One day you’ll realize that you’re doing it pretty ok.
Once you’ve got your mix set up, you’ll need to apply some limiting to get the volume of your mix into the ballpark of any properly mastered tracks you’ll be mixing with. The key word here is ballpark. In fact, you may have to settle for getting into the parking lot. Unless you’ve got real mastering skills and excellent tools, your efforts to create mixes as loud as the tracks you’ll be matching them against will produce a crushed, distorted mess.
If all you’ve got to work with is the Live Limiter, drop it into the Master track and try setting it up like this:
This setup adds 6dB of gain and limits the transients with a slow attack and a very fast release. Play your song at the biggest, densest point in the arrangement and take a look at what the gain reduction meter is doing:
If it’s active in the range between 0 and -6 dB, you’re probably safe: adding a bit of gain without crunching things up too badly. Beyond that, listen carefully. There’s a good chance that you’re adding distortion and hurting the track’s impact. (If you’re getting massive gain reduction with this setting, that means you’ve mixed the entire song too loud, and have probably been using the Master fader to bring the gain down so you’re not in the red. More on this another day.)
Adjust the Gain knob until you’ve got a level that you can live with. Compare it to a professionally mastered track and you’ll probably find that you’ve gotten closer, but not all the way there.
Ok, there’s quite a bit more to discuss here that we’ll have to come back to. Hopefully, this will help get you started!