031 MixCoach Minute-The 6 dB Law

I want to discuss something with you today, more about the 6 dB Law. Stone has done his homework about db and percentages. You should like this.


Raw Transcript:

Kevin: Hey guys, it’s Kevin with MixCoach. Time for another episode of the
MixCoach Minute. Thank you, guys, for liking what we do. Be sure that if
you see a video on here that you want us to talk more about, or maybe you’d
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and we won’t do any of these any more.

Yesterday we talked to Stone about some Stone Walters investigative
reporter style that he does on some of the things that we talk about. He’s
done it again today. A few episodes ago I talked about vocal mic’ing and
how that, as see if you can see my hand here, that when you put a vocalist,
it was about getting a great vocal sound and getting a great vocalist. The
fact that when you put someone really close to a mic like this if they know
what they’re doing then when they sing a loud note they pull off.

When they double the distance from the microphone it is 6 dB. Likewise,
when they go in and half the space between their mouth and the microphone
the sound goes up 6 dB. Then I said when you’re standing far from a
microphone and you do the same physical action where you pull your head
back just a little bit it doesn’t make as much difference. So, that’s why
it’s important that you should find the sweet spot of a mic to where the
vocalist, what their actions if they’re experienced singing and capturing
their vocal in a microphone, then you have got the sweet spot and that
their actions are actually making a lot of difference.

Well, Stone has done a little bit more investigation, and he’s found, it’s
what we’re calling the 6 dB law. I don’t know if that’s officially what
it’s called. If my vocalists are capable of using this law and it not
affecting their performance then I tell them about it. In other words, I’ll
say what I just told you, when you’re this close to the mic and you do this
it makes a lot more difference for me. I may not go into the dB or sound
pressure levels and all that kind of stuff.

So, with that being said, I’d like to toss it over to Stone, our
investigative reporter. Stone, why don’t you tell us what you found about
the 6 dB and the 100 percent? I was fascinated by the percentages you gave
me, so take it away.

Stone: What I think was interesting, Kevin, an extension of what you said
about mic technique, is I was thinking well how do you apply that to mixing.
If you have a fader set at a particular level and you raise it by 1 dB,
what is 1 dB, what is 2 dB, what is 3 dB. We could say the sound is now 1
dB louder, or 2 dB louder, or 3 dB louder, but what does that mean in
concrete terms?

So, I went and did a little bit of digging and I found some interesting
stuff online from one of the door manufacturers. On their website they’re
talking about how their metering works in their particular door. They say
something interesting, that when you increase the volume of something by 6
dB you’re actually increasing the volume by twice the amount, twice the
original level. What that basically means is that you’re increasing the
volume by 200 percent. So, a 6 dB increase in something makes something
twice as loud as it was before.

If, for example, you have a kick that is, say, at 0 dB and your vocal is at
6 dB in theory your vocal is twice as loud as the kick. So, if you’re
trying to mix those two elements together it may be hard to make it work in
the context of the mix, because the vocal might be too loud, or the kick
might be too soft, dependent on what’s going on around it.

So, tying back into something you said in the other anchor points MixCoach
Minute. When you set a level on, say, the kick at minus 10 or wherever it
is you can now start to gauge where the vocal should be in relation to that
or where the bass should be in relation to that by percentage. For example,
do you want the vocal to be 20 percent louder than the kick, or do you want
it to be 200 percent louder than the kick. Because, if it’s 6 dB louder
it’s actually 200 percent louder. So I think taking that understanding is a
really cool way to get a sense of where the various elements are in your

The other thing that was interesting was I found as well that 1 dB is
actually a 10 percent increase in volume. So, I don’t understand the math
behind it. There’s this long formula that they have for calculating how it
works. What we do know is 1 dB is 10 percent, 6 dB is 200 percent or twice
the volume, and 12 dB is a 400 percent volume increase or it’s 4 times the
volume of something else.

Kevin: Wow. That really puts things in perspective. I’m thinking of some of
the things I’ve covered before like the hierarchy of mixing to where you
tend to mix the drums and bass first, then supporting instruments, then
supporting vocals, and then the lead vocals. I’m just wondering…

Stone: …Yeah…

Kevin: …I’m sure if I mention this you’ll probably do some research on
it, but I’m just wondering how all that plays in, what mixing something
last, what percentage it actually adds to the dB level that you’re mixing.
Because, you tend to mix what’s last loudest.

Stone: Yeah.

Kevin: So I’m wondering about that. That’s some really good information. I
was kind of fascinated to hear that 1 dB is 10 percent. When you put things
in that perspective if someone asks for their vocal just a little louder,
and I think we may cover this in a later discussion, but how much is a
little louder, and how much is, you know, how much do you feel. But that is
very interesting, Stone. I would love to see that formula, too.

Stone: Yeah.

Kevin: The one…

Stone: I actually tried; I got one of those scientific calculators and
tried to figure. It was above my pay grade as they say. I thought it was
really cool. Because even in relation to yesterday’s MixCoach Minute where
we were talking about the average or ballpark levels for finished mix
stems. We were saying, for example, that drums can come in between minus 22
to minus 19, and vocals are usually around minus 18. So, that shows you
that the vocals in most, or at least a lot of the finished stem sessions
that I’ve studied, are just 4 dB louder than the drums. That’s somewhere in
between your 10 percent and 200 percent. I don’t know exactly what it is,
but it’s just 4 dB louder.

Kevin: So 3 dB would be 50 percent louder?

Stone: I don’t know. I can’t figure it out. It’s one of those curves.

Kevin: My mind is blown.

Stone: …Yeah. It’s got one of those curve scales where as it goes it’s
the exponential rather than linear. It’s not like you double it and then
you get to the next thing.

Kevin: Right.

Stone: Because otherwise 1 dB wouldn’t be 10 percent. It would just be one
sixth of 6 dB which is 200 percent.

Kevin: Well, I think it’s encouraging. I don’t remember if we talked about
this on camera or off camera. I think it’s interesting and encouraging that
most mixes that you hear that are commercial mixes that you hear on the
radio or whatever do tend to have a formula that’s attached to it. In this
series of interviews, Q and A, and whatever we call this that we’re doing
actually here, we’re finding that there is a formula and that it’s
attainable. And that learning to mix can be something that you have
innately kind of built into your DNA, but it’s also a skill.

Stone: Yeah.

Kevin: That you learn, and you tend to learn that in this kind of music
this needs to be louder than this by a certain percentage. So I love the
work you’re doing.

Stone: I think it’s interesting as well because if you think about if you
listen to a particular radio station with a particular genre, say a country
music station or a pop station, Top 40, a lot of the mixes they have to
feel like they belong together.

Kevin: Right.

Stone: So it’s usually completely different mixes that are mixed in. But
the relationship between the vocals and the drum or the vocals and the bass
is usually pretty similar from song to song. So there has to be some
commonality between all of these mixes.

Kevin: Yeah.

Stone: And I think if you kind of get at that commonality whether you do it
instinctively or you actually consciously make the effort to try and figure
out what those things are and practice…

Kevin: …Right…

Stone: …shaping the mixes that way I think you get closer towards a
professional sounding mix.

Kevin: Right.

Stone: Yeah.

Kevin: Well, thanks a lot, Stone for that information. I’m going to be
processing that, and I’m going to try to stay in my pay grade as you say.
I’m going to try not to blow my mind with numbers, because I never was good
at numbers. Thank you so much, Stone.

Guys, if you like this kind of stuff be sure and give us a thumbs up on the
YouTube video and Facebook if that’s where you’re watching it. And come by
and check out MixCoach Member when you get a chance. We will see you

Do you know the actual name of the “6 dB Law”?

dB, MixCoach, Stone

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