Recording Hip Hop

Hey guys,

Please bear with me. I am super new to Cubase and recording in general. I’m and artists myself and I’m tying to learn to produce music. Feel free to check me out if you want.

Anyway! I’m trying to figure out where to set my levels for recording. I have to vocal track outs done and they sound good. They are very clean and the mic did not clip during any part of the recording. The files themselves are great. However, when I’m trying to master it my stereo out channel keeps clipping. I’m not sure where I went wrong. If I turn everything low enough the mix doesn’t play well in cars and such. It just doesn’t have the right sound. I’m hoping that someone can give me some pointers on how to make the volume sound good without the clipping. I’ve watched enough youtube videos to be able to get the files recorded but the mixing is killing me. I’ve found a lot of info on electronic music but not so much for hip hop vocals. I also read that when we record we should keep the channels volume set at 0 and try to keep the meter peak level around -6 so that we can adjust it during mastering later. I don’t know if that’s correct. Any help would be greatly appreciated. (please provide tips and tricks in a stupid persons language.) :wink:


First of all, welcome to the great world of music making! If you want to become an athlete you need to train, if you want to become a guitar hero you need to practice. It is the same way with mixing. Alas it takes time to get mixing right. It takes years to master. However to point you in the right direction: Yes recording with peak levels around -6 should be ok. When playing back several tracks the sound will add up and two tracks that do not distort one by one, may distort if payed at the same time. Most effects (like reverb) also adds to the “problem”. Thus you need to lower the output of the different channels (do NOT touch the red output fader ever!) in the mixer not to distort the full signal out and set the levels of each channel so that they are in balance. You can do that by the faders or you can use a plugin to trim the peaks. Normally this is done by a compressor or a limiter. They can be placed on both the different channels or in the output bus. “Normally” you would use a compressor on the tracks and a limiter on the output bus. You “normally” need to EQ all you tracks so that each instrument has its own place in the sonic spectrum. This “helps” the instrument to preserve a higher volume and not add up to the problem mentioned at the start. Panning to give the instrument its place left or right will also help to preserve the higher volume. You could say that panning places the instrument right/left. EQ the instrument up/down and reverb back/forth. Think of the instrument placed as a room where every instrument should have its own place. The mentioned limiter on the output bus will also make you have as high output as wanted. However remember that there are some standards (if radio playing is desired) on the loudness levels. What I have written here are just simple rules. Every mentioned area is a study in itself where also personal preference determines the sound. The more you mix the better you get. Do not get frustrated if you do not achieve the sound of your dreams in the first attempts. It IS difficult. It took me 6 years to get decent sound and an additional 6 to get it “right”. However it gradually improved. So will you.

It doesn’t matter what kind of music you produce. The rules of recording and mastering are the same for the exception of hip hop having more bass. For mastering I go above 0 because that’s the only way to make it sound like most music out there. It’s called the loudness war you can google it. Therefore you will see some clipping and that’s ok just go with your ear not by what the meter shows. Because everybody does it. If you master your music at -1 or 0 your music will sound like music from the 80s or 90s. Weak compared to today’s music.

For mixing a lot of people group their tracks to make things easier. For example vocals, music and drums can all be grouped. In your situation if you have good vocal recordings but having issues. You should look at what you did or where you went wrong. It’s hard to pinpoint the issue without looking at your project / mix. The best advice I can give you is to compare your mix to your favorite artist and go back and forth, mixing-mastering until you get it right.
You could have your vocals under 0 and group them. Mix and group your music also it will make it easier to fine tune your final mix. Don’t clip your mix yet. When you’re mastering your music you can go above 0. Don’t worry about the
clipping. You will notice when you play your songs from your iPod or CD. Good luck and have fun, get it down to a science :smiley:

If you want people to read your diatribes you should learn how to split the text into manageabkle paragraphs.

There you go. Much easier wasn’t it? :slight_smile:





“do NOT touch the red output fader ever!”

I did, and i’m doing it often. :mrgreen:
It depends on how you want your interaction with the EFX’s.
Most of the advice is good though, so excuse me for the obvious reaction. :stuck_out_tongue:

A nice way to start is actually to convert some of your favorite recordings to a wave file and import it in cubase, and then look how it has been processed, and then work towards something similar.
Probably most of the tracks in hiphop are as flat as a pancake. So compressing and limiting is key here. Experiment with multiband compressing to get all frequencies at the same loudness. This is most likely at the end of the proces, so that’s when a track is finished. And before it is finished: take your time to get every track sound the way you want it to.

kind regards,