How Loud Should Your Song Be?


During the mixing process, a song need not to try to be it's loudest.  It is the mastering engineer's job to get songs loud.  Most DAW plugins cannot successfully reach the high RMS volumes that mastering programs can reach.  Mastering plugins and equipment also process the audio signal differently than mixing plugins and equipment. You should aim for about -14dbs before mastering and -10dbs after mastering.  

 When mastering pop music like Rock, Rap, or even some R&B songs, you should try to reach a RMS volume of -10db.  It is not required but a good rule of thumb.

Most professional Pop music tries to hover around a RMS volume of -10db.  This is seen to be very loud.  Many home recordings will not be able to reach this level without drastically degrading sound quality but it is a good number to shoot for.  If you are mastering a pop song, you should try to reach this number.  But if it starts sounding bad you should back off a bit.  It is not the end of the world if you cannot reach this level.

RMS volume will usually be a negative number on the db scale when it comes to music, and anything higher than -10db would likely be too loud.  A positive RMS volume reading would definitely be too loud in commercial music.

How do I measure RMS volume?

A good meter to use that will help you monitor your RMS volume is the PAZ analyzer made by Waves.

What is RMS volume?

RMS stands for “Root Mean Square”

RMS is the average volume level of the voltage levels measured over a sequential series of samples. 

In other words, it is the average volume level between the loudest portions of the audio and the quietest portions of the audio.  It is not really a perfect average because it will change depending on what part of the audio is playing at any given time.  It is sometimes referred to as “true loudness”.  It is a more accurate way to measure perceived loudness of a piece of audio.

"By Kelvin Butler" Kelvin Butler is the author of this blog. He also is part owner of KBJ, a website that caters to the working class musician by offering affordable services in audio mastering, and more. Learn about his very affordable offers at


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