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Old May 22nd, 2012, 05:44 PM   #1 (permalink)
Carnivorouschrysalis
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Mastering

Hey, once again, newfag here.


I've been reading a lot on the forums, and there is quite a lot of things that are over my head (probably due to my being a complete idiot and requiring people to explain things with examples in person), though I will keep reading, and keep trying to build my knowledge and understanding.

But I come to you all on the simple, yet not so simple, topic of mastering.

Complete understanding of this subject eludes me, however, what little I have come to really take in seems to confuse me even more.

For example:
My understanding of mastering, is that once something has been recorded and mixed, then (after a break, if self mastering) one goes and edits the plug in chains for the master bus, to get the perceived loudness one wants without actually driving the volume up and getting distortion, and to add in the final touches to the entire mix (removing problems, enhancing tones, ect.).

Now, if this definition of mastering is wrong, I'm sure you guys will let me know (in fact, I am somewhat relying on it, as the threads i've read on mastering are kind of vague on what mastering, as a whole, is).

Now I will get to how this confuses me, with a little background on my experiences.

My recording/mixing experiences have generally gone the way of recording all of my tracks, mixing them & getting them to sound exactly the way I want them, and then calling it good. When I have had problems, it was usually due to, say, my guitar tone being crapy, the settings on my vocal processor (my humble, but decently effective Line 6 Pod X3 Live, which i pretty much use for EVERYTHING, as money is a very big issue with me), or simply the technique i used to perform the tracks, aka, cupping the mic (which i now know was a horrible mistake), and things like that. Now, i fixed those problems, by not repeating them: making a new, better, guitar tone on my pod and having that satisfactory BEFORE I went into my computer, editing those vocal settings, and learning from the mistakes I made in performing and the recording environment. This seems to have worked for me.

The concept of mastering is quite new and alien to me, (since pretty much everything i have learned, thus far, has been from isolated experience, and i have had very little insight into proper terminology and techniques used in a professional setting). Like i said, i've always pretty much just gotten everything the way i wanted it to sound in the mixing phase, and then just called it good. And, I sort of understand using limiters, and even saturation plug-ins, to get that perceived loudness without intense clipping. However, the "enhancing of the song's feels and removing of the issues" aspect sort of escapes me.

If one is doing all the stages by themselves, and they have a mix that they are completely satisfied with, would simply "calling it good" necessarily be a bad thing? And, if one applies a limiter and compressor and all that jazz to the master, and they find problems, wouldn't that person just go back to the mixing phase to eliminate those problems, or to enhance tones?
Pretty much what i'm asking, is if someone gets it right in the mixing phase, is the mastering stage necessary?

Another, sort of off-topic inquiry: If you mastering someone else's work, would they simply send you a rendered file of the whole thing and you work on that, or would they individually render the vocals, the guitars, the bass, and the drums for you to work with?

If it's just a single file with everything on it, I can see the need for the mastering process of finding the problems, and eliminating them from the whole thing, but if they send you the guitars one one file, the vocals on one file, the bass on one file, and the drums on one file,all separate from each other, then wouldn't you sort of go back to a pseudo-mixing phase, and editing the guitar track's problems separately from the vocal track's issues, and the bass's issues, and so on.

I know i have taken quite a round-about way to ask what is a pretty direct set of questions, however, i felt i needed to add in some context, so that the questions can be considered and answered thoughtfully and effectively.

These questions my also result from my lack of understanding on what mastering is. If that is the case, I really would like to have a thread devoted to mastering: What it is, what it helps with, and the basics on how to go about doing it, as most of what i have read on mastering is quite circumstance specific, and very vague on what mastering, as a process, is. And even if that isn't the case, i feel such a thread would be very helpful for newfags like me.

Anyways, i'll stop rambling.
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Old May 22nd, 2012, 05:52 PM   #2 (permalink)
JeffTD
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The mix is DONE and printed.

You're generally dealing with a single stereo file for each song, or maybe stems (individual stereo bounces of drums, guitars, bass, fx, vocals, etc...) AKA stem mastering.

You're right, it's for polishing, mix cohesiveness, making the mix sound better in general, and getting it up to commercial volume. It's NOT for tweaking things within the mix itself.

Some people blend the two and master in their mixing sessions; I don't like to do this and find I get a better result when separating the two things. It forces me to commit during the mix.
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Old May 22nd, 2012, 06:37 PM   #3 (permalink)
Arsenu,
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OT just mastered an EP and will master an album a few days for now, iv'e gotta say i can't believe how comfortable mastering with Studio One is! makes life so easy...

anyway, i highly recommend Studio One as mastering DAW
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Old May 22nd, 2012, 07:01 PM   #4 (permalink)
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how expensive is it? money is of large consequence to me, otherwise i would not be using my pod to run everything through, and having to use a sure beta 57 for vocals -_-
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Old May 22nd, 2012, 10:37 PM   #5 (permalink)
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one thing that can be really valuable about mastering is giving the stereo mixdown to someone with fresh ears to work on, someone with an unobjective view of the song/band
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Old May 23rd, 2012, 03:26 PM   #6 (permalink)
waltz mastering
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Carnivorouschrysalis View Post
Pretty much what i'm asking, is if someone gets it right in the mixing phase, is the mastering stage necessary?
Here's a long winded explanation guaranteed to confuse you even more:
http://recording.org/content/381-wal...mastering.html
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Old May 24th, 2012, 03:19 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by waltz mastering View Post
Here's a long winded explanation guaranteed to confuse you even more:
http://recording.org/content/381-wal...mastering.html
Waltz, i actually found this very enlightening and informative, i only wish it went into more detail, and maybe a bit into the process of mastering.
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Old May 24th, 2012, 07:52 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Mostly we're doing the following and in this order:

- Listening to mixes and making suggestions to the engineer for changes
- Pulling out low end mud with FFT filter
- applying any digital EQ or compression deemed tasteful on a song by song basis
- Converting to analog doman and applying EQ, compression and limiting usually in that order
- Assembling mastered files and making appropriate fades and song spacing decisions
- Making a Red Book CDR or DDP master file with CD text for the pressing plant.

To answer the cost question - it can be very expensive like 3 grand or more in some NY houses or it can be affordable like 400 or so in smaller facilities like mine. You can get good and bad work in all price ranges, all depends on the particulars.

But the thing you really need to know is that if you send the right mastering engineer a balanced mix that has been created with a great deal of care and experience, the mastering engineer can make it shine and you will be a very satisfied client. If you send him a rough or amateur mix, he may not be able to rationalize the cost of his work, no matter what it is. All falls on the recording/mixing engineer. And this is why I think its important that mastering engineers and mix engineers work together to get the mixes nailed before committing to the final mix downs.

Cheers,

Colin
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Old May 25th, 2012, 03:37 PM   #9 (permalink)
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The cost question was for the DAW Arsenu suggested for mastering, Though still, thanks for the information, Colin!
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Old May 28th, 2012, 02:18 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Good mastering can bring so much musicality to the overall sound of the mix and deliver the essence of the music to the listener and stay in his mind for a long time

Bad mastering can just make the music sound less interesting and fatiguing.

So volume is not that important as some might think - actually most good albums are not that loud - but they bring the bands vibe to the listener really well
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