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Mastering

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Despite having recording gear for a while it is only now that I am looking into recording in depth.

 

I have always wondered about the term 'Mastering'.

To me it's mixing and just a glorified term for it.

 

I do not see any differences between to the two.

 

How do you recording musicians describe Mastering?

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Mixing and Mastering are two completely different things. Let me try to put it very simply so I'm not sitting here typing for a two, or three, or four hours.

 

The mastering process makes your recording meet "industry standards" for EQ, overall volume and balance for reproduction (playback) on todays current systems. The Mastering engineer is supposed to know how to take your mixed "tape" and make it sound REAL GOOD.

 

The mastering specs were very different between 12" vinyl and cassettes in the 70's. Same goes for CD's, and then mp3 players and now I-pods or whatever. The mastering process adjusts the EQ and volume of your recording for the current playback medium.

 

It is a very important (if not the most important) step in your recording and duplication process.

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Guest BentonC

Mixing is the process of working with the original recorded tracks to get a stereo mix. Mastering is after the mixing process, when the mastering engineer gets the stereo mix, and 'sweetens' up the EQ, often adds some compression if necessary, and finally uses a limiter or accurate compressor to bring the overall level of the song to where it needs to be for commercial release. Sometimes the mastering engineer will get a 'stem' mix, where the mix is broken into some stems, so they can build the final master from there. There is a great book by Bob Katz (one of the mastering greats) that details everything in a fairly readable format.

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There was quite an interesting thread here a while back about mastering > http://forum.gibson.com/index.php?/topic/55997-role-of-a-mastering-engineer/

 

However, while I agree with what L5Larry and BentonC wrote, I really do have to ask the question why bother? If you're looking to do a commercial release then you'd be better off going to someone who masters for a living and has the right environment, equipment and experience, which most of us are unlikely to have.

If you're going to just hawk your songs round record companies then in order of importance I would say it's the song, the performance, the mix and the mastering that's the correct order to worry about. (What's better, a great mix of a bad song or a great song with a bad mix?)

If you're just recording to share with friends, they're not really going to worry. Everything you do will be fabulous.

 

With all the stuff that's available these days, it's too easy to spend your time auditioning plugins and fiddling with the sound instead of doing what you came here for. Make music.

 

If you absolutely, definitely, positively have to have a go (and you're using a Windows PC) you could try out the following sites for some freebies which will probably do the job.

 

http://antress.blogspot.com/

 

http://varietyofsound.wordpress.com/vst-effects/

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Guest BentonC

However, while I agree with what L5Larry and BentonC wrote, I really do have to ask the question why bother? If you're looking to do a commercial release then you'd be better off going to someone who masters for a living and has the right environment, equipment and experience, which most of us are unlikely to have.

If you're going to just hawk your songs round record companies then in order of importance I would say it's the song, the performance, the mix and the mastering that's the correct order to worry about. (What's better, a great mix of a bad song or a great song with a bad mix?)

 

I tend to agree for the most part. Most of the home studio "mastering" just ends up throwing a plug-in limiter/compressor on the stereo mix to boost the level and make sure you're not clipping. True mastering engineers are spending an ENORMOUS amount of money on their gear- ultra high-end converters, EQs, compressors, etc...

There aren't a whole lot of truly cost effective or accessible ways to get a really great mastering job done at home.

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I tend to agree for the most part. Most of the home studio "mastering" just ends up throwing a plug-in limiter/compressor on the stereo mix to boost the level and make sure you're not clipping. True mastering engineers are spending an ENORMOUS amount of money on their gear- ultra high-end converters, EQs, compressors, etc...

There aren't a whole lot of truly cost effective or accessible ways to get a really great mastering job done at home.

 

The bold is exactly what I do.

I guess I would have to sit in with a mastering engineer to really comprehend what they are doing and the purpose of it with their explanation.

Hoping I can also hear the results in the end result.

 

I have recently talked to someone who suggested T-Racks, so I'm going to give it a try.

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Guest BentonC

The bold is exactly what I do.

I guess I would have to sit in with a mastering engineer to really comprehend what they are doing and the purpose of it with their explanation.

Hoping I can also hear the results in the end result.

 

I have recently talked to someone who suggested T-Racks, so I'm going to give it a try.

 

T-Racks makes some of the best comp plugs IMHO. I don't think you'll be disappointed if you give it a go.

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Another thing about giving the mixed tracks to someone to master is Fresh Ears. If you're mixing you're listening to the tracks over & over & over. It's good to have an outside take on what has been recorded.

 

Take your time when searching out someone to master your tracks. Mastering engineers are people too - they have certain characteristics. A band I was in had our disc mastered by one guy, and it sounded "professional" but overall it was just too sharp or bright for our liking. So we took the DAT to someone else & got a warmer finished product. Granted - we ended up shelling out alot more cash than we had budgetted for - but in the end we were happy w/ our decision.

 

But as stated above - what's the "end purpose"? I have some great cd's from local bands that weren't professionally mastered.

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My biggest problem seems to be the mastering process. Of course with having nothing but Audacity as a DAW as my "studio" and not being a professional recording engineer might have something to do with this. [biggrin]

 

I learned fairly quickly that although using headphones is necessary for laying down the tracks and mixing the mastering process needs to be done in the "open air" as the sonic differences can be dramatic. It might sound great through the phones but on your stereo it might sound like crap. That happens to me all the time. It's to the point that as I listen to stuff I did a year ago I want to do them all over again because I could do a better job as I'm a little smarter about it all than I was then...just a little! [unsure]

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My biggest problem seems to be the mastering process. Of course with having nothing but Audacity as a DAW as my "studio" and not being a professional recording engineer might have something to do with this. [biggrin]

 

I learned fairly quickly that although using headphones is necessary for laying down the tracks and mixing the mastering process needs to be done in the "open air" as the sonic differences can be dramatic. It might sound great through the phones but on your stereo it might sound like crap. That happens to me all the time. It's to the point that as I listen to stuff I did a year ago I want to do them all over again because I could do a better job as I'm a little smarter about it all than I was then...just a little! [unsure]

You posted a couple of tracks here a while back that I thought had a pretty good, clear sound so I don't think you're doing at all badly. Audacity is a good program and if I didn't use MIDI so much for drums and stuff I could probably just use that myself. The main thing I don't like about Audacity is the way it handles VST plugins. If you want to check your mixes visually for frequency balance you could load them into Wavosaur with Voxengo's Span plugin. They're both free and they will at least show where you might make use of a multi band compressor or an EQ, and there's a ton of those for free. Your ears are still the best judge but a bit of visual sometimes helps pinpoint problem frequencies.

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"Mastering" consists of all of the processes necessary to produce a "master recording" that can be sent to a commercial duplication plant so copies can be made.

 

Many post-production tasks fall under the title "Mastering", such as deciding on length of gaps between songs, removing unwanted material before and after each track, setting levels and dynamics so the tracks all work together. The Paul White series of small books cover mixing and mastering quite nicely.

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Well, if I wanted any thing mastered I guess I would send it to someone who can do that, afterall what I do is purely for me (or for a not so good video-picture wise, but music-wise - okay if I really put some effort in it). To me, if you do not have the signal going in to record in the first place, it does no good to add it later, therefore I work on having the sound I want before I record (it does not mean it is good though).

But then I am using no amps, and just electronic boxes (and I may need a better one for guitar), and my synth.

A couple of studio channels (not expensive) and they work well enough.

I just do not have $300,000 to spend on anything including what some seemed to have spent totally on a studio setup.

I just do myself, and can not do anyone else where I live, and never will get there because it would have to be a

business and then - well, you were doing the business, and becoming a recording engineer and tyring to make mastering

radio-quality ouputs. I tend just to do some recording and since I am older, just don't think it will ever be anything

else. Learned some more along the way, and a person can spend thousands of dollars for such.

Back in the '70's things were not so complicated. Either you just played some or else you have to go to the big cities.

I guess for the most part that is still true today, or else like other people, you just put up some stuff maybe friends

or someone else may listen to.

 

After 30,000 + videos on youtube alone, and still going up and that probably is not all of them, well, that's about it.

I think a band or a group can spend thousands on that endeavor also trying to make it "Big", but since I am way older,

it is just a hobby, and that is all it will be.

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Guest BentonC

Any guy that doesn't use the sledgehammer of technology while enhancing the sonic qualities of a song is fine with me

 

"sledgehammer of technology"

haha- love it!

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My biggest problem seems to be the mastering process. [unsure]

In my case it was the other way around. I had a hard time mixing, but I loved microphoning and mastering.

 

Mixing and mastering are really different processes... don't know anyone in person that skills in both equally.

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