A question for mastering engineers

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by tofumusic, Aug 27, 2004.

  1. tofumusic

    tofumusic Guest

    Quick question....
    What peaves a mastering engineer when you receive a mix? What are the biggest problems you come across that really complicate your task?
  2. Ammitsboel

    Ammitsboel Member

    Fase problems, a L1/L2 across the master bus and recieving a "dead" mix that sounds closed up by the speakers(could be from over saturated transformers in the signal path or over saturated toneheads etc...).
  3. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Mixes done in mono with everything mixed into the middle.

    Mixes with way too much bottom end.

    Mixes with way too much top end.

    Mixes with too much compression and or limiting,

    Mixes with too much reverb.

    Mixes that are overdone with too many effects.

    Mixes where the singer sounds like he or she is in a different room with the door shut and the client wants the vocal clear and forward.

    Mixes that are full of problems like hum, pops, clicks and overloads.

    These are some of my least favorite things....
  4. markwilder

    markwilder Guest

    A sad mix that EVERYONE thinks can be fixed in mastering. I can only pull so many roses out of my ass before I become a little irritated.
  5. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    AMEN!!!!!! :cool: :cool: :cool: :cool: :cool: :cool: :cool:
  6. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

  7. mixandmaster

    mixandmaster Active Member

    Phase problems are the worst. Or if people use a compressor on the 2-bus with different settings for each side....ugh
  8. Ed Littman

    Ed Littman Guest

    :cool: :cool: :cool: for all of the above.

    But what peaves me the most is a bad performance. If i'm lucky the production is good so I don't have to be to repetetive in listening to the file.

    It's more likely the production is less then steller if the performance is bad....on the other hand...
    I recently mastered a guy who hired an arranger & a whole comercial orchestra with strings that recorded frank sinatra arrangements live. The dude spent thousends on the orchestra & recording but not a dime on voice lessons....ouch!
  9. Ammitsboel

    Ammitsboel Member

    Maybe that's the new trend? :lol:
    It sounds like sometging from a reality show.

    Best regards,
  10. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    Yeah, that's a heartbreaker...

    Two things that really ruin your mood - (1) Kick-ass musicians squelched by crappy recording technique and (2) Really great recordings of musicians that suck.
  11. tofumusic

    tofumusic Guest

    LOL This is great..
    Learning alot. . I'm kind of shocked that some of you have received really horrible mixes before. If I had the money to master I'd get my tracks professionally mixed beforehand (I have a hard time mixing my own stuff to begin with).
  12. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    Oh man... Back in the day, yeah, it was pretty rare getting in something that was just plain garbage. There was a lot of bad talent, but not too many truly horrific recordings coming in.

    Now, with so many home & "budget" studios sprouting up, there are two things that happen on a regular basis -

    (1) The home & budget studios do their own mastering (which is IMO, an inherently BAD idea. I don't even master my own mixes - That's just silly).

    (2) A lot of these novice engineers think of the mastering process as a "rebuild" or "overhaul" instead of simply a "detailing" job. It's gone from "We'll fix it in the mix" to "HE'll fix it during mastering."

    There was an album that came out a few years ago that I refused to put my name on as mastering engineer. It sounded SO bad... All I did was try to make it sound "Less Irritating" and that was it. [The album shall remain nameless and if you guess it, I'll deny it.] Of course, the band was wondering why it didn't sound like other stuff I've done. I had to explain to them what it was all about (which is, if I'm not mistaken, where I started drawing the mastering / auto detailing similarity that I constantly use to this day). That recording was a wreck with frame damage. All I could really do is try to make it roll straight.
  13. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    I could curl your ears listening to some of the stuff I have recently done for people AFTER trying very hard to talk them out of doing the mastering until they fixed up the mix but no one seems to want to go back to the mixing stage once they leave it.

    There were vocals that are distorted, out of phase drums, effects that wonder in and out, outlandish eq's (+30 dB at 80 Hz), over done effects, songs dripping in reverb, squashed mixes, mixes that had a dynamic range of 6 dB and the band wanted it MORE COMPRESSED. There were also clicks, pops, digital overs and one group brought me in all their "final" mixes as MP3s.

    Lots of people seem to think that mastering is going to fix all the problems that they could not cope with during the recording and mixing stages and when you ask them about why they did not catch these problems earlier in the recording process they say "we never heard it before coming here to listen" or " Well I guess our computer's speakers are not the best thing to listen to the mix on".

    In one case there was so much low frequency rumble going on I finally turned to the band and asked were they recorded it. The drummer said "in my apartment". When pushed further they told me that they were tearing down a building next door and thought that I could "get rid of all the low frequency trash" Opps......

    There are also the random rays of hope where someone, working in their bedroom studio, crafts a truly great project that is both well done and musical and sounds GREAT! but unfortunately these seem to be in the minority.

    I try and work with the musicians that use our services early in the project and ask that they bring in their mixes as they are being done so I can check them out and make some suggestion or see if there are any problems BEFORE they bring me the final mix. This seems to work well and gives me a chance to get involved earlier in the project were there are always easier ways to solve problems.

  14. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    Yeah, I love those awesome bedroom projects - It gives me hope.

    And you know, it's always the "Well, I'm really not sure what I'm doing so I sorta played it safe" guys who come up with this stuff that's easily "commercially acceptable."

    I did an alternative thing last month that some kid recorded in his bedroom, in his parents house. Vocals, in the closet. Some "technical" flaws, of course, but he went with his gut and it just sounded great. A Mackie and Adobe Audition if I'm not mistaken.

    The cool thing was that he didn't try to overdo it - Doubled the acoustic guitars, nothing but two overheads for drums - He concentrated on playing the songs and it showed. A basic but well-balanced mix made for a farily simple mastering session.

    In the end, HE was surprised to find that there was so much potential in his mixes.
  15. markwilder

    markwilder Guest

    Not to turn this thread on it's head, but after yesterday's session, I have to do it.

    Things that put a skip in my step after a mastering session:

    1. A patient artist who's paying plenty of attention.
    2. Excellent cooperation from said artist.
    3. Give and take dialog which moves the project in a swift and positive manner.
    4. Ego-less Engineer/Producer who is not so insecure as to battle me all day.
    5. Engineer/Producer who not only has documented everything, but when problems arise, can quickly come up with a B plan from his end.
    6. Consistant mixes and variations of said mixes to assist in continuity of the listening experience.
    7. Really beautiful music.
    8. A thank you and a smile at the end of the day.

    I'd have almost done this one for free (almost).

    Mark Wilder
  16. beht

    beht Active Member

    I can undertstand all of your gripes, to be sure, but I'll bet that a lot of the musicians who've brought in lousy mixes, etc., have read too many of those "what mastering can do for you" things, either in an ad somewhere or online, that DO make mastering sound like magic. Some of them luckily come with "don't expect miracles" type stuff, but a lot of them dont and truly sound like they're going to make your project perfect.
    I just paid a hefty price at a very reputable studio to have two of my songs mastered by a very high end studio with a 30+ years experienced engineer and I'm a bit disappointed with the results. I think the main problem was that he didn't seem too open to talking to me. I mean he did, IF I spoke or said something, but had I never told him what I was looking for, he never would have asked. I trusted his ears too much (as I should have since I wrote, performed, recorded and mixed it) and one important part was overcompressed and there is obvious pumping, just for a few seconds and I pointed it out and he didn't hear it, so I assumed he was right. My fault there.
    Anyway, I then took the original mix and had a go with it in Soundforge and no joke, mine sounds exactly like his does - with all his high end analog and digital gear and better monitors, etc., my soundforge version is almost identical, execpt no pumping in that section and I EQ'd it better before compression than he did. I also got rid of the harshness in the mix without robbing it of some of its power like he did
    That being said, it only took him an hour and a half to do two songs, whereas it took me several hours to do one song, with loads of trial and error and undoing before it really worked. I guess the difference here is that I really cared about the final product and care as anyone might, no one can truly care as much as the musician does about the product/mix.
    I'd prefer not to master my own stuff, and I don't really have the gear obviously, but I AM surprised at what silly little Soundforge did in my hands.
    My lesson in this case? Make sure I have my say next time and creat a good balance between what I say and what the mastering engineer hears.
  17. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member


    Most of the mastering engineers that I know are not like the one you are describing. Sounds like maybe he was having a bad day. Most mastering engineers, myself included, are always seeking input from the musicians, the producer and if he or she is present the mix/recording engineer. It is all about collaboration and finding out what the client wants and needs from the mastering session. The problem I run into sometimes is quite the opposite. The person clams up and never says a thing even when asked a direct question. When asked "how it sounds" they are noncommittal or offer an occasional "OK" but never get into any dialogs with me. Those sometimes can be the hardest mastering session to do since you have zero feedback when you really need it.

    As to doing your own stuff.....

    A couple of thoughts.

    All mastering engineers had to learn their craft, no one was born a mastering engineer although some people would want you to believe just that. They learned what to do by being mentored or by doing it and finding out that they were good at it. Not everyone is a good mastering engineer just like everyone is not a good musician or mix engineer or recording engineer.

    Some people just seem to have an affinity for doing mastering. I have had a couple of interns that were "naturals" and learned very quickly how to do very good work. I have also had interns that took forever to learn even the most basic mastering and never could seem to grasp the concept.

    I really like to do mastering and feel comfortable doing it. I am also a very good direct to two track recording engineer but don't really feel comfortable doing multitrack work so I leave that to other pros. I have in my career been a concert sound engineer, a classical recording engineer, a mulit-track recording and mix engineer and a mastering engineer. I enjoy mastering most of all since I get to see the project though to its final completion and my personal skill set seem to be attuned to this profession.

    I know from experience that it is VERY HARD to do mastering of your own material on the system that it was mixed on. It just does not work. You have to much sweat equity involved in the project and you are listening on the same speakers with the same acoustics as you did the original recording/mixing on. Honestly in mastering half the battle is just going somewhere else with really good equipment to listen to the mix.

    Most of the money I spent early on in my mastering career was for really good acoustics coupled with really good monitoring setup. I had good mastering equipment but the Weiss and other high end equipment came later as I could afford it. Good monitoring is the heart of any really good mastering operation. I know people that say they can master on Mackie 824s in their bedroom and maybe they can but to really do good mastering you need really good equipment PERIOD.

    In the FWIW department
  18. tofumusic

    tofumusic Guest

    Thank You

    Thanks for all your posts.. Once again, I've learned something! :)

Share This Page