how to master you mixes

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by Bisson820, Aug 17, 2008.

  1. Bisson820

    Bisson820 Guest

    Hey guys, i'm just now starting to get into recording and stuff of that nature, im now taking the next step and getting serious and i know it is a stupid thing to ask, however, i know what mastering IS but i dont know how to do it!!!

    i've recorded with my band twice at a local studio (Seconds to september) so i know what mastering does and what its used for.

    however, i dont exactly know how to go about doing it, yet i know how much of a dramatic change it is.

    is it hardware or software or both? how much does it cost to get a good set up? is the "mastering" that comes with your recording software qualify as real mastering or is it just phoned in?

    please help,
  2. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Well-Known Member

    Some of the guys here have spent upwards of $50,000.

    Some of the guys out there have spend less than $1,000.

    Unfortunately, you can tell the difference. A properly trained ME (mastering engineer) with skills, space and equipment will make an incredible job. An idiot with cracked software can make a vague job that could probably ruin your song.
  3. Greener

    Greener Guest

    This is a mastering console for sale through these forums...

    Something tells me there is a reason to spend 73 grand on Mastering gear...
    The 39 dollars on the end is just the cut for RO... :p
  4. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    This is a perfect example of some of the voodoo black magic that's required to make audience sound good.

    Top recording engineer/mixers don't need much Mastering at all. It's already there. Sometimes they'll need a minimal amount of tweaking which may be accomplished by decoding the signal through analog equipment and then reencoding it back to our standard CD digital format.

    So you're mastering is only as good as it sounds on everybody else's equipment, not just your own. But you really don't need to have $16,000 per pair of speakers and a $10,000 Sontec equalizer or some kind of hot crap plug-in limiter. Always remember that LESS IS MORE & KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID.

    Going fishing with my friends because they know what a good Master Baiter I am.
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  5. Bisson820

    Bisson820 Guest

    thanks a lot for the help guys, but its really not answering my question, and thats my fault.

    simply.... can someone tell me what i need to master something...

    i know recording...

    *you need an interface, a computer, software, microphones... etc...

    im looking for the same kind of response please, im very much in the dark here.
  6. Greener

    Greener Guest

    Some damn good ears, a cd burner and an EQ.

    Seriously. ME's are like the shamans of the music industry. They don't talk about their Voodoo, they do it.

    Edit: Except Bob Katz who seems to write about it a lot.
  7. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    If you want to be a real mastering engineer, you need real dollars. About 100,000 to start with. You've got that, right? Oh, that's just for the building improvements. Then you need another $100,000 for the equipment. Got that? There really aren't any budget Mastering Engineers. The closest thing you can come to that is so cute little kid in his basement with an M-Box 2 & ProTools who thinks they are a mastering engineer. And will do the job for you for $10 per hour or per song, maybe dinner?

    Remember a real mastering equalizer alone like the SONTEC only costs about $10,000. You'll need at least two. And don't forget to have every type of analog & digital playback device ever invented. Your speakers & amplifier combination shouldn't cost too much more than your 2 cars in your driveway? It's good to have a firstborn male child just in case you want the best equipment.

    I have the good stuff. That's why I'm childless.
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  8. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    the simple version, it's making the project cohesive from beginning to end. You do this with eq, compression, etc... if needed. every project i've ever worked on from the top of the top mixers to the bottom of the bottom requires some pulling and pushing to bring it together. You put everything in order and listen to each song and see where it needs to be in order to work with the song before and after.

    You want to listen for level and balance between the songs. Start with that.
  9. True. A great mix doesn't need "fixing", but instead the mastering engineer's work is still building the playlist, and making the project cohesive as a whole.

    I agree again, but to a point. I'm a minimalist when it comes to gear, but IMO there is a prerequisite.

    That would depend on what you consider "budget". Massive Mastering has fantastic rates, great gear, a nice room, and he is good at what he does. I consider him to be a steal.

    I'm not attacking ya, Remy. Just making conversation.

    I think of mastering similar to mixing. When you are mixing a song you are taking individual instruments and figuring out what need to be done to make them fit together as one solid sound.

    When you are mastering you are taking individual songs and need to figure how to strike a balance to make one solid album. When you listen to an album all the way through each song doesn't need to sound the same, but they should sound related to each other.

    To answer the poster's question. You need the following:

    A good room, good speakers, a computer, a pre-mastering program(Wavelab, Soundblade, Wave Editor, etc), a CD burner, at least a good D/A for monitoring if you aren't running outboard gear, some decent plugins (compressor, limiter, EQ).
  10. Space

    Space Well-Known Member

    "To answer the poster's question. You need the following: "


    I think I'll pay attention to what Micheal said, if no one minds.
  11. mandrum

    mandrum Active Member

    I love these forums, you get dudes coming on being all down on them selves asking questions like what can I do with what I have got in the way of mastering a track. Then you get the big boys saying your gear is xxxp therefore you should just give up. I have been a musician for 25 years. I have seen people perform fantastic on cheap gear I've seen them perform the same and sometimes worse on great gear. I have to be honest seen people perform less than great on really crap gear however usually because thet are not used to it. Now when it comes to amateurs...thats different, good gear some how gives these guys that little boost and really acts as a kind of safety blanket for the rich but un-talanted. However for the guys out there that have to earn a living and are still talented musicians yes you can master your own stuff. I have listened to tracks recorded, mixed mastered, copied and then distributed to shops for sale all for around the $4000 mark. That is for the whole set up, mics, recording, mixing, mastering, everything, so all this talk about 80,000 mastering consoles, who on this site records for Britney? Has anyone recorded AC DC, well yeah, when you have made the big time are rich and can afford all this stuff great, but what makes a great engineer is one with good ears and you cant buy them for $80,000,000 you have them for free then work the little gadgets along with your fingers thats what you need for mastering, and dont let any jumped up rich kids with money to burn tell you any different
  12. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    RemyRad is correct. Really well done recordings don't need much mastering. Unfortunately today most recordings are not done in multimillion dollar studios by someone with 25+ years of experience but are instead done in someone's basement or bedroom by someone with minimal experience. They are not monitored on good speakers and the room they are mixed in leaves much to the imagination. Mastering today is more important than ever but many people decide to do it themselves either to keep control of the project or because they don't have the money to go to places like Gateway and pay $400 per hour or because they truly want to learn how to do it.

    To the original poster. The first thing I would do is buy Bob Katz's book on mastering and read it cover to cover. Second I would look though these pages (you can do a search) and see how many other people have asked the same exact questions you are asking. Then sit down with a big tablet and put a line down the middle. Mark one column PRO and one column CON. Then start putting down what YOU think would be the reason you should or should not start to do your own mastering. Be honest with your answers. When you have finished that exercise you will have a better feeling for what you want to do.

    If you want to start doing your own mastering then you should come back to this forum and do some research on how to go about it. If you want to get your stuff professionally mastered then there are lots of people on this forum than provide top quality mastering services at very reasonable prices and you should contact them via private messages or email and find out about their rates and the turnaround time.

    Best of luck!
  13. GnzlO

    GnzlO Active Member

    there you go bisson, madrum is just what i think as well, thomas also is right too, if peter gabriel is going to your home to master something, you better get the million dls gear, eventhough, there you got john frusciante who doesn't get down on a amazing budget for mastering his solo albums and still put out some records that people likes and keep going and rocking,

    And remyrad is most of the time right so, read / listen to them always...

  14. Space

    Space Well-Known Member

    I haven't read a wrong answer yet!

    But the post that answers the op question directly "how to master you mixes " that is a more informed answer and speaks directly to what can you do with existing work, even if it is a lesson in futility, was given by Michael Fossenkemper.

    Code and Greener are right, even though they didn't give answers. Who is right? You CAN't HANDLE who is RIGHT!!!!

    p.s. I didn't go to the church building this morning, so this is my amen.
  15. Greener

    Greener Guest

    And Space is right, even though he didn't answer the question.
  16. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    I think that a better way to phrase the question is, "what do you do differently to a song (or collection of songs) if you are not sending it out to a mastering house?" Some think of this as "mastering your own songs," but I don't.

    My answer is that if I am sending something out to be mastered I don't fade in or fade out, I don't do anything to the final stereo mix - no overall compression or limiting no overall eq, and I leave it at the original bit depth and sample rate.

    If I'm not sending it out I (at least) put a stereo limiter and four-band eq on the overall mix and I dither down to 16 bit. I do it all with software because that's what I have. I'm not going to invest in either expensive hardware or even better software because any track that's really important is going out to a mastering house - not because they have better equipment - though they do. It's going there because they have ears that didn't sit through all of the takes of the individual tracks and all of the mixing sessions.

    Like a few others above, I don't do much with these tools. The limiter just tames a few of the stray peaks and the eq is only applied after I've listened to the mix on speakers outside of the studio. These things make the final track sound better, but would make it harder for the ME to do the same things if he had deal with my lame efforts.

    Of course, a real ME will do other things like noise reduction, but I'm not going to do that to my own tracks because the only reason the noise is there is because I didn't hear it in the first place. Again, the biggest advantage of an ME is different ears, different equipment, and a fresh approach.
  17. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Micheal's answer is right on but I think the poster wanted to know HOW as in what equipment to use and what settings to use BUT as any good mastering engineer knows there are NO "normal" settings or setups and you really do have to listen to the music and then decide, based on some experience, what needs to be done to the material to make it sound good.

    Everyday when I read these forums I can almost tell you two of the posts that I will encounter. Post number one is "how do I make it LOUD" and post number two is "how do I master my own material" Multiple request for stickys on these two topics have fallen on deaf ears and even if there were stickys people, being people, would probably NOT read them.

    Time for a small RANT!

    In the "for what it is worth department"

    I don't know of very many professions where people can come onto a forum and ask for help in doing something from professionals in that field (in this case mastering) and get the kind of answers they get on a daily basis here on this forum.

    Try asking a famous surgeon to share his hip replacement procedures with you and see what you get in reply. Try asking a famous trial lawyer how his goes about building his defense and see how far you get. Ask someone like Bill Gates how he makes decisions on the day to day running of Microsoft and see what kind of answers you get. Yet everyday someone comes on this forum and basically says.

    "I don't have any money and I want to do the mastering of my own material so tell me in as few words as possible how to do this" or "I want to become a mastering engineer so give me all your "secrets" or "I want to make my stuff sound professional so please tell me how to do that".

    Maybe that is the way people in the music business do things because they are use to copying some famous guitar players rig/technique so they can sound like him/her or why drummers spend hours listening to the same song over and over again so they can play the rift the same as <insert name of famous drummer>. If this works for producing music then I guess these same musicians figure it will work for mastering. They just have to find out what equipment he or she uses and what techniques they use and PRESTO instant self mastering.

    If anyone wants to get into mastering then learn the same way that every professional who is on this board did. Immerse yourself into mastering and do it every day. Read everything you can about the process and as you get better at it get a good room and good equipment and keep learning. No one here was zapped by lightning and then suddenly was a mastering engineer. It is all learned with a lot of hard work and a lot of listening and everyday you learn something new. There are no secret handshakes, no magic formulas, no quick and dirty ways of making things sound GREAT and/or LOUDER. It all takes time, experience, the right blend of equipment and skill and the ability to do critical listening and then act on what you are hearing to make the song sound better.

    The person who originally said that you have to let the music tell you what to do to it was speaking the truth and no amount of witchcraft, black magic, incantations or spells is going to make someone a mastering engineer overnight.

  18. Greener

    Greener Guest

    My mileage varies somewhat.
    Have you read a medical journal recently? The only doctors who aren't to forthcoming about their methods are plastic surgeons.
    But as a musician, when everyone is in a world competing to make art, then what have you got to lose? Someone could take your advice and produce some awesome ear candy you enjoy. It's like helping train the guy who later on replaces your hip. :)

    Oh yeah, I can think of a profession where you are constantly telling people how to make things. It's called Engineering.
    Communicating ideas is the bread and butter of Engineering, so helping others in an open forum is awesome practice and experience.

    Mastering Engineers are the people who conceptualise what needs to be done to the sound to make it better. Also they construct hardware and model software to achieve a desired outcome. Simply tweaking and being a method whore is not engineering. It's being a technician.
    So yeah, TWB, I think you're an Engineer because you conceive ideas and communicate them helpfully. If you can turn a dollar doing it all the better, but don't whinge when you can't. :p
  19. Space

    Space Well-Known Member

    Hell now BobRogers and Thomas W. Bethel are right too!!!

    Not wanting to start anything most of the posts here are to the point and are in their own way correct. Me with my thinking, if you have to ask how to master and what it takes, then stick to learning your recording chops. Chances are they(the chops) need more attention at the moment.

    I also very much agree with your comments Mr. Bethal. The reason I select(ed) Michaels comments is simple. They were simple and addressed the simple question. These kinds of questions (no slander or harm is intended to the OP, please do not write it in :)), to me, seem to want the most and offer the least.

    I do have my own quirks with semantics. Right and wrong is one of the common modifications people make to a statement to adjust it to their way of knowing, whatever it is they may know. So I drive a wedge.

    Anyway, each of you have done well in giving freely of your experience.

    I suppose if a body looked at this(my) comment long enough they may think "well that redneck thinks we oughta keep our smarts until a better question comes along".

    I can assure you each, that would be incorrect.
  20. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    Like anything that involves "devil in the details" it's hard to answer a question like this. First I think you need to identify the goal. Once the goal is identified, then you get to the details of each step.

    "I want to be a race car driver, how do I go about doing it?" for instance. simply answer is, you get in a car and mash the pedal down and go around the track as fast as you can. Once you know the goal, then you can begin to hone in on the details like suspension, gearing, tires, seats, angles etc... But you won't know until you jump in the car and practice. As you practice you find the areas that need improvement and you begin to look into those areas. That's when more specific questions can be asked and more specific answers given.

    I also do not agree that the better mixes need less mastering. I think it's completely the opposite. I think the better mixes need the top of the cream to bring them home. If a great sounding mix comes in and it needs a hair here and a nip there, no way in hell can you slap on a junk eq listening on junk speakers and get away with it. It will get thrown right back in your lap. If you degrade that mix because you don't have the chops or the equipment to improve it, then you aren't doing your job. And the person that delivered that mix will also be more critical of your work because they obviously have the ears to bring it to the point to where it is. I actually have to work HARDER on better mixes than not so great mixes. It's easy to make something bad sound better. It's very hard to make something that sounds great sound better. So in that regard, better mixes require more both in experience and in gear even though they do not need much.

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