Last Step

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by jhagertybhs, Dec 27, 2003.

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  1. jhagertybhs

    jhagertybhs Guest

    Ok, I'm just about ready to wrap up my first project! Need some help though. Is there a program or something that will help me get all my track levels up and the same. I seems that right now I have some pretty hot and others not. I'm needing to get them all level. What do ya think?
  2. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    Ya, there is something. It is called Mastering Services and I highly suggest people use it if your material really matters to you. You submit your finished material to a qualified professional Mastering Engineer and for a modest and fair fee, you get back a finished a product that is usually at the very least a few notches up the ladder in overall quality over anything that you would likely be able to do on your own.
  3. jhagertybhs

    jhagertybhs Guest

    Thank you so very much AG for your response, however, there are some of us out here that don't take everything so freakin serious! Sure guys like yourself have to stay in buisness, so your first response is always going to be "leave it to a pro". Yeh I have utilized the pro mastering services before, and there are many of them out there who for big bucks will make your project sound great. However there ARE so called prefessionals who charge big bucks and you get back a mastering job that sounds like they ran it through T-Racks once or even hit the "excite" button on Music Match Jukebox! For what I'm doing right now, I'd like to keep everything "in house".
  4. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    Ok, But I also said to use a qualified professional. Just because someone say they are a mastering professional, that doesn't always mean your going to get excellent results. Lots of people say they are good recording engineers or guitar players and they are not. Your required to do some homework on your part to help insure you don't get ripped by a hack who is not qualified just because you may only be looking for work to be done on the cheap.

    What makes you think just because you have the software and/or hardware that you will have the skills to be able to do what is necessary? If your just dickin around, then by all means go have fun but don't go thinking that because you've bought some hardware or software labeled for mastering and used it that you material is now mastered.

    If your not serious and levels are the only issue, any hardware/software with the ability to add or reduce gain should work. If you need more than level adjustment, use whatever plugs you have as needed to do what must be done. You don't need to buy or use special or dedicated software to do minor adjustments, just go do it.

    [ December 28, 2003, 04:49 PM: Message edited by: AudioGaff ]
  5. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Mastering is an art as well as science.

    You can get all the information on how to do mastering from well written books like Bob Katz's BUT and it is a BIG BUT you can't get the experience from reading a book or posting a question on the internet.

    You have to do mastering day in and day out with GREAT equipment and a GREAT room. If your project is important to you then it is important to get it done correctly. Hire a professional.

    Self mastering is like self medicating yourself. It is ok for small things but for serious work consult with a professional. You can take an aspirin if you have a headache but you better see the doctor if you start to have chest pains.

    Not all really good mastering houses are "too expensive" and there are a lot of good houses out there that do an excellent job for a fair and reasonable rate. Note I did not say CHEAP! If you want CHEAP there are also a lot of recording studio/mastering houses/duplicators that will do what you want CHEAPLY but they may not do it well.

    It costs a lot of money to set up a proper mastering operation and the room and monitoring equipment are many times the most costly items. Speakers that costs in the 10s of thousands of dollars driven by amplifiers that cost in the 10s of thousands of dollars in a room that costs in the 100s of thousands of dollars. This is what you are paying for in addition to the experience of the mastering engineer. It is a business just like any other business and they need to charge what they do to stay in business.

    You cannot do a good job of mastering your own material if you are going to use the same speakers for mastering as you did for recording. They will give you a false sense of what you are listening to.

    If I want something recorded well I go to one of the recording studios we do business with and have them record my material. They have the equipment and knowledge to do it in an efficient manner and present me with a finished product that is professionally done and reasonably priced. If they want something mastered they use us for the same reason(s).

    If you want to master your own music then do it.

    If you want it mastered by a professional who knows what he or she is doing and can add value to your recording then you will have to pay them for their services. Ask around and talk to people who have used various facilities around where you live. If one name keeps popping up as somewhere you can go and get your mastering done well and for a reasonable rate call them and ask to come by with a sample of what you want mastered. It is only then that you will really know the value of professional mastering.

    Hope this helps.
  6. Barkingdogstudios

    Barkingdogstudios Active Member


    While I agree with the other posts regarding sending "serious" stuff to a qualified engineer, if you're a hobbyist like myself (I make demos etc for my band and others so not real "serious") I use Ozone by Izotope ( for "finishing" my projects. I don't know about leveling tracks, I would think you would need to do most of that at mixdown, but when applied to your final stereo mix, I found this software to add a little something that I couldn't get by other means. It includes widening, exciting, multi-band compression, "mastering reverb", eq, etc.

    Like I said earlier, tho, I agree that there's a reason why not everybody can master. The engineer who did an earlier band's demo has been an audio professional for twelve years and he still farms out the mastering for any project he works on.
  7. Hack

    Hack Active Member

    I have had a few whole cds mastered for 3 to 4 hundred bucks by nashville guys. Some better than others, but all improved the overall product.

    And I agree with most, once youve recorded it, done hours of overdubs, and mixed it, its hard to listen like youve never heard it before.

    I guess reference cds would help if you insitst on doing it yourself, but try to get on some different speakers, and different room, if you have some mastering software on a laptop that could help to get to different places. Listen to it in as many different places as you can.

    I "master" budget things I work on, but really its just levels so clients will quit saying, "its not as loud as the powerman 5000 cd".

    Dont just sweep a bunch of eq freqs around and twist compressor knobs. Try to really determine what it needs before you go tweeking. Thanks to the digital world I usually just go back into the mix and try to fix things that I might have "ignorantly" said at one time, just leave it for the mastering engineer.
  8. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Too many people today, IMHO, leave things undone in the process of doing the recording. The problems compound themselves as the project moves along.

    If the vocals are out of tune the musicians hope that some process somewhere will put them back in tune.

    They hope that the drum kit will not sound like a limp dish rag played with a wooden spoon after the engineer works his magic in the mixdown and not really sound like they do in real life.

    They hope that the balances that are so bad and can easily be fixed in the mixdown can be later be fixed in the mastering.

    They hope that out of tune instruments or poorly played passages can some how be fixed in a Pro Tools session at the end of the project.

    Any of these problems can be fixed to some degree in a later process but why not fix them as you go along and make everyone else's job easier and allow more time for creative uses. Why make the mastering engineer or the mixdown engineer do things that take a tremendous amount of time and cannot really fix what could have easily been fixed in the process before? It just does not make sense ESPECIALLY if you are doing the recording and mix down yourself with no real time constraints.

    We live in a technological age where lots of things are possible and we can take a movie like Gone with the Wind, digitize it and take out all the blemishes and restore it to new recording and mastering if you start with a flawed project it is only going to get worse instead of better as you go though the process of recording, mixdown and mastering.

    Do the best you can along the way and the project will sound FANTASTIC instead of just OK.

    One additional useful piece of advice for those projects you are working on, whether for you own mastering or for sending to a mastering house. Don't over compress or over EQ your mixes. Wait until you master it for the final touchups. Individual compression and eq for instruments and voices is fine but don't use a mix bus compression or EQ for the whole tune.

    Also leave the mastering engineer some room to work... try to leave him or her between 3 and 6 dB of head room. Also don't normalize your mixes or chop off the beginning and ending of tunes let the mastering engineer take care of that. There is no way for a mastering engineer to recreate a lost note at the beginning of the piece. Been there tried to do that.....! it doesn't work.

    MTWC and FWIW
  9. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    Thomas, while I completely agree with you, I can from direct experience in the art of turd polishing tell you why. It starts with a lack of talent to begin with in the performers as well as their lack of preproduction and not being ready to do serious recording. It continues with the lack of basic skills of those doing the tracking and recording. Since the basic skills are not understood or ever developed, they don't know how to get it right or are even are able to tell when it is right or not. It gets further combined with the attitude of that no matter what they do, it can be fixed. All it takes is to buy more and better hardware/software. Then when they get bored, frustrated and finally give up, they then are willing to pay someone to try and fix or clean it up passing whatever that result is on to mastering be it by them or with the hope that it can be saved and salvaged by a real mastering pro.

    It is not likely to ever get any better in the near future as the MTV generation with the ultimate in short attention spans as well as in taking as many shortcuts as they can get away with, will continue to do what they have done in the past and simpley not spend the amount of effort or time to do it right.

    After all, you can now create and assemble music without ever picking up an instrument or recording any instrument other than some vocals, and why worry about that when you now know it can it fixed later somewhere else along the way.
  10. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    there are side effects to raising levels of a mix that are already peaking. simply raising the level can change the spectrum of your mix even though you didn't use an eq. where ever your mix is peaking, say 100hz and say 3khz just as examples, these areas will get hit first. as you raise the level up, other freqs will come up in relative volume to meet them. this is where an accurate set of full range monitors come into play. one of the biggest rises is in the sub freqs. while you want to retain these freqs, you'll have to keep an eye on them because the will rise in relation. so now your have to use your eq to compensate for this.
    So the point i'm making is that simply raising levels is not that simple. so if your doing it yourself, then keep in mind that these things will happen.
  11. Widowmaker

    Widowmaker Guest

    I notice a certain lack of sophistication in the messages here. For a modest fee I will professionaly edit your posts to bring them up to the standard embraced by professional writers the world over.

    Please don't try to do this yourselves. The results are not satisfactory. Writing is an art that only a few are truly qualified to practise. (notice the clever use of the split infinitive?)

    Take advantage while you can. Once I'm dead there will be no one else who can help you, and you'll have to satisfy yourselves with your own sad efforts.


  12. Ammitsboel

    Ammitsboel Member

    And once again Ed I will ask you:
    Are you really sure that you belong here?
    There is room for every one here but we don't need peoble that argues sarcasticly from another level of understanding... :d: :s:
  13. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Lets not take it upon ourselves to drive people off from the site. Everyone has a right to express themselves and no one but moderators and site administrators should be questioning if someone should be here or not.

    Aside from the fact that while professing to be a “professional writer” ED misspelled practice, I do appreciate his sarcasm... however I disagree with the sentiment of his post.

    Pro mastering is a step where the artist has an opportunity to have another pair of ears that are tuned in, acquainted with pro standards and aesthetically conditioned to listen to their material and make unbiased adjustments. What comes to mind for me is in my experience is when guitar players mix, guitars are always too loud... bass players mix, usually the bass is a bit too out front, drummers want to hear every single ride cymbal hit and on and on.

    If mastering is a step you don’t wish to take then load the stuff back into the computer and adjust the levels and tweak tones until you have something that plays well across all the different tracks.. simple. Normalizing programs usually induce distortions that hurt my ears... don’t do that.
  14. maintiger

    maintiger Well-Known Member

  15. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    It's possible that on reason your newer recordings are sounding better is because you have learned more about writing and performance since you were last in a "pro" studio. That your results have improved may not have anything to do with the fact that you are doing it all by yourself now. Or perhaps the studio you were going to wasn't that great and now you recognize that.. ???

    One would hope that your writing and performing chops would have improved over a period of four years. I would bet that if you were to return to that same studio now, you would get a great product from them ...

    [ December 30, 2003, 08:14 PM: Message edited by: Kurt Foster ]
  16. Rod Gervais

    Rod Gervais Active Member

    And that folks, having been said - really puts this to bed.

    Try going online and picking up Sound Edit Pro.

    Here's some of the features:

    1 Editing features - Sound Edit Pro provides a a lot of audio effects and processes. It includes editing features including: Cut, Paste, Move, Delete, Fadein/Out , Crossfade, Vibrato, Delay, Normalize, Fade, Flanger, Amplify, Invert, Insert Silence, and more.

    2 Effects - Band Pass Filter, High Pass Filter, Low Pass Filter, High Shelf Filter, Low Shelf Filter, FFTFilter and more.

    It's shareware - not a bad product - certainly not a professional product.

    Here's the site:

    And listen to me for a moment - the fact that you have run into some people who misrepresented themselves as ME's doesn't make the real ME's overpriced - or the sentiments that have been expressed here for the need for them over stated.

    If what you want is a truly professional product - you will not get there without an ME.


    If you are willing to settle for a lot less - but still better than you have - then there are a lot of tools out there you can use - this is one of them.

    But in the real world - of real recording - and professional quality recording - an ME is the only way it's going to happen.

    Nothing you (or I for that matter) can afford to put in our home is going to ever replace the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on gear and rooms and the years of experience and ability that makes a Mastering Engineer a Mastering Engineer.

    For me - when I finally have my mixes done - I will pay for an ME to provide the level of professionalism that I alone will never acheive.

    My music means that much to me.

    However - I will also be getting that service from one of the people I know on this board - not someone with whom I am a total stranger.

    Best of luck to you in your endevors.

  17. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    First off, what most people post are their thoughts, feelings, and experiences on subjects that are not intended to be organizied into anything that would meet most publishing standards because those are not the intentions or goal of those posting.

    Second, you would hardly qualify as any sort of professional I would ever trust with my words. Your child like ramblings and spelling skills are barely able to form coherent thoughts or complete sentances. I know a hack when I read one.

    And third, if I did want to go with an editor, I could always do what most other wankers would do and buy a fancy printer and software and try to publish my one words into a book. Or try to take the budget route and submit my words to some half ass hack that would promise to do it better and cheaper than you would and still end up getting get piss poor results either way. If I intended to go publish my words for purchase or for mass public consumption, you can damn well bet that I would hire a real qualified experienced professional editor/journalist to help me achieve the very best results.
  18. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Hi all. Lets ask a question first about WHY people feel its so lucrative and expensive to record in a professional studio.The reasons are myriad.
    1.Lack of preparation.I've seen a lot of this.The band has practiced their numbers but have left out the critical component of practicing to record.A lot of tape gets used when someone cant play their part alone completely through and is uncomfortable on phones where they can actually HEAR every nuance of their performance.
    2.No game plan.Without a producer(a real one not the sound dude)a session can lose its momentum as quickly as it starts.And have no hope of getting back on track.This is not the RE's responsibility.
    3.Instruments poorly prepared.'Nuff said.
    I could go on, but these are major reasons why a lot of people have had bad experiences in a pro recording studio. And for the most part its been their fault.

    These facts also apply to Mastering.A properly prepared piece of music with properly applied reverbs,compression,levels and quality mixes make the ME's job so much easier and of course the cost goes down while the quality goes up.How can someone with the ProTools or some other program NOT get a good mix????

    So it really comes down to how well you can track and mix your product, serious or not, that will ultimately determine the cost and the value of sending it to a Mastering House for a final wash and wax.Thats where I send all mine!And I go with my disk and am a big part of what goes down.Some ME's dont like this,but its my project and I am the Producer.
  19. Ammitsboel

    Ammitsboel Member

    Offcourse, this is how many sesions are done here in DK and probably also in the US.
    I think it's a good thing because it usually makes "what goes down" exactly what the producer/artist whants.
  20. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    If you want to do your own "mastering" - DO IT!

    But don't ask for the miracle eq settings or the best compression ratio to use or what piece of "miracle" equipment you should purchase to do your own mastering. There are no such things in real life. Every piece of music is different and every mastering setting is unique to that piece of music and to no other. There are no "presets" that can be used for every piece containing a guitar, drums, bass and vocals. If you believe that there are such presets then buy a Finalaizer or use the OZONE plugin and use the built in presets for all your mastering.

    You can also smile to yourself that you have spent $2500.00 to purchase a piece of equipment (t.c. finalizer) so you can master your own songs with when you could have gone to a good mastering house and for about 1/5th the cost gotten your songs professionally mastered by someone with really good ears and really good equipment in an acoustically designed space.

    Mastering is a craft that is learned over years. It is not something that can be committed to a list of eq frequencies or compressor settings or left to a black box to do for you.

    I too love music. I luckily have found something that I can do as a profession that involves music on a day to day basis. I have spent 30+ years preparing for my job and have done it all from building my own audio equipment to recording everything imaginable (and some that are not). I have literally "done it all " and I have paid my dues along the way. I did not magically learn all of this and I made plenty of mistakes along the way. I also had some very good "learning facilitators" (teachers) who allowed me to learn from those mistakes as well as teaching me a lot about audio.

    Unfortunately about 30% of what comes in my door from "musicians" is not a product of love, sweat and tears but is a product of lets see how many effects we can get on one track and lets see how many octaves we can get the vocal aligner to work over.

    People bring stuff in that is very amateurish in nature and expect that by going though the mastering process it will become "professional" in nature.

    People do not take the time to learn their craft and want machines and software to make up for their shortcomings.

    I have a real good rep in this area for helping people learn the craft of mastering and what it can and cannot do for their music. I am very honest and will tell someone directly when I do not think their material is ready for the mastering process and when it would be better to send it back to the mixdown process or the re-recording process. Some people listen and respond and get a great product because they are willing to learn and take the time to do it over. Some people don't want to hear that their "masterpiece" is not ready for prime time and those are the people that mainly say "next time I am going to master this myself since I really know what I am doing and obviously you do not"

    Mastering can make a piece of music that sounds good - sound GREAT. It can take a mediocre piece of music sound good. It cannot take a badly recorded, badly played, badly mixed down piece of music and make it into anything. As someone so eloquently put it: "you can gold plate and polish a turd but it is still a turd when you are though".

    I learned mastering by interning in a mastering house in Nashville, by doing a lot of projects for friends and not charging them, by doing a lot of listening to what others, whom I respect, thought were good jobs of mastering, by doing a lot of research and reading in books and on the web and by getting my work as a mastering engineer critiqued by my peers and by people I respected. It was a long long road but worth the trouble.

    This is not meant to be a rant but it is something that I believe very strongly in. I look at mastering as a profession. It is not an additional source of revenue or something I do in my spare time. It is how I pay the rent. It has taken me a lot of money a lot of time, a lot of sweat and a lot of love to get to the point where I am today and there has never been a magic preset or magic eq or compression setting along the way.

    Learn your craft whether it is playing an instrument, recording or mastering and learn it well.

    The true meaning of the word "professional" is one who gets paid for his/her knowledge and skills. If you are going to call yourself a professional then be one.

    Have a great NEW YEAR and a Prosperous one.

    [ December 31, 2003, 09:35 AM: Message edited by: Thomas W. Bethel ]
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