Learning the art of mastering...

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by Juergen, Aug 19, 2001.

  1. Juergen

    Juergen Guest

    I haven't actually mastered anything yet myself, nor do I think that I am any good at it. But most of my clients at the studio (in Asuncion, Paraguay) ask me to "master" their stuff. I usually try to refuse to put any attempt in "serious mastering." Most of these projects are VERY low budgets proyects that, in all likelyhood, will NOT get mastered. And since everyone DOES insist on me "premastering" their stuff (even when it doesn't get mastered later on), I might aswell get better at it...

    So I was thinking I want to start giving it a shot, and not just keep it as a shot, but get into it as much as time permits. So far I have been able to read some tips off of different forums, and I just ordered Owinski's Mastering Handbook.

    I use PTLE in the studio, got some plug ins at my disposal, Filter/Compressorbank, Waves, Channelstrip...which I would use for my mastering.

    I realize that the best way of getting better at what I do is doing it with guidance from people that are better than I am at doing it, and perseverance. My problem is I don't ahve any of these people in my proximity, just over the forums.

    I am also not sure what kind of help to ask for. So i thought I'd post this with hopes that some people might be able to share guidelines, wisdom, opinions (since advice isn't free :D ).

    Not actually looking for practical advise, but for concepts, etc...

    although practical advise is welcome. :D

    I think I'll be coming fairly often to this forum. It's good to have a place to come to for good company and help.

  2. audiowkstation

    audiowkstation Active Member

    Jun 29, 2001
    The best place to start at learning mastering IMHO is loudspeaker building and design. The reverse engineering here will assist you in knowing why some loudspeakers sound the way they do and others sound different for the good and the not so good. Taking loudspeakers and acoustics into consideration you then have a feel for what translation is all about as most mastering engineers evaluate on several different systems. Once you can brain extrapolate what your project will sound like on other systems including wealkman headphones and high end stereo systems then you have a directional edge in the art. All that being said you really don't have to build 100 different pairs of speakers to gain this knowledge but knowing other speakers is only one key element. Wow...It is getting late for me...I will come back and revisit this thread and have more details....this is just the tip of the iceberg...it gets a whole lot deeper.
  3. Dave McNair

    Dave McNair Active Member

    Mar 6, 2001
    The Orwinski book is good, you will hopefully find a lot of the information helpful. As far as practical tips, here is a small one that I think is valid. If you are mastering a whole record, try this: Listen to all the different songs and look for the "best" sounding one. Work on that tune first, eq'ing, compressing, whatever. It may not need too much to make it sound good. Anyway, that will be the reference song by which you should compare the other songs. It helps me to establish this first, so I have kind of a benchmark to eq/comp to.
  4. jamerkel

    jamerkel Guest

    The best thing I ever did as a starting point for mastering was to buy Dave Moulton's Golden Ears training CDs. It's a relatively small investment for an awesome return. I think everyone should use these CDs, but it's a great starting point for a new mastering engineer. You can order them from http://www.kiqproductions.com

    You'll hear everything in a completely new light. Mastering and mixing require very different skills, and hearing music in terms of frequency is a great way to begin listening to music (or anything else, for that matter) from an objective and analytical standpoint.

    The CD's teach a number of other awesome skills, but the frequency training was the best thing I learned. Good luck and may the force be with you.

    -=Jeff Merkel=-
  5. Juergen

    Juergen Guest

    Wow, answers! Excellent! :)

    I am currently reading up on an article about Compression and Mastering, written by Bob Katz, as far as I can remember. It's interesting how some of the things seem to be really plain and duh-like, but in an enlightening kind of way, because I have never associated certain pieces of information with mastering.

    Bill, what you said about speaker architecture and design makes a lot of sense to me. Where are some good places (sites, books) that will serve a neophyte like me (was that the right expression) to start building a solid base of information on speakers? I am not an electronics guru by any means. I have always seen myself as more of the artist-engineer type. Nonetheless, I have started to see the necessity for a bit more gear-headedness a while ago already, and I try to keep up. :) At least to hang on to everything I still got to catch up with (I am not trying to sound smart, I am just tired - words come out in an uncontrollably manner).

    The crazy thing about being in a country like Paraguay, where engineers don't exactly flourish, is that people think I am something like Super(engineer)man just because I have spent some time in the US gaining a more american perspective on all things. Since everyone has an opinion about everything, and since a lot of us (them, in this case) base big desicions on sometimes very false presuppositions, I find myself forced to try to balance out what they think about something.

    Example: "Mastering is what really makes the record shine, it sounds completely different once it has been mastered. So I want mine mastered."

    Ok, mastering is good and all (done by the right person), but one can only imagine what sort of ramifications that little statement has for people. I just heard this statement tonight from someone that has a VERY strong opinion on how his record should be mixed, and he ain't exactly pouring out anything that resembles medium to a-little-bigger bucks. So, to "honor" his desires AND money managment desicions, all I could do to get the freaking project done was to do what he wanted.

    I expect him to come back and ask me to take down all the string parts down a good deal.

    All this to say that often, I don't have a lot of evidence to show for my opinions, and I don't want them to be just opinions. A lot of things I have gathered by reading forums, trying to balance what users say against established engineers/producers. It would be great to be able to say why I think something is correct or false. I am getting really sick of thinking to myself that at best, I am just giving an opinion...

    All this to say :D that I really want to get more into the theory of acoustic design, speakers, etc...

    Sorry for ranting...sometimes I get stuck in the process of getting somewhere out of my perfectionism. :roll:

  6. Juergen

    Juergen Guest

    McSnare, thanks for that tip! I have my first official mastering gig coming up in a month...so it seems a great place to start.

    Jamerkel, thanks for that tip too! I actually remember going into the library at school that had the cd's and trying the out a few times...with headphones...I know, not very great. :) But it gave me a taste of what that it is like, and during the first few tries, I was able to nail some frequencies...although that must have been a few years ago, though....

    Thanks for the time you guys share, it's a good place to hang...


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