Mastering Basics 101...........

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by therecordingart, Jan 30, 2005.

  1. therecordingart

    therecordingart Well-Known Member

    I'm still learning the basics of audio engineering, but would like to start understanding what is involved in the mastering process as well. I'm going to pick up the Bob Katz book, but I don't want it to go completely over my head. Does his book start out answering "what is mastering?" Is there anything else I should look into?

    By no means do I want to master my own projects....I'm dumb but not stupid.....I just want a better feel for what is involved and what I can do on the recording/mixing side to get the most out of mastering.

    Thanks guys...I know I'll get some great responses.
  2. lucidwaves

    lucidwaves Guest

    His book does explain that mastering is the last creative process involved in a recording before it is duplicated/distributed. It is a great book and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about mastering.

    As far as what mastering involves there are quite a few things. The basics would be corrective and coloring equalizing, leveling, compression and limiting all done in a room treated for acoustics and on full range monitors and a high fidelity chain (converters, cables, amps, monitors). Sometimes, as has come up a couple time recently, if the mix is extremely great, a mastering engineer will not do any processing to it. This is pretty rare though.

    The most important thing however, is the experienced objective ear that a mastering engineer can provide.
  3. therecordingart

    therecordingart Well-Known Member

    Thanks! It seems to me that mastering is left to the elite that have busted their asses as AE's for a long time. I could be wrong, but that is what I've been seeing. Eventually I hope I'm lucky enough to develop the ears for it.
  4. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    I learn something new everyday, and I've been doing it for 20 years.
  5. therecordingart

    therecordingart Well-Known Member

    That is the truth! I haven't been at this for long, but right when I think I know something I'll read a post or pick up a book and I'm back to square one again.

    It's frustrating at times, but it can never get boring if there is always something new to learn, apply, and master (get good at).
  6. therecordingart

    therecordingart Well-Known Member

    Just to add to my prior post......

    With all of the new things I learn and apply in my sessions I notice huge increases in my sound/mix quality without any labor. It's absolutely insane how an 1/8th of an inch difference in mic placement can mean the difference between a great track or a pissy track.

    I've realized that $*^t rolls down hill in the audio game. The way I mic a kick drum could potentially have an ME pulling his hair out. I could be wrong, but it makes sense to me.

    That is why I want to learn the aspects/concepts of mastering even though I have no intentions of attempting to master a project. I want to make sure that what I give an ME will only be enhanced and not fixed. My take on it is that if something has to be fixed, it shouldn't have been "broken" to begin with!
  7. mixandmaster

    mixandmaster Active Member

    :cool: :cool: :cool: :cool: :cool:
  8. mixandmaster

    mixandmaster Active Member

    I've said it recently in another post, but I'll say it again...the single most common error I get (and it's on a LOT of projects) is clipping of the digital bus. Bedroom engineers, commercial studios, it doesn't matter. I sent a project back yesterday because the master was overloaded.

    If there's anything you do before sending a project out to master, check to make sure that all your peaks are actually peaks and not sawed off waveforms.

    John (Massive), do you have an article on this anywhere? If not, I'm going to have to write something. I'm just not that good at describing things. It is just staggering how many projects that come through my studio have this issue.
  9. lucidwaves

    lucidwaves Guest

    Part of it is they want that loud sound before they even get it mastered.

    I've gotten it a lot as well. They think it sounds too quiet in their cars and stereo systems when they are testing the mix so, they just turn it up and clip the hell out of it not realizing that yeah its definately louder but youve just introduced some nasty non-musical digital distortion that cant be fixed at a mastering session.
  10. therecordingart

    therecordingart Well-Known Member

    This is the type of stuff I'm talking I know to NOT crank my mixes before giving them to an ME. I'll let the ME crank em properly because that is what I'm paying em for!
  11. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    I've got to have something somewhere... If they're novice/home recordists, I steer them towards the "Getting the Most from Your Mix" PDF on the MM site.

    That normally doesn't help much...

    Sometimes I suggest that they look for Nika Aldrich's white papers on distortion during D-A reconstruction.

    But that doesn't help...

    Then, I tell them about projects that I get in that PEAK at -12dBfs with RMS levels around -24dBRMS that wind up leaving at -9dBRMS and still sound pretty darn good.

    But that doesn't help...

    Then, I beg and plead with some studios that send me stuff fairly regularly to turn the damn Finalizer off and just get "nice" levels.

    But that doesn't help either...

    I think they have some sort of psychiatric condition...
  12. therecordingart

    therecordingart Well-Known Member are scaring me out of getting my stuff mastered! hahahaha I don't want to fall into the mentally challenged category....put me in the ignorant least ignorance can be worked on.
  13. mixandmaster

    mixandmaster Active Member

    Art, don't worry, the fact that you're willing to get better makes it so you'll be fine. I know I've learned a ton from lots of people on this board.

    John, I just yesterday wrote a fairly long email to a band in Ireland about the clipping with screenshotos and everything that I'll clean up and post on the mixandmaster site. I'll let you know when I get to it if you want to copy it, link to it, refer to it, quote it, whatever, feel free. Even correct any errors as I'm sure I'll forget something! By the looks of things, it won't be THIS week, though.

    Art, if you want to help with this, too, let me know what program you're mixing on and I'll try to get the terminology from your software included. I'll try to have a glossary/list at the beginning/end so that if things like Auxes/buses are called different things in different programs, then it will be clear to people working in whatever environment.
  14. therecordingart

    therecordingart Well-Known Member

    Thanks! I'm running Cubase SX, UAD-1 Project Pak, and tons of the free plugs floating around.

    I included the UAD-1 just in case there is anything within it that you have any tips/tricks for.
  15. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    First you have to understand why a clipped mix doesn't sound as good. Once you flat top a mix, you pretty much have to throw out any chance of good analog processing do to phase shift and distortion. Same goes for digital processing unless it's linear phase. If it's smashed to death, then there is little hope. New engineers are just to freightened to turn in a mix that is less than full throttle. Or worse yet, they think they are protecting themselfs by doing most of the work before hand. Big mistake if you are using a good ME. Good engineers with the trust of the client, can turn in a great mix at -3db with peaks. The truth is in the results. There is a reason why the bigger engineers don't limit their mixes. Hidden secret #11.
  16. therecordingart

    therecordingart Well-Known Member

    Thanks Michael.....I'm starting a BIG project (big for me) coming up next weekend. I think I'll keep the cranking/smashing and anything else that I can hurt up to the ME.
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