Mastering For Musicians

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by filmmusic2008, Feb 10, 2008.

  1. A reference made in the following article is gestalt, this means the overall perception of the mind from all the instruments and sounds. We all have preferences to sound based on what genres we follow, for myself it is the reggae sound.
    All genres can and do benefit from reggae. The Beatles, Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin...
    One may do mastering of audio like Michaelangelo does when working on sculptures that were already in the marble before he began, he took away material to reveal the form.
    Others can add to something for art.
    What do you see? These images are mastering in visual terms.


    Mastering For Musicians
    By Craig Anderton | January, 2008
    How To Add that Final Polish To Your Mixes.

    The article title alone is enough to cause some professional mastering engineers to run to the various forums and start complaining. “That’s what’s wrong with this industry—these kids don’t know how to master!” “You gotta have a professional do it.” Blah, blah, blah.

    Normally, I’d be a lot more deferential if I didn’t hear so many horrible mastering jobs from professional mastering engineers. Will people mastering at home just add to this mess? Very possibly, but, then again, maybe the home recording masses will be able to restore some sanity to the overcompressed, over-hyped style of mastering that has ruined many a good recording.

    Of course, there are excellent mastering engineers, and how they take a recording from “okay” to “wow” is a thing of beauty. And, to be fair, many of them are pressured by record companies to make ever-louder recordings. If you can afford a truly good mastering engineer, you won’t regret it. But if you can’t—or if you want to get started learning a new skill—consider trying your hand at mastering your material.

    Let’s define “mastering” as taking a mix and making it sound even better—then, if applicable, assembling these mixes into a great listening experience. A really good mastering engineer can make the mastered version sound way better than the mixed version, but any improvement is a good thing.

    Yes and no. There are three main benefits of using mastering engineers: ears, objectivity, and technological mastery. Mastering technology used to be much more complex than it is now, because of the limitations of vinyl and cassettes. The gear required was hellishly expensive, and the tradeoffs between album length, level, distortion, and other factors required serious expertise. Mastering wasn’t something the average person could do.

    The digital-audio revolution has changed that. Digital can be a forgiving medium with plenty of dynamic range. Quality audio plug-ins and processors have become ever more affordable. For musicians who want to master, gear is not the issue.

    But ears still are. A veteran mastering engineer will know how to bring out the best in a piece of music. Maybe you have good ears, which means you can probably do good mastering. But exceptional mastering requires exceptional ears—something no plug-in can provide. Mastering requires not just learning about how to use technology, but also the ability to hear the gestalt of a piece of music—not just individual instruments.

    Attached Files:

  2. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Distinguished Member

    Jul 18, 2004
    Chicago area, IL, USA
    Home Page:
    I'm somehow missing the relation between Gestalt and audio mastering for some reason...
    I think that photo retouching would be more similar...

    A great subject (the talent) in a proper setting (tracking) captured by a great photographer and rendered on great photographic equipment (mixing) then sent off to a retoucher who will "smooth out the rough edges" and perhaps ready it for publication alongside other photos by other photographers (or even the same photographer).

    Whether I see three "pac-man" guys or one triangle... Or which end of a 3D box is the open end... I just don't see the connection.


    Oh, I see -- Craig made the connection... I still... I...

    It's late and I need sleep. :-?
  3. JoeH

    JoeH Distinguished Member

    Jun 22, 2004
    Philadelphia, PA/ Greenville, DE
    Home Page:
    As usual, Craig has written an excellent article. He all but 'rescued" EQ magazine a while back when he took over as GM and Editor in Chief. (He wrote a wonderful essay on Windows Vista last month....)

    I just don't know when he ever SLEEPS, judging by his output. :twisted:
  4. Great analogy, though some people like their photos untouched and/or grainy. In film, editing can be done to accentuate texture or take it away.
    Would mastering be the audio equivalent of sandpaper on a wooden sculpture?

    As for gestalt, it could be referring to what we don't hear in the music.
    The negative sound.
    In figure A above, I don't see a triangle.
  5. Space

    Space Distinguished Member

    Jun 26, 2007
    You should.

    You should be able to see the gestalt in each of the pictures presented. If you do not then your inner vision is stunted in some way.

    Your argument seems that one will see one thing and another will see something different. In operation you should see the sum of the parts for what they are. Pac-man heads, mouth open creating a triangle.

    One can exist without the other but the two together create a third option.

    It is the third option that we look for.
  6. hueseph

    hueseph Distinguished Member

    Oct 31, 2005
    Vancouver, BC, Canada
    Is it wrong to see both? I see the parts and the empty space and what is implied there. Is that what Craig was getting at? Isn't that what a Mastering Engineer does? That is, he hears what is there and what is implied.
  7. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Distinguished Member

    Jul 18, 2004
    Chicago area, IL, USA
    Home Page:
    I think seeing both is the "healthy" thing. Probably being conscious of what's *not* there before noticing that it's actually not there.
    A decent way of putting it... Sometimes we "clean" and others we "excite" no doubt.

    But I still don't see the connection that the Craigster is shooting for there... I do on the surface - I just don't think it really fits.
  8. You should not see a triangle. That is the whole point.
    We both sense, recognize, and have the perception of a triangle...but we never see one.
    There is only one corner.

    In Fig. A is a triangle is never seen.

    From Wikipedia.

    A triangle is one of the basic shapes of geometry: a polygon with three corners or vertices and three sides or edges which are line segments.
  9. Space

    Space Distinguished Member

    Jun 26, 2007
    I suppose in a literal sense.

    The triangle doesn't exist at all unless I happen to know what a triangle is. Say I was 5 years old again. I don't know about a triangle so all I see is possible three balls. Or whatever is in the mind of a 5 year old child.

    Maybe a mountain with the moon rising behind it...three times.

    Maybe the letter "A".

    Maybe a group of three pac-man chicks gossiping.

    Some years ago a fella approached me at a local event. He took off his glasses and touched them to my chest. He said that if he heard again that I was "bothering" his girlfriend, he would shoot me.

    I did not see the gun, but I believed it was there and had the same healthy respect as if it were.

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