Mastering.. what is it, how to do it, can I do it?

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by sander_8, Dec 3, 2005.

  1. sander_8

    sander_8 Guest

    Hello, firstly, I'm new here and quite a n00b to recording and mixing sound. Last week I recorded for the first time something with my band (thats guitars, drums, bass, voice), very simple, at my house with just 3 mics to record the drums.

    Now I think I get the hang of recording (however there's definitely room for improvement! Especially recording guitars) but the whole mixing and mastering issue remains kind of a mystery to me. At home I'm recording with an Audigy 2 (bash me if you will, it records fine at 24 bits 96 kHz) and for recording software I'm using Steinberg Nuendo 2. (edit: I looked into some threads and saw that Reason was used to master a song, I use it also.. but so far for different purposes) To record the instruments I use a Shure SM57 (sometimes in combination with other mics).

    My question is in general.. what is mastering, why does a song recorded and mastered by professionals sounds so much better than what you record at home, and how close can I get to a professional recording with the hard and software I have? Any tips would be greatly appreciated!

    Oh a link to the recording of last week:

    Note: I omitted the voice, because I feel it's not good enough and I'd rather not focus on his musical disabillities than on the music itself ;)
  2. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    Ok sanderz. Since no one else has said anything, I'll go ahead. I'm hardly the person to be telling it though. Mastering is about creating .......yes, you guessed it, a master. Usually a tape or disc but can be a master file as well. The process is highly involved and incorporates eq, critical editing and aural enhancement as well as matching volume levels of a project so the listener doesn't have to keep adjusting the volume knob when they listen. This is also where the tracks get labelled and any other data gets encoded so that the master can be used to duplicated as a finished product. Those are the basics. Personally, I think it's a task beyond most home engineers. Even to listen with objective ears is difficult if you're already "in" the project.

    That being said, I don't think that "mastering" is what your recording needs. I think you just need to hone your chops a bit more. The levels seem a little low. There's no real life to the track. These things are achieved before they ever get recorded. Spend more time listening to what you get out of the mic. Try different mics. There's more that I'm sure others will point out. As I said, I'm hardly the right person to be talking about this. Take with salt. It's only my opinion.
  3. audiowkstation

    audiowkstation Active Member

    A very masterable mix. I PM'ed you..and I listened to it pretty deep. I also included an email in the PM. I did some tweaking to the tune for you to see what you thing. At any rate, what I did was an example of one direction..mastrering can take the song. Of course, the only real mix issues were the cymbal levels..but all that can be balanced. I would have liked a stronger kick as well.
  4. sander_8

    sander_8 Guest

    Thanks for the replies! I begin to understand what it's about and tried some for myself with reason wich I'll post here soon.

    @audiowkstation: I'll try to remix with some more kick in it, the cymbal levels are a bit more difficult because they were not recorded seperately. I could adjust the levels however with some EQ I guess..

    Oh and for some reason I'm unable to view my private messages? Don't know why, it says I must pay to use that service. Maybe you could email me at
    sander dot mertens8 add
  5. audiowkstation

    audiowkstation Active Member

    Yep...PM's are subscription. Check your mail and let me know.

    A remix will just be a different flavor. it is workable as is!

    The key here is to check out what mastering can do with the song..and then it may be easier to hear where the mix can be changed some.
  6. audiowkstation

    audiowkstation Active Member

    Cat got your tounge Sander 8?
  7. Calgary

    Calgary Active Member

    Yikes. That doesn't sound good.
  8. audiowkstation

    audiowkstation Active Member

    Good reason as well. People were loading up their inboxes (gigs worth) and really clogging things up for a while. It is a unique policy...cuts back on spam etc..

    Nothing like someone needing to PM you..and your inbox is full of spam in the can...
  9. Calgary

    Calgary Active Member

    Then why not just limit the size of "free" inboxes to 1MB?
  10. sander_8

    sander_8 Guest

    lol I'm from Holland and sometimes we need to sleep ;)

    Anyway thanx alot for the file! Very helpful :) I tried some things for myself, remixed it, added some tracks, played a little with the EQ, and finally came up with this:

    Now it's a first attempt, so let me know if I'm on the right track :)
  11. garynameischanged

    garynameischanged Active Member

    the snare and hat are chewing my ear off. The mix is very "airy", pull some verb off the vocals, the room is very apparant in a not so-good way, when it comes to mixxing down a track I like to think about it in a method taught to me by a former engineering instructor, basically, think of a mix like climbing a sturdy ladder, first start with your low end, make sure the low end is defined, im talking the 20-500hz range, if you muddy up the low end at any point your going to be destroying the high end transients to make it sound decent later on, next work on the bass tone, generally 100-700hz, same concept, one of the biggest issues I hear in alot of the amatuer mix's is the bass is for some god awefull reason being pulled all the way down to the 70-150hz range, after you get the low end defined, work with the guitar tones, then the snare, hat, etc.
    The ladder analogy represents thinking of the mix in a different categorical way, think of the instruments involved in the mix, the frequency range that instrument produces (or is using most in the mix), and start at bottom(low) and work your way up to the khz. The purpose of the analogy is to state that each instrument has a place in the mix, and from the perspective of frequency range you should try to avoid one instrument "lapsing" into another instruments place in the mix. Also, another thing to note, when an instrument does lapse into the frequency range of something else in the mix, like, a low tuned snare sticking around 3khz where most of your driven-guitar work is happening, it will make the snare, or guitar sound "louder" when both are layered or (lapse) together the same frequency range. it can be used to great advantage, but often isnt.
  12. sander_8

    sander_8 Guest

    Thanx for the advice! We'll be recording a song somewhere next week, and I'll try to take this in consideration

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