Perspective in Mastering

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by Don Grossinger, Sep 24, 2002.

  1. Don Grossinger

    Don Grossinger Distinguished past mastering moderator Active Member

    I know I'm new to this forum, but I have noticed something which I think is very important. I see lots of posts about equipment. This is fine as far as it goes, but equipment does not make a mastering engineer. The purpose of mastering is to have a fresh set of ears, in an enviornment that is "known", listen to the finished mixes and bring them to a higher, more satisfying & commercial level. How that is accomplished does not matter. There are an infinite number of combinations of gear. If the artist/ producer/ record company/ buying public all like the result, then the job is well done. Mastering is about giving that final polish to your gem before calling it retail ready. This is why the mastering engineer is important, not so much what gear is used.
  2. audiowkstation

    audiowkstation Active Member


    I have said these things many times:

    "I never use the same technique twice"
    " I use many many different systems in creating the final"
    " the vibe is what matters, even on a clock radio"
    Finally, "Their are probably 50 different ways I could have done (insert a song or album), all of them would have been great"!

    Artistic expression far outweighs the equipment. I bet a thousand dollars I could never remaster anything I have ever done the same way again. It is those moments into days with the "works" that made it happen the way it did. Never to be duplicated.

    It gets irritating when someone wants me to document all my presets for song can run into the hundreds. 1000 edits in a song is not uncommon.
  3. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    Gear......Credits........These are things that define us. How many times have I've been asked, "who have you worked with? what gear do you have?" In my opinion they are one in the same. I rarely have someone ask me for a CD so they can LISTEN to what i've done, they ask me for my discography and what gear do I have. No matter how much we don't want to admit it, we end up delivering what they want. As I write, I find myself in a showdown between Brian "Big bass" and myself on a project that I know the engineer, I know the room he mixed in, I know the artist, and I've demonstrated to the satifaction of the engineer, the artist, and the management that I'm more suitable to do the job. But because he's done so and so, the label feels that it would be prudent of them to have him do it, but I'm welcome to do my version and have a "showdown". "He's got a button that when you push it, it's amazing". this is what i'm told!!!! this is what I live by day to day, a button. It's all hype and that is what we live by. If We fight it you know what the outcome is, so we make our own button to push and we hope to land that artist that pushes us over the top. Skill, knowledge, experience???? these are things of wanna be's, not of professionals. Real professionals have this gear and those credits. So that is what we talk about. I do it, and you do it. What we should talk about is why people find these things important. What makes our clients minds tick and how can we show them that might doesn't make right. I don't think this can be answered in this forum, but I do hope to open up peoples minds to at least let them hear that because someone achieved this on such and such gear, that it doesn't mean that it can't also be achieved with another approach and turn out the same if not better. This is what I pray and hope for.

    Now take ten paces and draw!!!!
  4. Doug Milton

    Doug Milton Active Member

    As a certified gear whore, I always want to have the best tools to do the job (within the confines of what my client base is willing to pay for). But gear does not an engineer make. It's obvious we all share a passion for craftsmanship. I believe it's our subjective perception that makes us "right" for a certain project or not. It should be more about what we can bring to a project as an engineer / artist than about having a preset on a "%$#@ - ilizer"
  5. Don Grossinger

    Don Grossinger Distinguished past mastering moderator Active Member

    Well, I'm glad I have stirred up some comments, at least from the other moderators....
    My point is that a mastering engineer should know his (or her) room and gear so well that they are able to deliver the nuances requested by the client to really make the music sing. This can be accomplished in lots of ways. I can't tell you the number of times that a client has stood next to me & said "I didn't know that was on the master, I never heard that before".
    If the engineer can "hear" what the music SHOULD sound like, or can develop a sense of the best a master can be, then your'e almost home free.
    Then the gear you've got must be able to get you there. That's what the gear is for. To be able to fullfil that image in your head.
    People record under such non-ideal conditions these days, mastering becomes more important than ever before. Mastering today might be the only reality check that still exists in the recording process. Even if your mix is great, wouldn't it be useful to just check it out under controlled conditions before putting it out there, just to be sure?
    Mastering at the same studio, by the same engineer who did the recording can be risky because detachment & perspective is missing. It's not just boosting the highs & lows & compression. Use the gear, but KNOW the gear, know the room, know the music, be able to communicate with the client.

    Any comments from the membership???
  6. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    Don, I completely agree about perspective, I'm not the engineer on the project but i do know the engineer.
    I love it when a client sits down to listen to something I've worked on and their eyes open wide and they turn and say to me, "I didn't know the drummer was humming while he was playing".
    I was being sarcastic in the last post, my belief is the same as yours. Unfortunately as with most other things, gear is looked upon as being the thing that someone can put their finger on. Sometimes i'll do a job and the client listens down to the work. "I love it, what did you use?" My response is, "my ears, oh and a this and that gear". He says, "oh I love that gear, I want you to use it on everything you do for me". i guess they could put a finger on my ears, but I usually don't like clients playing with my ears.
  7. Don Grossinger

    Don Grossinger Distinguished past mastering moderator Active Member

    I guess that means you're not Ferengi. (obscure, comedic Star Trek reference for the literal minded among us)
  8. Alécio Costa - Brazil

    Alécio Costa - Brazil Well-Known Member

    I wished I had high end gear, but have been able to achieve very good results with lots of study, love for what I do and basic tools: a Daw ( PT), a nice computer and a board. The result comes in col :w: ours....
  9. audiowkstation

    audiowkstation Active Member

    Well I guess (to Don) I am a Feringi or Vulcan) because I swear that my clients cannot hear what I hear. I say..look, I hear voices speaking right before the vox track starts..can you give me a 4 track? they say WHAT? I say I want a inst. 2 tk and a vox 2 tk..I will mix it..I just need to edit the vox tracks. They say..WHAT? I say..the vox tracks were not cleaned up or punched correctly and I have to edit them, plus I need to adjust the imaging of the 2nd verse because it is leaning left 0.3dB they say What?
    They is mixed..I say, recall the vox and group it to 2 tk..they say What?

    Ok..enough of the "say whats"..but I am totally into the groove you folks are speaking. 100%. I am hip to sugg., but really, what producer or artist has a clue of my translation and vibe...they like me..true..actually they cannot get enough of ME at times.. I appreciate that because I really do not like to practice "assholitity" and brush folks off. Assholitity is my word and you have my explicit permission to use it whenever it is prevelent! Copyright 1991 (right?) LOL

    Actually, here is my problem. Not a problem..but a situation/issue (remember those words being used so much in 1994-1999?)

    I received DAT tapes from majors for years and years. They wanted me to do a "sample mastering" a second, third or forth choice. Maybe a 20th choice..who knows? I did my best..I got paid pretty damn good. Example. Project 1441223 from Warner Bros records got me a check for 13K. I did 5 tracks. I did not know the artist. I still don't know, till this day. I did not work for credits..I worked for cash. Then I had a sneaky idea. How about if I put a 1/1000 frame signature right before the track starts to see if they used my mastering..(at -77dB)? !!!!

    I started doing this and found that my mastering was actually being used at times. What a ^#$%ing convience for the lables! Did I get credit? No.. I got cash. I got cash whether I got picked or not. I did NOT gain credits.

    Ok..I now choose to do work for credit..and poss. 0.5 to 1.0 point. Well I am doing a $*^t load of Non for Profit for advertising..but guess what? Ever since I have been on the web using my real name and phone number..I have not heard a damn word from any of the majors. WHat a ^#$%ing joke dudes..

    I am not here to step on anyones toes or take anyones biz..I am complacent with doing indies for a grand a shot..but really, what gives?

    Sorry for the multiple stories but really, I am here to help folks take this to another level if they will and I offer my services on the 50% discount for RO members.

    I want to restore older recordings to original standards.that is what my system and "ears" are set up for. Seems like the Good Old Boy Club is still using some shotty mastering engineers from what I hear being released. I am so happy that true engineers are amongst us.and I do have a huge shining light contract coming in 11 months..of my dream projects..until then..if I can help..feel free to call on me. I am Here.

    I just want to know why shitty mastering is allowed to fly with the majors. WHY?......Why.

    It is most unfortunant.
  10. Macaroni

    Macaroni Guest

    It's great to read all of these things by working mastering engineers. It helps to give us project/home studio guys a good perspective.

    No one can argue that having a fresh set of ears, a great room, and a skilled craftsman are the best ingredients for mastering one's finished mixes.

    But the reality is that most of us have invested our last dollars in gear to make the music and don't have anything left for mastering. Especially since many of us mix and remix as part of the learning and experience-gaining process.

    Then we want to master those mixes to see how they stand up by comparison to whatever standards we choose as the high water marks.

    I suspect that is why you get so many questions about gear and settings - just to give neophytes an understanding of those particular elements of the overall process.

    And unfortunately, we have to mix and master in the same room, with the same ears. Not the best, but what else can be done under the circumstances?

    In any case I for one appreciate hearing all your ideas and perspectives and I'm learning from it, so keep it flowing and I'll keep "groking".

  11. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    I do understand where you are coming from because I do work with independent artists and I am also training an assistant so sometimes I have to remind myself of when I was begining and trying to wrap my head around how certain things were achieved, whether engineering, mixing or mastering. My first job as an engineer was at a karoke studio. They would give me a 3324 and a musician and a portable console with some outboard gear, roll me into a booth or where ever and say "here is the song we are doing" it could be Elvis one day, and van halen the next, "match this guitar part and sound". So we would work and work, scratch our heads, fiddle some more, try another guitar, try another amp. We tried everything until we were as close as we could get. Each song became easier and easier to achieve because I began to learn how everything made everything sound. As I became a mixing engineer I first approached it the same way. I would pick something as close to what I had and then would try and get my mix as close as possible. When i started mastering, I would have the luxury of having the mastered CD and the unmastered mix and then i would see how close i could come to matching them. As i began to learn through trial and error and finding out that it did require different gear but most importantly, a different mindset to achieve results that were anywhere near close, or so I thought. As I did this for a few years, listened and compared, I began to hear even more sublte things. I would then see how much better i could make it sound than the mastered CD. I still learn something new almost everyday. The gear is only as good as the person using it and that person gets good by following and breaking the rules with what they have at that time. Get as good as you can with what you have and then and only then will you begin to appreciate what something else can do. And so up the ladder in debt you go. But for me, the first step is to try to get as close as you can to what others have done and then see if you can raise it a notch.
  12. Don Grossinger

    Don Grossinger Distinguished past mastering moderator Active Member

    Michael's response was correct. If you really learn the gear you have, then it's possible to get good results even if the equipment isn't the "latest/sexiest" stuff. Gear is not the most important thing, learning your room & the equipment in it is.

Share This Page