Hey everybody, I've got a question that has been asked a few times before, but I've got a few different parameters going on here and I thought I'd post a new topic and ask about 'em. I'm recording 12 songs for a friend's band. This album will be released on a small record label, and will be played on satellite and college radio, although it's pretty doubtful that it will get farther than that, but we can always hope. The band, their direction and it's music present some interesting challenges to a mix, and this is where the questions come in. The band: A five piece band out of Chicago. Keys, bass, guitar, drums and lots of vocals. Three and four part harmonies, lots of co-lead vocals. Best way to describe the style is Queen meets System of a Down meets Ben Folds Five, with noticeable influences of Faith No More/Mr. Bungle thrown in there. The keyboardist tends to play a lot of piano, using a lot of the sustain pedal for a big, sustaining grand piano sound. The bassist uses different levels of distortion and some effects, and the guitarist has a darker, almost muddy sound and also uses lots of delays and reverbs for effect. The drummer is a very hard hitter with a very open, ringy sound and tends to do a lot of single stroke rolls. You might be able to see where this is going: Mud City when it comes to a mix. The recordist/mixer: I've been into recording and production since I was very little. I'm a musician as well... I play bass, drums, guitar and keyboards. Luckily, I'm also pretty fluent in all of the geekery involved with computers, so the shift from analog to DAWs actually benefits me greatly. I've done a few professional projects, professional in that I've gotten paid for them. I've worked in a couple small studios and out of my own personal project studio. In other words, I'm not a hardened veteran of the music industry, but I'm not wet behind the ears and don't have a clue either. My work always sounds better than what you would expect from what was paid for it, but I'm no arrogant little schmuck that'll tell you I'm the greatest thing since sliced bread. The technical details: We're recording the album in 24 bit 48khz. We recorded the drums at a separate studio with a nicer room than what we had available. We also were pleased to have some great mics and preamps for the drum tracks. We've been tracking the remaining instruments in a couple different locations directly into Cubase 4 through my Firestudio. We've got a UA LA-610 preamp which helps, but when we're running multiple mics the only other preamp I've got available is a Behringer 2 channel tube preamp... not great by any means, but sometimes it's better than just the Firestudio's preamps. Mastering: Technically, I can "master" the album. I've done this for my own band's releases and a couple of the lower cost albums I've done for people. I don't claim to be a mastering engineer and I definitely don't claim that what I do is as good as or even close to paying to have a real M.E. master it, but I can get the tracks up to a comparable level, handle the layout and the fades, etc. The band is aware of this, and they know that we can do an okay, passable job at mastering the album if they choose, or they can choose to pay for an outside mastering house to handle it. I personally have never worked with an outside mastering house, although I know of a few because of some connections and of course, hanging out around Recording.org and seeing some of your guys' (and gals') posts. I've recommended to them that they use a mastering house, and we're going to end up looking for one within their budget when we finish tracking (we've still got vocals and some little production elements to do). Here are the questions I have: 1. Since we're working in 24 bit 48khz, I assume this is how a mastering house would want it so they can work in the higher resolution and dither it down to 16/44.1khz themselves. Is this correct? 2. I think we have a DAT available, but if not what's the best method of sending mixes to a mastering house. As .wavs on a data CDR? 3. Should I cater my mix in any specific direction to help the M.E. or at least not cause him/her any headaches with our mixes? Obviously, not overdoing the compression and not compressing the mix itself is one thing, but is there anything else? As I mentioned with the music, there's a LOT going on, and everything takes up a lot of space. I personally prefer mixes to not be very upfront and compressed so that the listener can hear every detail going on without trying too hard. This tends to sound a little flat and less dimensional because nothing is standing out too much more than anything else, but with this band and this music, doing that would probably sound like a bowl of mush. So I can see a fair bit of spotlighting and a lot of dynamic changes going on in these mixes. 4. Costs. I know, I know... everyone wants to know what it will cost, and every project is different and you get what you pay for, etc. I don't want to ask specifics of what it will cost, but I would like to ask about the method in getting appraisals or estimates from mastering houses. What is the best way to go about asking what the costs will be without being rude or disrespectful? 5. Loudness wars. As I've told the band countless times, everything is a matter of compromise. They're going to have to make a decision on whether the dynamics are more important than keeping up with the Joneses. Once they make that decision (which will probably be more towards the dynamics side of the argument), what is the best way to convey this to the M.E.? I myself have been measuring the average loudness of the track in RMS decibels, and have compared some of my favorite productions and comparable albums to this band to get a ballpark figure on the numbers (which ends up to -11.5 - -12.5db or so), but the numbers don't tell the story.. or do they? Would we look like complete d-bags to tell the M.E. "we'd like it to be around -12db RMS please"? 6. The most important question: Let's say we hired you to do our mastering: What can we do to be completely prepared to bring things in for you? What do you need from us? These guys are like most musicians: flaky, disorganized, procrastinating, forgetful, even clueless at times. What can we do, or should I say what can -I- do to make sure the mastering house gets what they need? 7. Time. Again, I'm sure this is a "your mileage may vary" situation, but what's the time frame on the turnaround for getting 12 fairly intensive songs mastered? In advance, thanks so much for your help. I hope this isn't too much here to scare the busy folks away!