Wow honestly I have no Idea how to master a song.

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by mrocco182, Feb 19, 2005.

  1. mrocco182

    mrocco182 Guest

    I record all my tracks in Acid Pro or Adobe Audition. After I render the .mp3 file is there a program I can get to master the file or can i do it in the programs I use? I'm sorry this sounds really stupid and you are probably laughing but I am new to this. I am 16 and I have no idea what to do when it comes to mastering. Please help.
  2. One of the major keys to mastering is to have someone else do it anyway, another unbiased set of ears that has the experience, equipment and knowledge. Well seasoned engineers have a hard time with it as well if they were the one mixing the project.

    If you don't have the budget, just mix it the best you can, don't hit it too hard on level (less loud than californication) and forget mastering. You may do more damage than good. Until you are ready to hand off the project to a mastering engineer, you may be better off not doing it at all. I will do one track free to show you the balance.
  3. beachhunt

    beachhunt Guest

    Also, after you render the mp3, the song's "done", unfortunately. Mastering is supposed to take a good mix and make it sound great, but the mp3 format lops off frequencies and distorts the music, so in most cases you don't want to master from it if at all possible. If you do decide to attempt to master your songs, do it with a mixed-down wav file.

    Bob Katz' book, Mastering Audio: the Art and the Science, should help you understand what mastering is, and why everyone in this forum will hopefully tell you "don't mix too loud" right off the bat. It's a good book, whether you stick to mixing or attempt to master.

  4. katapult

    katapult Guest

    Hey guys, don't get too technical on this one. It sounds like he is just getting started out and would like just a simple answer.

    Mastering, in very short, is applying compression, eq, limiting and/or some other processes to the file. So yes, those programs have the ability to "master" your mp3 file.

    The question you want to ask yourself though is what kind of quality do you want. Like what was stated before, don't waste your time mastering a mp3. Play around with the different settings, the order of equipment/vsts, bit rates and sample rates on a wave file to hear the differences (the speakers you do this on will make a huge difference). If you can find a local mastering engineer, see if they would be willing to have you sit in on a session. They might make you go fetch some coffee as payment, but the experience would be priceless.

    Finally, read all you can get your hands on and listen listen listen. Make comparisons of different mp3s, wave files, cds, radio, television programs and commercials.

    If you do this, you will realize there is more to mastering than just making something louder.

  5. scottb8888

    scottb8888 Guest

    So I am in the same boat. I have been recording chorus and orchestra for years at my Church. I normalize the sound when done and then produce CD's. Recently I have tried some of this type recording using multi-track. The guy that is helping me insists we have to master it. I don't want this to sound to "electrified" and I am not sure what he means by mastering? can some one explain?
  6. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Distinguished Member

    Jul 18, 2004
    Chicago area, IL, USA
    Home Page:
    First thing - Don't EVER mix to MP3. Everything else may come later, but always mix down to a PCM file - WAV, AIFF, etc.

    Once you're into an MP3, you've lost a HUGE percentage of the information that the file *was* made of. Disk space is cheap.
  7. jbeutt

    jbeutt Active Member

    Mar 2, 2005
    Home Page:
    An easy way to look at it is to compare your mixdown file size in mp3 and WAV formats. There's a big difference. That difference is mostly just a loss of audio information.

    I'm definately not a mastering tech, so please please correct me if i'm wrong, but i've always thought of it as the purpous of mixing is to get everything together and sounding really good on the equpment you have (prefferably really good). Mastering is to take that great sounding mix and standardize it so it'll sound the best on almost any system/setup.

    To scottb, don't let someone over technicalize (not a word) a situation. If it's not convenient or ultimately needed, you shouldn't need to master, as long as the mix sounds clean. If the cd is just to be distributed to a small group, they're not too likely to care. Also, make sure the guy who's telling you this knows what he's talking about and not throwing around things he may have picked up. I don't know about you guys, but i run into that a lot.
    You're probably right about the electrified thing. If you don't have access to a high quality mastering studio, you may want to forget it. You sure don't want to take a decent mix and ruin it by running it through bad or subpar equipment.
  8. therecordingart

    therecordingart Well-Known Member

    Jul 28, 2004
    Disclaimer: I'm not a mastering engineer so don't take anything I say to heart unless a mastering engineer says so!

    Mastering is something I don't plan on touching for a long time! I've done half-assed "masters" with hot copies of T-Racks (some ME's are cringing while others are laughing) and it sucked. Plain and simple! It was all me and not the software...let me explain:

    I recently had the opportunity to sit in on a mastering session at a bigger studio in my area, and I was lost. The ME was spinning the EQ knobs around and every turn of the knob sounded pretty good to me...some better than others....but I got really confused. If I was spinning the knobs I wouldn't know when to stop because nothing sounded was really a matter of taste. The recording and mix were world class IMO, and that is what made it so hard. The mix stood on it's own, and it made it hard for me to justify in my head what was good for it.

    I could hear where the ME was trying to take the mix, I kinda understood how to get it to where it needed to be, but I don't think my ears would've taken it down that road to begin with. That is what separates me (the listener) from the man behind the knobs. My ears could hear what was happening, and I was able to map in my head exactly what he was doing and why, but I don't think I would've known to start and finish where he did.

    That being said....I agree with the rest of the mp3, listen to lots of music, read lots of books and posts on this site, and always start working with fresh ears. If you aren't "feeling it" start over on a different day. Being and ME or an AE is 1 part science, 1 part know-how and a million parts creativity and imagination IMO. You can know the science and how to run the gear, but if you aren't "feeling it" you are dead in the water. Everyone has off days where there ears just don't connect to the's those days you can't be stubborn because you'll work your ass off and hate the end result.
  9. scottb8888

    scottb8888 Guest

    to: jbeutt

    Thanks for the advice. the guy who is advising me does mostly "rock" type stuff and this is more choral/ orchestra.
  10. chriscavell

    chriscavell Guest

    I can certainly understand your hesitation to have this stuff mastered. However, if it's within your budget, and there's a chance these recordings will be sold or used in video or radio, try to have them mastered. Just be picky with what mastering engineer you choose. Most reputable ME's will do only what's necessary for your project, and quite frankly may feel it a bit refreshing to get a "please no volume-war" request for a change.


    (If you need a recommendation for a great classical mastering engineer, try Ben Maas at )
  11. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Fredericksburg, VA
    Hey Scott!

    This is a common problem that I run into a lot. Rockers who don't know the difference between mastering a punk album and mastering a classical album. You've come to the right place - there are some very seasoned experts here and they'll steer you in the right direction.

    Mastering classical music is FAR different than masetering rock. (I define classical as any group of orchestral instruments and/or chorus.) First, the goal of many mastering engineers (more accurate to say - the goal of many misinformed musicians and therefore the job of many mastering engineers - ) is to increase the overall volume, whether real or perceived using compression and limiting. Then (of course in no particular order) there is the EQing process which is intended to fix irregularities or smoothen (or sometimes rough up) the sound and make things more cohesive. Then there are things like gain riding, frequency filtering, etc.

    In classical (see definition above), it is the utmost goal to preserve as much of the dynamic range as humanly possible. Compression is often considered a dirty word in the classical world. Limiting is most definitely a dirty word in classical (though it's done to control insane peaks - like the percussion attack at the beginning of Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man...).

    What I do to master a classical album is quite simple. There is occassionally some EQing going on, but understand, this isn't with your run of the mill 31 band graphic EQ. I use a non phase-shifting EQ designed for mastering. Tweaks are usually minimal at best and are typically only employed to fix minor issues or filter bands. (more on that in a moment.)

    I will then split the audio into multiple portions based on numerous factors - amplitude and instruments playing are two of the biggest factors. First, by splitting the wav file and then crossfading it back together, I can make seemless gain changes to help enhance dynamic range or bring out passages that need a little extra. Of course, if there's a flute solo and nothing else, I'll remove a large portion of the low frequency, also done with a gentle crossfade.

    Then of course, I'll trim the beginnings and endings of pieces so that they sound natural, often including applause if it's a live event.

    To not overwhelm, I'll stop here and if you have questions/comments, please interject here.

  12. jbeutt

    jbeutt Active Member

    Mar 2, 2005
    Home Page:
    Beyond having a rock guy on your back, what are your resources and end goals of the recording? Where's it ending up and how much time/money do you have to put in?

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