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Your Workflow from Final Mix to Final Product?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by Eraserfish, May 28, 2013.

  1. Eraserfish

    Eraserfish Active Member

    Hey guys, I'm in the final stages of producing my first Album. DAWS differ too widely to make that part specific (I'm using reason 6), but I'm concerned about screwing something up before I send my final product out to the copyright office, cdbaby, itunes, etc. I've listened to my mp3's on about everything I can find, from computer speakers to high-end audio systems. I'm generally happy with my mixes, just surprised at how different the songs sound on different systems. I was wondering if any of ya'all Pro's have some advice for things to watch out for, or could give some examples of your workflow from your DAW and the process you take to the final CD. One engineer told me to run everything through samplitude and I've heard some other mixed opinions about software that will at least make sure I'm not clipping or sending out everything at too low a db that will be the low volume "dead sounding" song on everyones ipod. I fully admit my lack of knowledge at this stage of production and would gladly hear some input. I can say that I mix my songs in with contemporary recordings, and that they sound very up to par, crispy, with strong bass that doesn't distort even at high volumes, so I have to be pretty close.

    I'm starting to realize how lame my question is: Another dumbass musician wants to produce his own album since he is too poor to pay a pro to do it, but he has the ears of a musician and wishes he had the ears of a producer; So now he is asking how to make his project sound professional when most of you would probably puke if you heard it. I would gladly upload a song if this site allows it (puke warning).
     
  2. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    There are a few pieces of info missing... are you sending this out to be professionally mastered? If so, consider keeping your peaks at or less than around -6db. You need to give the M.E. room in which to work. If you send them a mix that is right up against 0, there's not much that they can do... there isn't any room.

    Also, avoid using limiting or heavy compression on the 2-bus, or, for that matter, anywhere... even on the track level.

    As far as "running everything through samplitude"... well, I like the program, but there is no audio platform that will "magically make mixes perfect" by simply running your audio through it.

    There are some outboard devices and audio tools that can add positive aspects to music... but it really all depends on what you are doing and what you want to accomplish.

    Everyone's work flow is different, and in direct relation to the song being worked on at the time.

    The one thing I would advise - again, depending on the style of music - is to remain aware of the dynamics of the music. Don't over-compress or squash things to the point where the natural sense of dynamics and performance nuance is wiped out. Respect the music as much as possible. Let tracks breathe, give them space and definition. Beyond this basic advice, it's nearly impossible to suggest anything else without hearing samples of what you are doing.

    -d.
     
  3. Eraserfish

    Eraserfish Active Member

    Thanks for the inputs Donny. I talked to my manager (me) and he apparently told the producer (me) to tell the musicians (me, and me) that there is no budget for mastering at this time. That being the case, how would you suggest I progress? This is really a novice question and I am frankly embarrassed to be asking this stuff, but until this project takes off a little bit, I am on my own. Right now I'm coming straight out of the DAW (reason 6) as wav files and simply converting them to MP3's. I'm using some compression on the final mix and the effects for each track are all in the box. I would think the minimum of what I would need is some mastering software, but I'm also dumb about what's out there and what is going to be useful to me without having to sell all my exotic cars and the 4th house.
     
  4. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    The software and OB tools used for the mastering stage are a big part of it, as is the room in which the referencing is being done, and you can drop some SERIOUS cash to get the right tools. I know mastering engineers who have as much invested financially as some fully blown studios....but, the gear and the environment, while crucial, aren't the the only necessary parts to the process. There's a serious skill set, knowledge base, and an overall "knack" to mastering, and if you don't know what you're doing, you can really screw things up.

    Put it this way... I've been a professional recording and mixing engineer for over 30 years now, and it's very rare that I'll do any mastering for my clients...or for that matter, even on my own songs. I'm about 98% done with my latest solo album and I'm having our very own audiokid (Chris) handle that end of the project for me. He has the gear, he has the knowledge, and just as importantly, he's got a pair of highly tuned ears to give this stuff a fresh, critical listen....because after writing, arranging, performing, engineering, producing and mixing all these songs, my sense of objectivity is gone, man.

    Do you have any samples that you could post? Let's start with that and see where you stand...what it needs - or doesn't need - as the case may be...
     
  5. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    what Donny says.

    these days mastering is really no more than a final tweek and a pair of fresh ears in a room that is acoustically designed to emeulate the typical home listening experience while also being correctly balanced for flat as possible speaker response. you will find mastering engineers using "speakers" rather than "monitors", esoteric amps, speaker wire that cost hundreds per foot, signal chains that would never be practical in a production environment and room designs that would never work for production.

    studio control rooms are not mastering rooms and mastering rooms are not studio control rooms.

    as long as you aren't going to a full blown release by a record company and you are only posting to the net for free downloads it probably not really needed.

    in the days of vinyl, mastering was a necessary step where masters for production were cut. vinyl records had specific requirements, so they would play / track correctly, the loud songs were at the beginning of the side with the softer songs on the inside tracks, compression applied and low end controlled so the needle wouldn't jump out of the grooves.

    all the public forums i have seen like soundcloud (our current favorite around here) submissions can be deleted and replaced. you might think of tweeking a mix for each one to sound good on that particular site i/e; a mix for ewwtube a mix for soundcloud etc.if you really hear that much difference. i don't but what you are hearing may be the difference between sites that post mp3 / mp4 and those who post full wave files.
     
  6. gdoubleyou

    gdoubleyou Well-Known Member

    I wouldn't export mp3. I would output a .wav or .aiff full resolution formats vs the lossy compression mp3 format.
    Master the stereo mix then if need be convert the full resolution master to mp3.

    From my experience most producers use Reason like a rack of synths and use the Rewire technology to bring the audio into their main DAW.

    Audio recording is a recent addition to Reason and I'm not familiar with the tools available in it now.
    Plugin format in Reason is also new and most developers have yet adopt the format.

    The plugin tools that I use are specifically not available in Reason, but there are Reasons equivalent Eqs, compressors, delays, and reverbs that may or may not give a precise result.

    The environment you mix in plays a key role, if you really can't hear correctly flaw will go undetected.

    And like the forum members have stated it's a skill, and learning a skill takes time.

    Chances are you won't get it right the first time, most of us didn't.

    If this is your career that you have invested time and money don't be cheap and lazy on the final steps.

    You only get one chance at your FIRST release, I suggest you find someone who is experienced for your mixing and mastering, until you acquire the skills.
     
  7. Eraserfish

    Eraserfish Active Member

    Just posted a song onto soundcloud under eraserfish. This will show you about where I'm at. The vocals are a little muddy and I will brighten them up a bit, but any comments are appreciated especially criticism.
     
  8. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    it sounded ok thru my crappy lil laptop speakers i'm using roght now. gets the point of the song across. i think it'll be fine since most people will hear it on speakers like this. as far as detailed crtiques, i'm remodeling the room in my home where my personal recording setup is, so it's all in boxes right now.

    as far as mastering, i've done a fair amount of projects that are never gonna see a pro ME, or label. i mix till i'm about %90-100 done, i insert a bus compressor (drawmer, or ssl emulation), finish the final balance, as the drawmer usually brings out guitars, and low mids. Run it thru a maximizer L1/L2, just tease the GR meter (no more than 3 db, like ever, and it should not happen more than once or twice per song, if at all. usually the GR meter is moving between no gain reduction to like -1/-1.5) w/ a output ceiling between -.1 and -.3.

    this is not to replace real mastering. it's for when real mastering isn't gonna take place, and the mix is just about done, but needs to be 'glued a bit', have similar track volumes to other songs on the 'record', and thats about it.

    As stated you do not want to kill the dynamics. these plug-inscan and will do it if you tell them to. the maxmizers make things loud just by instansiating them, loud is not a problem, or hard to achieve. A nice groovy pleasing mix, is easy to kill. just be tasteful, and keep a/b ing your mix w/ your 'master' keep your eyes on the road and you'll be fine. you should still have depth and dimension. and every note being played by everythign should not show up in your face. singers breaths should not be as loud as their top of the lungs belt. these are bad signs.

    like D said, -6 is anice amount of headroom to work w/ on a stereo mixdown. it's the meters moving that translates to us moving our heads, or 'feeling the groove'. pinned meters are not good for anything. When you watch a movie, every color isn't as bright as possible right? it's the 'contrast' that makes thing brilliant.

    also massey plug-inshas a free limiter in their bundle that got better ratings in sound on sound than the L1 all around, and the L2 on some things. i downloaded it, but have not used it due to being busy on projects outside of my home setup.

    p.s for the bus compression i tend to use a 1.5:1 ration and medium-ish attack and releases. this helps bring up the meat of the song, and not kill the dynamics. of course it's to 'taste' on a song by song basis. but a good general starting point i've found.
     
  9. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Anytime you're working with tracks that are esoteric, you have a bit more freedom to experiment than if you were working within the "commercial" music realm. You have more room in which to experiment and try different things.

    So, on a song that's kind of Avant-garde like this one is, you can get away with some off the wall mixing techniques... and it's okay.

    It's not like this is a commercial pop track where the kick needs to be punchy, and snare need to "crack", or the vocals need to be smooth... you can use pretty much any EQ setting that suits you, or that pleases you, and it's going to be alright, as long as it's still "listenable" and isn't harsh or brittle or makes the listener reach for the "mute" button. LOL

    In this particular scenario, "off the wall" is okay, because the song itself is off the beaten path, and allows for experimental track settings. Actually, consider yourself lucky that you are not held to the restrictions of a "typical" commercial mix scenario. And, because you're not working with a song that will be competing in a commercial vein, you have some freedom when it comes to mastering as well - I mean, let's face it, this track is probably not going to be played on either side of a Pink or Madonna song on T-40 Radio.

    I'm not knocking the song... I'm just saying that because it's not "commercial" - in relation to what we'd accept the general "commercial" definition to be - you have some liberties that you might not have if you were working within that commercial realm.

    Now.. that's not to say that you still don't need to adhere to certain parameters in terms of the mastering or final stages of pre release, because you do... you still need to make sure it's listenable in terms of volume... you can't have 0 db disregarded to the point where the listener is forced to deal with nasty artifacts due to clipping and such, nor do you want it so shy volume-wise that the listener has to turn their system up to "11" in order to hear it.

    If I were you, I'd take a listen to other artists who record in the same style(s), and listen for particular nuances - especially in overall volume and in tone. This will give you a foundation to work from when you get to the mastering stage.

    (and if you intend to do the mastering yourself due to budget constraints, then you should re-read K's post above regarding his suggestions on DIY mastering)....

    IMHO of course.

    -d.
     
  10. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    kmetal,
    i would mix the song till it's finished itb at the highest rate possible. don't try to finalize it itb, just finish the mix. use 24 bit 44.1 /48 or 88.2 / 96 with no compression on the 2 bus and keep levels so there's at least 6 dB of headroom.

    mix to a different computer or recording device at 44.1 / 16 bit in analog to avoid SRC and dithering. while in the analog domain i would add some limiting / compression and final eq. this means you need to have a 16 bit A to D converter (an old DAT machine or CDR burner would work well) a good outboard analog eq compressor and a limiter.

    that's the best "home mastering that you're going to get imo. esentially this is what BT is doing but on a much less grand of a scale.
     
  11. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    yeah, that's gonna definatly be my next area of exploration once i get back behind the board, instead of nailing them together. the 2nd cpu/device isn't really an issue, but "the good OB EQ, Comp, and Limiter" kind of are. mainly because i don't have them. :) most of the workthwile comps i have acces too are mono, and there's only one of them, (dbx 160, 1176 silverface, joemeeks sc2) the eqs i could use are some api's, but they're at the big studio, and that's booked more than the little studio, so i don't have as much access to them. (i'm allowed to go to the studios when during times it's not booked, to hone my craft. very generous owner/mentor gave me the key and the ok a couple years back) no 2ch limiter either.

    i have a dbx 166xl stereo comp/limiter, and a couple stereo geographic eq's (alesis/DOD) not exactly high end, and geared for live sound. there's not much for OB eqs at the studio besides a couple rane pe-15's and the eq's comps in the eureka channels, which the comps are pretty nice, and the eq's aren't bad for tracking, but again, not really high end or esoteric. I mean at this 'home instead of real mastering" is it more to just get some metal in between the mix and master, and to avoid src and dither? (i don't use dither btw, my masters come out 24/44.1, and toast, the burning program converts them to 16/44.1, dunno if that mattered)

    Definitely something to look forward to, and, perhaps i'll pick up a 6spc api lunchbox, and gear it towards this idea. all in due time i guess. thanks for the thoughts, i've been afraid of re-conversion for a while, but all this talk has put quite a few things on my 'experiment' list when i'm done being 'bob the builder' next month.
     
  12. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    you could do the mix like i suggested and then take the 16 bit mix and put it back in the box and do your plugs for the 2-bus processing ...
     
  13. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Ya know K, if you are just looking at picking up the coloration of one (or more) of these OB mono units you have available, you could do this in multiple passes.

    You mentioned that you had some mono gear like the 1176 and such, and while this certainly wouldn't be themost ideal solution, you could output the left side of your stereo bus on one computer/DAW to an OB unit like the 1176, and then output the 1176 onto a track on another PC (call it track 1 or "left"), and then in the second pass, output the other side of the stereo bus, again through the 1176, and into the other PC ...and call it "track 2" or "right". I don't know how much actual processing I would engage, you may want to start with unity gain - if picking up the subtle nuances of the OB unit is all you want to do...although you could engage some gain reduction or make up gain, if that is something you seek beyond the color that these OB units can offer..

    Again, it's not necessarily the most ideal circumstance, but if you are looking at just picking up the coloration that some of these OB units have to offer, this would be a quick workaround.

    The downside is, of course, that you won't have the luxury of monitoring/referencing the stereo sum in real time, nor would you be able to check the relationship of one side of the stereo mix relative to the other... but it could give you some of the "color" you might be seeking, albeit in a quick and dirty way. LOL

    Just a thought.

    -d.
     
  14. Eraserfish

    Eraserfish Active Member

    Great, lot's of food for thought. I will keep informing myself and get on board with OTB mastering and probably set up an API lunchbox with this in mind for some time in the future. In the mean time, this album needs to be finished very soon (I will be going down range for six months or so). I do however want to get it on itunes, and provide a great product to the customer. Can you guys recommned anyone who might be interested in a quick mastering job for a 12 song project like mine that basically needs good quality output but not necessarily be masterminded by the best in the industry? I don't know what kind of money we are talking about here. What's a ballpark for mastering a CD? So far every time I listen to you guys I end up spending money, but everytime it's been exactly what I needed without spending a lot of wasted time or money. I'm already in debt to a lot of you for the time you spend answering my dumb questions:confused:. I'm thinking I'm just gonna have to get my hands on some mastering software in order to excite this a little and to make sure my overall signal is clean without major Fups and market it like it is. No one know's who I am (yet) any way.
     
  15. gdoubleyou

    gdoubleyou Well-Known Member

    Take a look at Harrison Mixbus, an app that is made for mixing/Mastering, come with great tools, and can also use VST, or AU effects plugins.

    Currently on sale at Don't Crack.com for $39.

    There is a thread about it on this forum.
     

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