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Lessons Learned: Updated Cowboy Master


Here is my updated master which I hope incorporates all the lessons I learned from [[url=http://[/URL]=""]this discussion ("Is the Price of Mastering Really Worth It? pt. 2")[/]=""]this discussion ("Is the Price of Mastering Really Worth It? pt. 2")[/].

I actually changed a lot in the mix before it went to the master chain. I added a woodwind section, and EQed the vocals and strings. Listen for the woodwind-only reprise after the main section fades out at the end!

Everything I try with the EQ makes the song sound resonant, or in a tin can compared to what I am used to, so I haven't touched the EQ. I know the EQ needs work, but I just can't do it because I'm way too close to the mix... :-( I'm spending January making a music video for this song, so that's why I'm spending so much time preparing it. Hope you're not sick of it yet! :lol: It may be the single for our 2nd album.

What kind of EQ adjustments would you all make?


Member for

19 years 11 months

audiowkstation Tue, 12/20/2005 - 15:34

I am hearing it my head than the way you have it mixed. Of is your art and you may mix it as you wish, but I would do something about those strings.
Hint, Imagine you are listening to this song about 6 rows back from the stage. Do you really think those cellos could play that much louder than the acoustic guitars?
I'd do a mix for you..unfortunatly, I have a total different perspective and you may not like it.

Member for

51 years 5 months

headchem Tue, 12/20/2005 - 16:29

I hadn't considered backing off the mid-range strings, but I'll give it a shot. That is what you're recommending, right? Or do you mean I should back off the low bass strings?

I'm game for whatever if it makes the song better! I feel like I've been working on the song through a microscope instead of from a distance...

I found the reason why I had so many digital clips earlier: I wasn't using my limiter. I really didn't know how to, so I researched it and now I should have fewer clips. I allowed a few on purpose, though, because I have a soft clip that follows the limiter to add a (hopefully) slight and pleasant distortion to the clips that the limiter attack speed lets through.

Member for

51 years 5 months

headchem Tue, 12/20/2005 - 17:41

Ok, here is a snippet from the updated mix (less strings, bass strings):

I turned down the bass drum and snare since they no longer had to fight to get over the strings. I think the whole orchestra (woodwinds included) sounds much more natural and cohesive now. What do you think.

I guess this belongs in the mixing forums now, but are there still any master EQ changes?

Member for

19 years 11 months

audiowkstation Tue, 12/20/2005 - 21:35

Don't you think that sounds so much better? I do..but then again, let me explain where I come from with mixdowns. I am VERY clients agree..when I push up the faders for the first time..I hear...WOW!!

The rim tap. Play the track...walk into another room and listen for it. It could come down some..agreed? (just a touch)..sounds like driving a nail into wood now. Try checking your staccato balance out there.

So..what I do..since I was there during the entire tracking is to paint a picture of what this band "really sounds like". I do it from an acoustical POV. I picture first of everything will balance in an intimate setting and then how it would sound, on a larger stage of an auditorium..and then next, how could it sound if I was sitting on a grassy hill with the band playing about 40 meters from me. In my mind..I do a combination of this..and begin with brushstrokes..and layer the instruments in a balance that is realistic from an audience POV.

What this perspective. I firmly believe if your dynamic and balance perspectives are closer to what actual instruments really do..the music is free to take you away and make for a much more convincing performance and listening experience.

In mastering..I completely take these ideas..and set them aside. My job now is one that is more technical in nature. Starts and fades. Spacing between the songs (artistically), balance of translation to all systems. Balance at various volumes. Unlike some mastering engineers who have a "set level" for mastering, I don't do this exclusively. I must take a pass at the raw limits of the system to see what would happen if some idiot decided to turn either the bass or the treble all the way up..or even at super loud the mastering hangs in there. I can make a tune sound lush and perfect for an 80dB max level but it simply will not hang if listened to at over 100 dB..because of bass power in the usual sense.
I do find however, that adjusting eq's for levels above 100dB to be a futile exercise but one pass up in the 110 levels does not feel how the bottom hangs in there and how the song "feels" to the body. As old as I am..some folks really get a kick out of up the clip lights on 1000 watts of power and physically moving everyones pants legs..but by the same token..that level is reserved for a very short time. Last time I checked, the woofers in my mains costs more than I want to spend this year..or next!

From this chair..mastering is the "completeness" of the production. It is putting the works into the hands of the consumer..for consumer formats. It is the divorcing..of the production, mixing and creation is the final.

edited 5 times, because I can't see shit (maybe that is why I hear so well)

Member for

51 years 5 months

headchem Tue, 12/20/2005 - 21:52

This is my 100th post on the RO forums! It's like I can quantify learning through number of posts... I think appretices should be required to post at least 100 times in the mastering forums before being allowed to work. That way they'd already know the basics when they started. No more appropriate place to post #100 than after that poetic description of the mastering process.

I agree the mix sounds much better now, and I will definitely try that "visualization" of various performance settings when doing my next mix.
[edit] I agree about the rim tap. I turned it down a little for this mix, but at low levels it stands out too much to me (haven't tried another room yet).

However, now that the strings are turned down, they left the woodwinds bare enough for me to hear some melodic gaps I need to close. After these tweaks, I'm ready to call the song done and put all my focus into the visual representation of the song... music video! I have a bunch of favors to call in from video guys who used my music. Now it's time for an audio guy to use their video, so look out MTV. Won't be long before we have a cohesive multi-dimensional product to promote.

Thanks for all the support everybody (especially audiowrkstation). I wonder what kind of trouble I can stur up for post #101...?

Member for

15 years 5 months

garynameischanged Thu, 12/22/2005 - 04:20

back those strings down a bit, and for some reason when i picture the a.d.s.r of the string section it looks like a skateboard ramp in my head. there is some kind of what I only know to describe as a "wah" affect on the attack of the string section that is making the strings overly and too-apparant in my opinion. The string section should be an accompaniement not the focus of the mix, or am I wrong? so maybe a slower attack, or less tweaking with the attack and decay of the strings? and slightly less relative volume on the string section(sounds like its competing with the vocals). If that was the required affect, perhaps just smooth out the length of the attack and smooth out the decay just a bit without loosing the affect, sounds to me almost like a poorly configured digital compressor. But again, we should remind you that audio is all personal preference, so mix it the way you feel it.