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I'm mixing down an album right now (electonic/hip hop ) and when listening to reference CDs I'm hearing tight hard bottom end and sparkling highs. When I mix I have this but not at the level in terms of presence that these other CDs have it. Is that mastering? My stuff is sounding good but I was wondering when I can say "the rest is left for mastering" even if that rest is just these small little details. I want to make sure I'm not taking the easy way out here and giving tehse songs the attention they deserve.

I'll put it this way, the people I show the music to that aren't engineers or sound guys can't tell the difference. I can.

Thanks mastering guys and gals for helping out the mixer! I'm hoping to make you're job as easy as possible by getting the best mixes possible.


Masternfool Wed, 04/24/2002 - 06:38

You're probably correct..Mastering will tend to tighten things up, such as low end..peaks,overall levels..It all depends on whats sent in, some need more attention than others..I have a habit of crossing over to mastering engineer while I'm mixing, and I don't want to do that because I'll loose perspective. I just do an overall decent mix and call it finished.Hopefully the mastering engineer will be as through as I am. I try not to master my own stuff, unless it's just demo work or absolutely no budget.

anonymous Wed, 04/24/2002 - 07:43

It's so important you find someone who has mastered the kind of stuff you are referencing to. Someone who understands the genre and who will spend time with you listening to what you are seeking, as you seem to have a unique vision thing going on there too.
I suggest that you are present while the works being done unless you really don't want to learn about this stage (I don't think so!!) or you SO trust the pro that you know the results will compensate for the lack of realtime experience. You seem so hungry to learn it would be great to find someone to talk you throught the mixes and the process. Then you will find the answer to your question!!!
Renie :)

joe lambert Wed, 04/24/2002 - 10:41

This is a fun question.
When is the mix finished? Usually when the engineer / artist runs out of time! Without hearing the mix and being able to give constructive criticism, if it sounds great to you on full range and nearfields, and if you play it at a comperable volume as something you are "aiming to sound like" then I would say you are probably fine. Even though mastering can do many things, the better the mix is the better the end result will be. This is not a real good answer I know. You just keep fine tuning the more records you mix.

crazy_guitar Wed, 04/24/2002 - 19:07

Sometimes I mix with extra punch on the snare and kick then I want, cause I know that when the Mastering engineer squashes my mix to sound louder (seems to be louder every day) I will loose punch. sometimes when I'm "done" with a mix I will check my mix trough an L2 and squash the level as much as a commercial CD, just to have a perspective where my snares, kick, vocals and others are. Since I started doing this, I dont feel that my mixes come out squashed out from the mastering house.

Dave McNair Wed, 04/24/2002 - 19:18

This is a great question. I remember thinking back when I first started engineering, how do those guys get the hi hats to sound like that? And this was very pre CD's. Then a few years later when I had something,(I had recorded and mixed) mastered, I went "aha it's in the mastering" That super cool bright but silky sound on vocals and drums is many times due to the mastering. Sometimes it's not. You should try to make your mixes sound as good as you can, but as you gain more experience, you might get to the point where you know how far you have to go to tweak the over all spectral balance and when to declare victory and let the mastering engineer put that last bit of polish on your masterpiece. For what it's worth, I don't know a lot of super pro mastering people who use multiband comp/limting on a regular basis. Most of that big but tight low end is great mixing. The rest is little nips and tucks with eq/comp/limiting in the mastering, but it's nearly impossible to get a really great fat and tight low end at the mastering stage if the mastering engineer is working with mixes that are either too thin, or way too big and flabby. Add more difficulty points when the bass drum/bass instrument balance is weird. He is 2 little concepts that a buddy of mine passed on to me. When you are mixing and you feel you are getting near the end of the process, the brightness of the lead vocal and the snare drum should compliment each other and the bass drum and bass instrument should be married together happily. This is a generalization, but I think it works pretty well as a concept.

anonymous Fri, 04/26/2002 - 22:07

I think I've been compressing the Bass lines too much. I've been kinda smashing thems. It seems to suck the low end out. I want that bottom to sit in the sub and not move!

The journey continues...I never intend on arriving anywhere, I just like the trip 'cause we can always "do better" nomatter how good we get.

anonymous Sat, 05/04/2002 - 00:23

Okay, frustrated today. There's a fork in the road here and which one do I take????

I mixed some stuff, sounds good in the studio. I have some shitty little computer speakers that I check it on to make sure my low end isn't too much. Then, we took the mixes to a live DJ gig and the low end was not nearly as present as most of the commercial hip-hop. However the one mix that I left a bit more heavy low end in (little computer speakers had a tough time pushin it past a certain volume) sounded great! It's low end stood up with all the other stuff! Hmmmm.

THEN...(maybe a conclusion??)

One of my friends at Universal Records gave me an underground street mix of DJ Quicks new album. Stuff that doesn't sound mastered yet. Fresh out of the studio for the label to hear and start leaking to the streets. These Quick songs ate up little speakers! SOOOOOO, should I stop being so conservative on the low end of my mixes, and stop basing my mixes on whether or not little speakers can handle the bass at slightly higher volumes? (I turn it up enough to match the loudness of a commercial this teh problem?) Obviously the DJ Quick Demo, has to be turned up and is not mastered, but I'm sure when we get his finished record it'll be loud and bumpin.

I just notice that Most of the commercial reference CDs I use sound loud on little speakers with no low end problems and then you take them to a big rig, and that bass is huge!!!

1:12 AM, long day, sorry if I sound helpless. I'm not, I just need to know which direction to tweek these mixes and figured you guys/gals could help lead me in the right one.

Thanks all. That subscription money seems worth it right now!

Sorry for the thousands of questions in a row.

Maybe it comes down to this, with the type of music I'm doing, is it better to error on the side of a little too much low end before we take it to a good mastering engineer?

joe lambert Tue, 05/07/2002 - 05:53

You need to have speakers that you can trust. There are plenty of computer grade speakers that I know I wouldn't trust to judge the bottom end (or anything!) of records I work on. My advice is to find a good nearfield that you like listeing to music on. Get real comfertable with them over time. Do the same with a pare of full range speakers. This becomes your reference. Some people listen to there mixes through the little Arotone's as a least common denominator. That's fine but they are also listening on bigs that they feel comfortable with. When you have speakers you trust you will get better results. And you can look the client in the eye with confidence and tell them the low end is right.