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What kind of things do you guys like to see in a mix before you master? I'm getting ready to mix my band's album, and was wondering what's generally the right way to go before mastering.

Thanks a lot.


Dave McNair Thu, 12/27/2001 - 13:23

That is a very open ended question. Can you be more specific? What I would like to see when I master something is good music, well recorded and mixed. On a technical level, the mix should be on a high resolution format, preferably 1/2" or 1/4" analog or 24 bit digital and not over-compressed, eq'd, finalized, ect. Also, don't dump your masters into ProTools to edit prior to taking it to your mastering engineer. I made this mistake years ago thinking we would save time at mastering. Big mistake, it always sounds inferior, IMO.

MadMoose Thu, 12/27/2001 - 21:03

I do small time mastering so what I like to see might be a little different. Make sure everything is labeled and organized. Don't EQ and process your mix. If you feel that the processing is good and important give the person doing the mastering an alternate version so they have a choice. If it's analog print tones and mark the reference level, if it's digital try not to clip things (it happens, even I let a few get by now and then) and don't normalize it. Other then that, what kind of advice are you looking for?

Masternfool Fri, 12/28/2001 - 05:56

What I like to see are...everything labeled, documented, including ph. numbers..Good levels but not finalized, maybe -2,-3 on the peaks. specific instructions if client has any feedback, they usually know which songs are the problem child. It's even better if the client can be there to listen as it goes down.
my 2 cents..

anonymous Sat, 12/29/2001 - 17:41

Vocals clean and coherent in the mix. Instruments well defined with solo instruments slightly up front on lead sections, absolutely no eq, fx or dynamic processing on the two track mix. 24 bit or better for digital. This means if you record and mix at 24 bit, don't dither and downsample to 16 bit and burn to cd-r, give the mastering house the 24 bit data files.

joe lambert Mon, 01/07/2002 - 09:56

All mastering engineers want the same things from a client. Good music, recorded well, mixed well and captured on a hi resolution format such as half inch or quarter inch anolog. If digital 24 bit files of some sort. Label everything neatly. Let us know ahead of time what to expect and when to expect it.

If we get those few things we are generally very happy.

Happy New Year,

Joe Lambert

MadMax Mon, 01/07/2002 - 18:47

In addition to the lack of excessive processing, a good clean mix and documentation out the wazoo...

BE EARLY OR ON TIME FOR YOUR SESSION! Being late is worse than not showing up.

It NEVER hurts to send two mixes of the same song... one with Kik and Bass UP (+1.5-3db) and the other with Kik and Bass at normal. Since these are the two most difficult areas and instruments to get perfect, this gives you and your mastering engineer a bit of insurance. Just be sure to document which is which... and BE CONSISTANT!

My suggestion would be to put all of the normals together and then all of the Kik UP's together... in the exact same order. -OR- Normal then Kik UP for each song. Don't screw up and mix the order... unless you document it and have a nice roasted duck cantonese dinner delivered at lunch time.

When I say +1.5-3db, I don't mean the actual level should be that. Just that you want them to be as much as +3db hotter in the mix than you might think. YMMV obviously as your mix room and monitors are the whole story here.

You may want to ask to send the facility 1 or 2 songs for review (if they're willing to do this) and ask them for their input as to what they would recommend...

It never hurts to inquire as to the engineer's favorite libation and arrive with it pleasantly wrapped in a brown paper bag.

Good luck and remember... be kind to your mastering folks... They can't fix the mix, but they can make or break a project.

My .02

MadMax Tue, 01/08/2002 - 13:23

Originally posted by Brad Blackwood:

All very good except this - many mastering houses charge 1/2 day for a no show, so your mastering budget may be screwed from the get go if you don't show.

If you're late you will be charged for the time, but it could be worse...

I'm assuming that if you can't show up, you would at least be smart enough to call a day ahead and cancel... pay the half day charges and pray that you can get time reserved again.

By being late, you have already gotten off on the wrong foot. Additionally, you have now added on to your time and having to pay extra will no doubt piss you, the client, off too. Having two pissed off people working towards what should be a happy goal is often more than can be reasonably expected.

If you can't avoid being late, at least have the common decency to call and let the facility know. Try to give them an ETA and ask if they would prefer to reschedule or if they are willing to let your time stand.

I actually had a client book time, under my name, as they were my client, and then didn't show. That pissed the mastering facility and me off too. NOT GOOD! They thought I was the slacker and I didn't even know about it. So that doesn't sit well either.

Then they booked time again, and showed up late... at another facility... again, dropping my name as the joint client. WRONG THING TO DO BOYS AND GIRLS. I'm a studio owner, not a producer, artist or AR. I generally don't go to mastering unless I am asked and paid to.

Don Grossinger Wed, 01/16/2002 - 05:52

In addition to everything else that's been said (all of which is true), to ensure that your mix is ready for the mastering step it is very useful to audition the mix in as many enviornments as possible. Listen in the studio (with fresh ears), in a club, in your car, in a high-end stereo shop, in friends houses, etc. This is especially true of mixes done under less than ideal situations (i.e. at home). Also if the mix is done on small, less than full range monitors, you should check it out on a set that shows you what the low end is doing below 100 Hz. Compare the mix to others of known quality which you admire & are familiar with.
When the mix sounds good under these conditions, then bring it to an experienced mastering engineer for the final touch up.