My first attempt at DIY mastering

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by ClarkJaman, Feb 5, 2013.

  1. ClarkJaman

    ClarkJaman Active Member

    Jun 19, 2011
    Saskatoon, Canada
    Home Page:
    Hey guys,

    This is a song I produced, engineered, mixed etc myself. Now I am mastering it. It's my first time trying to master myself, so I am looking for some feedback.

    You can listen to the tracks here. I uploaded the mastered and the unmastered tracks so you can A/B them is you so choose:
    Rough Mixes | JungleHeart Productions

    This is the mastering chain I used:
    -Ran each mono track through Waves C4
    -Ran each mono track through a parametric EQ to boost the high mids a little bit, and give the high end more oomph
    -Then it hit a stereo group track
    -Ran the stereo track through Waves S1 Shuffler to enhance the spread just a tiny bit.
    -Waves C1 for some upward compression
    -Waves L1 for to bring the dynamic range down to somewhere between 9 and 10.
    -Lastly, I ran the Waves Q EQ on the stereo bus to trim off the fat. Cut everything below 20Hz and above 21kHz.

    So that is what I did. I didn't get this method from any reputable source or anything. I just made it up because it made sense to me while I was doing it. If there are any obvious mistakes in my chain let me know, by all means! :)

    A couple questions I have for you guys:
    -What do you think about the bass guitar in the mastered version? In the unmastered track the bass lived right in the middle and it sat there pretty nicely. But now, with all the boosting of high end and spatial enhancing, it's kind of hanging out on the outskirts. I don't know if I like it.
    -How do I know if the right and left track are about the same loudness/volume? Initially I could tell that the right one was a little bit louder just listening and by looking at the meters on the stereo bus. So I brought it down a dB and it seems to be more even now. But is there some sort of plugin that shows the volume balance between left and right?

    PS I know DIY mastering is a bad idea, and I know I could hire somebody who actually knows what they are doing and has a much better room to master this. But whenever I do that I get screwed over by idiots who call themselves mastering engineers, so I am going to learn to do it myself.
  2. ClarkJaman

    ClarkJaman Active Member

    Jun 19, 2011
    Saskatoon, Canada
    Home Page:
    WOAH! Lol I listened to this today with fresh ears and it sounds pretty awful. Lots of high, that is for sure. I got a little carried away with trying to brighten it up. It's amazing what fresh ears can hear. :/
  3. audiokid

    audiokid Chris Staff

    Mar 20, 2000
    BC, Canada
    Home Page:
    I'm not an ME but I like the presence you got in the music but your Vox is too bright. You got some sibilance on your Vox on both so you need to deal with that before the mastering for sure.
    Mastering is nightmare. Its not an easy thing. You need a really great monitoring system for starters.

    The C4, people seem to like that but I would never use a multiband comp. They can really ruin a mix. but, I liked your mastered mix with it, for the presence that is.

    Love your vibe as always.

    hope that helped.
  4. Paul999

    Paul999 Active Member

    Mar 23, 2011
    Edmonton, AB. Canada
    I have a great mastering engineer that I work with that it trust with my life! He talks with me for far longer then is profitable for him and does consistent work and will recall until I am done (rarely happens).

    I like the mixed version better than the master. I am listening in ear buds so I am missing a lot but when the vocals come in I hear a real spike at about 3-4k.

    Learning to do Mastering on your own is tough! I master a lot of projects I record when the budget isn't there for an ME. There is always that little bit missing. If you like I'll hook you up with my ME. Not that I am frowning on learning to do it yourself.
  5. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Nov 25, 2012
    Akron/Cleveland, OH
    Home Page:
    Yeah... this wasn't so much the fault of your mastering as it was the original mix to begin with.

    Vocals, at least to my ears, are very thin, lacking body and warmth, and you've got some upper frequencies on other instruments that are pretty "glassy"...

    I think what we have here is probably a classic case of having heard this too much on your part. You may need to walk away from this one for a while, or, get an engineer with fresh ears and a fresh outlook to re cook this puppy.

    Beyond that, I still encourage you to find a real M.E. to do the job once you get a mix you like.

    Besides having knowledge and skills, the advantage to having a real M.E. do your mastering, when it comes time to do so, is that you are getting someone with not only good ears, but fresh ears... along with the skills and knowledge to make a good mix sound great in the end.

    Clark, I recorded and mixed hundreds of albums over the years, and while I consider myself to be a pretty good engineer, I rarely mastered any of those projects myself.

    Besides not really having the right gear - or the proper skills -to do it with, I was always far too close to the project in terms of hearing it so many times during tracking and mixing...I had no objectivity left.

    There's a reason that 90% of the commercial album releases you see will say "engineered by" followed with "mastered by"...


  6. ClarkJaman

    ClarkJaman Active Member

    Jun 19, 2011
    Saskatoon, Canada
    Home Page:
    Haha. Specifically said not to bother telling me to hire a real ME, and the majority of responses still said to hire an ME. :p

    Touche! I definitely wouldn't recommend mastering your own tracks (at least not for this kind of music) either, but I have already gone over budget with this project, so I'm stuck doing it myself. You are very lucky to have an ME that you trust. I know a few guys that I would trust enough to at least try them out, but they are pretty expensive. I think I'll be able to find someone good by asking around though. Word of mouth between trusted, capable engineers/producers, coupled with cold, hard, results is the best way to find talented people in this business.

    Some people would say that the unmastered version is supposed to sound "better" than the mastered one! I don't think that's the "better" that you're talking about, though. ;)
  7. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Member

    Sep 26, 2005
    Clark, you know how much I have loved your previous musical accomplishments. This isn't one of them unfortunately. It sounds like it was recorded very well as you have done in the past. And while I know you're talking about mastering, this mix isn't the right mix, to master.

    The vocal lead was clear, solid, understandable, intelligible with a cold hard clarity that did not work. Clarity is one thing. It's not the only thing. And part of what makes recorded music sound good is the good distortion produced from good equipment and good technique. It's not about distortion specifications or any of that stuff. It's only about how the performance moves people. I'd like to hear that vocal with a boatload of dynamic range compression. It's all over the place dynamically that does not work. You need greater containment. I mean you need greater entertainment. Both! And to be quite Frank with you Clark... can I call you Frank? You don't want to Clark around too much with this Frank. That's not mastering. That's playing with software and getting to know your software. I'm not trying to make WAVES here. I'm not even using WAVES here. I'm using computer voice recognition and I'm not sure what my computer is trying to say to you? Maybe there is a problem with my teeth and I need to have them re-lapped? No... I don't think that's the problem? I find it interesting that I can talk to my computer and it mostly understands me. I cannot sing to my computer and have it understand me? And that's sort of like how that mix came out? Nice to them. Good writing and arranging. Good recording technique. Now you just have to come up with a good mix which I know you are quite capable of doing.

    It also may not have occurred to you that while this software you are using is quite powerful, you are over using it. Some of the processing that I do with my software, the meter doesn't even move. And that's where I get the sound I want. When the meter is moving and you feel like you are getting your money's worth out of the software, it sounds like crap. It's over-the-top. It's a waveform that looks like a brick. And sounds about as good as being hit in the head with a brick.

    So when I master my own stuff, I generally go pretty lightly. Unlike Chris, I absolutely believe in spectral processing a.k.a. multi-band limiter. It's how you use it that counts. And I don't find myself leaving the things set, the same way, throughout all the songs of an album project. In fact, each song is processed differently from each other. The crossover points are changed. The amount is changed. The threshold levels are changed. And I get to tune the distortion components if I want to add them. And frequently, I'll even combine my final mix with that of the multi-band stereo bus limiter a.k.a. parallel processing. The parallel processing can be tricky. You have to get things lined up right down to the sample. And even then you may hear some timing issues? Which will have you pulling your hair out. Some software processors have a mix control to allow for that parallel processing feature with less headaches. So, Mastering isn't about just the stuff you're putting it through but also the stuff you're not putting it through. And the combination of the two. But that's only with a really superb mix to begin with. And I think that you will at some point in time dial this one in correctly. And then you will be able to try that Mastering thing again.

    What really concerned me with this, you've posted so many other completely excellent examples of your work, I'm wondering how and why you dropped the ball on this one? Obviously it seems you're feeling your way through a different kind of engineering technique? I liked what you were doing better before. Maybe it's because you were not concentrating as hardly on the actual sound as you were the mix? And sometimes it's just that gut like mix, without this concerted effort where your talent really shines? It literally sounds like you're trying too hard. It sounds like this is the first recording you've ever made? Maybe you just need to smoke more of what I'm smoking? Because I think you're trying too hard. You have ruined your own excellent technique with improvements. Take a step back or two. You were doing all the right things before this.

    It might be interesting to note that those really fabulous engineers, that come up with those really fabulous mixes really require very little Mastering at all. And where, the mastering engineer may only be making small level tweaks between cuts and nothing more. They don't need to try and fix that which came from a true professional. And you're trying to fix and enhance something that ain't broke except for the mix. So just come up with one of your really fabulous mixes for us all to hear first. Then we can play at the mastering.

    How else are you supposed to learn? You're learning.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  8. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Distinguished Member

    Dec 12, 2001
    Oberlin, OH
    Home Page:
    Self mastering is like self barbering - the results may not be what you are expecting. At least with self barbering the hair will regrow eventually. Badly done mastering, if released, is always there for you and others to ponder over and ask the WHY question over and over.

    Don't go the CHEAP route. There are many very good mastering engineers here on this forum that don't charge an arm and a leg and can do what you need done.

    Best of luck!


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