Newbie Looking For Help

Discussion in 'Microphones (live or studio)' started by gwin_7, Feb 22, 2010.

  1. gwin_7

    gwin_7 Active Member

    Feb 22, 2010
    I suppose you could say I am a noobie when it comes to recording, however, I have been in music for quite some time and have done a decent amount or recording on my own. I was in a touring band Bidwell ( and we got some pretty well produced songs out of it.

    My main goal is to make music that "sounds" as good as music played on the radio. I am not talking about the melodies or the song structures. Just the audio sound itself and the overall mix. When I try to mix on my system my recordings end up not sounding as loud. That is the only differences I can really tell between my mixes and professional ones for the most part. When I turn my mixes up to the same level they sort of sound piercing. Sometimes I am not sure if it is the subtle differences that make more of a difference when it comes to mixing.

    Some of my questions are: Is this because you can't get as good of a noise to signal ration on a Computer as you can on a professional analog board?

    Mainly I would like to know what gear is being used in the hit songs on the radio. How are they being mastered? How much of it is analog recording vs doing it through a computer. Do they record in HD? what sample rate?

    What is more important: The quality of the mixing, or the quality of the mastering, or are they equally important? Is this a must? Do any professional sounding mixes come from someone that does both?

    If anyone could answer these questions it would be very much appreciated.

    Thanks for your time,
  2. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    You have several questions there.It helps to take multiple queries one at a time and since all of your questions lead to one answer we should do that.

    Lets start with a question first. In your professional work, being in a studio and producing radio-ready tracks, didnt you pay any attention to the details of the sessions? I understand that a lot of times the band is broiught to a studio and the producer says 'play' and 'stop' and you never really get to interact with the process. If this is the case, then its understandable why you need to flesh out this information.

    Making radio-ready quality productions isnt as simple as it seems. There are several factors that contribute to the ease of this. Understand that you CAN make quality recordings in your bedroom. Its just not going to be very easy to do and will require a huge learning curve if you dont posess the skills of an Eddie Kramer or Jack Joseph Puig. And some of their gear.

    The main factors in getting a high level of recording quality are:

    Song and its structure
    Sonic environment
    Skill-set of the recording engineer
    Skill-set of the musicians
    Signal path
    Everything else

    There are no substitutes. The better these things are, the easier the process becomes. If one of these things isnt in order, the work becomes more worklike and the chances of failure become greater.

    There have been millions of so-so or poorly written songs recorded in the highest quality recording environments. I'm sure the sound was great....

    In counter to this, there have also been many many great songs recorded on someones cassette deck in someone elses garage. The sound might not be the best, but if you put these recordings next to the high dollar recordings of poorly written songs, the garage recording would always win the contest.

    The tools used to record with are just Just like your local mechanic, the better the tools the easier the job gets...the better the shop environment, the easier the job is. The better and more experienced the mechanic, the more likely it is that the repairs will be quality in a shorter length of time.

    If you want professional recordings, and from what you say, you have been involved in making these in the past, then you should understand something of the process and also understand that there isnt some magic program that will suddenly bring everything into that realm of quality.

    I'm sure others will follow on here with advice of their own.
  3. gwin_7

    gwin_7 Active Member

    Feb 22, 2010
    Thanks for the response. Sorry my post was a little scatter brained and unclear. We never had music recorded that was as good sounding as I wanted it to sound. I did not just show up and play. I was very into the production. We even did our first EP ourselves, so I have a pretty decent grasp on recording.

    My goal is clearly the sound and mix of music. Not even the way something is played. I understand a crappy recording can get big. I guess the way I phrased the question did not come out right since crappy mixes can be played on the radio. I just know what I think sounds like a good recording and I want to be able to make mixes that sound THAT clear. I am aware that this could take up to ten years of experience to get to that point and thats what most people just say without actually explaining things. However there are still fundamentals that I am trying to learn and questions that I still can't find answers to. But then again, since there is no right way to mix or record a song, I suppose all I am really learning is other people's opinions.

    Some examples of stuff I find to be great recordings are: Jon Hopkins - Insides, Laday Gaga - The fame, Brittany Spears - Circus, Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, Radiohead - In Rainbows, Coldplay - Viva La Vida.

    These all sound very good to me. Even though I am not a bid fan of Lady Gaga or B Spears melodies and songs, I can still respect the quality of the product. That quality is all I am curious about. I do not care to get my music on the Radio or become famous with hit songs. I simply want to make music sound as good as I know it can.

    Things I would still like to here some answers for and I'll try to word them better if need be:

    1) I would like to know what gear is being used on the albums listed above (or at least what your guess would be if you have heard any of them) How are they being mastered? How much of it is analog recording vs doing it through a computer. Do they record in HD? what sample rate?

    2) What is more important? The quality of the mixing, or the quality of the mastering, or are they equally important? Is this a must? Do any professional sounding mixes come from someone that does both? If you know of anything please share examples.

    3) Loudness. I can't quite get a grasp on the loudness. I have read that a lot of this comes from the mastering stage to get your song up to commercial level. Is that really what it comes down to is getting it pro mastered to do that? I can make my mixes sound very similar to pro mixes but the main difference is that they don't sound as loud. If i turn them up to equal volume it sounds like its getting choked out or something. Putting a hard limiter on it like a waves L2 still does not quite do it right. So I am very curious about what you need to do to get correct loudness. Is getting something professionally mastered the only way? Or at least using analog mastering gear the only way? Or does it simply come down to your mix not being good enough?

    Thanks for taking the time to read through this. Sorry if I come off retarded :)



    Here is an example of something I recorded and produced so you can get an example of what level I am at. The mix to me sounds pretty good minus a few things. And the vocals were only recorded through a macbook internal mic.
  4. Aural Reject

    Aural Reject Guest

    Without actually asking them (or looking for answers, say, in magazine articles), it could be anything....the Radiohead album, for example, was mastered by Bob Ludwig at Gateway Mastering....googling him may throw something up.

    An interesting read - assuming you've not already - would probably be Bob Katz's book Mastering Audio: The Art and the Science.

    The recording sample rate can be a red herring, but you may find that digital EQs for instance arguably sound 'better' when processing files at elevated sample rates.

    The mix. Good mixes sometimes don't need some of the 'usual' mastering elements at all....sometimes you need the mastering engineer to, er, polish the mix or to sort out anomalies or prepare something for vinyl or whatever. Bottom line is that both should be good.

    It could be any or all of the above...although again there's a red herring in the analog mastering can make 'loud' with digital using the same processes.

    Why not take one of your mixes along to an attended mastering session and see what they do?
  5. gwin_7

    gwin_7 Active Member

    Feb 22, 2010
    Thanks so much for getting back to me. I really appreciate the response. I actually am going to try out some mastering studios and see how that effects my mixes. That would give me a good answer to some questions. Thanks again for the response.

  6. jg49

    jg49 Well-Known Member

    Oct 16, 2008
    Frozen Tundra of CT
    Henny Youngman "A self-taught man usually has a poor teacher and a worse student." Not specifically referring to you just the idea of self taught mastering.

    Having something pro mastered, besides a great room, pro equipment, experience, is to get another set of ears on something. It is like getting someone who spells really well to check for typos, to them, because they are not so involved things just stand out. I think trying to master something in the same enviroment (room) you mixed in with the same monitors and amplification chain is likely to compound whatever flaws there might have been.
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