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  • What is Mastering?

    OK, I'm laying it down straight. I hear a lot of people talking about 'mastering' their music, but I don't know the first thing about it. Since my attention has recently been drawn to this subject, I would like to know what people think about it, starting with the absolute basics.

    1. What is Mastering?
    2. Should I do it?
    3. How should I do it?
    4. What are the consequences and implications of unmastered music?

    Cheers.
    https://thegreatschizm.bandcamp.com

  • #2
    if mastering can be defined as only making changes to the final (stereo?) mix, then my question is, why only use the mix and not the whole multitrack set for refining things?
    ahornberg.bandcamp.com
    soundcloud.com/ahornberg

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    • #3
      Hey, here's my opinions being a professional audio engineer.

      1. Mastering, in the simplest terms, is preparing your final mix for various sources (ie CD, Digital download, Radio etc).

      2. Should you do it? Yes, absolutely.

      3. For complete novices there are good software packages out there that facilitate the process with built in presets ( I highly recommend Izotope Ozone 6). If you don't feel confident enough doing it yourself, send it to a professional. ( I will master your tracks for a very cheap rate).

      4. The consequences of unmastered music are thus, you will have no control over the dynamics of your track, if you release it on a CD, the lack of compression, EQ and limiting will leave it sounding either flat or no balance between the loud and quiet sections.

      If you want to chat with me further give me an email at [email protected]


      PS. Here's some great info http://productionadvice.co.uk/mastering-basics/
      Last edited by Negative Spectrum; 12-14-2014, 04:59 AM.
      https://soundcloud.com/negativespectrum

      My record label
      http://xenomorphrecords.bandcamp.com/

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Ahornberg View Post
        if mastering can be defined as only making changes to the final (stereo?) mix, then my question is, why only use the mix and not the whole multitrack set for refining things?

        In a lot of cases I will use the multitrack setup and apply various parameters. My rule of thumb is this: a great master comes from a great mix.
        https://soundcloud.com/negativespectrum

        My record label
        http://xenomorphrecords.bandcamp.com/

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        • #5
          Mastering is usually a good idea, though not always essential. Some tracks (not mine) are so well-mixed that they can stand on their own two feet without mastering. Mastering can sometimes remove a sense of dynamics from a piece of music, if performed insensitively. Compression is a tool whose use I have always used sparingly. In fact, I have recently been experimenting with mastering some of my softer pieces without thĂȘ use of any compression at ałl. I also try to make minimal use of limiters (in both my regular techno/beat-driven tracks and my softer pieces). I feel that the natural dynamics and contrasts produced by proficient musicians, or even by judicious use of volume or velocity controls, are not something that should be discarded or ignored.

          Here is a link to another thread (which itself contains a link to another)

          http://www.ambientonline.org/forum/s...ne-Compilation
          Whatsisname's Little Fluffy Clouds | Campsite | Hearthis | Orfium | SeismicTC | Twitter | Ello

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          • #6
            DIsclaimer: complete IMHO, and I work entirely ITB--anything I state here that is misinformed, please expand my understanding by correcting

            I concur with Negative Spectrum's input (EDIT: and Seismic's post which I just read after finishing this one), and would add or echo with a few supporting statements:

            Mastering ( speaking only as one who has never done it for anyone other than myself) is just some final, usually subtle eq/compression (dynamics usually, but even the occasional very light reverb) applied to the entire mix to make everything a unified whole or to best adapt it to a particular medium of delivery.

            Sometimes mastering not absolutely necessary depending on the mix and it's method of delivery--and it's easy to over do the mastering and squash the life out of a mix. Some of my early attempts at mastering feel like they were played in an over-pressurized cabin. No room to breathe. And a mastered crappy mix is still a crappy mix.

            In an album project, it can help to make each track sound more cohesive and related to the other tracks of the album. I like to use tape/console emulations in my work and usually apply them at the mastering phase so the album has a unifying sonic feel and noise floor level. One of the things I like about Studio One is the Project option, where you can coordinate and organize an album, making it much easier to master as a whole.

            If you are going to release something professionally for broadcast, I'd suggest using someone like Negative Spectrum, who has a good grasp of the process, until you master the mastering a bit yourself. Like most parts of this recording adventure; the more you do it, the better you'll get at it.

            Ozone is a great tool for mastering. There are also a number of really good compressors and eq's you can learn to use, but Ozone is a nice one-stop shop of mastering tools. Other tools I have used and thought did a great job were Slate VBC and IKM's Buss Compressor/White 2A/Black 76. I recently picked up the 432 EQ from IKM in the group buy, but have not had a chance to really use/evaluate it yet.
            Last edited by aoVI; 12-14-2014, 12:08 PM.

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            • #7
              I completely agree with the above 2 posts, there have been times when I've been sent a mix that was so good that nothing I could do mastering wise would have improved on it.

              If a mix is good enough to start with then very often I will just overall EQ it, a gentle compression, maybe a touch of limiting and reverb but it depends. I don't charge people if it's not necessary.
              https://soundcloud.com/negativespectrum

              My record label
              http://xenomorphrecords.bandcamp.com/

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              • #8
                what about www.landr.com ?
                ahornberg.bandcamp.com
                soundcloud.com/ahornberg

                Comment


                • #9
                  Very IMHO:
                  1) Mastering give you final version of your music release. All tracks sounds the same (EQ/Level), with right fades and left/right, stereo/mono balance. Also like other proccess on music files mastering can do your tracks better, differrent or worse. Also if you choose vinyl or cassette release, you need to think about special EQing.
                  2 and 3) I prefer produce/record and mix by myself because a lot of ideas create during editing or mixing. Also it's expensive to give mixing engineer project with 30-40 tracks. But mastering engineer can help with supply work like normalizing, fading, stereo-**-ing which I don't like to do and also has no very good room for work with big monitors. It's very important to find mastering engineer who are familiar with your release genre.

                  There are a lot of mastering VST kits (like Izotope, Native instruments solid mixes, PSP) but you need to work with it very accurate. Especially with ambient tracks where under-producing is better that over-producing.
                  http://ovodmusic.com II https://www.facebook.com/ovodmusic

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Ahornberg View Post
                    what about www.landr.com ?
                    I think it's very bad because
                    your tracks will be overcompressed and overlimited (bad for textures/scapes/noises) like EDM/Rock standards.
                    http://ovodmusic.com II https://www.facebook.com/ovodmusic

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Ahornberg View Post
                      what about www.landr.com ?
                      These online services are at best a quick way to master dance music, at worst, a joke. There is no human interaction with your music. That may sound like an ironic statement considering I use software to accomplish my ends but I still tweak parameters, using my ears to pick out problems.

                      The main issue with online services is over compression.
                      https://soundcloud.com/negativespectrum

                      My record label
                      http://xenomorphrecords.bandcamp.com/

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Thanks to all, there have been some good responses here. That's helped to clear things up a little. So Mastering is making final tweaks to the music so it sounds its best.
                        Personally, I think I do that already during the making of the music anyway: processing individual effects in the mix until I think everything sounds good (to my non-musician ears) as a whole. I don't do it as a single recording right at the end.
                        https://thegreatschizm.bandcamp.com

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Cloud Hunter View Post
                          I don't do it as a single recording right at the end.
                          Then you are kicked out of our club.

                          You can still pay dues and come to the meetings, but we will look down our beards at you.

                          ;)

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                          • #14
                            A useful and informative insight: gets interesting and relevant at 1.36
                            It's all an illusion.

                            https://soundcloud.com/skyhighdiamonds

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                            • #15
                              quite interesting ... does packing music, especially ambient music, into mp3 really damage the music?
                              ahornberg.bandcamp.com
                              soundcloud.com/ahornberg

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