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can someone tell me about "mastering"?

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by rusmannx, Nov 29, 2004.

  1. rusmannx


    Jul 16, 2001
    so i know this guy, who has had his own little studio for a few years (records local bands, the local college, religious stuff, etc) and i was explaining to him that my mixes (though great sounding in my house) sound terrible in my car.
    he began telling me that when he gets done with a mix, he gives to the band as a demo, and tells them that if they want it to sound professional he has to send it off to [some company] to be mastered. furthermore (he tells me), even if i get a pretty good recording of my own i would need to have it sent off to be "mastered".

    waiting for the question?
    is this true? is he right? can my little software (cool edit pro) master? what is the difference between a master and a mixdown?
  2. Wikipedia has a small article about it. If I understand it right, you could do it, but it takes some expertise to get right, and that's why people often send away to have it done.
  3. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    hhhhhhhhhhheheheh heh heh hhhhhhhheh hehhehheh ... he said ... mmmmaster ... hhhhheheheheh hhhhheheh
  4. LajoieT

    LajoieT I won't let your shadow be my shade...

    Oct 7, 2003
    Western Massachusetts
    {voice of Vader}

    Now I am the MASTER!!!
  5. Eldermike


    Jul 27, 2004
    Musicians tend to listen to music at one level. Our mixdowns sound good to us because we play them in CD players at the same volume we mix them. Power distribution is a nonlinear function as related to volume levels/eq settings.. If you mix at low volume and then play it at higher volume the bass will dominate the piece. If you mix at high volume and play it at low volume the bass is gone. The highs and mids are less prone to this but it's still the same problem.

    Also, mastering is an art form, it requires special software but more important, it requires an ear that is trained to hear what some sweet little old lady, or some young person with a back seat full of woofers wants to hear in your music. They should both hear all the parts.

    Having your mixes mastered by a good studio is the best money you will spend on a CD project. IMHO
  6. rusmannx


    Jul 16, 2001

    what does it cost to have mastering done by a pro (ballpark figure)?

    would you send them the burnt cd, or all of the tracks individually from each song?
  7. We had mastering done for our latest project at M Works in Boston. We spent in excess of 100 bucks an hour.

    Well spent money. The engineer uploaded all the final mixxes, levelled them, final eq'd them, brought a "continuity" to the character of each mix, so they worked as a "whole" from start to finish.

    Something that takes a special set of ears for sure. I listen to the unmastered CD vs. the final product, and it's night and day. Dramatic difference in overall quality.
  8. Eldermike


    Jul 27, 2004
    You send your mixdowns if mastering is all you need done.

    Ballpark is about an hour per song and our last one was $90.00/hour. I was there with my laptop to fix any mixing issues so I could keep the process moving. If you can find a studio that will allow you to come in and setup you can mixdown and burn each song on a CD and just hand it to the engineer. Another way is to use a usb drive and take them to Him on the drive. If He see's a problem that has to be fixed in mixing, you can fix it while they work on another one. If you get them involved in mixing your going to spend some serious money so keep them on the mastering deal.

    You still need to do your very best in the mixing process.
    Find a good studio that will work with you. I found one in my area.

    You can also just send your mixdowns to an out-of-town studio and hope for the best. I have done both. I will now only use a studio that will let me in the door to work on mixing issues.

    Hope this helps.
  9. rusmannx


    Jul 16, 2001
    thanks guys.
    this is what i was looking for.
  10. Mastering: The process whereby dynamic, lively mixes are rendered into lifeless products by the hamfisted use of compression and unecessary EQ by an 'engineer' who knows nothing about music. :D

    This is a joke, but alas, it is true too often. It's very important to be very careful when choosing a mastering house and engineer. Do your research or you could end up with a final product that sounds worse than the raw mixes. I've seen dozens of recordings that I engineered or played on ruined by poor mastering. I've also seen lots that were nicely enhanced by good mastering. It's not an area to skimp on when recording....
  11. Eldermike


    Jul 27, 2004
    I totally agree. That is why I suggest that you be there and act as the producer and to fix any mixing issues. If a part is to dominate in the mix then mastering will hurt the product unless you do one of two things....first, fix the mix, or second tell The engineer to leave it alone.
  12. PhilM13


    Oct 13, 2004
    Is using a wave editor/Burning software mastering.?

    For eg...My Nero Burning Rom and wave editor has a heap
    of effects, filters EQ etc. Is getting into all this basic Mastering.?

    I am yet to make a CD of my songs, and I am a bit confused
    about all this stuff.

    I am using Cubasis VST US-428 with a Tascam US-122.
    Cubasis has 2 Eq's for each channel.
    How is using these Eq's while mixing, different from Eq'ing
    while mastering?. Is Mastering only done on all the finished
    tracks together.
    It "is" the final WAV file/s that is mastered isn't it?.
  13. Eldermike


    Jul 27, 2004
    Yes, it's your final file that is mastered. The difference in mastering from mixing is the use of compression in specific ranges that makes the final product stable across the wide range of availble CD players/systems. Notice that you can put several CD's in any of a wide range of CD changers and they all play at about the same levels and eq settings. You can also turn the volume up and down without losing parts.

    There is no need to master a mix unless you intend to sell it. But if you do sell it mastering gives the buyer something that will work in His system.
  14. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Mastering is not easy to do and relies mostly on great ears.

    I have a Boss BR 864 multitrack that has mastering effects built in. I feel totally unqualified to screw with multiband compression and expansion and paramteric EQs but a number of presets like "metal", "jazz", "acoustic", "dance", etc. are provided and when I run my mixes through them they do sound better (though of course each preset has it's own coloration).

    Running a jazz mix through the "metal" preset makes it sound like the Bad Plus :D
  15. Edwcdc

    Edwcdc I call shotgun!

    Jul 21, 2003
    Columbia MD USA
    I use a Zoom1044 to track and send the wave files to my laptop and mix and tweak them. I then export them to a final mixdown. I have been attempting to take that mixdown file and master it myself using various plug-ins and such. That's where the I don't have a clue what I'm doing kicks in. Some guys try to do this on their own and some small recording studios say they do in house mastering. Be careful of their claims. Most mastering houses have lots of money invested in software and outboard gear that they use for this task. They also have a couple of pairs of very expensive monitors to check their work on. I mix and attemp a crappy job of mastering on a lame Panasonic stereo shelf system :scowl: but I am finding out through my experiments that this is indeed an art and I have no clue how the pros do it.
    I'm hoping Santa will bring Ed some monitors for Christmas. :D I posted a couple of tunes that I applied some light compression and limiting on if you want to check it out.

  16. Eldermike


    Jul 27, 2004
    Hi Ed,

    I took a listen to your songs. Very good. I do have a suggestion. If you want the vocal track to "pop", scoop out a place for it in the mix. Find a narrow range in the eq of the vocal that boosts it the most and then go through the other tracks and cut them slightly in that range. This is a mixing issue though and not a mastering issue. Just a suggestion. I have a website in my profile that has a CD that I co-produced produce and played bass on. I did not sing on it, but I worked on moving the vocals out from the music.
    Just a suggestion though, your mileage may vary.
  17. Edwcdc

    Edwcdc I call shotgun!

    Jul 21, 2003
    Columbia MD USA

    Hey thanks for the nice words about my songs.
    I will have to try your suggestion about the vocals. I do want to find a way to get them to stand out without being too loud and your idea seems to be a good way to do this.