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How important is mastering?

Discussion in 'Ask Justin Meldal-Johnsen' started by Substandard, May 17, 2011.

  1. Substandard


    Oct 15, 2009
    My band just finished tracking our first record and actually spent.
    We're shopping around for a good mastering house and I was wondering if you had any advice or suggestions on a great place for an experimental rock band.

    It's a 6 song EP that sits about 32 minutes. We've got a budget of only about 600 to throw at mastering.

    Side questions:
    How much should I expect out of mastering? Are there any tips you have for getting a good mix out of a trio?

    If you're feeling fancy you can check out a live recording. here:
    YouTube - Youth PastoR - Testy
    also: YouTube - Youth PastoR - Railroad Champion

    EDIT: The reason I ask you is because of your vast experience in so many situations you may have some special insight.
  2. screaminglucy


    Jul 20, 2009
    TX, USA
    my band recently finished recording we used hifimastering

    mastering is important to bring up the overall level of the recording among other things.

    i've also used Carl Saff in the past. He does amazing work.
  3. shop around - a lot of mastering places will have an "after hours" rate. might take a little longer, but it's cheaper. mastering is the final glue - the clear coat to you masterpiece and definitely not something to skimp on imho
  4. jmjbassplayer

    jmjbassplayer Justin Meldal-Johnsen Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 25, 2005
    Dave Cooley @ Elysian Mastering
    CD Mastering Studios : Los Angeles : Elysian Masters : Online Audio Mastering Studios : Hip Hop Music Mastering: Indie Rock Mastering : Stones Throw : Mixing and Mastering

    Great pricing, and his taste is impeccable. But I'm not sure $600 will be enough. Send him a note regardless.

    I have no idea about particular mix tips for a trio. I'm not sure that scenario requires something special; you just need to make it sound good. Just spend some time listening to trios you love and direct your mixer appropriately.

    Don't expect mastering to fix a poor mix. It will do nothing for that. It may pull out certain vocals, enhance the strength of the bottom, bring out the top and the "air" of a track. But it's not going to fix your scene if your mix sucks. Not that it does, just saying.
  5. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    i have a question...i understood the need for pro mastering back in the days of lp's and tapes since there were compensations to be made for the formats. i also kind of understand it for when you record onto analog tape and transfer it to a digital format. but i see way less of a need for it when your basic computer can hold everything you'd need for mastering with the exception of really expensive tube processing gear.

    so what am i missing here? is it just running it through the really expensive outboard stuff that most of us don't have? does it really make that much of a difference to have it professionally mastered in this day and age?
  6. jpTron


    Apr 19, 2010
    damn, that was awesome. reminds me if Tool went more 'noise-core'.
  7. tangentmusic

    tangentmusic A figment of our exaggeration

    Aug 17, 2007
    Like screaminglucy said in post # 2, mastering of digital media (CD's) mostly consists of bringing up the level or volume on a disc. Have you ever put in a CD and it just didnt seem to have the volume of the last disc you put in? Here is where this type of mastering comes in. It sorta optimizes the burn of a CD.
  8. chuck norriss

    chuck norriss Banned

    Jan 20, 2011
    Bravo. Reminds me of Jesus Lizard, early PJHarvey, early Tool

    I can't answer your question, just a bravo
  9. My bass has pretty much the same stuff as Tony Levin's, but they're not calling me for session work!
  10. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    well duh! i'm asking that question based on the premise that i know how to record a little ;)
  11. pbass2


    Jan 25, 2007
    Los Angeles
    A good mastering job can be accomplished with high-end, dedicated outboard as you say, but indeed, it can also be done completely "in the box" with plug-ins. It just depends. More important even than outboard vs. plug-ins, etc.--having someone else's objective ears on it for that final sweetening stage. it's not just a level optimization thing--a good mastering engineer is gonna finesse the EQ, dynamics, stereo image(if necessary)and lots of stuff you might not notice listening to your mix. I know when I master for people, it's often a dynamic process, not just setting up some gear or pluggies and hitting "bounce". I'll automate subtle tweaks in EQ and whatnot etc. during the track if there's problem areas--very often it's things the client didn't notice, but were detracting from it being the best listen possible.

    Here's a place I just started using that I like--pretty affordable:
    Dub Studio :: Dubplates and Mastering
  12. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    that's cool and makes sense. since cd's often vary in levels and my old copy of sound forge from 6 years ago can do level normalizing, i was wondering why the heck i'd want to pay someone to do that ;) but the second set of ears thing makes sense.
  13. pudgychef

    pudgychef In Memoriam

    Jan 22, 2005
    Chongqing, China
    +1 the outside ears point is so big - in particular (imno) in an EP situation where you may be producing/mixing yourselves or with someone close to the project - having a non-attached, experienced set of ears can dramatically improve the project - but most of all I think - can pick out issues you may have missed - or don't realize will be issue on a final product....I know I have at least one EP in my history I wish we had put a couple more dollars into the production/mastering (experienced person with ears) end of things - ...:)

    also I think some people just have an ear for it...and when they have added to that gift with formal training/education + experience, you project benefits from their involvement...
  14. Sam Skaf

    Sam Skaf

    May 22, 2011
  15. jonathanhughes

    jonathanhughes Supporting Member

    Jan 3, 2009
    Buffalo, NY
    "since cd's often vary in levels and my old copy of sound forge from 6 years ago can do level normalizing, i was wondering why the heck i'd want to pay someone to do that but the second set of ears thing makes sense."

    Normalizing isn't mastering. Normalizing just finds the loudest peak and adjusts the overall level of the song so that the loudest peak is at 0 dB (or whatever you set the normalize function at). Normalizing doesn't include any type of limiting or compression, and certainly doesn't include any EQ.
  16. vivifiction


    Jan 22, 2011
    The need for mastering, IMO, directly depends on how the mixer approaches the mixing process. I've worked with guys that only level everything for mixing; also with guys that have gone through and EQ'd everything independently and the master, which takes up a lot of the mastering process.

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