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Mastering - What to expect?

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by MakiSupaStar, May 6, 2010.


  1. MakiSupaStar

    MakiSupaStar The Lowdown Diggler

    Apr 12, 2006
    Huntington Beach, CA
    Ok. First off, here's my set up. My DJ and myself and a few other musicians have recorded about 10 tracks. I recorded them using a Motu 8Pre and Ableton Live 8. I want to clean up all my tracks with a consistency so they all sound related. I know that an album can benefit greatly from mastering, so this is something that I'm willing to spend money on so it can be done professionally.

    So what exactly falls in the realm of what's called 'mastering'? Will they set the individual tracks in the song so they the sit better in the mix? Do they only work with the master track and adjust things so there's a consist volume/compression level? I'm just unsure of what to expect, and how to prep my files for the handover. Also what's a reasonable price to pay for mastering?

    Thanks in advance guys.
     
  2. one of the places where i recorded my band's songs just ran the mixed tracks through multiband compressors and limiters for mastering. but then they sucked at their jobs so am intersted in finding out myself
     
  3. kalle74

    kalle74

    Aug 27, 2004

    Mastering is working the mixes into a "ready-for-duplication" -state. Setting the individual tracks right is done during mixing. All the tracks should "sit in the mix" before the mastering, and the effects and such should be right before the mastering. In mastering they process the two-track mixes with EQ and dynamic processors (compression and limiting), and sometimes spatial effects (stereo width) to make a cohesive entirety.

    Make sure your mixes are right (check on multiple systems), and everyting is as you like it. Also, take your mixes to mastering in 24-bit files (check which formats they prefer beforehand). They´ll convert it to 16-bit (with much better converters than you have).

    Reasonable prices seem to hover at around 50-100 bucks a song.
     
  4. MakiSupaStar

    MakiSupaStar The Lowdown Diggler

    Apr 12, 2006
    Huntington Beach, CA
    Thanks dude. This is exactly what I was looking for. That's exactly what I thought, but I just wanted to make sure.
     
  5. bluestarbass

    bluestarbass

    Jul 31, 2007
    Indianapolis
    That's what I do for a living so feel free to pm me any specific questions. About half of it is building the cd, setting track markers, fades, subcodes and such. The other half is basically mixing the cd as a whole for cohesion and overall punch and "loudness". Give your ME a sample of what you want your cd to sound like which helps. I prefer motto slam the cd but alot of artists request that against my better judgement. Overall eq changes are also important.
     
  6. MakiSupaStar

    MakiSupaStar The Lowdown Diggler

    Apr 12, 2006
    Huntington Beach, CA
    Cool. I'll definitely hit you up when I'm ready. There's still a bunch of mixing left to do. What's 'motto slam' mean?
     
  7. bluestarbass

    bluestarbass

    Jul 31, 2007
    Indianapolis
    Sorry Im typing on an iPod and didn't catch that. Meant to type not to slam. They also call it brickwall. Does that ring a bell?
     
  8. hehe, I'm glad you posted that, I was thinking 'a mastering engineer happily admitting a motto of 'slam the cd'', terrible! :)
     
  9. MakiSupaStar

    MakiSupaStar The Lowdown Diggler

    Apr 12, 2006
    Huntington Beach, CA
    Yes. In fact brickwall is a type of compression on ableton live too.
     
  10. There is A LOT that can be done to improve your mixes before mastering and make the mastering engineers life easier.
     
  11. TIMD

    TIMD

    Dec 8, 2009
    Houston
    Mastering cost seem to really very what is average per song? We are finishing our EP and are thinking of using disc makers for duplication, does anyone have any experience with their mastering?
     
  12. If a mix is good enough then a good mastering engineer will not do that much. Just a bit of limiting to bring up the volume and maybe a tweak or two of the overal eq. As a mix engineer thats what you are aiming for, finished sounding records that just need to be increased in volume a little.

    The masering process is very important, as its a final critical listen to important work from a NEW set of very experienced ears. It can catch all sorts of little things that are easy to miss when you are so tied to a track emotionally and it helps remove the engineer from the project a little, so you can listen to the music without worrying that you had the last say but are still unsure of a few things...

    Some projects will be helped quite a lot in mastering, but as I say most will not to be too altered, and in most cases the thing you REALLY want to hear from the ME is 'I didn't really have to do much, just...."

    Its difficult, as I find myself saying its very necessary but shouldn't change things too much in the same breath! I think the important thing is not to put too much on it. If the mix isn't sounding great then mastering RARELY (though it does sometimes) fixes that, you need to go back and look at the mix again. A friend of mine recorded his album himself, fairly badly, but the recordings had character and were an enjoyable listen. He paid for top flight mastering but was a bit dissapointed that he didn't hear a massive change in the tracks. He was into his mixes, but the recordings lacked a bit of depth, space, good low and high ends etc because he had used a lot of cheap gear and generally very basic techniques. He was expecting mastering to get all that, the mystical 'quality' aspect of recording, but of course it didn't.

    He has now realized the error in his thinking and got the guy to remaster it with that in mind (a benefit of paying for a top ME, they want you to be happy). Basically the ME ended up re doing it but pushed it MORE lo fi sounding, while tidying up the nasty areas (like the highs) and building on the character the tracks naturally had, and it sounds good.

    As for reasonable price, thats a sliding scale of course. Lowest money is about £30 per track, but you could get lucky and grab a bargain. Many big studios offer fairly cheap mastering services on the side because they can do it in downtime etc. But they still have great gear and great ears/monitors/rooms. A proper mastering house can be £100-£150 per track with big discounts for whole albums etc and if you want to get a specific ME and spend a lot of time getting a world class master it can cost much more, of course, but its not generally worth doing that unless a world class engineer has recorded and mixed your tracks!
     
  13. Make sure you send your final mixes with at least 3db of headroom so the ME can apply plugins without clipping the audio.
     

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