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How to master mastering..?

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How to master mastering..?

Postby ChrisCrinkle » Sat Dec 31, 2011 1:03 am

Ok this is undoubtably gonna turn into a wall of text but here goes. This is also my first post and as relevant to my question i better explain a bit about what i do:

I'm a bedroom musician artist. I've made music on computers since the mid 90s and possibly a bit sooner. I started out with OCTAMED (amiga/early pcs), then moved on to BUZZ (basically a nicer version of OCTAMED), and saved up and bought Ableton LIVE in the summer just gone. Abletons a lot different to those previous two, but is much newer (BUZZ hasn't been updated in about ten years). At first ableton seemed weird and difficult, but after pennies started falling into place, it started to blow my mind, happy days!

Except, despite all my song making, which stretches over 3 and a half albums. My songs have pretty much always suffered from one simple problem: They're not very loud.

Now dont worry, i know about volume levels and generally "post process" songs in another great audio program, GOLDWAVE, its simple, but good for my needs. The problem is, i see my songs waveforms and they seem to go right up to full volume, but when i play the songs next to professionally done music, even my loudest seems somewhat quieter than the "pro music".

At my wits end, i stumbled into my local music shop who recommended the SOS magazine. I got it and here i am!.

Music wise. I try to make sure i listen, when fine tuning instruments volume levels, to the song from three sets of speakers: my headphones, PC speakers, and then my 250watt loud speakers (in that order) and note what volumes sound best through each one, and then go somewhere in the middle.

I also tend to put compression on pretty much most instruments except acoustic ones, to reduce their dynamic range making it easier to adjust volumes later. This is probably a bad habit. Also my vocals tend to either end up being really loud or mixed in with everything else and difficult to pick out. I think my mixing skills have got better as i've gone along, but only because i seem to spend more time experimenting with levels, blundering around, trying to get something that feels like "pro music", and whilst i can get close, its never quite loud enough.

So theres my wall of text. If anyone has any useful advise, or even just links to useful material/articles around the web (or this site!) I'd really appreciate it. I can see theres a lot of LIVE articles so i'll give them a gander too!

Many thanks!
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Re: How to master mastering..?

Postby johnny h » Sat Dec 31, 2011 2:57 am

ChrisCrinkle wrote:
Except, despite all my song making, which stretches over 3 and a half albums. My songs have pretty much always suffered from one simple problem: They're not very loud.
Damn, that's the only problem with your 3 and a half albums?! I'm only having my first album released next month and there are a multitude of problems with it, but loudness is fine, the mastering engineer does all that for me.
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Re: How to master mastering..?

Postby Dave B » Sat Dec 31, 2011 2:57 am

Put a limiter across the mix/stereo bus and crank up the levels. Better / Worse still, try a multi-band limiter so that you have more control over the different areas of the spectrum.

Then hang your head in shame ..... (google 'loudness wars' for more info)
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Re: How to master mastering..?

Postby ChrisCrinkle » Sat Dec 31, 2011 8:55 am

johnny h wrote:
Damn, that's the only problem with your 3 and a half albums?! I'm only having my first album released next month and there are a multitude of problems with it, but loudness is fine, the mastering engineer does all that for me.

Lucky you! I did it all myself (sort of enjoyed it too i guess).

I've googled the loudness wars too, the wikipedia article was interesting. I'm going to experiment a bit more and see what i can do. I think i should probably cut eqs on certain instruments, and use more hi frequency sound, as a lot of times i let either the bass or kick drums rule all!
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Re: How to master mastering..?

Postby The Red Bladder » Sat Dec 31, 2011 10:52 am

Perceived loudness is achieved during tracking and not mastering.
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Re: How to master mastering..?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sat Dec 31, 2011 11:00 am

Does it really matter that your material sounds a little quieter than commercial music? It's a serious question: does it actually matter?

Last time I looked, every music replay system on the planet had a control on it somewhere labelled VOLUME and I find that when I want to hear something louder I just turn that up and it gets louder. It's a fantastically underused control!

What's important is whether you're happy with the mix as a technical and artistic entity. If you are, then why screw that up compromising the dynamics and the listenability just to make seem as squashed, aggressively fatiguing and lifeless as every other bit of mangled commercial music?

There really is no technical, artistic or practical need to make your track as loud as the loudest commercial mix. And doing so just continues the self-destructive 'loudness war' paradigm that everyone loathes but no one is prepared to take a stand against!

Stand proud -- stick a label on the CD cover saying something like - Real Dynamics Have Been Preserved On This CD. Turn the VOLUME up if you want to hear it louder!

Hopefully international adoption of loudness metering will obsolete the concept of the loudness war in the decade to come but until then it's down to you!

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Re: How to master mastering..?

Postby SafeandSound Mastering » Sat Dec 31, 2011 11:04 am

Hi Chris, don't stress too much about perceived volume, good music and productions speak for themselves. People remember quality not how loud something was/is.

In saying that, perceived level can be increased by reasonable amounts with very little sonic detriment once you have learned how to and have the toolset. There are many aspects to mastering that are of greater importance than the resultant level. (Though some of my clients beg to differ despite significant effort and debate on my part, lol)

I take this chance to wish everyone an exceptional 2012 ! And SOS keep up the good work it's a great community to be involved with and I value it and it's members highly. In fact I got my first break in this industry via sound on sound readers ads a very long time ago, respects paid.

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Re: How to master mastering..?

Postby Exalted Wombat » Sat Dec 31, 2011 1:14 pm

The Red Bladder wrote:Perceived loudness is achieved during tracking and not mastering.

Compressing the mix certainly adds perceived SOMETHING. How would you label it?
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Re: How to master mastering..?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sat Dec 31, 2011 2:09 pm

Compressing the mix will make it appear louder -- sure. But it will also sound compressed. The point the Bladder is making is that the arrangement and the way the sources are processed will make it sound louder from the outset without resorting to excessive bus compression or limiting etc.

And that is probably a good thing...

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Re: How to master mastering..?

Postby Red Mastering » Wed Jan 04, 2012 8:33 pm

the thing is...
you are trying to do too many things,
you are producer, musician, recording and mixing engineer,
and then mastering guy
focus on 1 thing and master it!
if making music makes you fell happy - do it and, and let the other things do other folks;
OK, I understand if you don't have a budget, but if you never use pro mixer and pro mastering engineer - you never find what you doing wrong and how to improve things...
just my 2 cents
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