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Is 'mastering' actually needed?

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Re: Is 'mastering' actually needed?

Postby funkyant » Tue Aug 11, 2009 2:59 am

I am so on the fence for this one. There are great arguments for both sides.

I personally prefer to 'prepare' all my own mixes for release (I hesitate to call myself a 'mastering' engineer).

I release Pop and dance music, where the concept of the album has all but disappeared.

The times that I have had my music mastered by the label, it has been utterly destroyed, and I've been devastated.

My music has charted in Australia and I've heard it played on Radio, TV, nightclubs, etc and the tracks I prepared all sound great and achieve what I want them to sonically. Other producers ask me where I got the tracks mastered, and they stare at me in disbelief when I inform them that I did it myself using plugins over the master mix bus - not a class A bit of hardware in sight :blush:

It's easy to create and insert UPC codes and CD text myself, as well as mp3 tags with URL's and artwork insertion (both I've never received from being 'mastered').

BUT... I think that when I finally do a body of work that I want to be a cohesive Album, then I will seek out a proper mastering engineer, for all the reasons stated in the previous posts.

/steps into flame retarded suit
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Re: Is 'mastering' actually needed?

Postby A Non O Miss » Tue Aug 11, 2009 6:58 am

Good thread, some awesome posts, funny, informative etc. etc.

The way I view it is, if it is a serious release, a full album, big production with a budget that is sent for reviews, radio, publishing then I would get it mixed and mastered by someone else guaranteed, no matter how good I got. If it is for sale and sent for duplication and to iTunes, 100% professional involvement.

If it is just a mixtape or single track for hype and for promotion without much of a budget, and not for hard sale, then no probably no point. I mean if it is getting mastered, it might as well be getting mixed as well and that just costs some loot. $25 a track?? I don't know, I want a pro, pro, PRO. That seems a little cheap yes?.

If there is no tangible ROI other then promotion, hype, exposure it doesn't make financial sense if you can get it reasonably close yourself. Luckily with the mixtape tag you can get away with lesser quality, some big artists mixtapes sound like total SHITE and I am pretty confident I can get it better then them.

Of course that is based on our model and style of music, which some of you might not even call music.

:bouncy:
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Re: Is 'mastering' actually needed?

Postby Ian Shepherd » Tue Sep 15, 2009 5:16 pm

I started to write a reply to this, realised it was turning into a rant that I've been meaning to write for a while now, and so I posted it on my blog - here's the link, for those who are interested:

Why Mastering Sucks in the 21st Century

Enjoy !

Ian
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Re: Is 'mastering' actually needed?

Postby Fat Cat Strings » Tue Sep 15, 2009 6:21 pm

SafeandSound123 wrote:
To say your music has been mastered alludes to the fact that you take your musical output seriously.

That's probably the best thing to do - SAY it's been mastered, to impress the sort of people who will be impressed by that sort of thing, and then just release your mix, which sounds great because you mixed it how you want it ;)
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Re: Is 'mastering' actually needed?

Postby SafeandSound Mastering » Sun Sep 20, 2009 8:51 pm

The answer is still YES (and dare I say more so than ever before), as was indicated by the track I mastered today and completely turned it around.

When someone uses words like "remarkable" and "impressed"
you know you have done your job.

Case rested, busier than ever before, so many people seem to have answered this threads title themselves.
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Re: Is 'mastering' actually needed?

Postby Ariosto » Mon Sep 21, 2009 3:07 pm

This is very difficult question and I don’t really know the answer.

I’ve in fact never had anything of my own mastered. All my material is classical music – usually violin or cello and piano, or piano trios, string quartets etc.

I would be worried that if I sent the material to be mastered it would come back and I would not like the sound, or the balance, or whatever. I feel as a classical musician I know how a violin, cello, and piano should sound, and I have definite ideas about balance. (I hesitate to call it a mix as it might be only two or three tracks or even just recorded in straight stereo where I have tried to get the balance right at the recording stage).

I always compare my final edited and “mixed” versions with the same pieces of music (with other performers) which have been produced on commercial CD’s - and I find mine sounds every bit as good as the commercial version, and sometimes better. When mine sounds better it is probably because I disagree with the balance and/or the final sound on the commercial CD – it can either be too “coloured” or too dry for my taste. After all, surely, it is always personal taste that comes into this?

So finally – apart from the performances and the performers – the end result is either to my personal taste, or not. I’m not sure if professional mastering would be an improvement or not, for my classical material.

I had another experience with a singer I knew who asked me to listen to the mix on her new CD before it was finalised (as she wasn’t happy). It was a Jazz CD – and personally I found that the mix balance was pretty poor. I couldn’t re-do it for her as she could only get the stereo CD copy. I made suggestions and the final production CD was better, but still not that great in my opinion, and not as good as her previous CD which she had done elsewhere and with the help of a good musician I also knew. So in this example the mix and the final mastering were not very good, in my opinion of course.

In the end one has to make a choice, and a decision, and no one can really help you make that decision, or can they? I don’t know!!

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Re: Is 'mastering' actually needed?

Postby elfabyanos » Wed Sep 23, 2009 11:48 am

Hi Aristo, mastering in the classical world is very different from any other musical world. Classical is purist, in that it seeks to minimize any changes to the sound as it would be heard in real life, with exceptions of course. But as you point out this is all done at the mix stage, and the mastering is normally as simple as placing a limiter on it to stop it clipping. Almost by definition this should mean that even after mastering a classical track should sound pretty much identical, except maybe a few dBs louder, not that even this really matters in classical. So you are correct, but it doesn't inform the debate on the rest of the industry.
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Re: Is 'mastering' actually needed?

Postby Ariosto » Wed Sep 23, 2009 6:04 pm

Hi elfabyanos

Thanks for your answer which has confirmed my own thoughts, and I agree with your points.

I know a very good classical music engineer/producer who frowns at any changes to the recording other than straightforward editing. When another musician friend of mine said he had changed the dynamics in a couple of places on his CD which had been originally recorded with him, using another editor in the US - it did not go down too well!!
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Re: Is 'mastering' actually needed?

Postby Aural Reject » Wed Sep 23, 2009 6:18 pm

WRT the classical stuff, to a great extent it's dependent on what the client wants....sometimes things are changed, sometimes they're not....and you do what you have to to get the job done (and every now and again it might even be quite drastic ;) )
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Re: Is 'mastering' actually needed?

Postby C.LYDE » Tue Oct 06, 2009 5:01 pm

elfabyanos wrote:Hi Aristo, mastering in the classical world is very different from any other musical world. Classical is purist, in that it seeks to minimize any changes to the sound as it would be heard in real life, with exceptions of course. But as you point out this is all done at the mix stage, and the mastering is normally as simple as placing a limiter on it to stop it clipping. Almost by definition this should mean that even after mastering a classical track should sound pretty much identical, except maybe a few dBs louder, not that even this really matters in classical. So you are correct, but it doesn't inform the debate on the rest of the industry.

I would not agree with this as I believe all musicians that strive for the 'live played' sound on their albums/releases are earnestingly wanting to hear the purest rendition of their performance.. Acoustic jazz, country, pop, gospel etc included.

Which brings one back to the ultimate function of the ME; if sonic manipulation is a lesser deliverable, and technical additions only apply to certain distribution media types... are they superflous within the modern music making process?
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Re: Is 'mastering' actually needed?

Postby Ian Shepherd » Thu Oct 08, 2009 11:55 am

"Classical" mastering is an interesting issue. It's true that often less work is done or wanted on classical music, and I always approach it with a far more "hands-off" mindset to begin with.

This can work well since classical recording engineers often use very hi-fidelity, accurate microphones, and take extreme care in reproducing what they hear on the day as closely as possible.

BUT the truth is - microphones aren't ears, and listening to speakers in your living room isn't the same as being in a concert hall. There is still an art or craft to recording and mastering classical music, and successfully creating the illusion of "being there". There are changes that can be made to many recordings that are beneficial, especially since not everything can be recorded in an ideal acoustic.

So NOT hard limiting or compression for example, but manual adjustment of the relative levels, and broad, gentle EQ changes to enhance the illusion of "being there" are often beneficial or required, in my experience.

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Re: Is 'mastering' actually needed?

Postby Ariosto » Thu Oct 08, 2009 2:27 pm

And a very interesting reply too, Ian.

I can only speak from a very limited experience where I usually record either piano and one instrument, a trio or a string quartet. This is usually done by just using a stereo pair of mics and recording straight to stereo.

I'm not sure with these classical recording what more can be done, apart from the usual editing, and sometimes a bit of added reverb (best to avoid) and also maybe a little EQ. All carried out with a pinch of salt, and not too much of anything. I never normalise or do any other digital processing, only adding dither as a final thing when bouncing to 16 bit.

I could well be living in cloud cuckoo land but when I compare my final recordings with the same works being performed on commercial classical CD's they sound very similar, sometimes I think even a bit better. (But this could be personal taste, because one person's final accoustic can be less good according to another's personal taste i.e. too dry or too wet).

I always hope to record in a very good accoustic and get the balance and the mic distance right so that there is no need to do anything other than editing and a touch of EQ and dither. But I know that's not always possible.
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Re: Is 'mastering' actually needed?

Postby Big_al » Thu Oct 08, 2009 3:41 pm

Syncratic wrote:Apologies for hijacking the thread a little, but can anyone recommend a good value for money (cheap) mastering service?

I'd like to send one my tracks off just out of interest really, to hear the differences they can make.

Thanks

I've PM'd you
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