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Mastering again.

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Re: Mastering again.

Postby blinddrew » Sat Jun 20, 2020 10:24 am

But even Bill Smith down the road can still add value. I master* my own stuff but I still send it to a friend for him to listen to first.
Does he have a grade A mastering studio and a 30-year track record? Nope, but he's got some decent monitors in a treated room and enough experience of the kind of music we play.
So from him i get that unbiased opinion on the whole thing, he's likely to pick up any room problems that I've missed, and he'll generally make a few suggestions along the way on everything from writing to production to the final mix.
I may choose to ignore those suggestions but at least i'm doing it from a position of knowledge.
But I wouldn't ignore any technical 'errors' he's found.
And for all this I'll generally pay the princely sum of a few bottles of beer and the offer to do the same in reverse. He's a much better musician/engineer/mixer than me though so he doesn't often take me up on it.
But the point is that I get a huge amount of value from a second set of educated ears even at that late stage in the process.


* the idea of my mastering something is comical when you consider the normal meaning of the word.
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Re: Mastering again.

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sat Jun 20, 2020 11:06 am

Arpangel wrote:I think that what we haven’t mentioned much so far is cost...

Like all things, professional mastering covers a range of costs.

If you decide to use Bill Smith down the road is it going to be better than what you can do with good software on your computer?

Obviously, it depends on whether you have his inherent objectivity, his experience and knowledge to use the tools effectively, and whether his monitoring setup and other equipment is substantially better than yours!

What I’m saying is, is it worth hiring anyone else unless you can use the best...

It follows the same old argument about only using the very best microphones, only using original instruments, being supported by the very best session players....

Plenty of good tunes are played on old fiddles, and a little experience and talent is better than none... The fact is we all make different compromises along the way, we all have different priorities, and we all value things differently.

Some value professional mastering (at whatever level) and appreciate the (potential) benefits it might bring --whether they are tangible, audible and technical benefits, or just the psychological support and confirmation of a product finished to a decent standard... or both.

Some don't see the point of investing in professional mastering for their project... and they may be right, too.

Each to their own, I say. :D
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Re: Mastering again.

Postby CS70 » Sat Jun 20, 2020 11:52 am

Arpangel wrote:I think that what we haven’t mentioned much so far is cost, it’s all very well me deciding to have my material mastered, but what price are we talking about here, in an amateur context.

In an amateur context, you don't need anything. Make a recording with your phone and you're all set.

It seems that a high end mastering engineer with lots of experience with top artists is not in any way going to be cheap, you’ve got to be talking thousands here.

Not really. These guys work in the music business, and as many Grammys and prizes they may have, for all of them the next gig is as important as ever, because that's what's pays the bills.

And like with anything, the really good mastering engineers are smart: with twenty years of industry change, they realize they cannot charge indie artists the same prices they would charge a big label, because they would cut themselves off 90% of the market nowadays.

If you decide to use Bill Smith down the road is it going to be better than what you can do with good software on your computer? What I’m saying is, is it worth hiring anyone else unless you can use the best, are there going to be any significant benefits if you use the bloke round the corner? Surely, only the top guys will be able to afford the Massenburg's and the Manley's etc of this world.

It appears you don't have it clear yet: it's not about hiring the best (wtf is "the best" in music?) it's about hiring competent and experienced people because they are not you and they do not work in your room and they have generally better equipment than you have.
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Cheap

Postby DanDan » Sat Jun 20, 2020 3:35 pm

I suspect there are very few 'high end' ME's making significantly more.
There are many of us working in the 50 buck per hour per track range, while owning the national radio airplay chart..... Humble too.

There is an easy way to bypass all sorts of client and other issues. Guarantee the work.
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Re: Mastering again.

Postby Arpangel » Sun Jun 21, 2020 8:53 am

I think that if I was making commercial music, chart stuff etc, I’d be a lot more concerned about mastering, certain genres have to sound a certain way, that’s just a fact, and a mastering engineer can help with that, but with my music, I don’t think it’s necessary, it’s often quite lo-fi, narrow dynamic range, and very simple to present, I don’t think there’s a lot a mastering engineer could add.
My curiosity was raised recently when I watched a video by Hainbach, an experimental composer who interests me, he made the decision to have his latest album mastered, and that intrigued me, as his music texturally is somewhere in my ball park, and very varied.
It’s difficult to tell on YouTube, but the differences were subtle, mastered and unmastered, but I’m not making any judgements based on YouTube videos, it would be interesting to hear the album, and how it differs from Hainbach's version,
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Re: Mastering again.

Postby awjoe » Sun Jun 21, 2020 7:05 pm

blinddrew wrote:But even Bill Smith down the road can still add value. I master* my own stuff but I still send it to a friend for him to listen to first.
Does he have a grade A mastering studio and a 30-year track record? Nope, but he's got some decent monitors in a treated room and enough experience of the kind of music we play.

Yeah, I was wondering if anybody was going to mention this possibility. I think it's valid - a fresh set of ears with some experience in a relatively decent room is better than nothing. What it comes down to for me is how badly you want the project to be as good as it can be.Top drawer stuff requires money and the luck/knowledge of sending your stuff who's good enough to actually improve your material. Second best is what blinddrew talks about.

An illustration: I've recorded about eight or nine albums of my own stuff. Somewhere in the middle of that process, I had three of those albums mastered as part of my learning curve about my own mixing and about the value of mastering. The biggest improvement was the first album I had mastered. Then, with each of the two subsequent projects, I managed to close the gap significantly (learning how to reference produced the biggest improvement, of course), to the point where it just wasn't worth it anymore to pay that kind of money for the improvement I could hear. But if I won the lottery, would I have my stuff professionally mastered? Sure, no question. Failing that, would I try blinddrew's approach? Try it, sure - to see how well it worked. Even so, there's something about 'pro' that's inescapably important, I think. You know, I've been doing dream work and depth psychoanalysis with a trained and skillful Jungian for the past few years. It's expensive, and it's effective. On the occasions I've worked on dreams with other (non-professional) dreamers, the results are clearly less impressive. If you want the best, hire the best.
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Re: Mastering again.

Postby CS70 » Sun Jun 21, 2020 9:02 pm

Arpangel wrote:I think that if I was making commercial music, chart stuff etc, I’d be a lot more concerned about mastering, certain genres have to sound a certain way, that’s just a fact, and a mastering engineer can help with that, but with my music, I don’t think it’s necessary, it’s often quite lo-fi, narrow dynamic range, and very simple to present, I don’t think there’s a lot a mastering engineer could add.

Indeed - if there is no common reference, mastering will be irrelevant for others.

It then depends only on how much is relevant for you - and not in fluffy "quality" terms, but in the specific sense of how it translates (and how much do you care that it translates).

If you've done a good mix, for a single song, in you room (or with your headphones) you should not notice any difference between the mix and the master - it's the whole point. The tweaking that happens (if it happens), you can't hear - otherwise you would have tweaked yourself. It's the stuff that you can't hear (but the mastering engineer can) that gets fixed - and you still can't hear it in the "fixed" track. So for example your mastered track won't have farty basses when played on a disco system, or screeching highs when played at high volume in a stadium.

Obviously if these possibilities do not interest you - or if you even take an artistic decision to let the playback system color your sound at random rather than follow a sound in your head (and with "sound" I mean the mutual relationship of the elements in your mix), you need zero mastering.

For more mainstream stuff, it's also possible to change the mix a little to suit specific markets (say a radio master, with vocals more prominent, or a disco master, with thumping basses etc).
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Re: Mastering again.

Postby Arpangel » Mon Jun 22, 2020 9:09 am

When I listen back to old albums, done 20 years ago, M Audio interface, Windows XP, Samplitude, I’m not blowing my own trumpet, but they sound amazing, the detail is great, the balance, it’s difficult to know how I’d improve them, in fact, I’d be frightened to tamper with them. And the better the monitors, playback system, they still sound just as good.
I’ve recorded 36 albums since then, and equipment has come and gone, but one thing I do notice, I used the early version of T Racks on those first few albums, a mastering chain, and that really did sound good, it gave everything a lovely full bodied, extremely detailed sound, I’ve lost that a bit, and I’m aways trying to recapture it, another great plug I used at the time was the PSP Vintage Warmer, that did amazing things.
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Re: Mastering again.

Postby CS70 » Mon Jun 22, 2020 9:15 am

Yeah I think it's not uncommon.. when you start you have limited equipment and no fanciful way of using it, so generally compositions are simpler and mixes are less produced - which is often a key.

The hard bit of mixing is to be able to produce a track (nailing the sound you want) while making it sounds like it wasn't! And do it quickly...

It's forever a work in progress! :)
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Re: Mastering again.

Postby Arpangel » Mon Jun 22, 2020 9:18 am

CS70 wrote:Yeah I think it's not uncommon.. when you start you have limited equipment and no fanciful way of using it, so generally compositions are simpler and mixes are less produced - which is often a key.

The hard bit of mixing is to be able to produce a track (nailing the sound you want) while making it sounds like it wasn't! And do it quickly...

It's forever a work in progress! :)

Music production is like finding a good hair dresser, you have them for awhile then something happens that’s out of your control and the search begins again.
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Re: Mastering again.

Postby awjoe » Mon Jun 22, 2020 6:45 pm

Arpangel wrote:Music production is like finding a good hair dresser.

Exactly. First you need hair...
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Re: Mastering again.

Postby Tim Gillett » Mon Jun 22, 2020 10:54 pm

Mastering cant make any recording "sound great on any system". Not even close. There can be a huge gulf between how we might like everybody to hear our product and how they do hear it. Even if every playback system was HiFi, there are all the other unknown variables out there in peoples lives including playback level, background noise.

Interesting that mastering can be described in such contrasting ways: as unrealistically ambitious as " makes everything sound great on any system" - complete fantasy - to the opposite and almost apologetic extreme of "just another set of ears".

Once mastering became untethered from sensible and sometimes quite complex tweaks to compensate for the limitations of specific playback formats such as vinyl back then or mp3 today, it started to get more confusing IMO. I think Mandy Parnell mentioned this in an interview, and a good corrective against sometimes "boys obsessed with their toys" who are in danger of forgetting the whole point of what they are doing, or their predecessors used to do because they had to work with a poorer format. Learn "mastering" by doing the best you can to make a recording sound the best you can on a low bitrate format, if only as a listening and training exercise.

Of course track balance especially on compilations and overall tonal balance are always important.

Unfortunately much mastering seems to involve, or perhaps should involve going back to problems in tracking and mixing. I've lost count of the times I've heard interviewee lavalier mics not eqed for their placement on the body, but on the DVD or BluRay there is a credit for "audio mastering". Perhaps the ME thinks that the resulting serious loss of speech intelligibility was part of the original "artistic vision"...which of course must not be tampered with.

It sometimes gets worse. A perfectly fine, old movie soundtrack - which is 99% speech driven - gets the "remastering" or "cleanup" treatment and this is the result:

https://youtu.be/9GsrDe96HUE
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Re: Mastering again.

Postby blinddrew » Tue Jun 23, 2020 9:18 am

Tim Gillett wrote:I've lost count of the times I've heard interviewee lavalier mics not eqed for their placement on the body, but on the DVD or BluRay there is a credit for "audio mastering". Perhaps the ME thinks that the resulting serious loss of speech intelligibility was part of the original "artistic vision"...which of course must not be tampered with.
I suspect this is more likely down to production budgets and timescales. The ME may well have raised it as something to be fixed only to be told there was neither time/cash to do so.
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Re: Mastering again.

Postby Arpangel » Tue Jun 23, 2020 10:34 am

Tim Gillett wrote:Mf ears".
Once mastering became untethered from sensible and sometimes quite complex tweaks to compensate for the limitations of specific playback formats such as vinyl back then or mp3 today, it started to get more confusing to problems in tracking and mixing.

Absolutely, and maybe a lot of things to do with audio production, and equipment design, are just hang overs from times when they were an absolute necessity, but now they’ve just become an option, an extremely subtle process that's something you don’t really have to do anymore.
If you are involved in music on a highly professional level selling lots of records across lots of formats, I’d say mastering may be needed in some circumstances, but otherwise, the bottom line for me, and for most of us I believe, it’s still not essential to produce a finished product.
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Re: Mastering again.

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Jun 23, 2020 10:49 am

Tim Gillett wrote:I've lost count of the times I've heard interviewee lavalier mics not eqed for their placement on the body, but on the DVD or BluRay there is a credit for "audio mastering".

I'm not sure why you're discussing video disc production in a thread about music mastering... but mastering in general is and always has been a final 'polishing' tool for audio. It typically deals with finished mixes, not individual source channels. There are exceptions, of course, but they are rare and for exceptional reasons.

EQ'ing mics to compensate or correct for their position is quite obviously a source mixing task and is therefore the job of the sound recordist, editor, or dubbing mixer, depending on the scale of the operation -- but most usually and normally it is the dubbing mixer's role.

Audio mastering in the context of a video disc is generally concerned with the intricacies of formatting the mixed audio tracks for the specifics of different disc sound codec formats.

In the case of the TIOBE film, that's a 'restoration job'. I never judge sound quality from YT clips as there are too many unknowns, and I'm not familiar with the original film sound track so have no base reference either. I can see why you might think the 'cleanup' is heavy-handed, but I wouldn't be so quick to sneer at the work of others without knowing the background ... Most likely, the production company demanded a soundtrack as quiet and clean as a modern film, and the restorer had to deliver what was asked for.
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