Principles of mastering your tracks.
nyne
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#1
5th February 2010
Old 5th February 2010
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Thread Starter
Principles of mastering your tracks.

Am confused.....
I understand that mastering is done when u compile an album so levels match and u get a good loud master.

However, i make singles/remixes. What sort of mastering should i use ?
I find that with the right comp/eq/glue on my master insert my tracks sound better.

When i import the same track into Studio One's mastering project and try a preset mastering chain, everything expands, becomes bigger but i lose clarity, tightness etc.

Most of my tracks are intented for clubs/djs.
What do u suggest.

Thanks
msl
#2
5th February 2010
Old 5th February 2010
  #2
Well you can't really use presets for mastering and expect good results, every song is different.

Have you had any of your tracks professionally mastered? Thats the best for numerous reasons. I use a ME because I don't trust my room/monitors and more importantly for a "fresh pair of ears". You get so accustomed to the sound of the track you've made that often your oblivious to mistakes that will get picked up immediately by a ME, in a better room with better gear.




.
nyne
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#3
5th February 2010
Old 5th February 2010
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True.
I will have to find someone online, i dont have any mastering engineer's/studios near me.......like none in my country!
#4
5th February 2010
Old 5th February 2010
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surflounge's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by nyne View Post
Am confused.....
I understand that mastering is done when u compile an album so levels match and u get a good loud master.

What do u suggest.
u are wrong about what u consider about mastering
nyne
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#5
5th February 2010
Old 5th February 2010
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Thread Starter
Please correct me, hence the topic title.
What r the principles/objectives of mastering single tracks ?
Thanks
#6
5th February 2010
Old 5th February 2010
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Simonator's Avatar
 

I think what is causing confusion is here is that in the broadest terms, tracks can go through a 'mastering' process for two main reasons;

1.) To finalize an individual track and make it sound as good as possible.

2.) To produce an album/compilation where you want to match the tracks to sound like they belong together.

It sounds like your main interest will be in the first instance; taking your club track, and getting it to sound as good as possible.

The second case... imagine you are making a compilation of house tracks, some have really bright hi-hats, some are a bit dull... some tracks are REALLY loud & over compressed, some are not.
... If you just stick them side by side as they are, when Joe Bloggs put them on his CD player, he'll adjust his stereo for the volume of track one... then track two comes on like BOOOOOM.
... so a mastering engineer will try to even things out as far as possible.

Things are a little more blurry for mastering an artist album... normally the tracks will be individually finalised, but at the same time with a holistic perspective for how they'll fit together on the album.
#7
5th February 2010
Old 5th February 2010
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golden beers's Avatar
IMO..

this is what historically mastering is

Quote:
Mastering, a form of audio post-production, is the process of preparing and transferring recorded audio from a source containing the final mix to a data storage device (the master); the source from which all copies will be produced


and this is what it's become

Quote:
make the track as loud as possible
#8
5th February 2010
Old 5th February 2010
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Simonator's Avatar
 

As for advice for your specific case...

'Mastering' is often considered to be a 'dark art' that takes YEARS to lean, and can only be done with $100000000000000 studio hardware.

Many people will scoff at the suggestion of you 'mastering' your tracks yourself in a home studio... but being realistic, many people are now trying their best to get a DIY mastering/finalising process in their home studio.

If you're not even necessarily releasing the track, you might not want to spunk a load of cash on mastering, but you still want your finished track to sound as good as possible.

Here's the best advice I can think of for the DIY approach;

1.) Have your tracks hit your master output buss/track AS QUIETLY AS POSSIBLE. I now put a utility plug-in as the last plug on every track to reduce it's gain by 10dB, this way you can still use the full throw of your fader, but output a very quiet signal.
Once you've got your mix together on your output, it's very easy to make it louder, but not the same case to make it quieter.
Ideally, before you start adding processing to your output, you want the loudest peaks of your track to be no louder than around -6dB, any quieter is okay.
I can't stress how much easier this makes your life... typically, amateurs try to send every track as loud as possible... very bad habit, which does not help get your finished product any louder at all.

2.) Try to deal with any issues at a track level rather than on your output buss (as far as possible.)...EQ etc. Get each sound right in the first place, then finalising the track is easier.

3.) Get this free plug-in
Bram.Smartelectronix.Com
... It will show you what your wave form looks like. Make it your last plug-in on your output channel, so you can see how you are affecting your music.

4.) Get this free plug-in
Blue Cat's FreqAnalyst - Real Time Spectrum Analysis Plugin (VST, Audio Unit, DirectX) (Freeware)
... It will show you what frequencies you are putting out. Make it your second to last plug-in on your output channel.

5.) Hopefully if you've done point two here successfully, you don't need to do much EQing... however, you are going to want to cut of the highest & lowest frequencies; I will roll my low off VERY low; from around 15 Hz... but MOST people tend to do it from around 30 Hz. Whatever works for you.
I roll my highs of GENTLY from around 15kHz.
This will help solidify your bass end, remove frequencies that unnecessarily eat headroom, and remove harsh high end which could actually be painful to people on a dancefloor.

6.) Set up a compressor after your EQ, but before your metering (those free plug-ins.). Many home DIY mastering people seem to rate the PSP Vintage Warmer. Reading the manual is a great start! If you are unsure exactly what you are doing, the presets are a good starting point. Mix finalize 3 is a quite subtle, transparent setting you can try out. If you don't have VW, you can use just about any compressor in it's place. What you want is some compression combined with a brickwall limiter.

7.) Whilst watching the Oscilloscope as I recommended in point 3 above, slowly raise the output gain from your EQ (if it has one... if not, add a gainer plug-in after EQ, before compressor.)... driving your signal into your compressor.
You are watching for when your loudest peaks start to hit 0dB... therefore are being squashed by the limiter.
You need to exercise judgement here... the more you push it, the 'louder' your track will be... but at the same time you will lose 'punch' & 'dynamics' as you are reducing the amount by which your kicks are louder than the rest of the mix. Ultimately, if you keep driving it louder, your music will start to distort really horribly. So you need to use caution, but you should be able to reduce the loudest peaks of your kicks by a few dB.
If now you are starting to feel that it's not distorting, but you are losing punch of your kicks, you can pull back the gain that's driving into the compressor, then push the volume of the kick track a little louder in the mix.
A nice trick as a guide is to run a finished, released track you like the sound of through that oscilloscope, analyse carefully how loud the rest of the music is in between the kicks, then try to match your mix to have a similar balance.


There is no right or wrong here... you just have to use judgement.... which is why an experienced ME is worth shelling out for if you ultimately intend to release the track. Hopefully these tips can help you out in the interim though. Let us know how you get on ;-)
#9
5th February 2010
Old 5th February 2010
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Simonator's Avatar
 

Here's another useful freeware metering plug:
Solid State Logic | Music
... full explanation on that page.


Also, another important process that is usually conducted when mastering is the dithering:
Dither - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Chances are your DAW will offer dithering when bouncing... something you should be aware of if you aren't already.
#10
5th February 2010
Old 5th February 2010
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#11
5th February 2010
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SWAN808's Avatar
If you are not sure what you are doing - IMO you may be better off paying someone to master your tracks - you can have it done for as little as £30 these days...and that will be running it thru high end analogue hardware which will do it the world of good compared to a bunch of plugins...

You are more likely to damage your tracks using generic plugin presets...

What you can do is a pseudo-master where you make the basic EQ adjustments and insert a small amount of compression (30ms attack, medium release - 3db gain reduction) followed by limiting 3-4db...

I wouldnt advise doing much more than that - eg messing with multiband dynamics or maximisers....unless you know what you are doing...
#12
5th February 2010
Old 5th February 2010
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Simonator's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by SWAN808 View Post
If you are not sure what you are doing - IMO you may be better off paying someone to master your tracks - you can have it done for as little as £30 these days...and that will be running it thru high end analogue hardware which will do it the world of good compared to a bunch of plugins...

You are more likely to damage your tracks using generic plugin presets...

What you can do is a pseudo-master where you make the basic EQ adjustments and insert a small amount of compression (30ms attack, medium release - 3db gain reduction) followed by limiting 3-4db...

I wouldnt advise doing much more than that - eg messing with multiband dynamics or maximisers....unless you know what you are doing...
+1

I get all my shiz mastered professionally... but I tend to do a pseudo master in the interim that I'll use to test my mixes out on club systems before sending off for mastering.

And being realistic, if someone is not yet at the level where they feel ready to release their music, 10 tracks on an album X £30 per master is not an insignificant amount of money for a lot of people.
#13
5th February 2010
Old 5th February 2010
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Simonator's Avatar
 

Pseudo masters are also useful to send to your ME along with your 24bit pre-master to give the ME a little bit of guidance as to what direction you'd like them to take the rack in.
#14
5th February 2010
Old 5th February 2010
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The other benefit that you get from sending it to a recognized mastering house is that the track is listened to by someone with fresh ears in a well controlled listening environment. Forget trying to adjust an EQ by a few dB in your basement while listening to a pair of regular monitors. You cannot hear what is really happening and even taking your track and listening to it on a boombox, in the car, on an iPod, etc, you still don't hear the whole picture. Plus, someone with fresh ears that has not spent the time in the minutia of the track can lend a different perspective.
nyne
Thread Starter
#15
5th February 2010
Old 5th February 2010
  #15
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Thread Starter
Such awesome advice from all of you, especially the step by step post!!
Thank you so much.

Again, if i could afford it and had someone near i would , and hopefully will in the future!

Cheers guys!
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