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Somewhat serious, Mastering Ambient/Experimental
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OpusOfTrolls
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23rd December 2012
Old 23rd December 2012
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Somewhat serious, Mastering Ambient/Experimental

Given the trend for louder and better is mastering, how would you handle the highly dynamic juxtaposition of experimental music? Would you modify the dynamics if you felt they needed it, and would you shape tone?

To define experimental, think a recording that is just audio for the effect of what it contains, may or may not be 'musical'.

Also, as a statistical inquiry, who as actually been asked to master experimental music?

Last edited by OpusOfTrolls; 23rd December 2012 at 06:44 AM.. Reason: retracting inquiry for ambient, slight genre confusion
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23rd December 2012
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Irrespective of style you always want to have a running dialogue with the artist/producer/etc to identify which direction the record is going to go.
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23rd December 2012
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I work on experimental stuff on a pretty regular basis, and come from a noise background, myself.

It all depends, as usual, but usually the dynamics are well preserved, as there is no need to compete with anything. A noise piece, that might by crushed beyond belief but that's a whole another thing.

Just a while ago, I was asked to go wild and experimental on a Zoom H2 live jam, which sounded a touch midrangey. I did. I separated the bottom end and made a parallel track with reverb on it along with a separated, bitcrushed top end parallel track. Sounded awesome, client was happy and the track got a lot more sinister.

Sometimes I might just go with a touch of EQ/compression. Experimental music in all its variations is a ton of fun to work on.

A few years back, a track on an experimental album was simply a piece of noise coming out of a 70's (used) compact cassette. It was completely blank, and noise was the deepest sounding hiss I had ever heard. Mesmerizing.
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Red Mastering
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23rd December 2012
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all Rhythm&Sound productions and masters sound very noisy,
deliberately, as hiss is a part of the sound,
anyway, if you never heard them (M. von Oswald and M. Ernestus), you should check it,
their 'sound' is very unique and beautiful
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23rd December 2012
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I do a lot of experimental and ambient music, just wrapped up tow ambient CDs last week in fact. As mentioned, pretty rare I need to deal with dynamic reduction unless there's an problematic section or the stray peak.

In terms of overall volume, I usually go with my gut on first pass, aiming to get nice and audible when browsing different genres, but not super loud like ambient pieces can get if you try and boost to around 0dBFS like we do for most music. At that point I'll follow any wishes of the producer if they wanted it louder or quieter after listening to the masters.
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OpusOfTrolls
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23rd December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tarekith View Post
As mentioned, pretty rare I need to deal with dynamic reduction unless there's an problematic section or the stray peak.

At that point I'll follow any wishes of the producer if they wanted it louder or quieter after listening to the masters.
I suppose this is about all it takes. But when a section is very low in contrast to the rest of the audio, how do you decide how much gain is necessary? Do you listen, or do you play by the numbers, and regard anything under a certain level as too low?
OpusOfTrolls
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23rd December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Red Mastering View Post
all Rhythm&Sound productions and masters sound very noisy,
deliberately, as hiss is a part of the sound,
anyway, if you never heard them (M. von Oswald and M. Ernestus), you should check it,
their 'sound' is very unique and beautiful
Phylyps Track sounds pretty good. Kinda like what Danny Tenaglia might spin.
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23rd December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OpusOfTrolls View Post
I suppose this is about all it takes. But when a section is very low in contrast to the rest of the audio, how do you decide how much gain is necessary? Do you listen, or do you play by the numbers, and regard anything under a certain level as too low?
I think I'd always go by how it sounds in that case, but often times it seems that the producers making this kind of music put sections like that in on purpose. Pretty rare I need to change levels in different parts of the track.
OpusOfTrolls
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23rd December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Virtalahde View Post
I work on experimental stuff on a pretty regular basis, and come from a noise background, myself.

It all depends, as usual, but usually the dynamics are well preserved, as there is no need to compete with anything. A noise piece, that might by crushed beyond belief but that's a whole another thing.

Just a while ago, I was asked to go wild and experimental on a Zoom H2 live jam, which sounded a touch midrangey. I did. I separated the bottom end and made a parallel track with reverb on it along with a separated, bitcrushed top end parallel track. Sounded awesome, client was happy and the track got a lot more sinister.

Sometimes I might just go with a touch of EQ/compression. Experimental music in all its variations is a ton of fun to work on.

A few years back, a track on an experimental album was simply a piece of noise coming out of a 70's (used) compact cassette. It was completely blank, and noise was the deepest sounding hiss I had ever heard. Mesmerizing.
Cool. Your role was then to actually effect and finalize.
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24th December 2012
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I work on quite a bit of experimental music. I rarely ever alter the natural dynamics within a song unless requested to. I assume they mixed with intent.

As for album dynamics, sometimes a quiet interlude works perfectly between two louder songs. Sometimes it doesn't. Experiment with different levels until it feels *right* to you, and then alter if needed when your client gives feedback.

And I generally leave the tone alone. I might go in and tweak a resonance, but only if it's detracting too much from the performance or that it might cause problems on vinyl. Less is more, and none is often enough.

For the Merzbow projects I've worked on, there's simply no dynamics to even alter.
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24th December 2012
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I did an experimental project recently. The client wanted "loud" but also wanted "good" (don't they all). I came down to me simply getting the mid range a little more under control and then just bringing up the level with a limiter until it started to audibly deteriorate, then cut back about 1dB. Stuff like that, I try to stay out of the way as much as possible and just let the project be what it is.
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24th December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OpusOfTrolls View Post
Also, as a statistical inquiry, who as actually been asked to master experimental music?
yes
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24th December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OpusOfTrolls View Post
Given the trend for louder and better is mastering, how would you handle the highly dynamic juxtaposition of experimental music? Would you modify the dynamics if you felt they needed it, and would you shape tone?

To define experimental, think a recording that is just audio for the effect of what it contains, may or may not be 'musical'.

Also, as a statistical inquiry, who as actually been asked to master experimental music?
It is client led like any other master but generally I do not use compression on these jobs any audible level changes are done by either riding the fader or pulling down the peaks in the HDR. I do a lot of work for Touch in this field.
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24th December 2012
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Completely depends on the music itself ("experimental" has to be one of the most nondescript genre names there is), and what the client wants. I've worked with a lot of Industrial, Electro-Industrial, Ambient, Dark Ambient and Noise artists, and I'd say what I end up doing in mastering one any one particular track/album, varies as much as it does with any other genre.
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24th December 2012
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this is the genre I work in not only for my mastering business but the label I've been running for 15 years. while I do get a lot of clients for other types of alternative music most people use me for my experience in experimental/ambient/electro-acoustic/etc.

what I've found that works best is I master however it seems natural in regards to volume. I don't push it, I just make the changes to EQ/dynamics as needed and avoid the "pushing" step. usually the Manley vari mu does a good job of gentle compression where needed. ill usually tell the client that I didn't slam the volumes in any way and if they want it louder there's room to go up. a lot od times they'll want me to bring it up but sometimes they'll want fairly quiet masters.

I use a limiter to catch peaks only but rarely do I use one for level sake. I find it easier to leave that final level choice to the client as to how far they want me to push it.

one of the trickiest things in this kind of music is the frequent use of noise (white noise, tape hiss) as an intentional sound. since its such a wide-band sound any slight dip on the signal from a compressor is incredibly evident in that noise sound. so compression has to be handled really carefully. I find the vari mu does a pretty good job of this but often a multi and compressor can spare the compression of the high frequencies and eliminate that white noise pumping. dynamic EQ is also a good tool.

but, yea, as someone else pointed out there is plenty of variation in the "experimental" category.. from the intense, clean rhythms of alva noto to walls of drone and melody like fennesz to the gentler, quiet sounds of a lot of the organic/acoustic ambient sorts.
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24th December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Virtalahde View Post
I work on experimental stuff on a pretty regular basis, and come from a noise background, myself.
then you must know ilpo and mika
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around my area theres quite a nice noise community. most of the times when it comes to mastering that kind of sound it does make much fun to me makin it even more noisy , more brutal , more dark or what soever. thats creativity in mastering. sometimes i find myself driving my studer pre like hell, going into multiband valve compression on levels far beyond. you cand realy get a wall of sound like this if its needed. noise musik can bee very loud , while ambient especialy dark ambient sounds much better if the overall level stays low. same to meditational music.
lately i had big fun with a guitar based noize band , they realy wanted me to drive the hell out of my gear and it became a crazy wall of guitar clusters while all the led`s on +30 equipment where flashing red not moving any more and the needle of the vu`s seems to break in the right side corner.
i like it.
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24th December 2012
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now there's some experimental music where loudness and dynamics DO play a role!

Quote:
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then you must know ilpo and mika
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24th December 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AUDIOBOMBER View Post
then you must know ilpo and mika
Actually I don't know them personally, although I've been at some gigs and naturally have a few LP's here.



And they're still Panasonic to me.
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