Dear mastering guys - how can mixing engineers make your life easier?
snareman
Thread Starter
#1
12th October 2013
Old 12th October 2013
  #1
Gear maniac
 

Thread Starter
Dear mastering guys - how can mixing engineers make your life easier?

What are some classic mistakes, or bad habits during the mixing stage that you guys find can diminish the quality level at which you can push a song?
+ what is the ideal initial volume for you to work with?
#2
12th October 2013
Old 12th October 2013
  #2
Lives for gear
 

A common problem would be too much compression on mix tracks. If there is too much, the master compressor will sound awkward and usually raise levels where they shouldn't.
Quote
1
#3
12th October 2013
Old 12th October 2013
  #3
Lives for gear
 
RedTuxedo's Avatar
Classic mistake is limiting the mix and leaving very little headroom.

I like to see peaks around -10 and RMS around -20 or so. That's VERY general though. Don't take those numbers as absolute.
Quote
2
#4
12th October 2013
Old 12th October 2013
  #4
Gear addict
 
Jperkinski's Avatar
 

1) Remove any limiting or maximizing from your master fader. Mild or subtle compression is OK but avoid any makeup gain that is smashing into the digital ceiling as that cannot be undone. Turning the mix down is easy, undoing the compression/limiting is basically impossible, the damage is done. For example, you can crank the output gain of Waves Renaissance Compressor and it won't clip, but it acts like a limiter when you hit digital zero which again, can't be undone. If you must use compression on your mix, avoid extreme makeup gain like I just described. If this is part of your sound and you don't want to remove it, your mastering will surely be done "in the box" and probably not come back to you much louder, or at all.

It's understandable that you might have to do some faux mastering to make the client happy during mixing, or to get an idea of what will happen, but I always suggest removing that stuff for the final bounces for mastering.

When I get mixes that are around -15 RMS or hotter, it makes it pretty much impossible to run through the analog chain without sounding like shit. Submitting loud mixes for mastering usually means your mastering engineer can do less. If you're doing a vinyl release, it's especially important to leave plenty of headroom. There's no magic number for headroom, just don't limit or over-compress. You could brickwall a mix, and then turn it down -6dB and claim you have 6dB headroom, but it's useless if it's smashed and the dynamics are gone.

2) Noise. If there is buzz, hum or hiss from something in or on the mix and you'd like it to be removed or lessened, be sure to leave a nice sample of JUST the noise before or after the song so it can be used to remove the noise with RX3 or something similar. I seem to get a lot mixes where the engineer will be so worried about the noise that they crop it out very tightly, which leaves no clean noise sample to work with. The mastering engineer can quite easily trim heads and tails when needed, so it's best to leave those noise profiles before and/or after songs if you'd like them reduced.

For example: Your song has a guitar intro and the amp is very hissy, like a classic Fender tube amp. You trim the guitar tracks in your mix session so there is no hiss before the first note. Once the song is mastered and much louder, the hiss that is underneath the guitar intro is more noticeable and bothers you, but since there was no sample of just the hiss with no guitar playing, it makes it nearly impossible to remove hiss properly. All it would take is a 2 second sample of only the noise which is usually found before or after the take, or maybe in the middle if the player stops playing for a bit.

I always do tight crops after I capture back through the analog chain, and after I do any noise reduction. I know it might be your instinct to try and crop all noises out ahead of time, but it doesn't help if noise reduction is to be used. If you need to keep it cropped tight, just paste a bit of the noise from the noisy tracks after the song is over.

Sometimes the noise might not even be noticeable, or an issue until after the song is mastered up loud, so listen close for noise that could be problematic after mastering.
Quote
1
Adam Dempsey
Verified Member
#5
12th October 2013
Old 12th October 2013
  #5
Lives for gear
 
Adam Dempsey's Avatar
 

Verified Member
Listen to and be happy with your mixes

Forget the numbers. Listen back to your mix file(s) before sending to mastering. As simple as that.

It might sound ridiculous but I'm totally serious: don't just export and send away. Listen back to your (exported) mixes! Check for corrupt audio/automation; that it's the correct version; mono compatibility; that there are no chopped starts or tails; no extraneous noises; ensure it's labelled correctly (my ideal: track no., artist, title, version, eg: 03_Band_SongName_VoxUp). Just listen back to it and ensure you're happy with it. And take the time you need to get to that point!

Which leads to: book your release launch after approving your mixes and masters – that way you get to use the final version for promo, and I guarantee that everyone involved will enjoy the whole process more than being up against the wall time-wise and stifling creativity.
Quote
3
MASSIVE Master
Verified Member
#6
12th October 2013
Old 12th October 2013
  #6
Lives for gear
 
MASSIVE Master's Avatar
 

Verified Member
Quote:
It's understandable that you might have to do some faux mastering to make the client happy during mixing, or to get an idea of what will happen, but I always suggest removing that stuff for the final bounces for mastering.
I would go as far as to say to TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THAT and have a REALLY good listen to what's happening when you ram a mix into a limiter... A lot of things that might have gone unnoticed might come to light. Clicks, pops (oh my goodness, the number of projects I get in that are absolutely RIDDLED with clocking errors is beyond comprehension), the snare getting swallowed, the vocals getting swallowed (or shooting out of the top), weird stereo imaging -- And if any of these things seem problematic when the mix is "under stress" then it's probably something that's actually problematic with the mix in the first place.

Although it's certainly ideal to remove that limiter before sending anything in, I actually encourage clients to temporarily smash 'em just to see what happens.
Quote
2
#7
12th October 2013
Old 12th October 2013
  #7
Gear interested
 
D Harris's Avatar
 

Know your speakers, don't make your mixes sound bigger and "better" than they should on them. If you are boosting a lot at 40 Hz check to see if maybe you are missing it by an octave. Maybe boosting less at 80 Hz is what you really want.
Quote
2
Greg Dubuis
Verified Member
#8
12th October 2013
Old 12th October 2013
  #8
Gear Head
 
Greg Dubuis's Avatar
 

Verified Member
Build a good mixing room and tune your system to it !
Then learn it.

Jim Williams once said (he's right):

Too many mixers not enough fixers

And I would like to say :

Too many mixers not enough good mix

Last edited by Greg Dubuis; 14th October 2013 at 09:18 PM.. Reason: Incomplete thought
Jerry Tubb
Verified Member
#9
12th October 2013
Old 12th October 2013
  #9
Lives for gear
 
Jerry Tubb's Avatar
 

Verified Member
Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam Dempsey View Post
Which leads to: book your release launch after approving your mixes and masters – that way you get to use the final version for promo, and I guarantee that everyone involved will enjoy the whole process more than being up against the wall time-wise and stifling creativity.
Yep, so often the client is up against a self imposed deadline.

The other is a depleted budget, due to lack of planning.

Deadlines and budgets were made to be broken.

Best, JT
Quote
2
#10
12th October 2013
Old 12th October 2013
  #10
Gear maniac
 

great info hear well done gentlemen
thank you
Quote
2
#11
12th October 2013
Old 12th October 2013
  #11
Lives for gear
 
G-Sun's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jperkinski View Post
1)

When I get mixes that are around -15 RMS or hotter, it makes it pretty much impossible to run through the analog chain without sounding like shit.
I'm no mastering engineer but isn't this BS?
I mean, if it's digital, as long as it's not near 0dbfs, does it really matter?
You have a gain-knob I suppose?
Quote
2
#12
12th October 2013
Old 12th October 2013
  #12
Lives for gear
 
RedTuxedo's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by G-Sun View Post
I'm no mastering engineer but isn't this BS?
I mean, if it's digital, as long as it's not near 0dbfs, does it really matter?
You have a gain-knob I suppose?
You're confusing dB full scale (dBfs) with average level (RMS).

Kind of like you have a gallon jar filled with salt water. dBfs is the absolute volume of the jar (one gallon), and RMS is the average amount of salt in the water.

Different measurements.
Quote
2
Odeon-Mastering
Verified Member
#13
12th October 2013
Old 12th October 2013
  #13
Lives for gear
 
Odeon-Mastering's Avatar
 

Verified Member
Quote:
Originally Posted by snareman View Post
What are some classic mistakes, or bad habits during the mixing stage that you guys find can diminish the quality level at which you can push a song?
+ what is the ideal initial volume for you to work with?
all of the above plus:
Please make sure the client "approves" of the actual mix and not a limited/loudened mix that many give as a reference against commercial tracks.
(..on that note, I never understood why mixing engineers are shooting themselves at the leg by destroying their mixes with "wrong" limiting just so the client has a loud mix...).
Of course it does not "diminish the quality level at which I can push a track" but it can certainly be comfusing for the client.

Apostolos
IIIrd
Verified Member
#14
12th October 2013
Old 12th October 2013
  #14
Lives for gear
 
IIIrd's Avatar
 

Verified Member
Correctly labeled files, and tape boxes.
Quote
3
#15
12th October 2013
Old 12th October 2013
  #15
Gear maniac
 
Mastering7's Avatar
 

Gimme headroom, please!
#16
12th October 2013
Old 12th October 2013
  #16
Lives for gear
 
RedTuxedo's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by IIIrd View Post
Correctly labeled files, and tape boxes.
Amen to that!!
#17
13th October 2013
Old 13th October 2013
  #17
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by RedTuxedo View Post
You're confusing dB full scale (dBfs) with average level (RMS).

Kind of like you have a gallon jar filled with salt water. dBfs is the absolute volume of the jar (one gallon), and RMS is the average amount of salt in the water.

Different measurements.
This doesn't make sense. Look at it simply: I mix my song, I'm completely happy with it, and it peaks at -2DBFS. I send it to you, the mastering engineer. Regardless of the RMS level, it's not clipping, so all you have to do is use a gain plugin to bring it down to wherever you want it to be before hitting your analog chain. RMS level is surely irrelevant because the mix isn't clipping. Please explain?
#18
13th October 2013
Old 13th October 2013
  #18
Gear addict
 
Jperkinski's Avatar
 

I think my point was that in order to get around -12 RMS, some limiting or compression on the master fader is typically involved, which can't be undone.

The mix can obviously be turned down, but it usually doesn't sound good utilizing analog gear in the mastering process at that point, especially when clipping the converter which is a common thing to do when mastering analog these days.
#19
13th October 2013
Old 13th October 2013
  #19
Lives for gear
 
RedTuxedo's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by toasterjoey6 View Post
This doesn't make sense. Look at it simply: I mix my song, I'm completely happy with it, and it peaks at -2DBFS. I send it to you, the mastering engineer. Regardless of the RMS level, it's not clipping, so all you have to do is use a gain plugin to bring it down to wherever you want it to be before hitting your analog chain. RMS level is surely irrelevant because the mix isn't clipping. Please explain?
So if it's peaking at -10 dBfs and then the lowest part of the valleys in the peaks are -60.

And the RMS is swinging from -20 to -45.

Then you put that limiter on it.

Peaks are now -2 to -20. I've lost 20dB of peak headroom.

Now your RMS is swinging from -20 to -10.

I've lost 15 dB of average headroom to work with.

If that jar is full to the top, no more space, but I need to get the salt water balance just right, I pour more water, I'm going to lose some salt, I pour some salt, I'm going to lose some water. I cannot balance the water without losing something.
Rick Sutton
Verified Member
#20
13th October 2013
Old 13th October 2013
  #20
Lives for gear
 
Rick Sutton's Avatar
 

Verified Member
Quote:
Originally Posted by IIIrd View Post
Correctly labeled files, and tape boxes.
Absolutely agreed! It seems that nobody writes down this info any more.
#21
13th October 2013
Old 13th October 2013
  #21
Quote:
Originally Posted by G-Sun View Post
I'm no mastering engineer...
Then you might want to just humble up and listen to the free advice. It's like arguing with your doctor when he's just trying to save your ass..

By the way, this is what separates the professionals from the bedroom engineers. And this expertise is why you pay a mastering engineer. They have the mojo. It doesn't matter that you don't understand it, just do it...
Quote
1
#22
13th October 2013
Old 13th October 2013
  #22
Lives for gear
 
G-Sun's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by RedTuxedo View Post
You're confusing dB full scale (dBfs) with average level (RMS).

Kind of like you have a gallon jar filled with salt water. dBfs is the absolute volume of the jar (one gallon), and RMS is the average amount of salt in the water.

Different measurements.
Thanks! Yeah, now I see.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JackoDrums View Post
Then you might want to just humble up and listen to the free advice. It's like arguing with your doctor when he's just trying to save your ass..

By the way, this is what separates the professionals from the bedroom engineers. And this expertise is why you pay a mastering engineer. They have the mojo. It doesn't matter that you don't understand it, just do it...

Sorry, this was not my humble day I guess.
Trakworx
Verified Member
#23
13th October 2013
Old 13th October 2013
  #23
Lives for gear
 
Trakworx's Avatar
Honestly, as long as a mix is not clipped, brickwalled, or over-compressed, it's very easy for me to control it's level going into my analog chain. I never understood why so many ME's are so particular about precise peak levels. I don't care what the peak level of a mix is as long as it's below 0dbfs. But even just that is often too much to ask it seems.

----------------------------------------------------

Besides the things already mentioned, something that often causes problems is when there are extraneous sounds at the start or end of a song and a lack of instructions as to whether they are to be edited out or not.

A Lack of direction as to how you want the master to sound, or what your hopes/expectations are, is another common mistake. We're not mind readers. Reference tracks can be a big help.

Also, MEs prefer 24 bit or higher files when possible, but many clients provide 16 bit files, or even the occasional MP3.
#24
13th October 2013
Old 13th October 2013
  #24
Gear addict
1. label the mixes in some kind of coherent fashion (mix_01_L isn't it).

2. leave the limiter off, please. i don't even mind the limiting so much, the problem is that oftentimes the low end of the mix is way out of proportion, and this really should be fixed BEFORE the limiter.

3. don't make me use #$%^&* dropbox.

i wrote a little article about this stuff awhile back if you want to read more.
#25
13th October 2013
Old 13th October 2013
  #25
Gear addict
 
Jperkinski's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Trakworx View Post
Honestly, as long as a mix is not clipped, brickwalled, or over-compressed, it's very easy for me to control it's level going into my analog chain. I never understood why so many ME's are so particular about precise peak levels. I don't care what the peak level of a mix is as long as it's below 0dbfs. But even just that is often too much to ask it seems.
This is how I feel too. I don't care if the highest peak is -3dBFS, or -9dBFS or -whatever. It's insanely easy to lower the level of the mix before going into the analog chain.

The problems begins when mix engineers have a bunch of compression/make-up gain/limiting/maximizing on the master already that makes it hard to do any outboard work. If it already sounds smashed, it's usually not going to benefit from the analog chain.

Turning down=Easy
Un-limiting, un-brickwalling etc. is not really possible.

If I can't get a proper mix from the client after 2 or 3 attempts (not counting my PDF that clearly explains not to send smashed mixes), I simply do an in the box master which is fine with me at this point because it takes less time usually. I'm talking about mixes that are basically already as loud as I would master them. It sounds silly, but I do get these from time to time. Sometimes is easily rectified, and sometimes it's a lost cause.

Another thing for mix engineers to consider is that the mastering engineer will in almost all cases apply a limiter as the very last step (other than dither, I happen to use a limiter with a dither option), so to send mixes that are already limited just means that your mix is getting double limited which usually results in a weird, over-hyped, too aggressive sound.

In my PDF, I encourage those that are afraid of their mixes without anything on the master to send a version with & without the processing and I can

a) see what they're used to hearing and shooting for,
b) start with the version with no master processing so I can take full advantage of the analog chain.
#26
13th October 2013
Old 13th October 2013
  #26
Gear addict
 
Jperkinski's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by scraggs View Post

3. don't make me use #$%^&* dropbox.
Back in the day, Dropbox was annoying to me, but after iDisk went away I learned to embrace Dropbox and I'm quite happy with it. I think they've also made some big improvements on their end. I like that I can accept a file or folder share from wherever I am on my smartphone or computer, and the files will automatically start downloading to my main mastering computer. Then when I arrive to the studio, the files are all there and ready to preview and/or work on.

The other nice thing is that I can begin an upload of a large DDP file, go grab some lunch and then send the client a download link from my smartphone (with other info) wherever I am.

The thing that annoys me is when clients use some weird ass file sharing service that requires an account registration etc. just to get the files, or if I have to click on the songs one at at time to download.

Your clients should be able to send you a direct download link from Dropbox that doesn't require you to login to anything if you don't want to have a Dropbox account.

I have a PDF typed up that I send to clients that encourages them to use Dropbox for my convenience which includes my account name and other tips, and if they prefer another file sharing service, I ask that they make sure I don't have to mess around making a new account etc. just to get the files from that service, direct links only.

The ultimate worst is when I get an e-mail for each song with an mp3 and no info about the album. mp3s are not useable to begin with, let alone 12 e-mails of an mp3 file with no album data etc.
#27
13th October 2013
Old 13th October 2013
  #27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam Dempsey View Post
Which leads to: book your release launch after approving your mixes and masters – that way you get to use the final version for promo, and I guarantee that everyone involved will enjoy the whole process more than being up against the wall time-wise and stifling creativity.
and I'll add to that: don't print track times on your cover art before the masters are finished!!!.....yes this has happened, and more than once!
Trakworx
Verified Member
#28
13th October 2013
Old 13th October 2013
  #28
Lives for gear
 
Trakworx's Avatar
One more thing - when clients upload files to me (or paypal me) without including their name. A lot of time is wasted tracking down who a file, folder, or payment came from when it only says "For Justin". I already know MY name, I need YOUR name please. This happens all the time.

And don't get me started on how to leave a coherent voice mail...
#29
13th October 2013
Old 13th October 2013
  #29
Gear addict
 
Jperkinski's Avatar
 

Also, when you do share files on Dropbox or wherever, don't just call the folder or zip "files for mastering" or something like that. Chances are, your mastering engineer has a lot of files for mastering.

Clearly label everything with artist name, release name, etc.

Send a note with full & proper titles and reference old/alternate song titles. Indicate if your band name has a "The" at the start or not. Don't assume that the mastering engineer knows when abbreviations are proper or just abbreviations.
Trakworx
Verified Member
#30
13th October 2013
Old 13th October 2013
  #30
Lives for gear
 
Trakworx's Avatar
... and please spell check everything before sending ...
New Reply Submit Thread to Facebook Facebook  Submit Thread to Twitter Twitter  Submit Thread to LinkedIn LinkedIn  Submit Thread to Google+ Google+ 
 
Topic:
Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Forum Jump
 
Register FAQ Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read

SEO by vBSEO ©2011, Crawlability, Inc.