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Mastering--what is it?
Old 6th November 2018
  #1
Gear Maniac
 
BoomWomb's Avatar
 

Mastering--what is it?

I have spent the last two years learning through experience that 0db on the final mix in the box is too loud. I started using -6db as a benchmark. That was better. I have learned very little about mixing in the last two years, and it has all been hard won.

Now I think I want to master my own tracks. I will proceed by experience, starting from none, except my experience mixing. I am thinking that after my mix is done at a level of about -12db--all tracks, I will then pass the tracks/ groups through compressors and transformers until I can bring final levels up to about -6db. I work in a hybrid way, using the box as a glorified tape machine. I also use a real tape machine, and outboard gear.

How does that sound? Does that make sense as a super basic first idea of mastering? I mean: using compressors and transformers to bring things up in a way that is level?

Some further thoughts: It may just be my ignorance, but over the last two years of experimenting I have grown to dislike most frequencies above, very approximately, 7 or 8k. I always cut 20k. I also don't enjoy peaks. I like to try to mix in a way that sounds like old Van Morrison, even if its a punk track. I can't seem to get it good enough yet, and even my best tracks still are too harsh.

As always, thanks to those who can tolerantly brave my blather

one luv~ b o O m
Old 6th November 2018
  #2
Gear Maniac
 

Are you talking about multitrack mixing/mixdown or are you talking about mastering (= is creating a "master" for the vynil press) ?
Vinyl Mastering | vinyl-record.net EN
Old 6th November 2018
  #3
Gear Maniac
 
BoomWomb's Avatar
 

Well, I am sorry to answer a question with a question but are you saying there is no "mastering" but for preparing to vinyl? My understanding was mastering was the final engineering stage before broadcast/sharing/ public.
Old 6th November 2018
  #4
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robert82's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by BoomWomb View Post
Well, I am sorry to answer a question with a question but are you saying there is no "mastering" but for preparing to vinyl? My understanding was mastering was the final engineering stage before broadcast/sharing/ public.
Origins of mastering are in the making of a master platter from which copies would be made. Had to control EQ, and levels to accommodate that medium.

Now it seems to be about being the loudest tune on the FM. Or the iPhone.

Many here would say that a really good final mix is already a master. Except for perhaps when creating an album, where all the songs need a common sound/feel.

Maybe one could say that the less the ME has to do, the better.
Old 6th November 2018
  #5
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by BoomWomb View Post
Well, I am sorry to answer a question with a question but are you saying there is no "mastering" but for preparing to vinyl? My understanding was mastering was the final engineering stage before broadcast/sharing/ public.
No, there were/are two steps:

1.) Creating the "final mix", how it will leave the studio on tape, digital medium, etc. (= mixdown)

"....modern recording ..... involves three stages: recording, overdubbing, and mixdown."
Audio mixing - Wikipedia

"The final output of a multitrack recording is also known as the mixdown."
Mixing Your Music: The Easy Guide to Sounding Like a Pro

2.) Preparing for the special needs of the medium it will be distributed, e.g. vinyl (= mastering)

That someone may have confused this terms in the past and others are following the misuse like lemmings doesn't change anything on the correct definitions.
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Old 6th November 2018
  #6
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A few thoughts:

1) The Gearslutz mastering forum is likely to get you a better answer to the question of how much working room below full-scale makes a mastering engineer happy. Same of your other questions, too...but since you're asking here, I'll throw out a few other things. But overall, I think you're overthinking it, and making up gain after mixing in the manner that you're describing is working against yourself, IMO.

2) In music mixing, the relationship between meter level and monitoring level is not fixed in the same way as it is in mixing for television or theatrical, where translation between environments is critical. Your music mix needs to sound good at a whisper...or a roar...on everything from earbuds to mains.

3) Every one of your physical outputs will have an amplifier behind it - you should optimize your gain staging in order to maximize signal to noise instead of trying to hit a number.

4) Hating on a particular band of frequencies may be an indication that you're monitoring too loudly, too closely, or that your monitor chain or room acoustics may have issues. Or maybe that's just the sound you prefer, which is fine...as long as your clients are happy with it, too.

5) Obviously, you can't ignore the meter entirely, but once you find a good monitoring level (maybe a bit quieter than you're used to?), and match that to a nominal metering level (it makes sense to use every bit below the level that mastering engineers request), your tracks may be a bit easier to mix, and master. You'll probably find that after working in this way for a while, you'll mix almost entirely by ear, and subsequently find that your meter is landing right where it should be.

6) To a certain extent, passing along a mix to a mastering engineer that is a "boxcar" (an overall waveform profile indicating hard limiting and high average levels) at -6dBFS true-peak isn't any more helpful than passing it along at -0.1dBFS true-peak. Cookies baked...can't really change the flavor profile at this point. If it ends up a boxcar after mastering, that's a horse of a different color.
Old 6th November 2018
  #7
Gear Maniac
 
BoomWomb's Avatar
 

thanks everyone. i guess i am still struggling to get the thick glued together sound i desire, one absent obnoxious peaks and hard frequencies. i am getting really close to this, but not quite.
Old 6th November 2018
  #8
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robert82's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by BoomWomb View Post
thanks everyone. i guess i am still struggling to get the thick glued together sound i desire, one absent obnoxious peaks and hard frequencies. i am getting really close to this, but not quite.
Again, not a mastering issue . . . it goes all the way back to your tracking. The closer you get, at every stage, to the sound you want, the better your final mix will sound. Trying to correct faults on individual tracks at the mix buss is a frustrating task. In other words, there is only so much you can fix at the stereo buss stage, and simply trying to smash it into submission will sound exactly like you tried to smash it into submission.
Old 6th November 2018
  #9
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Radardoug's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by robert82 View Post
Again, not a mastering issue . . . it goes all the way back to your tracking. The closer you get, at every stage, to the sound you want, the better your final mix will sound. Trying to correct faults on individual tracks at the mix buss is a frustrating task. In other words, there is only so much you can fix at the stereo buss stage, and simply trying to smash it into submission will sound exactly like you tried to smash it into submission.
This is exactly right. Fix it in the mix is the worst possible option, but so easy these days. Unfortunately easy doesn't mean good. Oh for those heady days where you actually had to have the band in a proper studio to record!
Old 8th November 2018
  #10
Quote:
I am thinking that after my mix is done at a level of about -12db--all tracks, I will then pass the tracks/ groups through compressors and transformers until I can bring final levels up to about -6db. I work in a hybrid way, using the box as a glorified tape machine. I also use a real tape machine, and outboard gear.

How does that sound? Does that make sense as a super basic first idea of mastering? I mean: using compressors and transformers to bring things up in a way that is level?
I have no idea and neither does anyone else here because we did not hear the before and the after and we do not have access to your mixes in a tuned room. what to do in Mastering is not set to a template. You use what is needed and only what is needed. So you can say you did this and that and it doesn't, because we do not have access to your mix to hear it.
Every song mastered uses different settings and different processes and different effects. Its just like a painting. Every painting was done with different paint strokes and paint colors and paint brushes. The same goes for mastering
Old 14th November 2018
  #11
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Just to add something that I haven't seen mentioned in this thread yet..

One important goal of mastering is to ensure that once the listener presses play at the beginning of the album and sets their desired volume.. they never have to get up to adjust the volume again in-between/during tracks
Old 3rd March 2019
  #12
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by BoomWomb View Post
Well, I am sorry to answer a question with a question but are you saying there is no "mastering" but for preparing to vinyl? My understanding was mastering was the final engineering stage before broadcast/sharing/ public.
It used to be.
These days it has a slightly different meaning to most folks.

Some think editing/mixing one track is mastering now.
Some use the more usual meaning of putting the tracks together for an album as mastering. Best sequence for content impact, adjusting the levels to be compatible with each other and the music, yada yada.

A few think mastering means making it as loud and compressed as possible.

Most folks seem to overlook that the final must be mastered to the medium whether vinyl, cassette, DVD, CD, tape, TV, broadcast, or whatever and that they all have different requirements. And anything else is really premastering.
Old 3rd March 2019
  #13
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by FreshProduce View Post
Just to add something that I haven't seen mentioned in this thread yet..

One important goal of mastering is to ensure that once the listener presses play at the beginning of the album and sets their desired volume.. they never have to get up to adjust the volume again in-between/during tracks
True.

But I do not want to have to adjust it between CDs either,
or switching TV channels but that is not going to happen.
Old 4th March 2019
  #14
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