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Mastering Engineering... the final frontier Studio Monitors
Old 20th August 2007
  #1
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Mastering Engineering... the final frontier

warning: you are about to read a rant

As a very young child during elementry school i always wanted to be a palentologist and study and research the remains of dinosaurs. Threw out my childhood i become fascinated threw out my life and pretty much figured that i would one day become a palentologist. But during the days of childhood we can probably all say that we were arrogant in our learnings. The thing is....
Theres no work in michigan to reasearch T-rex.
I dislike hot weather
where would i go to college to do this?

in other words.... IT CAN'T BE DONE (please just go with this idea)

Now we see mastering as a final frontier... a critical componet to "industry ready" music. Many of us don't even want to tread the water of this highly respected class of engineers. But a few of us tend to not listen to the rules.

What i'm trying to explain is, why can't a normal mix engineer become or learn how to become a master engineer. I've read plenty of tapeop's forums and notice that Master engineers tend to scare off mix engineers away from this sort of audio class. To become really good you need experiance. well....

the question is where and how did the mastering engineers start out?

I tend to not listen to the rules. Sitting in my basement with a M-box a pair of KRK rp5 and my ears as i do a "global EQing" and then hear my clients say things like "it's so much more clear and has punch" Finsh it off with a mastering limiter.. (cause i don't own a multiband compressor/limiter, nor do i know how to use one)

So... where did you get your magical wings at, oh wise mastering engineer? and give out a amature some advice.
Old 20th August 2007
  #2
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DSD_Mastering's Avatar
 

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It's that whole forrest/trees analogy thing here.
To be a good Mastering engineer, you have to be a good listener!
Mix/tracking engineers are more focused on the trees. They're worried about how the ride will sit in the mix or whether there is enough rhythm gtr.
As Mastering engineers, we can't do anything about that now. Unless we've been given stems, we "might" be able to bring up a vocal or kick part. Otherwise we'll just tell you to go back to the mix and fix it there.
We're more focused on the whole picture. We want to make sure it's coherent from top to bottom. We want a "flow" from track to track.
Yes, of course we've been asked to take out a cough or bump or something. Most people think Mastering is making it louder. Making it louder is probably only 5% of what I do.... if any! These days I'm getting things so loud I need to make it QUIETER!
Having a great monitoring system (room/speakers) just makes my job easier.
Yes, a mix engineer can do mastering... but what a Mastering engineer is, is a second opinion. How can a mix enginner Master something that he/she has been listening to for the past month? My suggestion for any Mix engineer that needs to Master the material is to put it aside for at least 2 weeks before coming back to it with a new perspective and a fresh set of ears.

Regards,
Bruce
Old 20th August 2007
  #3
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Thomas W. Bethe's Avatar
 

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Mastering is not a secret society or a fraternal society and you don't have to pay any dues (at least not in money) and no one has to vouch for you to join. Anyone can be a mastering engineer and no one will question that you are until they hear what you have done to their music.

It is a pretty select group of people that have the rooms, the ears, the equipment and the necessary skills and experience to do mastering and can legitimately call themselves mastering engineers.

I don't want to get into a rant BUT..... Why is it that everyone has to do everything themselves. They have to write the music, play the music, do the recording, do the mixing, do the mastering, design the cover art, print the CDs and covers and do the shrink wrap all by themselves. I'm sorry but not everyone is skilled in all those disciplines and by the time you write, record and mix the music you are so immersed in it that you really do need another pair of ears to set things into their proper perspective.

I cannot begin to tell you the number of clients that come in never really hearing how their music sounds in an acoustically treated room with good wide range speakers and good playback equipment. All of a sudden they are hearing rumblings of the AC system, cars going past out side, foot falls from the room above and lots and lots of mud in the lower bass parts....why is this BECAUSE they were recording and mixing on the same 8" Mackie or worse speakers and could not hear the bottom octave and their room was masking most of what they did hear.

In the old days people collaborated on their music and it was, IMHO, better for it. There was a producer, an recording engineer, the musicians and the mastering engineers all having a say in what it sounded like and all giving ideas on how to make it better. Today most people do everything themselves, they are the musician(s), the producer, the recording engineer and the mastering engineer all rolled into one and they have complete artistic control over how their music sounds - and you know something a lot of it sounds like it needs some help and or direction.....IMHO.

So if you want to be your own mastering engineer do it. Only maybe it would be a good idea to get someone else to listen to your material before you ship off your master to Disk Makers and have 1000 pressed CDs done. And that person should have a AAA rated playback system and ears to go along with it....maybe even a mastering engineer.

If you do a search on this web board you will find a lot of postings similar to yours with similar answers so maybe these people are trying to tell you something!!!

Best of luck!
Old 20th August 2007
  #4
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Riccardo's Avatar
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnk View Post
To become really good you need experience. well....
that is a fact and is true for both applications/skill sets.


It is not impossible for a mixing engineer to become a mastering engineer.

Sometimes looking at the same thing from a different perspective isn't so easy and straightforward.

Sure it can be done.
Old 20th August 2007
  #5
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Greg Reierson's Avatar
 

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I think it's interesting that none of the big name engineers master their own records.


Greg Reierson
Rare Form Mastering
Old 20th August 2007
  #6
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It's starting to become a little more common. Bill Botrell and Eric Valentine are 2 names that come to mind.
Dave
Old 21st August 2007
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Reierson View Post
I think it's interesting that none of the big name engineers master their own records.
...any large business is run that way. This also applies to "in the old days each person played a separate role" argument. Small businesses are usually run with one person doing everything. I wish I didn't have to do everything....I frigging suck at artwork but I have no idea how to find someone else to do it.
Old 21st August 2007
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mcsnare View Post
It's starting to become a little more common. Bill Botrell and Eric Valentine are 2 names that come to mind.
Dave
I have heard the mastering work of a few "A" level mixing engineers here in Canada who sometimes master their own mixes. I've also heard the work of some "A" level mixing engineers who have put on their mastering hats and mastered mixes that others have engineered.

My take is that experenced engineers with access to good gear and who understand how their rooms translate will seldom do a poor job but from what I have heard (and remastered more than a few times), they seldom do a great job.

My only concern is that the clients are no longer being educated as to the difference and, with the exception of the few clients who could tell they were't getting the best and went to a full-time mastering engineer to remaster, will continue to use mix engineers.

The other thought I had was experience. Most successful mastering engineers are focussing only on mastering and probably master over 300 albums per year plus lots of singles and EPs. A mix engineer might take 40 to 100 plus hours before an album is finished so how many a year will he have time to master?

Who has the best chance of delivering a great mastering job? A golden eared mix engineer who masters 20 to 30 albums a year or a golden eared mastering engineer who masters over 300?

And lastly, there is no question that a pro mastering engineer has chosen his equipment b/c it works best for mastering and a room & monitoring setup that is seldom matched at a recording/mixing studio.
Old 21st August 2007
  #9
Gear Maniac
 

I've always found it ironic how the more experienced engineers always see the the value of pro mastering, even though they have access to great gear and great rooms, and could probably do an ok mastering job.
It's the the guys that have only recorded a handful of albums that seem hell bent on
mastering their own stuff.
Old 21st August 2007
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by soundroid View Post
I've always found it ironic how the more experienced engineers always see the the value of pro mastering, even though they have access to great gear and great rooms, and could probably do an ok mastering job.
It's the the guys that have only recorded a handful of albums that seem hell bent on
mastering their own stuff.
Well, as has been said in previous posts, there are some experienced mix engineers that are doing their own mastering.

And just to be the devil's advocate, there are two reasons.

One is economic...more work for them; but the other is they've heard their work ruined by either bad mastering engineers or by good ones who either didn't care or understand the project.

I'm thinking that some of the good mix engineers would rather do it themselves than hand it over to the artist, producer or record company who then makes a poor decision as to who gets the mastering job.

However, I still think the odds are heavily in favour of a pro ME with credits doing a better job a pro mix guy who masters part time.
Old 21st August 2007
  #11
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some of these arguments almost extrapolate out to, "any pro ME with lots of experience will do a kickass job!" when in reality we all know it depends on the project, intent, etc.... Even when you tell the ME to do what you want and they do a really good job at it, it might not be exactly what you want. Especially if it comes back sounding like a certain piece of gear that you are tired of hearing all over records.
Old 21st August 2007
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johnk View Post
As a very young child during elementry school i always wanted to be a palentologist and study and research the remains of dinosaurs.
I wanted to be an Astronaut & the first guy to walk on Mars.

It was the "golden era" of the space program in the early '60s, when the coolest guys around had the "right stuff" - Alan Shepard, John Glenn, Yuri Gagarin, etc.

But I became a musician and then a mastering engineer instead.
Music can take you to some pretty far out and adventurous places as well.

In order to become a good mastering engineer you'll need:

A strong desire, not just a passing interest.
Really good ears
A love of music
A mind for technical detail
Patience
Good training
Ability to work well with people
Business skills
A nice sounding room to work in, at a good location
Great monitoring system
Some great processing gear
an extra-large bag of money, or someone willing to pay the overhead & hire you to work.
and probably some other stuff I've forgotten... (ok... a DAW & maybe plug-ins)

Oh Yeah, years of experience, lotsa credits, & a good word of mouth reputation might be useful.

JT

Last edited by Jerry Tubb; 21st August 2007 at 04:43 PM.. Reason: added indulgent double spacing : - )
Old 21st August 2007
  #13
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Quote:
I don't want to get into a rant BUT..... Why is it that everyone has to do everything themselves.
No doubt - The best recordings I've ever made were those *after* I learned to "give up the reigns" after my part was done.

And the *worst* mastering jobs I've ever done were those I did on my own mixes...
Old 21st August 2007
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MASSIVE Master View Post
And the *worst* mastering jobs I've ever done were those I did on my own mixes...
if you can hear whats wrong with it why can't you fix it?
Old 21st August 2007
  #15
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dsteve's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mcsnare View Post
It's starting to become a little more common. Bill Botrell and Eric Valentine are 2 names that come to mind.
Dave

Richard Dodd also does pretty well with both
Old 21st August 2007
  #16
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I agree with the assumption that it's not the best idea to do it yourself if you were the mixer, but I bristle at the notion that you CAN'T. Very experienced mixers are accustomed to making things sound exactly like they want. Mastering can be an extension of this. However just because you can, doesn't mean you should. I'll give ya'll that!
Dave
Old 22nd August 2007
  #17
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MASSIVE Master's Avatar
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by stellar View Post
if you can hear whats wrong with it why can't you fix it?
Aha - That's the point. No subjectivity with my own mixes. "Change" seemed "good" (when it was actually a side or back-step). I changed things just to change things when it sounded fine in the first place.

Long time ago though. Learned that lesson well.
Old 22nd August 2007
  #18
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Coyoteous's Avatar
 

- sorry, haven't read the thread, but shouldn't it be "the vinyl frontier?" heh
Old 22nd August 2007
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dsteve View Post
Richard Dodd also does pretty well with both
unfortunately most engineers, especailly 'hobby' engineers, are not in the league of Dodd and the other vetran engineers mentioned in this thread. how many times have I heard engineers say something like , "Mr Big masters his own stuff, so why can't I?". Well no one says you can't, there's no rules, however the Mr Big they often refer to, has mixed about 1000 albums. His skill level is on a different planet compared to most. It's funny how this simple fact gets lost on most.
Old 22nd August 2007
  #20
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Bob Yordan's Avatar
I will try to master my own mixes, but I use 2 different
speakers systems in 2 different rooms. My music buddy
will probably also master them and I will master his mixes
(made in a third location).

So that we can compare the output. thumbsup

We also have a third party that can check and master the
mixes at a commercial mastering studio.


Old 22nd August 2007
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by soundroid View Post
unfortunately most engineers, especailly 'hobby' engineers, are not in the league of Dodd and the other vetran engineers mentioned in this thread. how many times have I heard engineers say something like , "Mr Big masters his own stuff, so why can't I?". Well no one says you can't, there's no rules, however the Mr Big they often refer to, has mixed about 1000 albums. His skill level is on a different planet compared to most. It's funny how this simple fact gets lost on most.
I think this is the most important point here.

A few "A" level mix engineers are certainly capable of making a good sounding masters from their own mixes but this is NOT the case for 99% of the rest of them!

Most mid-level and beginner engineers really NEED the partnership of a good ME to finish an album and there is no getting around that fact. Except for the odd exception, there is no way they have the skill and objectivity to complete a project which will compete on the highest level.
Old 22nd August 2007
  #22
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Thomas W. Bethe's Avatar
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy Krehm View Post
I think this is the most important point here.

A few "A" level mix engineers are certainly capable of making a good sounding masters from their own mixes but this is NOT the case for 99% of the rest of them!

Most mid-level and beginner engineers really NEED the partnership of a good ME to finish an album and there is no getting around that fact. Except for the odd exception, there is no way they have the skill and objectivity to complete a project which will compete on the highest level.
If you read what is on the web you will soon notice that a lot of these beginners and mid level mixing engineers want to "master" their own stuff because they a) don't have the time to take it to a real mastering engineer or b) can't afford a real mastering engineer.

As to the time problem. Most professional mastering engineers can get a album done in a day. By the time the mix engineer decides what needs to be done and messes around with trying to make it happen it can take him or her literally days and maybe weeks. So the pro is going to be quicker. Also the pro will have the equipment and the monitoring system to make the job go quicker. The person mastering their own material will basically have what they did the original recording on and the same monitors they mixed on which can be a real problem. The pro will also be the one with the ears and experience to know how best to proceed. The mix engineer is so immersed in the project he or she will not be able to hear with objectivity.

Best suggestion TAKE IT TO A REAL MASTERING ENGINEER in the long run cheaper and better quality.

As to the money problem. If you are going to Gateway and have to spend $400.00 per hour and you have a zero budget for mastering yes you are going to have problems. But if you are like most artist they have just spent between $2000 and $3000 to get their album recorded (if they did not do it themselves) and you can find some very good mastering engineers who will do a whole album or somewhere between $450 to $1000. AND it will be done correctly and you will get something that sounds good on every playback system,
Old 22nd August 2007
  #23
Gear Head
 

when it comes down to my own music i will be taking it to a real master... But besides that its my only way of income thus far. 500 bones!!!!!.... everyone is pleased with it and no one argued over the art that i did.
On the end side.. I would like to add that there are Millions of people in the basement with almost the same if not lower quality set up then I. But be advise... only a few of us take it to heart and a critical business.

All i am is a 21st century audio engineer using all the resources to my disposel(SP?) with what funds i have
Old 22nd August 2007
  #24
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