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Should you attend a mastering session ?
Old 15th July 2005
  #1
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Should you attend a mastering session ?

Hi, i`m having some tracks mastered by Ray Staff @ Alchemy. Should i be there for the whole session or would it be better to leave them to it ? Ray comes to me highly recommended from various bands / producers so i`m sure that i can trust his ears.
Old 15th July 2005
  #2
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Even if you trust the person's ears, unless you've worked with them before, I would suggest making the effort to attend the session.

Don't get me wrong - I've had decent cuts from unattended sessions, but IMO, you are better off on the whole if you attend, unless you feel the ME has psychic abilities...

This topic was recently discussed at Brad Blackwood's Mastering Forum

Justin
Old 15th July 2005
  #3
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I have engineered and mixed some pop and soundtracks albums and i have always been present at mastering - the more i was learning, the more i was interested and involved in the mastering process. You should attend the session, let him do his job, try to learn and give your opinion. My 2c.
Old 15th July 2005
  #4
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Thanks for the link.
Old 15th July 2005
  #5
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Definately attend if possible....you'll get better results for a multitude of reasons.........
Old 15th July 2005
  #6
You absolutely should go. You'll learn alot about whats leaving your studio, and what you can do to make it better.
Old 15th July 2005
  #7
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Old 15th July 2005
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thermionic
Even if you trust the person's ears, unless you've worked with them before, I would suggest making the effort to attend the session.

But doesn`t this kind of defeat the purpose ?

I allways thought the whole point of mastering is to let someone whose never heard the song before make a judgement on your mix and improve it with an unbiased set of ears.

If your there fighting for the wheel your just trying to steer it back to the flaws in your own hearing that led to the mix in the first place.

If you have perfect mixes mastering wouldn`t really be necessary would it ?
Old 15th July 2005
  #9
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In general it´s better to be around at mastering. Most mastering engineers like it better, too, because when it comes to taste it´s better to be able to ask the producer about his intentions.

Peace,
Bill
Old 15th July 2005
  #10
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Watching Doug Sax, Bernie Grundman and Bob Ludwig improved my next album far more than they improved the albums they mastered!
Old 15th July 2005
  #11
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A differing opinion

When I send stuff I've mixed to other mastering engineers, it is because I trust them. And I trust them to mind the notes I've provided. I trust their ears and judgement and I'm always happy. (The people that I've sent stuff to include Jeff at Peerless, Emily at the Lodge, Alan at West Westside, Charlie and David at Airshow. I love all of these people.)

As a mastering engineer myself, I prefer non-attended sessions. Concentration is better and there's less time spent in explanation. You just hear what is needed, seek it out, and you focus. With client attendance, there is always additional time devoted to education.

I like the education part, but it does add to the session length. And therefore, makes the session pricier.

If you find a mastering engineer whose work you like, I say trust them to do their work, provide them with organized materials and notes and... uh... leave 'em alone!

This is going to be a terribly snobby-sounding (and controversial) thing to say in public, but in my experience, I find that the more "pro" the client, the less likely the session will be attended. I once asked Mitchell Froom if he attended his mastering sessions (I was a young, star-struck engineer at the time) and he looked at me as if I had asked a very silly question and said "No. Never." Of course, all of his work gets sent to Bob Ludwig and they obviously have a great relationship.

So, that's what I suggest: develop a relationship with a mastering engineer. And all good relationships are based one thing.

Trust.

--- c
Old 15th July 2005
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Silver Sonya
So, that's what I suggest: develop a relationship with a mastering engineer. And all good relationships are based one thing. Trust
I'll second that, well said!

If you need to be there to make sure that the ME isn't leaving early or to 'hold him back' from squashing your mixes then there's something wrong to begin with.

Sure it's great to be there and learn something but often I find it better to write down my ideas and send them along with the mixes. It's kinda like e-mail, sometimes you're able to communicate better because it's less personal.

I used Jim DeMain in Nashville for my last few projects and the one I'm just about to finish now. It works really well and in a way, as producer/mixer and often also guitar player on my projects, I'm kinda glad NOT to have to attend the mastering session.
It'd be also a bit of a long trip for me, there's an ocean in between, but as I'll be in Nashville in November, I'll hope to attend a session then (should I have one ready).

Andi

www.doorknocker.ch
Old 15th July 2005
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kevinc
But doesn`t this kind of defeat the purpose ?

I allways thought the whole point of mastering is to let someone whose never heard the song before make a judgement on your mix and improve it with an unbiased set of ears.

If your there fighting for the wheel your just trying to steer it back to the flaws in your own hearing that led to the mix in the first place.

If you have perfect mixes mastering wouldn`t really be necessary would it ?
I have had a few bizarre mastering experiences, and a few with some noteable ME's so -- No, it doesn't defeat the purpose. And who says they are going to automatically improve it?? That is a VERY dangerous assumption to make. There needs to be some way to communicate what needs to be done [if you have an opinion before it goes out], evaluate the work, and have changes made that reflect your evaluation.

If you are working with someone for the first time, it may help if you are there -- just remember to give the ME space to 'do their thing' before you make any comments. Also, I have found it helpful to bring a CD of music I know, just so I can get an idea of the room -- only if my tracks are not making sense to me in this environment. I ask that the ME step out for a minute and let me take a listen to something I am familiar with, even if it is not the genre we are working with.

Mastering is the stage where you'd like to let your guard down and let someone else handle it, but could potentially be bummed out if you do. I have given records to people and they have come back with a lisp, the groove feeling very different, the low end changed drastically, etc.. To be fair, I have gotten things back from ME's that are vastly improved as well. I have a few stories, that's for sure...

Don't know if this exactly applies here, but Bob Ludwig said this once:
"The way I see it, recording and mixing audio involves an indefinite amount of compromises, and the really good recordings are made by people who have evaluated every step in the recording process carefully, and have chosen the best compromises. What it all comes down to is everyone's ability to use his or her ears."


Cheers,

John
Old 15th July 2005
  #14
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I think it would be cool to be there, for "being there" reasons. To talk, share stories, learn, but I don't think i'm prepared to comment on mastering. The few things we have done with Brad didn't leave us with a "wish I was there to tell him" feeling at all.
Old 15th July 2005
  #15
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hollow teeth, you haven't said what your role is? are you the producer, mix engineer, artist etc?

I think the producer should be there and should know what the others involved would be looking for. He should also kno when to keep his mouth shut and let the mastering engineer do his thing
Old 15th July 2005
  #16
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Depends on why you are attending - there are pros and cons to attending.

Pros:
- You can more easily insure you're both on the same page sound-wise
- You can more easily take care of edits
- You can more quickly determine if using a vocup/vocdn/etc. mix is appropriate

Cons:
- It generally takes longer (more chit chat) which generally = more $$$
- You won't know the room, so sonic decisions, while you are tempted to make them, are a bad idea

I have no real preference as long as the project turns out as the client wishes.
Old 15th July 2005
  #17
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I`m the artist and producer (i know, not a great combination). The problem i have with mastering is that i don`t know the room or the monitors so i tend to trust the ME. I think i`ll play the songs to him and we can discuss what needs to be done, then i`ll leave him to it. If he has any queries i`m only round the corner from Alchemy.
Thanks for all the replies, Gearslutz helpful as ever.
Old 15th July 2005
  #18
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It's really fun to be there. It's usually much cheaper if you're not there. When the budget's tight, things seem kind of rushed when you're there; on the other hand, you give up some control -- for better or worse -- when you're not. I used to insist on being there if I was producing or if it was my own stuff, but I've come around to the idea of saving a ton of money and using somebody I can't get to.
Old 15th July 2005
  #19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Silver Sonya
As a mastering engineer myself, I prefer non-attended sessions. Concentration is better and there's less time spent in explanation. You just hear what is needed, seek it out, and you focus. With client attendance, there is always additional time devoted to education.



--- c
Is this why attended sessions are pricier to discourage the client form attending? heh
Old 15th July 2005
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kevinc
But doesn`t this kind of defeat the purpose ?

I allways thought the whole point of mastering is to let someone whose never heard the song before make a judgement on your mix and improve it with an unbiased set of ears.

If your there fighting for the wheel your just trying to steer it back to the flaws in your own hearing that led to the mix in the first place.

If you have perfect mixes mastering wouldn`t really be necessary would it ?
I agree with your sentiments, but each approach has its own merits / disadvantages.

Aside from the logic cited by Bob O. and John Paterno, I would prefer to attend a session with any ME that I hadn't used before – a significant reason for this would be that much of the material I've worked on has been cut to vinyl. As opposed to CD, where 0dBfs is the limit, peak level can be a subjective decision when cutting to vinyl – i.e. if you cut a "club" cut to "audiophile" standards, DJs may not play it due to low level – likewise, a more laid-back passage cut to club levels may well defeat its object. What is "subjectively" the "right" level for vinyl can be specific to the material in hand - it may require a handful of test cuts to hit the right compromise, and unless, as I previously stated, you've worked with them before and know the ME well, this can be an area where it pays to attend.

I would echo the comment about keeping a low profile at the session – distracting the ME can be expensive, and definitely unwise, particularly if they're in the "zone" jigging between racks.

There are a handful of MEs I trust to the point where I do not attend - they may be based miles away from me, why go through the hassle of travelling? I'll let them get on with their thing...but only if we're on the same wavelength.


Justin

edit: I can remember learning something at an attended cut back in '95: I took in a DAT that I'd cloned via AES between a Tascam and a Sony machine. Within a couple of bars, the ME said to me: "this is a clone isn't it?" - I replied "I used AES via 2 professional machines, how the HELL can you tell that?" - the ME proceeded to give me a lecture about jitter, and why I should always implement a word-clock connection between machines... The ME stated that they kept several DATs wired up, so that people could bring in the originals instead of comps for this very reason...
Old 15th July 2005
  #21
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I think it's always a good idea that someone attend mastering when possible.

I've had good results with both attended and unattended sessions, but in general I've had fewer issues when I've gone to the session.

And whenever I do attend mastering, something always comes up that makes me think, "I'm so glad I'm here right now...I wonder how this would have been handled if I weren't?" -- JB
Old 15th July 2005
  #22
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I should add that I've had infinitely more hassles from plants preparing the stampers without care than I've had from unattended sessions...

Attending VS not attending is a bit like giving birth really - some fathers choose to be right in there, some don't... heh

J
Old 15th July 2005
  #23
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One thing we shouldn't forget: The MEs playback system will most likely be WAY better and different than what we used to mix the tracks.
In other words, you still wanna hear it at home,etc. And that's why there are Reference CDs, so in the end I'm not 'powerless' by not attending the session.

The most important thing would probably be to attend the 'burning session' for the master, I don't think that's common though....

Andi

www.doorknocker.ch
Old 30th August 2009
  #24
educational

thanks to all who posted as a novice this was insiteful/insightful
Old 30th August 2009
  #25
Mastering
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by thethrillfactor View Post
Is this why attended sessions are pricier to discourage the client form attending? heh
We don't explicitly charge extra for attended sessions. As Brad says, they end up taking longer and costing more because no one can just be a "fly on the wall."

About 75% of the time over here it would not affect the result if you come or don't come as we can handle all your needs over the phone or Internet. But that 25% of the time is useful and critical, where you have specific needs that are much easier to communicate in person; could be specific edits or use of certain takes or things you could not easily put down on paper.

Still, over here you are always invited to come because we love to show off our monitoring and enjoy having you over to get your perspective on what you are looking for, even though we know you do trust us!

BK
Old 30th August 2009
  #26
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Ray is a pioneer!
He cut the first three sided album!

Attended sessions can be a double edged sword, for sure!

You can spend more time trying to get exactly what the client is pushing for, when the mixes are not quite up to it in the first place.

The masters can end up being wrong when the client gets them home because he (or she) is not used to your system.

You can sometimes end up cutting them again, doing what you would normally do if the client had not been present.
Then they end up right.

That's why attended sessions can end up costing more!
Old 31st August 2009
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hollowteeth View Post
Hi, i`m having some tracks mastered by Ray Staff @ Alchemy. Should i be there for the whole session or would it be better to leave them to it ? Ray comes to me highly recommended from various bands / producers so i`m sure that i can trust his ears.
you should attend. not because you may not trust him, but because he's a really nice guy and a good engineer. he has an amazing amount of experience and many good stories to tell. i'd recomend it.
he's not mastering at alchemy anymore though as they don't exist, but at air mastering.

Air Mastering. Audio mastering studio in london uk
Old 31st August 2009
  #28
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Ask him what he prefers.

Personally I don't let clients in during the process.
I want to become one with the material.

When I am done the client first has a listen at home and after that he can come in if he wants to do some tweaking or just have a listen here and the questions on what I did and why I did it.

cheers,
Mark
Old 31st August 2009
  #29
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Attend if you can, even if it costs you a lot in travel.

You'll learn more about your music than 3 hardback books could ever tell you with a session with an experienced engineer!
Old 31st August 2009
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zownd View Post
Ask him what he prefers.

Personally I don't let clients in during the process.
I want to become one with the material.

When I am done the client first has a listen at home and after that he can come in if he wants to do some tweaking or just have a listen here and the questions on what I did and why I did it.

cheers,
Mark

i'm serious attend...they guy is a gent. also a master...do attend and you will learn alot. he's a competitor, but i've met him, and would have no hesitaion in recomending him to any one.
you'll have great session..ATTEND!
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