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are multiple revisions normal?
Old 1st July 2009
  #1
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are multiple revisions normal?

On average, how much are you mastering guys revising your masters in an unattended session? im working with an mastering engineer going on the 5th revision and something tells me thats too just many. I feel like if he isnt doin it by the second time around its probably just not going to work out. Do u "nail" it the first time? second time? let me know please
Old 1st July 2009
  #2
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Sometimes it's a guessing game because you may have an image in your head about how you want it to sound but he doesn't have that image. Of course there's the possibility that the mix is bad and no mastering will fix it.
I don't think I've ever done more than 2 revisions. Most of my clients are happy the first time, but once and a while I have to go back and make a minor touch.
Old 1st July 2009
  #3
jdg
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i've done at most 10, that was a PITA. but in general its the first pass that is the winner.

and if its a revision, its usually only one or two tracks.

revisions happen, but dont expect them to always be free.
Old 1st July 2009
  #4
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Revisions do happen. In a vast majority, the first version is the final one, and from there the first revision is the one to be selected, usually.

But I've had a few projects with a LOT of revisions. Many times they've been about something that just cannot be done, and the customer has realized this at the end after explaining what we're trying to do and why it isn't working out. Once or twice it has also happened that I really did not have a clue and/or the communication didn't work out, but out of something the knot untied and things ended up well.

Whatever happens.. A happy customer is my priority.
Old 1st July 2009
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zini View Post
On average, how much are you mastering guys revising your masters in an unattended session? im working with an mastering engineer going on the 5th revision and something tells me thats too just many. I feel like if he isnt doin it by the second time around its probably just not going to work out. Do u "nail" it the first time? second time? let me know please
If it isn't in the pocket after the first revision, you're either making "unusual decisions" or the client probably wasn't happy with his mixes in the first place.
Old 1st July 2009
  #6
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Revisions aren't too uncommon, especially not with unattended sessions.

Most of the time it'll be spacing, fades or specific requests on one or two tracks. Sometimes (rarely) it's about overall sound, but when it is, and if it takes multiple revisions, the final master usually turns out pretty close to the first version (coming full circle, if you know what I mean)

In my experience, the number of revisions (or lack thereof) doesn't necessarily have a direct relation to client satisfaction. Sometimes things just take a little longer. So if you feel things are going in the right direction, don't be disheartened. Don't worry about what's normal or not, go by how you feel about the process.
If however you are at revision 5 and you really don't feel your wishes are taken care of, you don't feel like you're getting anywhere, then maybe the two of you just can't communicate well or the ME in question isn't right for the task.
Old 1st July 2009
  #7
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5,..not a big number really. revisions are quite normal. sometimes it works first time, sometimes it doesnt. thats just life, and music.
Old 1st July 2009
  #8
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a revision is normal, included in the on-line forfait. Thinking at spaces or a particular shaping on some tracks. If more mods are required after the first revision that's a fault of the client and any extra work should be payed.

DB
Old 1st July 2009
  #9
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Generally no revisions for 90% of the stuff I master, for the other 10% one or two at the very most - if it's two there are usually new mixes or lots of order changes. Is it the case that he's not getting the sound right - if that's the story then you are being very patient with 5 - in fact that sounds like total madness to me. Is the communication a problem?

Funnily enough I heard my first '5 revision' story last night involving a Perth band and a pretty famous place, the main issue seemed to be distortion - lots of it, and they got charged every step of the way - I really hope this isn't what's happening to you, it sounded like a very stressful and expensive nightmare. I know the mixer's work very well and he's good at what he does, are your mixes ok too?

The King
Old 1st July 2009
  #10
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Thomas W. Bethe's Avatar
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by zini View Post
On average, how much are you mastering guys revising your masters in an unattended session? im working with an mastering engineer going on the 5th revision and something tells me thats too just many. I feel like if he isnt doin it by the second time around its probably just not going to work out. Do u "nail" it the first time? second time? let me know please
I did an unattended session with a long time client who had moved away. All of the material I had done for him previously was done in a good recording studio by a professional recording engineer. We always worked together and he attended all the mastering sessions here at my studio. This time it was different. He did the recording himself at a concert venue with no audience. He sent me the material with a long list of things he wanted done to it. I did the first mastering and sent it to him. He shot back a whole list of "problems" with the mastering. I did a second revision and sent it to him and he sent back an even longer list of "problems". Now this is a person I have worked with on many projects and he is known for his keen musical insights and he has GREAT ears. Something was not translating well. I asked him what he was listening to the material on and he said his car stereo and a pair of speakers in his apartment. After two more revisions I knew there was something seriously wrong and asked him to check the wiring to his speakers to make sure they were "in phase" with each other. He found that his speakers in his apartment had indeed been wired out of phase with each other. So he listened to the material and found it sounded better than he expected (imagine that) now there was the problem with why it did not sound correct in his car. I sent him a bass check CD with in phase and out of phase signals and asked him to check his car. I did not let him know which tracks were which but just to tell me what he found. He picked the tracks that were out of phase so there was also something wrong with the car and I asked him to have it checked out. He reported back that the car speakers had indeed been wired up out of phase and the front and the back speakers were wired up out of phase with each other. Mystery solved and the mixes worked well and we were able to do one more revision and have it work perfectly. Sometimes the smallest problem can prevent a mastering engineer and a client from doing their best work when the sessions are unattended.
Old 1st July 2009
  #11
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Quote:
He found that his speakers in his apartment had indeed been wired out of phase with each other.
I just mastered an EP from 1/4" a couple of weeks ago. The client sent me an MP3 of a sound he likes (references are always good) so I had a good idea of what he wanted. I sent him a reference and his response was "honestly, it doesn't sound good at all. Did you do any EQ or compression? It sounds like it did in my headphones when I recorded it." Then an hour or so later, he wrote back appologizing because he had some goofy digital EQ preset working in the background on his stereo that he hadn't noticed. Once he bypassed the EQ, the natural sound showed.

On another note, a mastering engineer I know in Salt Lake City told me about the one time he had 5 revisions. The client kept complaining about the sound but not describing the sound he wanted. Finally, my aquaintance just ran the DAT through S/PDIF over to the new medium and the client loved it. Sometimes mastering is just about putting things in order and spacing them.
Old 1st July 2009
  #12
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I never hesitated to ask the biggest names in mastering for revisions so I expect them from my unattended project clients.
Old 1st July 2009
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zini View Post
On average, how much are you mastering guys revising your masters in an unattended session? im working with an mastering engineer going on the 5th revision and something tells me thats too just many. I feel like if he isnt doin it by the second time around its probably just not going to work out. Do u "nail" it the first time? second time? let me know please
You can't look at a number.

If I'm on revision one for some clients, I know it's soon time to cut them off, as they'll never be happy. The music and mixes are not great, and they don't get the whole process. I can tell by the way it's going that revisions are not the answer.

At the same time, I might do many multiples very happily for another client with a set of mixes where they are trying to get me to fine tune one or two VERY subtle aspects of the mix. This is fun for us both and makes a great result.

So again ... you can't look at the number. Trust yourself, if you get a feeling it's pointless, it probably is.
Old 1st July 2009
  #14
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thnks guys.. that defintely raises questions for me. im not really sure what the prob is here. I get my masters back and its like he's tryin to alter the sound too much. like he's tryin too hard to make the super duper best masters ever instead of just making it sound like a record. I say i want pretty much want them to sound the same as my mix, but louder and just bigger.

What i get is an overload of bass, and a smeary, unfocused and unclear middle/low mid. And before u ask, its not just in my studio, its everywhere. What threw me off though was when I said maybe we just are referencing different material, I am refrencing (named a few current hip hop releases) and he replied, "I dont really reference my masters to anything, the stuff you mentioned is way to thin and distorted for me to use as reference" . So im like Ok, but then he proceeds to give me back masters that sound more thin and distorted than the stuff i was referencing.

Im pretty positive its not the mixes. they sound how i want them to sound. im not telling him to work a miracle here. if i could keep the same balance they have and just make them "loud enough" to put on a CD for sale I would. I dont know how or have the tools to make something loud without limiting / compressing the crap out of it. When i play my mixes and "turn up the volume knob", they sound better than his masters at the same level.
Old 1st July 2009
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zini View Post
When i play my mixes and "turn up the volume knob", they sound better than his masters at the same level.
Well, there you go. In this case, your ME is not up to the par.
Old 1st July 2009
  #16
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So, this is a hip hop album but you don't want to smash the thing to a square wave?

Also, it sounds like the ME is dicking around with your stuff. Get someone else.

If you just want it louder and bigger and you tell him that, but all he does is smear it, then you picked the wrong guy.
Old 1st July 2009
  #17
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Have you heard any previous work from the ME?

Is it one of those $199.95 album deals? if so, you could be dealing with a bedroom studio... in those instances, sometimes you do get what you pay for...

But that aside, your instruction's seem clear and simple, unless you have revised the mixes on the ME as well, I would look elsewhere.
Old 2nd July 2009
  #18
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Would you mind telling us what you are using to listen to your masters back on?

I've had similar situations come up in the past with hip hop projects; in the end it turns out that we are trying to master the project to sound good on the clients' nearfield monitors and car stereo that "rattles" too much. I'm not saying this is your situation, but in my experience, the 3 or so times I've had this happen with clients, that's what I've come across.

The idea that the clients have is that they've popped in a CD and played it through their nearfields and use that as a comparison to their masters, sort of like "if this album sounds 'good' on my nearfields, my masters should sound this good too."

Something to keep in mind is that nearfield monitors (well, most of the "budget" models anyway) are not revealing as much of the range as a set of full-range speakers that are neutral; it's like trying to judge a painting by looking at it through a tube. There's also a "perception" factor that is different between your mixes and other peoples' work.

If you were originally happy with your mixes and they sound "better" on your monitors than the masters do when matching levels, this can also mean that your monitors are lying to you about some frequencies, for example, your monitors might have a mid/high "bump" that would make something "neutral" sound "dipped" (keep in mind that you are also implying that your monitors are a better reference system than whatever the ME is using).

At one point, you have to keep in mind that if the ME you chose has a reputation of doing good work for other people (and it sounds like you went with them based on some sort of reputation), then you might want to also think about the fact that their system is probably better than yours, and you should probably trust their judgement. I'm not trying to say "it's your fault", but can you please tell us what exactly you are using to reference your masters on? I'm sorry to say, but when I get people saying that they're hearing things on budget studio monitors and car systems, I start to think we are then mastering to suit the clients' system(s), not mastering for systems that even the client is not familiar with.

I one time had a client of mine call me at 2am and left a voicemail saying "I just heard our song at this club, woah, it sounded great man!" and I'm bringing this up because this is an example of other systems that people aren't familiar with.

Another point I'd like to bring up about typical commercial rap releases these days is that a lot of them have a really weak low end. Most of my clients want their masters to sound better than the stuff that's out there, because they realize that typical releases really don't sound that great, so with that in mind, you might also be asking your ME to do a worse job than he's used to doing!

Just giving you a "flipside of the coin" perspective. Good luck though!
Old 2nd July 2009
  #19
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My revisions have dropped considerably since installing the Barefoot MM27 monitors. In two months I've mastered 30 + albums and not one has been re-worked from ground up. (all were un-attended.) It's usually a matter of spacing, fades and relative volume adjustments -- or 'slam it please', which I normally avoid. To speed up the process I've been asking bands to submit a mock up of the cd so I can align the tracks and fades after the mastering is complete.

It sounds like you need a new mastering engineer. Sometimes the style of the engineer and music do not compliment each other. It really boils down to chemistry. Attended or not, your master should sound great through speakers you're most familiar with. For that reason I never let an artist proof the master at my studio. They can listen and A/B the difference but the true test is at home or in their car - wherever they listen to music the most. If it doesn't sound right there then my approach was wrong and additional information is needed. And unless it's a remix, I do not charge more for revisions.


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Old 3rd July 2009
  #20
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More than 1 revision and I would be looking at using another ME- unless it was miss communication.
Old 3rd July 2009
  #21
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Not really too much to add on top of what has already been said.

One question - are there language barriers at play here?
We deal with clients from all over the world, and even with clients whose first language is English, there are huge differences in how they describe their intents with the mix and desires for the master.
With unattended sessions, it always pays to spend some time up front conversing with the client to ensure there is a proper understanding of the descriptive language being used.
Old 10th July 2009
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by streetbeats View Post
Not really too much to add on top of what has already been said.

One question - are there language barriers at play here?
We deal with clients from all over the world, and even with clients whose first language is English, there are huge differences in how they describe their intents with the mix and desires for the master.
With unattended sessions, it always pays to spend some time up front conversing with the client to ensure there is a proper understanding of the descriptive language being used.
Everyone might find this funny but believe me there are lots of terms that get bandied about in mastering that are just as confusing and if you are dealing with someone that is not a native speaker it can get interesting in a hurry. Enjoy Musical Terms Commonly Misunderstood by Country-Western Musicians, With Their Translated "Country" Definitions
Old 10th July 2009
  #23
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I'd guess 50% are approved on first pass, 30% on second pass, and then the last 20% get into far more involved territory. Sometimes multiple revisions result from unrealistic client expectations, sometimes it's problematic mixes, sometimes it's bad/misread communication, sometimes it's opinions changing over the course of the session, and sometimes it's the mastering engineer having a really bad day (yes, I **** up now and then). I don't charge for revisions because I don't like playing that blame game -- just want to get it right.
Old 10th July 2009
  #24
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I used to dread attended sessions because some clients would be trying to master the record themselves, saying things like "Go wider! Can you get it any louder?" and they wouldn't keep quiet and just listen.

If the record came back because it was too wide and too loud I would insist I work unattended for the revision so I could actually master the thing.

These days, I have a much firmer hand in the studio and I'll make it clear that if they insist I do things that I wouldn't normally choose to do, on their head be it.

Revision of that will not be FOC.

I think I've only ever had one revision from an unattended session and that was because they wanted it a touch brighter.

That would of course be FOC.
Old 10th July 2009
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by carlsaff View Post
I don't charge for revisions
Same here... although I try to keep the possibilities of a revision to a very minimum... seems to keep things a little more hassle free and honest for the long run.
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