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Heavy rock mastering question
Old 17th November 2009
  #1
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Heavy rock mastering question

Just finished mixing the album, with some mastering of my own to able to somehow compare it to commercial records at home.
I'm not goin to master the record, gonna master it at west west side music probably, now my question is- lotsa "thump" of the kick drum is getting lost with my own mastering, apart from that it sounds fine. should i take care of that in the mixing process (over heavy kick drum) coz I think it got a lot to do with nowdays overcompressed thing, or a pro mastering engineer will know how deal with this?
Old 18th November 2009
  #2
Mastering
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Left to starve View Post
Just finished mixing the album, with some mastering of my own to able to somehow compare it to commercial records at home.
I'm not goin to master the record, gonna master it at west west side music probably, now my question is- lotsa "thump" of the kick drum is getting lost with my own mastering, apart from that it sounds fine. should i take care of that in the mixing process (over heavy kick drum) coz I think it got a lot to do with nowdays overcompressed thing, or a pro mastering engineer will know how deal with this?
Assuming your mix sounds good on its own and the kick has a good thump, then probably the mastering engineer can deal with it. But you should consult with the mastering engineer to see. Ironically, one of the first things I do in mastering is to use LESS compression in the bass region to help the kick do its thing. If my compressor is stomping on the bass drum TOO MUCH, then either sidechain filtering or main band splitting with far less bass frequency compression can get your thump (if it's good in the mix) to be preserved and/or enhanced on the mastering side.

But let's discuss if your kick drum is NOT already doing its thing in the mix side, it's very very hard for the mastering engineer to somehow go in there and "grab it" and get what you're looking for without some compromise. Whatever mastering "tricks" there are for that issue are nearly always less satisfactory than fixing the kick first on the mix side. Among the things I've done to enhance bass drum thump when faced with a full mix are usually staying in the 60 Hz region, doing selective equalization, compression or expansion in that region, and knowing when to stop, because it's nearly always less satisfactory than getting a better mix. Sometimes a harmonic eq can help the thump, but with the bass instrument mixed in there, it's real hard to extract any kick thump in mastering, even with the most selective mastering eq, except at 60 Hz or below, where the bass instrument is mostly not playing.

There are dozens of possible things you may have to try to get the kick to stand out properly. For example, kick replacement (if the recording or playing is not happening in the first place, but hopefully not the first choice), proper equalization (knowing whether to equalize in the boom fundamental region, harmonic region, or beater region or combination of the three. Missing "thump" sometimes means adding some 60 Hz, or 120 Hz or (may sound weird) some more extreme harmonic like 200 or 400 or even higher. And the click of the beater can add some psychoacoustic emphasis to the thump, so that has to be present, too. Then, getting it to sit just right against the bass and other instruments). Compression if you have none or revised compression if your choice of compression was wrong or (ironically) NO compression, if the kick is not standing out, its loudness quotient could have been starved by your compressor! Listening and experience will tell you, and yes, the more you can get that in the mix, the better the chance the mastering engineer could enhance it in a final tweak. But if you send a full mix with a wimpy and not well-heard bass drum, chances are the mastering engineer can only do a little bit with it.

So, try to get the kick as close as you can on the mix side. 90% of it is having good monitors to tell you what's missing. The other 10% is the sweat equity from experience and hand to ear coordination.

Regardless of what you do, please contact the mastering engineer and have him listen to a sample of your current mix for his opinion. If he's good at mix doctoring as well as mastering, one of the things he may ask you to do is supply three or four stems, band, vocal, bass and bass drum. That gives him the raw elements to work with and then he can do some meaningful selective surgery, kind of like working on part of your mix to help you with that part. Since the bass and bass drum have to work together intimately, with those four ingredients he may be able to take a good mix to greatness and then master it, or tweak the mix while simultaneously mastering, as four stems are not too much to handle efficiently in a mastering session, assuming the mix is pretty close and just needs some tweaks. Let's hope you don't have to go there, but in reality, since bass is the final frontier, this stems scenario for your very problem has been happening once or twice a month around here at Digital Domain. I try not to recommend the stems unless I know the mix engineer is in a quandary that I can help him out of.

Hope this helps,


Bob
Old 18th November 2009
  #3
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dcollins's Avatar
 

Verified Member
Quote:
Originally Posted by Left to starve View Post
Just finished mixing the album, with some mastering of my own to able to somehow compare it to commercial records at home.
I'm not goin to master the record, gonna master it at west west side music probably, now my question is- lotsa "thump" of the kick drum is getting lost with my own mastering, apart from that it sounds fine. should i take care of that in the mixing process (over heavy kick drum) coz I think it got a lot to do with nowdays overcompressed thing, or a pro mastering engineer will know how deal with this?
Consider printing versions with the kick up.


DC
Old 18th November 2009
  #4
Lives for gear
 
24-96 Mastering's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Left to starve View Post
Just finished mixing the album, with some mastering of my own to able to somehow compare it to commercial records at home.
I'm not goin to master the record, gonna master it at west west side music probably, now my question is- lotsa "thump" of the kick drum is getting lost with my own mastering, apart from that it sounds fine. should i take care of that in the mixing process (over heavy kick drum) coz I think it got a lot to do with nowdays overcompressed thing, or a pro mastering engineer will know how deal with this?
Communicate to the ME that you don't want any drum thump to get lost during mastering. There are many ways to make stuff loud, each with different drawbacks. If the ME knows what's important to you, he/she can choose the best compromise. IF a compromise for loudness is needed / wanted, that is.
Old 18th November 2009
  #5
Gear Guru
 
lucey's Avatar
All good answers.

Maybe get a test pass to see how well they can retain your kick...

It's best to mix as you want it, and have that vision/integrity follow through post master processing, but not always possible, depending on how much kick you want vs. volume vs. mix frequency balance, etc. It's all interwoven, so each engineer will be a little different in options and results.
Old 18th November 2009
  #6
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Adam Dempsey's Avatar
 

Verified Member
Quote:
Originally Posted by 24-96 Mastering View Post
Communicate to the ME that you don't want any drum thump to get lost during mastering. (snip) If the ME knows what's important to you, he/she can choose the best compromise. IF a compromise for loudness is needed / wanted, that is.
This is key.
And, all-in-all, if ever any doubts about balance of mix elements, run multiple mix versions, just label accordingly (eg: 01_title_kick+1dB ; 02_title_solo-1dB, etc).
Old 18th November 2009
  #7
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Waltz Mastering's Avatar
 

Verified Member
1 Review written
Quote:
Originally Posted by Left to starve View Post
lotsa "thump" of the kick drum is getting lost with my own mastering, apart from that it sounds fine. should i take care of that in the mixing process (over heavy kick drum) coz I think it got a lot to do with nowdays overcompressed thing, or a pro mastering engineer will know how deal with this?
It kinda depends how your going at it. The kick could be fine in the mix but something you are doing in the mastering stage could be causing your low end to go south.

On the other hand, If you mixed the song and you are also giving it a go at mastering, there's probably not much corrective eq that you would have to do unless the mix was out of whack in the first place, in which case, you could just print a mix with the kick up and see how that works.

Try to get some feedback from the ME that you end up working with before the session.
Old 18th November 2009
  #8
Gear Addict
 

I think the answer is really simple - Just send the ME you want to work with a print of your mix. Let him give it a listen when he gets a chance and I'm sure he'll be more than happy to let you know if its a go or not.

Communication is KEY!
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