Harsh edgy vocals but
dull drums in the same song
client is always more
familiar with the musical details of
the project because they've heard it two hundred times. The
engineer will hear the songs several times aiming for different goals
than you had while tracking and mixing. Listen to the mastered version
as a new experience in the real world. Compare it with other commercial
CDs before comparing it to the original mix in order to listen as
the consumer will listen.
Don't change the setting
of your consumer stereo prior to listening to your mastered CDR. Leave
it set just as you do for other commercial CDs.
their first master CDR and think it's great
right off the bat. Then some hear their music in a new, objective way,
and ask for some further enhancements or changes. This is somewhat
common in the mastering industry, as artists often have new ideas when
they hear their final project out in the real world.
enhancements can be anywhere from subtle to
dramatic. While there are surprising
that mastering makes, HD Separation Mastering
is always the best answer to mix issues such as:
toms-to-kic/snare ratios and eq settings
Lack of instrumental
dynamics that would be naturally found in a live
Using specific processing
to correct vocal levels within a song (and
Editing space into
over-played tracks (someone forgot that less is
Separations, you now
have the ultimate control over the final
outcome, and with that control comes more options. Sometimes with
Separation projects we'll conclude that there will be advantages by
separating out additional tracks:
Separating out the kic,
overheads or percussion instruments from the
horns or other uniquely textured sounds from
guitars or other instruments
Separating the male and
female voices in a duet for different eq
Separating lead and
did a show this weekend and I mastered it the way you said by
separating tracks and oh my god it sound the best I've ever done.
My recordings have come up 100% since I've been using the Separation
recording and mastering. It's so much easier to get a good 3D
sound out of a two track." -J.
makes it so you
more - particularly with Separations. You'll hear the room sound on the
drums better, you'll hear the vocal better, you'll hear the low end
more focused (and perhaps warmer), and many other things. If there are
flaws (sometimes masked in a track that is lacking in high end) you'll
hear them too. Often the flaws can be traced back to the multitrack
master and corrected there. With Separations, corrections can often be
made here. Example: When lots of de-essing needs to be done- or things
like giant slide noises from acoustic guitars. You must let us know
what your budget will and won't allow when these issues arise!
Note #2: In
some cases, mastering makes it so
you'll hear some
Huh? I just said you'll hear
make up your mind, John! Ahem. If we're doing traditional mastering for
you, and you want your master really HOT, your final master may have
less kic (or just less drums) due to the limiting/compression needed to
raise the levels up to square-wave heaven. The answer is to lower the
overall level of the CD master, or to send us Separations (allows us to
restore the drum balance). Even then, there's a
limit to how much volume your music can handle without creating
distortion - and hot
can make flaws
more apparent. Be familiar with the dynamics of various commercial
so that you have a sense
of where yours fits in.
N o t o r i o u s: Digital
Workstations are landing in homes across the globe, and many of the
excited musician/engineers who work on these computers put too much
faith in "digital." There can be distortion and soundwave problems that
you don't hear because you're listening primarily from a musical
perspective. There may be many ways that gain structure isn't explained
well enough in that DAW manual (that you've read each and every
clipping lights are not your friend. You may not think
a problem, but trust me, keep those things off and enjoy the openness
of more headroom instead (Mixing ideas here here
DAW projects are often the ones with the most
and the artists have high expectations because they have
"the latest software." Every artist wants their music to sound like the
stars, but it's important to realise that the big artists have bigger
budgets in many cases or (at the least) they have the cream of the crop
engineers and producers crafting their sound. Doing your homework ahead
of time helps a great deal, and at times mastering will smooth out some
of the rough edges.
Prior to us
recommending Separations, remixes could open up a "can of worms." In a
couple cases, engineers would improve one issue in their mix, and end
up refining several other things at the same time. They would submit an
entirely different mix, and so our previous mastering settings would be
unusable, and we'd have to start from scratch - which was costly. Separations
solves that, in the majority of
can be an issue,
mostly because there's a huge variety of preferences - due to the huge
variety of playback systems of our individual clients. Some clients
don't care if the bottom blows up the consumer's boom box, so long as
their mix sounds like an earthquake in a night club. Some clients don't
want their pickup truck's speakers to distort from too much bottom -
and some people have pickup trucks with 1,000 watt subwoofers that
distort their neighbor's house! It's
all about preferences and
- we'll work to
achieve your goals!
Q) John, my master CD sounds great, but I
could hear a bit of distortion at some parts.
if you hear
distortion in some parts, but not in the entire
song (loud parts in particular) then something is going on in the mix.
If it was in mastering, you'd hear it all the time. Our system has
extremely high headroom, and it's unlikely that the distortion came
from our end, although we're human....
distortion, spend more time at every stage of the recording process to
be sure your gain structure is correct. There could be mic pre
overload, compressor overload, line amp overload, intermodulation
distortion (frequencies that when combined make anomalies that
distort), amp distortion, outboard gear overload, etc. I can't tell you
how many times I've visited someone's mixing session and seen clipping
on the meters. Don't let the signal clip anywhere in the recording
of town, communicate clearly what and where you hear any specific
issues. Send us detailed notes that include the time in minutes and
seconds - as well as the lyric or musical phrase (i.e. the third beat
of bar 2 of the first chorus) where you want a change. Be specific with
level changes - don't just say "song 3 is too loud." When we do final
level correction of the songs, it's often in small increments.
Case history: A
client heard glitches on their mastered CDR. After a close listen we
found the problem. Mastering did not add the glitches, but they in fact
came from the original recording.
Here's an image showing the top two panels
(mastered version) and the bottom two
panels (original). Notice that the glitches are not clipping the top
of the waveform.
We used our Sonic Studio system to eliminate this glitch (see yellow
circle) and everything sounded fine.
Another flaw we've seen is actual tiny gaps of dead silence that appear
in the middle of a waveform. This usually occurs when the client's CPU
processor is being overtaxed. As we know, digital can be somewhat
temperamental. Close all your editing and mixing windows to lower CPU
needs if you're hearing minor dropouts, and consult tech support for
to all the details
on any mastered CDR. Listen on several
different consumer systems. If you want to listen on car stereos, make
a 1X copy of your master - car stereos are a great reference but they
can cause physical scratches to the disc and cause the pressing plant
to return your disc (another good reason to have a backup master).
Compare it with other commercial CDs. Don't be afraid to ask questions
- it's your baby.
Your project isn't
done until you say it's done - but don't tweak everything do death. As
Quincy Jones said (paraphrased) "We never finish a project. We simply
abandon it." Be committed to being the best you are at any given point,
and then relax.... the audience that's
ready for you
Q) Will my CD sound equivalent to the bands
on the radio? -Scott
depends on which bands
you're talking about and how equivalent the
musical arrangements and recording techniques are! If you're a country
band, you won't sound like System of the Down. The CD will sound like
you - a little louder than some artists, a little softer than others -
with lows mids and highs that are balanced.
What if I think there should be a few
changes - is that going to be a problem....say I hear it and I think
the sax is way too high - will you fix that without me having to pay
time is charged when
there is a preference
studio time is charged if there is a defect (more about that here).
With traditional mastering, we
can make some improvements to individual instruments, but compromises
to other aspects can occur! Your mix is embedded within itself.
Separations solves that issue.