First I'll listen to your
project to see how much needs to be done, taking into
consideration your budget.
Usually I will begin sound enhancement using analog eq,
compression, limiting, de-essing, phase correction, width
enhancement, multi-band compression and level correction.
(Level correction is quite powerful, and I discuss it in
detail on my Surprising
Differences page.) After hearing a few songs and marking
down all settings, I'll begin loading each track into the
Sonic Solutions digital system.
I can process the songs in any order, but it works well to
do it in the order it will end up being on the cd. If I can
tell that I'll be needing to do complicated equalization or
editing, I'll load the songs directly into Sonic prior to
processing (in that case I'll use both the automated and
Now we have a waveform in the Sonic
digital editor. The Edit Decision List (EDL) is
actually a visual display of your music. As the next few
songs get loaded in, I can begin cleaning up the beginnings
and endings of the songs at the same time. On the computer
screen, I can zoom in and see the very beginning, for
instance, and create a fade-in that's appropriate for the
song. We can listen to the song (via playback) while another
song is loading in (via record).
We never know up front how long equalization and other
enhancements will take. It depends on how consistent the
mixes are, and how many songs. 20 short songs totaling 45
minutes takes longer than 10 songs totaling 45 minutes. To
do your music justice, I should listen 1-2 times (or more)
to each song. Sometimes, after processing and loading in the
whole album, I'll decide to re-eq one or two songs after
getting to know the overall tone of the album.
As each songs goes to the Sonic, it
makes it easier to check each song for consistency.
Sometimes additional refinements aren't needed, but
sometimes it's like putting an extra coat of wax on.
Everything shines up and falls into place. Each song will
now be having an influence on the others. AND, we can make
everything as consistent as you like, OR leave things unique
and different if that's the vibe you're after. Think about
these things before you come in to master.
At this point in case #1, more editing and creative work can
occur. In case #2, I'll do a capture file that takes all the
processing settings and locks them into the computer. In
either case, it's now time to set the Track Id's for the cd
(they can go anywhere you like) and handle any last minute
I'll cut you a real-time
master/reference cd, now that everything is ready to
go. (It's a full-on master that
is ready for you to reference at home and decide if you want
any changes. Listen to your cd on
*several * systems (maybe even a dj system). DO NOT
take it back into the studio right away and see how it
sounds there! See my page on Studio
Monitor Madness to see why. Your cd was designed for the
real world. Take it there first. Listen on boom boxes.
Listen in the car. Listen on a couple home systems.
Compare it with other commercial
You are now at a new level of
objectivity where you will hear things you haven't
heard before in your mixes. Remember, you're not mixing
right now - you're not focusing on the bass, the tom fills,
the fade-in to the sax solo, the verb setting of the Lexicon
or the Harmonizers. You're hearing it in the context of the
sound of the neighbors vacuum cleaner coming in your window.
Your kids are putting soap in each other's hair and your
wife/husband is asking you where the washcloths are. Or
you're in the car, and your 50 Hz boom-elevator is set for
"deaf" and your muffler just dropped off your car from the
spl (sound pressure level).
Now your mixes have more clarity,
consistency, and presence. You're gonna hear that
tubular shaker that you thought was lost under the drum kit.
Well, depending on what's done in mastering, you'll either
hear a big difference, or it will sound just like before,
depending on your preferences as we work together (some
mastering studios prefer that the client not be there, and
may even charge more if you are there).
Your cd may be perfect just the way it is. Or you may want
some changes like spacing in between the songs, or a
different fade. Or you may get other ideas, now that 3 or 4
people have heard it, which is a good idea.
KEY: I keep all the
settings for your project in the computer, and most changes
at this point are EASY and FAST! With a few clicks and turns
- voila! Some changes can be more involved.... it's depends
on each project.
Now I'll make you another master/reference cd. You take it
home, give it the real-world check-over, and now it's
perfect! I then recommend cutting a backup master (usually
included in my package
prices) just in case anything should happen between your
hands and the pressing plant (er... or the record company).
Hey, the Fed Ex airplane could run over it, ya know...
I guarantee all my masters. I
can also make cd clones for you at a reasonable cost, in
case you need a couple copies right away. So now you're on
your way to having a superb cd that compares with commercial
cds - and the ball is in your court to make it a HIT!
Copyright 1998 - 2000 John Vestman
More about compression
Info about Eq'ing to
Info about cutting a hot cd
example of creative mastering techniques