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Ariel Bitran
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Whats the deal with Mastering

my band is about to get our record mastered.

i want the record to have the full rich sound it deserves, and only with the level of compression necessary (or if necessary at all.

what can yall tell me about mastering? tell me anything and everything. trends. techniques. gear. your favorite masterers. why? any references for a guy who can master a fantastic rock record? what makes a good master. a bad master.

i just got back a mastered sample of one of our songs, and it sounded horrible compared to the original pre-master, but i know it doesn't have to be this way.

so speak up. i know you know.

premastered tracks here: Heroes of the Open End

JoeE SP9
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Re: Whats the deal with Mastering

Use as little compression as you can, please. None is even better.

smejias
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Re: Whats the deal with Mastering

Yo Ariel. Nice to see you here, brother.

So, this is a question that, I think, most young bands have. I know our old band went through the same thing. Put simply, mastering is the process of preparing your final mix for duplication. It's almost like the last coat of paint. But know that there's no magic to mastering: If your mix sucks, the mastering engineer won't be able to bring it back from the dead.

A good master leaves the album sounding whole, with consistent levels throughout, and maintains the dynamic range of the recording. A bad master compresses this shit out of the recording, so that everything is loud, there is no dynamic range, no light and shade, no drama to the music. I know you do not want that to happen to your music.

Trust me: The more dynamic range, the more drama, the more life, the more power your recording will have.

Bands are afraid of their recordings sounding too quiet. Don't be afraid of that. Remember that there is a volume knob on your amp. If something is too quiet, turn up the volume. A well-mastered recording will reward you with drama and life. A poorly-mastered recording will only hurt your ears (and your heart).

Listen to an Alicia Keys song. Her music is full of drama, but the recordings fuck it up. The parts that are supposed to be dramatic, which should raise your skin, simply don't live up to the composition because the soft parts are just as loud.

Then listen to one of JA's recordings.

Speaking of JA, he's a good mastering engineer. (I'm not recommending him because: 1. Time JA spends on your recording is time he's not spending on the magazine, and 2. I know he would want to be mastering his own recordings.) But I mention it because you've already worked with one of the best. You have good experience.

I highly recommend Alan Douches at West West Side. You'll see his name on lots of indie rock recordings, including those of the MPS. He's local. He loves working with young bands. He will be happy to maintain the dynamic range of your mix.

I would also speak with Nicolas Vernhes at The Rare Book Room. He's a cool dude, and does good work.

In what ways does your mastered sample sound bad in comparison to the pre-mastered version?

Editor
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Re: Whats the deal with Mastering


Quote:
i just got back a mastered sample of one of our songs, and it sounded horrible compared to the original pre-master, but i know it doesn't have to be this way.

Too many mastering engineers merely change the sound to put their "stamp" on it, and as Stephen Mejias has said, too often compress the heck out of the sound to make all parts sound equally loud. The good mastering engineers listen to the mix, decide what is musically important, and apply small changes in equalization and comporesison to enhance those musical values.

I don't know the mastering engineers Stephen recommends, but it's worth giving some of the recordings they have worked on a listen.

And always good to see you on our forum, Ariel.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

smejias
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Re: Whats the deal with Mastering


Quote:
The good mastering engineers listen to the mix, decide what is musically important, and apply small changes in equalization and comporesison to enhance those musical values.


Yes. I meant to add: Compression is not inherently evil. Compression, used judiciously, can do great things for a rock recording. It's the misuse of compression that kills.

Freako
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Re: Whats the deal with Mastering


Quote:
my band is about to get our record mastered.

i want the record to have the full rich sound it deserves, and only with the level of compression necessary (or if necessary at all.

what can yall tell me about mastering? tell me anything and everything. trends. techniques. gear. your favorite masterers. why? any references for a guy who can master a fantastic rock record? what makes a good master. a bad master.

i just got back a mastered sample of one of our songs, and it sounded horrible compared to the original pre-master, but i know it doesn't have to be this way.

so speak up. i know you know.

premastered tracks here: Heroes of the Open End

This guy might be an interesting choice: http://www.discogs.com/artist/Bj

Ariel Bitran
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Re: Whats the deal with Mastering

thank you kindly for the responses

SM, i will look into those references. that is very helpful. we really need all the options we can get to know we're getting the best (without dropping a huge wad of dough with one of those giant mastering companies).

i will obviously tell them to go easy on the squashing. even with the sample where I told the guy to go easy on it, it was still glaring.

the thing that sucks about being aware of audio compression is once you've learned how to hear it, it hurts your ears every time.

Elk
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Re: Whats the deal with Mastering

Discuss with the ME what you want and why. A good one will listen and will work to produce what you want.

Too many people claim to be MEs but don't listen to the client, nor really to the music as far as I can tell. They rely on favorite plug-in settings and what the last guy liked.

If the ME won't work with you go someplace else.

ncdrawl
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Re: Whats the deal with Mastering

I can reccomend several people to you if youd like.

my suggestions..(

Alan Douches is quite good, but a little pricey.

http://www.kingsizechicago.com/

http://www.magicgardenmastering.com/02_studio.htm

http://www.massivemastering.com/

http://www.euphonicmasters.com/

John Scrip(Massive mastering does a lot of work with indie bands) Brian Lucey(Magic Garden..he just finished mastering the New Black Keys record). Brad Blackwood has many amazing credits, too and is a consumate gentleman... I have had albums mastered by Doug Sax, but he is very pricey.

and Mike Hagler has done a lot of work for many of my favorite bands(Wilco for one)

ncdrawl
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Re: Whats the deal with Mastering


Quote:
thank you kindly for the responses

SM, i will look into those references. that is very helpful. we really need all the options we can get to know we're getting the best (without dropping a huge wad of dough with one of those giant mastering companies).

i will obviously tell them to go easy on the squashing. even with the sample where I told the guy to go easy on it, it was still glaring.

the thing that sucks about being aware of audio compression is once you've learned how to hear it, it hurts your ears every time.

the best thing you can do(if you are dealing with a professional, and all the above are..very much so) is to just let them run with it...and tell them to keep you OUT of the loudness wars. They all know what they are doing, mastering wise. Bands generally do not.

ncdrawl
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Re: Whats the deal with Mastering

and Ariel, I know many more top notch MEs...if you pm me with some sort of budget(completely confidential of course) I can put some feelers out. I know guys at every budget and skill level.

beware those stupid companies like 48hourmasters.com and others...

and you can have 2 of the 3..

good fast cheap

dbowker
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Re: Whats the deal with Mastering

Some good answers already, so I can't add much but I will say over the years I have noticed a huge number of my favorite records have been mastered by about three or four of the same guys. I never even knew what it "was" they did for a long time, but sure enough when I was playing something that sounded great it usually was mastered at Masterdisk (and some others), often by Bob Ludwig.

A few years ago he left and started his own company called Gateway Mastering in Maine. http://www.gatewaymastering.com/ I can imagine he, or they ain't cheap, but it's a place to start maybe. He is distinctly against the whole trend towards over compression and increased loudness at the expense of dynamics.
Bob Ludwig on the Loudness Wars

ncdrawl
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Re: Whats the deal with Mastering

Yeah Doug, most MEs are against it, it is just that often times their hands are tied because the band wants to have a product that is loud as the competitors, or the record company wants it a certain way...and theyve gotta pay the bills!

so the best thing is for bands to be imformed and stop asking them to crush the masters!

and yes, Bob is very expensive..about the same as Doug Sax(who ive worked with)...and he is at a point where he has the luxury of taking whatever projects he wants....so for someone in Ariel's position, he wouldn't be a good match, I don't think. Magic Garden, Massive Mastering, and King Size are much more "indie" friendly.

enframed
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Re: Whats the deal with Mastering

This website has a lot of information about what exactly mastering is:

http://www.chicagomasteringservice.com/

Run by Bob Weston.

dumbo
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Re: Whats the deal with Mastering

I can't say I know these guys personally but every recording I have ever heard that came out of Sterling Sound SITE was an absolute masterpiece. Many of the big rock bands of today and yesteryear have taken their albums to them for a reworking with stellar results. George Marino seems to be the man who does a good bit of the work but they have many other guys that are also more then qualified to get the job done properly. Cost wise I don't know but it's probably not cheap given the client

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