Mastering

Discussion of music production, audio, equipment and any related topics, either with or without Ableton Live
shatzer
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Re: Mastering

Post by shatzer » Sat Nov 28, 2009 7:56 pm

I agree that with a little time and the right tools you can get a decent mastering job done yourself. Would I pay anyone else to do it if they weren't a highly trained professional? HELL NO! I can achieve just as good if not better results than some kid at home putting Waves plugs on my shit.

This brings up the point in quality. Whats the one thing you can NEVER get depending on the couple of hundreds of dollars you spend on equipment to the thousands and thousands of dollars you spend on equipment? THE ROOM SOUND.
This is what keeps bringing musicians back into professional studios. You can have all the NEVE boards, the PTHD system, the high dollar MICS, but you're still not going to sound like the professional studio because of one thing...the ROOM. The most important quality of your recording. Can you get a decent room sound? Sure... but you're better off paying hundreds of dollars to Acoustician to evaluate and draw up plans for your room. But it will never be as good as the Professional studios without paying millions of dollars for just the room sound.

Which brings me back to Mastering. Along with all their tools and the room they are in, you're also paying for their highly trained ears. But acourse if you just record at home then why would you pay them to master it?

You can get a decent mix and master job doing it yourself at home. Will it sound like a commercial release? No, never. Unless your home studio is a multimillion dollar studio.

gjm
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Re: Mastering

Post by gjm » Sat Nov 28, 2009 8:24 pm

Tarekith wrote:On that note:

http://tarekith.com/assets/mastering.html
Many Thanks.
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gjm
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Re: Mastering

Post by gjm » Sat Nov 28, 2009 9:13 pm

shatzer wrote:I agree that with a little time and the right tools you can get a decent mastering job done yourself. Would I pay anyone else to do it if they weren't a highly trained professional? HELL NO! I can achieve just as good if not better results than some kid at home putting Waves plugs on my shit.

This brings up the point in quality. Whats the one thing you can NEVER get depending on the couple of hundreds of dollars you spend on equipment to the thousands and thousands of dollars you spend on equipment? THE ROOM SOUND.
This is what keeps bringing musicians back into professional studios. You can have all the NEVE boards, the PTHD system, the high dollar MICS, but you're still not going to sound like the professional studio because of one thing...the ROOM. The most important quality of your recording. Can you get a decent room sound? Sure... but you're better off paying hundreds of dollars to Acoustician to evaluate and draw up plans for your room. But it will never be as good as the Professional studios without paying millions of dollars for just the room sound.

Which brings me back to Mastering. Along with all their tools and the room they are in, you're also paying for their highly trained ears. But acourse if you just record at home then why would you pay them to master it?

You can get a decent mix and master job doing it yourself at home. Will it sound like a commercial release? No, never. Unless your home studio is a multimillion dollar studio.
There is a bit of a self defeating argument creeping in here. Its basically circular and effectively locks you out unless you have lots of money to splash around. My original post stated that I wanted to understand how 'low' I could go to obtain decent results. Given the fact that there is a hobbyist budget associated with my project I am forced to limit expenses related to equipment and just about all hired help.

For instance, I recently read this Wikipedia article on how Bruce Springsteen, Marilyn Manson and Ween, amoung others used the 4 track Tascam Portastudio cassette recorder to record commercial projects. Springsteen's Nebraska album, according to its wiki states that it did result in some mastering issues because of low volume, but they were overcome. What I take from this is that the 'basic' technology I have at my finger tips in the form of a basic macbook, and either Live's Intro (I have full version of Live though) or even GarageBand, an ok sound card, a good albeit temperamental condenser mic (no decent monitors yet) and a room that even though needs some work would be ok, puts me in a similar position that not only established people but a truck load of lesser known yet fully proffessional (as in full time artist/musicians) are or have been in to record their project. Is it really relevant that the room had no expense spared (obviously it needs something though). Now I don't know what happened at the mastering stage for the noted examples, but if I read things right, putting the effort into the recording stage/mixing stage to eliminate as much work at the mastering end is the object of the exercise for the hobby project.

Perhaps you could elaborate on the tell tail signs that a recording was not done in a no expense spared studio room. I am not sure that this is a fair question or not, but it would be good to know what 'good ears' would hear in this regard. I hear what you and Pyramid Audio are saying about room and monitors, but at what point is a persons hopes dashed about presenting something to the world because they don't have enough money?
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shatzer
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Re: Mastering

Post by shatzer » Sat Nov 28, 2009 9:26 pm

gjm wrote:
shatzer wrote:I agree that with a little time and the right tools you can get a decent mastering job done yourself. Would I pay anyone else to do it if they weren't a highly trained professional? HELL NO! I can achieve just as good if not better results than some kid at home putting Waves plugs on my shit.

This brings up the point in quality. Whats the one thing you can NEVER get depending on the couple of hundreds of dollars you spend on equipment to the thousands and thousands of dollars you spend on equipment? THE ROOM SOUND.
This is what keeps bringing musicians back into professional studios. You can have all the NEVE boards, the PTHD system, the high dollar MICS, but you're still not going to sound like the professional studio because of one thing...the ROOM. The most important quality of your recording. Can you get a decent room sound? Sure... but you're better off paying hundreds of dollars to Acoustician to evaluate and draw up plans for your room. But it will never be as good as the Professional studios without paying millions of dollars for just the room sound.

Which brings me back to Mastering. Along with all their tools and the room they are in, you're also paying for their highly trained ears. But acourse if you just record at home then why would you pay them to master it?

You can get a decent mix and master job doing it yourself at home. Will it sound like a commercial release? No, never. Unless your home studio is a multimillion dollar studio.
There is a bit of a self defeating argument creeping in here. Its basically circular and effectively locks you out unless you have lots of money to splash around. My original post stated that I wanted to understand how 'low' I could go to obtain decent results. Given the fact that there is a hobbyist budget associated with my project I am forced to limit expenses related to equipment and just about all hired help.

For instance, I recently read this Wikipedia article on how Bruce Springsteen, Marilyn Manson and Ween, amoung others used the 4 track Tascam Portastudio cassette recorder to record commercial projects. Springsteen's Nebraska album, according to its wiki states that it did result in some mastering issues because of low volume, but they were overcome. What I take from this is that the 'basic' technology I have at my finger tips in the form of a basic macbook, and either Live's Intro (I have full version of Live though) or even GarageBand, an ok sound card, a good albeit temperamental condenser mic (no decent monitors yet) and a room that even though needs some work would be ok, puts me in a similar position that not only established people but a truck load of lesser known yet fully proffessional (as in full time artist/musicians) are or have been in to record their project. Is it really relevant that the room had no expense spared (obviously it needs something though). Now I don't know what happened at the mastering stage for the noted examples, but if I read things right, putting the effort into the recording stage/mixing stage to eliminate as much work at the mastering end is the object of the exercise for the hobby project.

Perhaps you could elaborate on the tell tail signs that a recording was not done in a no expense spared studio room. I am not sure that this is a fair question or not, but it would be good to know what 'good ears' would hear in this regard. I hear what you and Pyramid Audio are saying about room and monitors, but at what point is a persons hopes dashed about presenting something to the world because they don't have enough money?
The world of Audio is an expensive hobby. Just being a musician is expensive, but to engineer your own music is going to get even more expensive. Can you get good results with your set up? Sure, but you need more knowledge and experience to make it good. I haven't heard these albums you mentioned so I can't really have a say in it, but I would assume that they wouldn't sound like a record made at a million dollar studio. But I'm sure it was really good assuming they had good engineers mix it.

The room sound is the most important in your recording. Yes you can tell if it was recorded in a garage, a spare room, a low budget studio, or a highly tuned professionals studio. IF you just listen you can tell.

gjm
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Re: Mastering

Post by gjm » Sat Nov 28, 2009 9:45 pm

shatzer wrote:The room sound is the most important in your recording. Yes you can tell if it was recorded in a garage, a spare room, a low budget studio, or a highly tuned professionals studio. IF you just listen you can tell.
But what are you listening for? What does a good pair of ears focus in on to tell the diff between a low budget studio and a million dollar job? Or is it what they don't hear?

Obviously there is the recording phase and then the mastering phase. If I attempt my part of the process as best as I know at the time (recording and mixing - albeit gear, room and monitor dependent), what is left for the professional ME to do in their million $$ set up vs a home based ME or hobby enthusiast?

Also... does genre count in where you place your mastering faith?
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leedsquietman
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Re: Mastering

Post by leedsquietman » Sat Nov 28, 2009 9:56 pm

Yes - and no (to Shatzer). Can you tell that the reverb used on The Ramones first 2 albums was a stairwell as the studio did not own any echo chambers or hardware reverb units at the time? Can you tell that John Bonham's famous drum sound on 'When The Levee Breaks' (as sampled on a million dance records) (which had a huge major label budget) was recorded by having the drums in a hallway of an old farm building with just 2 Neumann U87s hanging over the bannister from the upstairs floor and no kick drums mics (the kick is HUGE anyway) ??? Did you know that The Eurythmics Smash hit 'Sweet Dreams' was recorded on an 8 track in Dave Stewart's home with a couple of cheaper analog synths and with Annie Lennox singing into a Shure SM58 microphone which she held in her hand in a basement with no pop shield ?

There are some sounds which we can obviously tell, and others less so. And there is music which sounds better recorded in a garage than a full studio - if you're going for a stripped down, more in your face approach for example. The content of the music always rules - a great song is a great song is a great song, even if it's recorded on a Tascam Portastudio or at Ocean Way studios with Allen Sides. When I was a kid, people used to go crazy at record sales or fleamarkets for bootlegged concert tapes, sometimes done reasonably OK off the desk, or other times recorded on a dictaphone. Real fans wouldn't really care because they had something unique, even if the sound quality wasn't that great.

It's a balance of the two things - if you know your engineering and mixing skills, it's possible with just a computer, a sequencer and some 500 dollar monitors in a reasonable sounding room, or some rudimentary acoustic treatment, with some mid priced mics and (most importantly) technically skilled musicians/singers or whatever to make albums which punch well above their weight and are more appreciated than some albums recorded at great expense in a top facility somewhere. Music can be an expensive hobby, but there are ways to produce good sounding music without breaking the bank.

Having said all of this, people say 'Well The Beatles did all this amazing stuff with virtually no effects and a 4 track' - but do you'd be daft to think that they wouldn't have gone to a more expensive studio that had 24 track, or digital, studio laden with all the FX in the world if they had an opportunity to do so. That still doesn't make the content better in itself, but given the choice and money no object, people will almost always take the most expensive and prestigous route. Then again, the Smiths first album recorded on a 10,000 dollar budget at a couple of medium sized provincial studios (and almost recorded twice as a lot of early stuff was thrown out or revamped with a new producer), will always appeal more to me than Strangeways, Here I Come recorded on a massive budget at Peter Gabriel's state of the art facility in Bath, even though the high end clarity and overall sonic quality is better, because the songs are better on the Smiths cheaply recorded first album.
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Tarekith
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Re: Mastering

Post by Tarekith » Sat Nov 28, 2009 10:02 pm

It's all a sliding scale, so there's no easy criteria to define what IS a professional recording per se. Likewise, there's no one thing that you can listen to pick out a budget recording (and if there was, someone would make a plug in to solve that issue anyway). Some things that are easier to spot are poorly mic'd instruments (phase issues), lack of a smooth reverb, inconsistant frequency spreads in terms of the finished product (ie, too bassy, too bright), etc. Lots of things can make a recording sound bad no matter where it was recorded.

If you're already committed to the idea of doing it all yourself, then just stop stressing over how 'professional' it will sound and just focus on learning as much as you can each step of the way. Then apply those lessons to your own music as best you can.

Surprisingly (since it's counterintuitive to my job now) I DO believe that people can "master" their own recordings, so much so I even wrote a guide telling them how to do it. I've heard some amazingly good sounding albums that were entirely done by one person. But at the same time, you do have to recognize that it's going to be a LONG and uphill struggle to get it to the point where it can compete with something worked on by a team of experts.

Really what I'm trying to say here, is that with the tools at your disposal, it's entirely feasible for you to do your music entirely on your as you want. As long as you realize that there's likely going to be some small sonic sacrifices you're going to have to make as you learn all this. Doesn't mean it can't be a fantastic sounding release, just that it might never be as good as professional work (and it doesn't have to be).
Tarekith
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Inner Portal Studio - Professional Audio Mastering

shatzer
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Re: Mastering

Post by shatzer » Sat Nov 28, 2009 10:10 pm

gjm wrote:
shatzer wrote:The room sound is the most important in your recording. Yes you can tell if it was recorded in a garage, a spare room, a low budget studio, or a highly tuned professionals studio. IF you just listen you can tell.
But what are you listening for? What does a good pair of ears focus in on to tell the diff between a low budget studio and a million dollar job? Or is it what they don't hear?

Obviously there is the recording phase and then the mastering phase. If I attempt my part of the process as best as I know at the time (recording and mixing - albeit gear, room and monitor dependent), what is left for the professional ME to do in their million $$ set up vs a home based ME or hobby enthusiast?

Also... does genre count in where you place your mastering faith?
Hopefully I'm not being confusing cause I think I'm confused. lol
I have been talking about the room sound being most important during tracking (recording). Yes its also very important during mixing and mastering but you won't hear the room sound off of mixing and mastering.
When you record an instrument in a untreated room such as a spare bedroom, you run into many problems such as early reflections, flutter echoes, etc... But you can HEAR the room in an instrument. Your guitar or vocal track may sound "hollow" if the room isn't right. Drums are especially affected by room sound. They might sound weak and small in a bed room. You start running things in stereo and it doesn't come out as wide (which could also be a mic placement problem). Everything affects your sound especially the room.

I'm not saying quit and don't do it yourself! And sorry about bringing the tracking thing up in a mastering thread and being confusing, I was just saying.
You can achieve good results with not a lot of money, but you or anyone else including myself will never sound like a multimillion dollar studio without having the room.

leedsquietman
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Re: Mastering

Post by leedsquietman » Sat Nov 28, 2009 10:17 pm

+1 to Tarekith.

In fairness, most 'professional' work requires a big investment which is outlaid with the aim of recouping and making profits. So usually larger indies or major labels need to invest in you to get this budget to make your recordings at that level. But as we all know, a fair % of these records still SUCK. It doesn't matter if the reverb sounds smoother and the low end is balanced a tad more proportionately and the vocals sound a bit more punchy and airy because they were recorded through a 4k tube mic like a Neumann into a fantastic preamp such as a Neve or API etc, none of this matters a jot if the music and arrangement sucks and the singer sounds like a Cat being castrated without anaesthetic ;)

I think what most of us aim for is a reasonable sounding mix, without artifacts like hiss and levels which jump all over the place and which dont' sound too tinny or too boomy and if we can achieve that sonically, married to some great songwriting or composition, then it is still a good result and good enough to fool 90% of the non audio engineers out there :mrgreen:

Shatzer - while you're basically correct, you can record vocals and guitars in a bedroom and basement and with some good mic placement and some rudimentary acoustic treatment, not sound like it was done in your bedroom or basement - it might not sound like it was done in Studio A at Blackbird in Nashville, or The Record PLant, but it can sound at least comparable to a project studio. And let's face it, only the top 10 or 15% of profitable money making famous artists/bands, ever get to record at Blackbird or OCean Way or Air London, etc.
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shatzer
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Re: Mastering

Post by shatzer » Sat Nov 28, 2009 11:00 pm

Tarekith wrote:It's all a sliding scale, so there's no easy criteria to define what IS a professional recording per se. Likewise, there's no one thing that you can listen to pick out a budget recording (and if there was, someone would make a plug in to solve that issue anyway)..
As I tend to agree with most of the things you talk about, I would have to strongly disagree with this statement. (Also depending on the genre you are referring to). When I talk about recording, I mainly mean live audio. And with live audio, yes you can pick out a recording from a home studio. Unless the genre was electronica/techno/etc. where everything is midi and synths and the room sound doesnt really matter then, no I assume you wouldn't be able to tell.
Also, the plugs to "solve issues" are complete crap. If you don't want to do it yourself then you should pay an engineer (like me) to do it for you. lol
I just couldn't trust a "Room Correction" Software to make my studio pro-grade material.
shatzer wrote:As I tend to agree with most of the things you talk about, I would have to strongly disagree with this statement. (Also depending on the genre you are referring to). When I talk about recording, I mainly mean live audio. And with live audio, yes you can pick out a recording from a home studio. Unless the genre was electronica/techno/etc. where everything is midi and synths and the room sound doesnt really matter then, no I assume you wouldn't be able to tell.
Also, the plugs to "solve issues" are complete crap. If you don't want to do it yourself then you should pay an engineer (like me) to do it for you. lol

I just couldn't trust a "Room Correction" Software to make my studio pro-grade material

Leedsquietman - I agree but saying these records suck is all subjective and has nothing to do with the audio recording. Whether we like it or not theres always someone out there who will listen. You must be referring to Screamo. lol

I never said you could never achieve a great sound yourself so I think people are reading my statements wrong or i'm just being confusing. To be honest, I'm happy with my recordings. Could they be better? Yes, but I'm happy how far I've made it. I was just saying that the one thing all home based studios are lacking is the Room, which is what drives the educated musicians to the professional studios. What the producer does from there is a different story.

shatzer
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Re: Mastering

Post by shatzer » Sat Nov 28, 2009 11:02 pm

^I dont know why my post came out all jacked up like that.

knotkranky
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Re: Mastering

Post by knotkranky » Sat Nov 28, 2009 11:04 pm

Most importantly, make sure your mastering session is an utter bore to begin with.

shatzer
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Re: Mastering

Post by shatzer » Sat Nov 28, 2009 11:07 pm

Tarekith wrote:It's all a sliding scale, so there's no easy criteria to define what IS a professional recording per se.
This is what I define as a professional place to record.

http://ardentstudios.com/

I've recorded here many times and talked to so many professionals through here. I would still like to visit NRG Studios tho, I think I would probably cream my pants.

Tarekith
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Re: Mastering

Post by Tarekith » Sat Nov 28, 2009 11:33 pm

Ummm, cool.
Tarekith
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Inner Portal Studio - Professional Audio Mastering

shatzer
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Re: Mastering

Post by shatzer » Sat Nov 28, 2009 11:49 pm

Tarekith wrote:Ummm, cool.
I know, right.

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