To master or not to master?

Discussion of music production, audio, equipment and any related topics, either with or without Ableton Live
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dilshan89
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To master or not to master?

Post by dilshan89 » Wed Nov 21, 2012 11:50 am

Hi guys, I've been having some trouble getting my tracks as loud as I want them. Mastering plug ins like izotope ozone are too expensive for me right now. Someone once told me that I may not need to master at all, if my tracks are 'mixed right'. 'Mixing right' seems quite vague, what does it mean? And are there any tutorials that might help me figure it out?

Thanks guys

keefbaker
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Re: To master or not to master?

Post by keefbaker » Wed Nov 21, 2012 11:55 am

reduce frequencies that aren't used.

Low cut nearly everything that doesn't specifically need low frequencies.

Use compressors on stuff with big transients.

If it's possible on a part, band pass it.

Basically every little bit of recuction of frequencies and/or dynamics will reduce the overall volume.

dilshan89
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Re: To master or not to master?

Post by dilshan89 » Wed Nov 21, 2012 11:59 am

Hey keefbaker, thanks for your reply. I'm sort of an amateur. Would you mind telling me what I should use to reduce frequencies and low cut things that don't need low frequencies? What are big transients? Are there any youtube tutorials that might explain this?

J0n35y
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Re: To master or not to master?

Post by J0n35y » Wed Nov 21, 2012 12:49 pm

Im a complete amateur when it comes to the whole mastering caper - had never considered it until Live, thats how bad I was but Im still learning! - but taking a wild stab in the dark I'd guess EQ8 could be used to reduce the frequencies you don't need (especially cutting out the bottom end of sounds that don't need it - hi-hats?). And in complete layman terms, the big transients are the really big pointy bits on a waveform!

102455
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Re: To master or not to master?

Post by 102455 » Wed Nov 21, 2012 12:52 pm

EQ competing frequencies

There are lots of places around the web where you can learn the basics of production. Use Google!

Alternatively, an old school method would be to buy a book :-)

keefbaker
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Re: To master or not to master?

Post by keefbaker » Wed Nov 21, 2012 2:32 pm

You'd use EQ's and filters to reduce frequencies. Big transients are where the volume goes from loud to soft quickly. You can see them on a waveform as spikes. Compression can reduce them, therefore lowering the maximum volume of the track.

If you're really new at this I recommend the dance music manual and/or look for youtube videos on eq and compression.

Tarekith
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Re: To master or not to master?

Post by Tarekith » Wed Nov 21, 2012 3:28 pm

Tarekith
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Inner Portal Studio - Professional Audio Mastering

sporkles
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Re: To master or not to master?

Post by sporkles » Wed Nov 21, 2012 4:38 pm

To add to the good suggestions above:

1] I always think of my instruments in terms of units - i.e. the kick/bass combo is one unit, the drums/percussion is one unit and the lead synth is one unit. Anything beyond that (varying with style, of course) is "padding," so those three main units should have top priority in the mix, in my opinion. Pick your own units, but the most important of them all will be the bass and kick.

2] Anything but the kick/bass should be high passed, so that they're left to do their job. Other sounds should complement the bass, not compete with it. High passing the other sounds frees up space in your mix, and the higher you can set the high pass frequency without compromising too much, the easier your job gets.

3] EQ all sounds/tracks individually as needed. If two sounds are playing at the same time, you can almost always make some minute cut on one of them. Either way: two sounds that are very dependent on one and the same frequency range should not play simultaneously, unless you're stacking sounds that play the same sequence or whatever (and if you do, you need to automate volume, which brings me to the next point).

4] If you've got more sound going on than your "main units," you need to make sure that you keep the additional sounds subtle, so that they don't drown out the "stem" of your song. As far as I'm concerned, volume automation should not be necessary when you're ONLY dealing with the "stem." These most important sounds should be constant, again, unless you're stacking sounds (but you could argue that this makes the stacked sound into one unit, so then you're dealing with volume internal to one unit, not in relation to the rest of the mix. This also applies to the internal channels in a drum rack). Either way, you should not automate the track faders - use these only to adjust the overall volume of a track. Insert a Utility on each track instead, and automate its gain.

5] Compression is more of a quick fix, as far as I'm concerned. It can lower the overall volume on a track, but the more you lower the threshold, the more you squash the sound, so use it with caution, and not as some kind of magic wand.

6] Keep an eye on your volume - both on individual tracks and on the master. Aim for an average peak at -6db on the master channel; this leaves you headroom for the mastering stage.

7] When your mix is balanced, ask yourself if you really need your track to be fantastically "loud" in the first place. Mixers and hi-fis are equipped with gain controls, so it's not like your track cannot be played louder just because it isn't brickwalled all the way though. Also ask yourself if it mightn't be an idea to master your tracks in relation to one another, rather than on a track by track basis. "Master" one track first, with a moderate loudness boost if you must, and try to make all your tracks sound equally loud.

8] When you've gone as far as you can with the mix, mastering isn't really dark arts. Put an EQ8, a compressor and a limiter on your master channel, and start playing around with the settings until you're satisfied. It might be a good idea to avoid the notion that you need to do this in one sitting, though. It's VERY easy to start thinking that any adjustment sounds "better" when you're constantly tweaking parameters. Both in the mixing stage and the mastering stage, taking breaks is mandatory. Let your ears rest, allow yourself to come back later with a fresh mindset, etc.

OK, I've been rambling enough; that turned out quite a bit longer than I planned, but... whatever.

TL;DR: Fix it in the mix, don't overdo compression and limiting.

dilshan89
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Re: To master or not to master?

Post by dilshan89 » Wed Nov 21, 2012 8:35 pm

wow, thanks so much guys. this is all great stuff!

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