A couple of mastering questions from a rookie

Discussion of music production, audio, equipment and any related topics, either with or without Ableton Live
Post Reply
Christian_R
Posts: 121
Joined: Fri Apr 23, 2010 1:07 pm

A couple of mastering questions from a rookie

Post by Christian_R » Fri Sep 13, 2019 12:34 pm

Hi!

I just have to ask since I'm a complete rookie when it comes to mastering: But to master a track, I must first export the song to one wav file, right? Or can I just put various mastering effects on my master channel? I have seen some tutorials where they do both, so I'm not sure what's best.

Since I don't know much about mastering, I'm thinking about trying an online mastering service like eMastered. Has anyone tried it? I tried to upload one of mye songs for free and it definitely got a little better, but I'm sure you can get a better result if you do it yourself. The problem is I have a full time job, and I don't know when to find the time to really learn mastering. The few hours I have I want to spend on the creative stuff.

If there are any other good online services, I'm happy to get some tips :)

Thanks!

[jur]
Site Admin
Posts: 1738
Joined: Mon Jun 01, 2015 3:04 pm
Location: Ableton

Re: A couple of mastering questions from a rookie

Post by [jur] » Fri Sep 13, 2019 7:18 pm

Christian_R wrote:
Fri Sep 13, 2019 12:34 pm
Since I don't know much about mastering,
but I'm sure you can get a better result if you do it yourself.
I don't know when to find the time to really learn mastering. :)
Hmm...
Ask yourself why do you need your track to be mastered? Do you really need it?
Why not "simply" do a "perfect" mix instead?

The first point of mastering is to "shape" the overall colors and dynamics of different songs to make them sit well next to each others in an album.

Mastering a single track just because this is a trendy topic on the internet doesn't make sense... Just try to make you mix as best as possible.
And when you'll be good enough at mixing, mastering will start to make more sense in your mind.
Ableton Forum Moderator

TLW
Posts: 333
Joined: Thu Aug 23, 2018 2:37 am

Re: A couple of mastering questions from a rookie

Post by TLW » Fri Sep 13, 2019 8:04 pm

If a mix sounds good on its own and the track won’t be on an album the only mastering of digital that’s often required is to raise the peak volume to a suitable point, dither it down if necessary and maybe manage the dynamic range some. Audio intended for different formats - MP3, wave etc. - can sometimes benefit from slightly different processing but generally if the maximum peak volume is around -0.3dB and the RMS/LUFS level isn’t so high all the life’s been squashed out of the track that’s often enough.

Even if you don’t use their plugin, Waves videos on using their L2 limiter are worth watching for some ideas of how to set about things.

If the audio is intended for vinyl release that’s an entirely different matter because it has to be processed to work within the technically limited frequency and dynamic range of vinyl. Which is a very specialised skill.

I tend to be a bit sceptical about automated on-line mastering services, or any service that doesn’t have a human who will listen to all of the music, discuss things with the producer/musicians and make judgement calls based on that. If possible I’d suggest letting the service process one or two tracks then comparing what they’ve done to your mix and also to what you can achieve yourself.
Live 10.1 Suite, M4L, 2014/15 MacBook Pro 15.3” Retina i7, OS Mojave 10.14.5. RME UFX, assorted synths, guitars and stuff.

Tarekith
Posts: 17364
Joined: Fri Jan 07, 2005 11:46 pm
Location: Ableton Forum Administrator
Contact:

Re: A couple of mastering questions from a rookie

Post by Tarekith » Fri Sep 13, 2019 10:00 pm

You can master either by bouncing down to a stereo file and importing to a new session, or just adding mastering processors to your master track. For the most part it really doesn't matter and is just a matter of preference. The first method is nice because you free up some CPU for your heavy hitting mastering plug ins (if you have any) as well as removing the option of tweaking the mix endlessly and getting distracted. The second method is nice because then you have everything that is affecting how the finished song sounds all in one project and easy to recall.

Like I said, pros and cons to each method, so don't be afraid to try each a couple times and see which you prefer.

jonljacobi
Posts: 183
Joined: Sat Dec 30, 2017 3:36 am

Re: A couple of mastering questions from a rookie

Post by jonljacobi » Fri Sep 13, 2019 11:08 pm

Yeah, originally, mastering was really about limiting frequencies to fit the music on the record and not damage the playback equipment record when being played back. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/RIAA_equalization. These days, it's just generally a term that's been hijacked to mean final mix.

Some like to get the balances and individual track FX right, then save that to a single stereo file, then apply whatever overall EQ or compression/limiting, etc. I think it's generally just out of habit. I personally do it all at the same time, but I've really invested in getting the tracks recorded as nice-sounding raw as I can. Trying to fix lousy sounding tracks is the worst. If I'm using too much CPU I just freeze tracks which is like a track mixdown/bounce anyway.

Just choose your poison. As long as it sounds good at the end, who cares?

Christian_R
Posts: 121
Joined: Fri Apr 23, 2010 1:07 pm

Re: A couple of mastering questions from a rookie

Post by Christian_R » Wed Nov 13, 2019 12:20 pm

[jur] wrote:
Fri Sep 13, 2019 7:18 pm
Christian_R wrote:
Fri Sep 13, 2019 12:34 pm
Since I don't know much about mastering,
but I'm sure you can get a better result if you do it yourself.
I don't know when to find the time to really learn mastering. :)
Hmm...
Ask yourself why do you need your track to be mastered? Do you really need it?
Why not "simply" do a "perfect" mix instead?

The first point of mastering is to "shape" the overall colors and dynamics of different songs to make them sit well next to each others in an album.

Mastering a single track just because this is a trendy topic on the internet doesn't make sense... Just try to make you mix as best as possible.
And when you'll be good enough at mixing, mastering will start to make more sense in your mind.
Thank you for the reply, and I have asked myself that sometimes already.

Is it possible to finish a song without mastering, because if you mix enough the result can be just as good? Or is the mastering more like an overall "filter" put over the song? There are so many opinions about mastering out there, so for a rookie like me it can be confusing :D

jestermgee
Posts: 3442
Joined: Mon Apr 26, 2010 6:38 am
Contact:

Re: A couple of mastering questions from a rookie

Post by jestermgee » Wed Nov 13, 2019 8:43 pm

"Mastering" is the term for creating a master mix for an album. There are many factors in this including which tracks are in what order, the overall level of the tracks, maintaining consistent levels and energy through the album and making sure the dynamics of each track match throughout the album.

If you are wanting just the "loud" or polished sound for a single track, that is as many have already said, a matter of mixing.

There is a LOT to understanding how effectively mix and most of it needs to be learned first hand via trying certain approaches and understanding the effect. Things like balancing frequencies over all your instruments, tuning low end mono signals to be mono, using things like dynamic processors, compressors, sidechain to create room. A lot of engineers spend hundreds/thousands of hours and many $$$ to understand all of this and most of it is driven by passion. You can learn the basics online but you will need to invest your own time.

Cannot vouch for online mastering systems that are automated but based on what I already understand, if your mix is not good to start with then having an automated system try and polish it isn't going to give stunning results. An actual engineer can offer you some useful feedback and tips you can learn from so I would recommend that rout every time if you are serious.

oratowsky
Posts: 109
Joined: Wed Apr 11, 2007 12:09 am
Location: la

Re: A couple of mastering questions from a rookie

Post by oratowsky » Wed Nov 13, 2019 10:13 pm

As everyone else's comments suggest, mastering is a deep rabbit hole. BUT if you just want to get it loud enough to share around and have it sound closer to commercial music, just do this:

Put Limiter on the master and increase the gain until the gain reduction starts to engage just a bit.

This is the simplest way to get you 80% there.

jestermgee
Posts: 3442
Joined: Mon Apr 26, 2010 6:38 am
Contact:

Re: A couple of mastering questions from a rookie

Post by jestermgee » Thu Nov 14, 2019 2:56 am

oratowsky wrote:
Wed Nov 13, 2019 10:13 pm
As everyone else's comments suggest, mastering is a deep rabbit hole. BUT if you just want to get it loud enough to share around and have it sound closer to commercial music, just do this:

Put Limiter on the master and increase the gain until the gain reduction starts to engage just a bit.

This is the simplest way to get you 80% there.
Problem is tho, most new users fail in the low end which since that’s where most of the energy comes from, that’s one leading cause of “why my mix not sound loud” limiter may allow you to push a hotter signal but will sometimes make it even worse since you expect more powerful and get something that sounds flat.

Tarekith
Posts: 17364
Joined: Fri Jan 07, 2005 11:46 pm
Location: Ableton Forum Administrator
Contact:

Re: A couple of mastering questions from a rookie

Post by Tarekith » Thu Nov 14, 2019 2:59 am

oratowsky wrote:
Wed Nov 13, 2019 10:13 pm
BUT if you just want to get it loud enough to share around and have it sound closer to commercial music, just do this:

Put Limiter on the master and increase the gain until the gain reduction starts to engage just a bit.

This is the simplest way to get you 80% there.
Agree with that completely. Don't worry about "mastering" your own music, just get a nice brickwall limiter plug in and use that to control your overall volume/level/etc. Spend the rest of your energy working on the mix to get the sound you want, even if that means putting other processors on the master channel IF YOU HEAR A NEED FOR THEM :)

Shift Gorden
Posts: 622
Joined: Wed Mar 25, 2015 8:45 pm
Location: Oklahoma City
Contact:

Re: A couple of mastering questions from a rookie

Post by Shift Gorden » Fri Nov 15, 2019 1:54 pm

...and while you’re at it, download the podcast, The Mastering Show by Ian Sheppard. That will give you so much background and advice. Great show.

Post Reply