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Thread: The Most Often Asked Questions About Mastering

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    masteringhouse's Avatar
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    The Most Often Asked Questions About Mastering

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    I was recently asked to write an article on the subject and was hoping to get some ideas from the good folks here (as well as it possibly being helpful to some).

    Here's a few to start:

    1. What is Mastering?

    2. Is Mastering Necessary?

    3. Should I limit/normalize/compress my mixes?

    4. What format should I send for mastering?

    5. How much will it cost?

    6. Which is better analog or digital?

    7. What is the best software for mastering?

    8. What settings should I use for xyz?

    9. Can a mastering engineer add reverb/delay/increase the level of a track (i.e. can the ME perform some forms of remixing).

    10. How does that Tom guy at the MH stay so good looking day after day?

    Thanks!
    Tom Volpicelli
    The Mastering House Inc.
    www.masteringhouse.com

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    Chibi Nappa is offline 1K Silver Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by masteringhouse View Post
    I was recently asked to write an article on the subject and was hoping to get some ideas from the good folks here (as well as it possibly being helpful to some).

    Here's a few to start:
    I'm assuming you are looking for more questions to write about, not answers to your existing questions? I'd just embarrass the hell out of myself if I took a shot at some of those.


    Q- How did (big name band "x") get their recording so loud without hurting the sound?
    A- They did hurt the sound. badly. The world just doesn't have the "before" to compare with.


    Q- Tell me about stems.
    A- Yes, tell us about stems.


    Q- Do I make a "vocals up" mix as well as my regular mix?



    Q- How big of a change can I expect?

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    You're missing the one question no one will ever ask, but is so germaine to the mastering process: What is the process of making all the tunes gel together into an album?? I know it's more than just 'use your ears'. Do you pick a golden song that contains parts that represent the rest of the album?? Do you compare loud parts of each song?? soft parts of each song?? Do you bounce around from one song to another? Listen sequentially? Randomly?? How do you determine what needs to be changed inter-song and intra-song??

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    Good additions!

    With regard to the stems question I was going to cover that in my answer to #9 (remix techniques). This would include things like M/S processing and stems. The vocal up/down mix answer might fit in here as well.

    Keep 'em coming!

    Chili -

    A quick response to your question, yes it is mostly using your ears. One of the most difficult gigs in mastering is putting together a compilation of different bands with different styles and requirements. For a typical session though I use one or two songs as a general reference to start then just do what I feel is best for that particular track also listening to them in sequence to hear how they blend from one to another.
    Tom Volpicelli
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    "Can you make this (awful) mix sound good?"
    Quote Originally Posted by Supercreep View Post
    It's a kid throwing rocks at cops... Generally speaking I think cops shoot way too many people... That said, I have managed to live my entire life without ever throwing a rock at a cop.
    Quote Originally Posted by legionserial View Post
    People don't need Macs, they need educating.

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    Quote Originally Posted by philbagg View Post
    "Can you make this (awful) mix sound good?"
    That's gonna be a case by case basis and dependent on the definition of awful and good. Believe it or not I've run into cases where I've had a client say "it sounds too good, f**** it up!". Mostly Punk and Noise Rock bands.
    Tom Volpicelli
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    www.masteringhouse.com

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    Quote Originally Posted by masteringhouse View Post
    That's gonna be a case by case basis and dependent on the definition of awful and good. Believe it or not I've run into cases where I've had a client say "it sounds too good, f**** it up!". Mostly Punk and Noise Rock bands.


    Crazy punks

    I'd have imagined MEs would get a lot of job offers to make a bad mix sound good
    Quote Originally Posted by Supercreep View Post
    It's a kid throwing rocks at cops... Generally speaking I think cops shoot way too many people... That said, I have managed to live my entire life without ever throwing a rock at a cop.
    Quote Originally Posted by legionserial View Post
    People don't need Macs, they need educating.

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    Quote Originally Posted by philbagg View Post
    I'd have imagined MEs would get a lot of job offers to make a bad mix sound good
    Of course, but it's just a matter of degree with regard to how far you can take it. I (as I'm sure the other MEs here) have received mixes so bad that "good" just wasn't in the cards.
    Tom Volpicelli
    The Mastering House Inc.
    www.masteringhouse.com

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    Are there ever times that a mastering house sends back a mix and say "there's nothing we can do." be it cause it's so good all ready or simple can't do any thing to this bad mix.



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    NYMorningstar is offline Recording Modus Operandi
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    How has cd's and dvd's changed the mastering process say from mastering a song for vinyl?
    Busy recording...
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