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Thread: Mastering yourself with LOTS of time vs. Mastering House (couple of hours)

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    Question Mastering yourself with LOTS of time vs. Mastering House (couple of hours)

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    Yeah, I know... I have read it enough, and I actually believe it: "Leave TRUE mastering to the experts, etc. etc.". I also understand, that there must be a difference bewteen all that high-end mastering processors/gear that's used by the golden-ear-boys...

    BUT

    I still have my doubts about sending my home-made material to a mastering house for a simple reason: I can spend hours/days/weeks (as I do) "mastering" my song to a CD-R. Tweaking here, tweaking there, etc. etc.

    WHILE

    A mastering house probably wouldn't:

    1. put the heart into it as I'd do. (Hey! It's my work!)
    2. since on a budget, they would only do what's necessary an stay on the safe paying-customer side
    3. know the philosophy of the song (Am I "Trying to punch someone on the face from the first sound on" or trying to "keep all dynamics as is so I can barely hear a fly fart"?)

    These premises surely don't apply to big-name productions, they probably spend as long as necessary to polish the gold nugget.

    What kind of results have you home-recorders gotten, sending your material to a mastering house, which only know you today - forgotten tomorrow (and even then, see your face only as a bill)?

    Is it still worth it?

    Hans

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    I say send it out. When you tweek and such and home people usually over do it and spend way too much time for results that are done much faster in a mastering house. No offence, but there is no way that many people here can afford the expensive gear used in mastering, let alone be able to use it. Find a matering house in your area, get some of his/her work and talk to them. Tell them what you want. So many people just send it and expect soooooooooo much from it. Let them know what you want and they will tell you if it's possible or not.
    Wally Cleaver
    All around nice guy

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    Listen to your finished product along with the music you wanted to sound like and make a desision yourself on how well you can do it.

    Ive got a whole rack of mastering gear like some of the mastering houses Ive found on the net and i dont always get what I want but It works sometimes.

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    If you really belive in the project then you should have a mastering engineer do the work.You are not only paying for the equipment but the vast experiece of the masterer.There are many things to take into account when mastering...Radio play is one thing that you if you are serious you have to take into account...how much to compress?{radio stations compress for transmision}So how much is too much?There are many more questions that if you want to master you have to learn about .Just like tracking and mixing, mastering is is art unto its self.Theres nothing wrong with doing it yourself as long as you expect ...theres alot to learn...kinda like when you first learned to track then you learned to mix.I've sat in on a mastering session for a album that I was on,done by a very well respected masterer and they care very much for there work/reputaions so I would think that they will give anyone the proper atenttion.Also ask the mastering house/ indivig.what is best for them such as how much compression across the mix,should I insert tones?Maybe this is over kill for your question...But if you slaved over your project and you belive in it ,deserves the best finish you can give it!
    my 2cents.....Don....Also look down 6 or 7 treads and there is a deal for mastering that looks very good.Mastering/SJOKO2
    Last edited by Henri Devill; 07-09-2001 at 13:29.
    blessed are the cheese makers


    Don

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    Ive seen that and the price is right. but sometimes I dont have the time to send something out. It has to be done asap.

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    A mastering engineer at the very minimum provides another set of ears for your stuff. After you have worked on something for a long time, you become accustomed to certain things which may or may not be so good. Ears get tired in the short term, after a mixing session of 6 hours, and in the long term- when you spend 3 months or more on a song or group of songs. The mastering house has fresh ears.

    Additonally, every engineer, musician or producer working for $$ cares very much about his reputation and the quality of the his work and probably ends up putting in more time and thought than for what they were paid to make sure the job is done right. I know I do.

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    If you would have asked me 3 months ago, I would have said by all means have it done
    by a pro. I ,like you ,through reading and
    simple heresay from the recording community thought you had
    to do it professionally specificly if you wanted it "Radio Ready"

    First, there is simply no such thing as mastering to make it radio
    ready...and this should not be considered part of the defintion
    of mastering..this single element has caused more confusion
    than anything else..more on this later

    If your project meets the following criteria, you may want to
    consider professional mastering..

    1 Each song was produced/engineered in numerous locations
    using different gear and different media ( Analog 2"Tape,Digital
    ADAT,s Tascam etc)

    2 You are gonna have it pressed on vinyl, cassette and CD.

    3 You have a deadline to meet.

    If you fit the above, you are probably signed with a record label
    but I will assume this is not the case, otherwise they would be
    making the decision for you

    Here are the pros of doing it yourself.

    If you did all the tracking and mixing and still have of this
    material available, you have more power to make changes
    if the need should arise. The Pro's are dealing with a 2 track recording. This is one of the reasons why they need the equipment they use like multiband cpmpressors,EQs..
    where as you can pick the problem areas all the way back to
    the tracking phase if need be. This means that you will gain more
    advantages by planning ahead to anticipate what you are going
    to do at the mixing and mastering stages.

    You have all the time there is! And if you are working on a DAW
    you can create as many snapshots as you need.

    You can change the playlist anytime you want.

    You have more access to mediums to monitor your masters on
    EX: grandmas hi-fi system, the truck , the car, the walkman
    etc, etc..

    You can have as many ears as you need to help!

    If you want to be sure its radio ready..take it to the local radio stations and have the midnight DJ play it for you .

    The experience and satifisfaction gained from actually
    doing it yourself!

    O K, I assume that because you are considering doing it youself
    that you probably have the tools to do it.

    Here are a few suggestions that I am finding useful in
    my own approach to mastering.

    Remember the objective! And that is to take a collection of songs
    and shape them into a cohesive unit that expresses what I want
    to get across and how I want to get it across. This is the artistry
    part of it, and prepare this work for duplication. This could be simple rearranging of the playlist, which is actually a way to give
    the recording dynamics. You,d be surpised as to what this can do.
    Consider this also, lets say that the focus of the project is you
    and you are a guitar playing vocalist, make sure that there
    is a definite consistency in your voice tone and or any other
    element that you want to get across to kind of put your
    signature on everything. Just something to think about.
    Ask yourself while listening do you want the project to sound
    as if it was recorded in one take? If you are the songwriter
    then noone better than you can express what you are trying
    to do than you..and you might not be clear on that until after
    youve listen for awhile ..or you might have an unexpected
    good thing happen..kinda by accident..which is o k too..

    Some Recording Techniques to try:
    Compress for loudness and clarity at the tracking phase.
    (Dont knock this until you try it) Compress as much as you can
    and let your ears dictate when you have gone to far. Dont be afraid to EQ either going to HD Remember..you have the
    advantage of changing these things early in the project if
    they are not working.
    Dont do anything to the main buss during the mix down.
    Save this as sort of a prelim for the mastering phase when
    you began to listen to the collective whole. Its better to be
    able to make changes in a track than resorting to multiband
    compression or EQ or even broadband especially in the early
    stages.

    Take a good couple of weeks off from listening to any of the
    project. (youd be surprised what you will hear with your own
    fresh ears) Listen to the complete project first without making any
    adjustments at all. If you have planned ahead there should
    be a minimal need for EQ, compression but you will be limiting.
    Write down what you might suspect each song needs in terms
    of bringing it all together.

    If you have to EQ ,do it in small increments and feather it rather
    than one cut or boost at one frequency. Give it time to sink in!
    Compression should be lite. If you have to resort to multiband
    compresion..try some mid level and low llevel compression.
    Ex: Threshold at -25db with ratios at 1:1.25 to 1:1.50 to 1
    (mid-level)200 ms attack..200 ms release as starting points
    I have found that I could actually add another 4 to 6db gain
    just doing this..without affecting the sound!

    Remember you are compressing for loudness which could
    also mean clarity. So do it, until it doesnt sound right or not
    appropiate for what youre doing.

    Use music on commercial CD,s played on the same equipment you are mastering on to determine where
    to target your average RMS levels which equates to loudness!

    Now for the Radio..if youre rms averages are the same as the
    commercial Cds..guess what? your radio ready..if youre not
    as loud as you want this can be altered again at the last
    stages with a simple click of a mouse You may want to
    consider having a "hot for radio master" but mass produce
    the original.

    Oh, to address your question about sending material off to be
    mastered. I have done so and the experienced was enlightened.
    Meaning i was dissppointed but at the same encouraged because
    I now feel I can do it myself and will.

    If you do ultimately decide to have it done professionally
    go to the facility and be there during the process..
    you dont know who or what youre getting by simply
    blindly sending it off..plus it can be educational for your
    own future needs..

    Dont go to the these guys who only seem to master one kind
    of music..that would be the equivalent of picking a preset in a
    mastering processor.. and Im not knocking the mastering processor..they can absolutley do the job providing you know
    how to use them and alot of the mastering houses have them!
    ..so if u send it to a mastering house and you see the all in one
    box on the equipment list..dont let it surprise u

    Also remember, the average listening music fan is very
    forgiving if the songs are really good..so spend sometime
    on the arrangements and keep them smart and simple..

    Less instruments or elements are better..in others
    words try not to show off too much

    O K I rambled..but I hope this helps

    Holla back if you need some clarification or got something
    useful to add to this..Im working on my own 10 song
    CD and I feel pretty good about how its going.

    Good luck!
    Last edited by elbenj; 07-10-2001 at 00:45.

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    There are some elements often forgotten in the whole mastering vs DIY discussion:
    First, NOBODY has to send their stuff away to be mastered professionally. But if you look at main acts, they all do. Why? They often record in studios costing 1000's a day, with top engineers, consoles costing half a million plus, and all the top outboard gear. Surely with all that they can do it themselves?
    But... they send it to a mastering house / engineer instead. Why? Simple answer, its a specialist job, best left to specialists.
    Another thing to think about - a mastering engineer's reputation is only as good as his work, bad rep, no work. Simple. If you screw something up, you have to do it again. Double the amount of time / cost / work, and most likely you'd loose a client.
    Good mastering is art and experience, that's all there is to it. You can give anyone a pencil and a piece of paper, tell them to draw, even teach them to draw, but how many of them will be able to earn a living by drawing?

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    Smile Thanks for all the perspectives...

    Thanks elebnj,

    So some of you say it is still worth a try - to go to a mastering house - under certain conditions... (sitting in the same room, discussing the goals beforehand, etc.)

    Well in my case, the situation is surely a bit more complicated. I own what can be called the only studio in this country (Niger - and it is still only a small home-recorders hobby place), so forget about a dedicated mastering house... Hey I got the whole market here. The bad news: Artists here can't afford ANY price. I mean, this is the poorest country in the world!

    >If you would have asked me 3 months ago, I would have said >by all means have it done
    >by a pro. I ,like you ,through reading and
    >simple heresay from the recording community thought you had
    >to do it professionally specificly if you wanted it "Radio Ready"
    >
    >First, there is simply no such thing as mastering to make it radio
    >ready...and this should not be considered part of the defintion
    >of mastering..this single element has caused more confusion
    >than anything else..more on this later

    That is no problem. Even my un-"mastered" productions get enough air-play at the local radio-stations and are thought of being european productions. Which is laughable. )


    >If your project meets the following criteria, you may want to
    >consider professional mastering..

    As you see my experience has been forcefully in all aspects of the music production. But my question applied to my own work (20% of my studio's output), so I gladly analysed your criteria:

    >1 Each song was produced/engineered in numerous locations
    >using different gear and different media ( Analog 2"Tape,Digital
    >ADAT,s Tascam etc)

    I can only record to CD-R.

    >2 You are gonna have it pressed on vinyl, cassette and CD.

    Only CDs. And up to now, I have no intention of duplication. If I invest in mastering, it is rather for my own sake.


    >3 You have a deadline to meet.

    In my case, not a reason either.


    >If you fit the above, you are probably signed with a record label
    >but I will assume this is not the case, otherwise they would be
    >making the decision for you
    >
    >Here are the pros of doing it yourself.
    >
    >If you did all the tracking and mixing and still have of this
    >material available, you have more power to make changes
    >if the need should arise. The Pro's are dealing with a 2 track >recording. This is one of the reasons why they need the >equipment they use like multiband cpmpressors,EQs..
    >where as you can pick the problem areas all the way back to
    >the tracking phase if need be. This means that you will gain >more
    >advantages by planning ahead to anticipate what you are going
    >to do at the mixing and mastering stages.
    >
    >You have all the time there is! And if you are working on a DAW
    >you can create as many snapshots as you need.
    >
    >You can change the playlist anytime you want.
    >
    >You have more access to mediums to monitor your masters on
    >EX: grandmas hi-fi system, the truck , the car, the walkman
    >etc, etc..
    >
    >You can have as many ears as you need to help!
    >
    >If you want to be sure its radio ready..take it to the local radio >stations and have the midnight DJ play it for you .
    >
    >The experience and satifisfaction gained from actually
    >doing it yourself!

    All of your points are valid in my situation. And that was the reason for my thread.

    >O K, I assume that because you are considering doing it youself
    >that you probably have the tools to do it.

    Not really. Just the usual PC/DX Plug-Ins (Multiband-Comp., Loudness Max., Spectralizer, Magneto, etc.). But if I tweak them enough, I get what I'm looking for.


    >Here are a few suggestions that I am finding useful in
    >my own approach to mastering.
    >
    >Remember the objective! And that is to take a collection of >songs and shape them into a cohesive unit that expresses what >I want to get across and how I want to get it across. This is the >artistry part of it, and prepare this work for duplication. This >could be simple rearranging of the playlist, which is actually a >way to give the recording dynamics. You,d be surpised as to >what this can do.

    Good point. And this is also my shortcoming: I have songs which range from oyour typical Rock-Anthem to the intimate, naked vocals/guitar song.
    I am sure that here, the experience of a mastering house can be very helpful to (quote you) "shape them into a cohesive unit". Until now I only master each song as a single, by itself.

    >Take a good couple of weeks off from listening to any of the
    >project. (youd be surprised what you will hear with your own
    >fresh ears) Listen to the complete project first without making >any adjustments at all. If you have planned ahead there should
    >be a minimal need for EQ, compression but you will be limiting.
    >Write down what you might suspect each song needs in terms
    >of bringing it all together.

    Uuuffff! I've been doing that three years now with my meager experience and gear. When I am satisfied with my mix (and THAT can also take weeks), it still takes some day to tweak everything until I am 100% satisfied.


    >Use music on commercial CD,s played on the same equipment >you are mastering on to determine where to target your >average RMS levels which equates to loudness!

    I have given up trying to be as loud as xxxx (place big name artist). To many factors in the game that I can't compete with: It starts with the 5-figure microphone chosen, room acoustics, etc. and ends with the golden ears, and unreachable mastering gear, so I content myself with being as loud as possible without changing the sound.


    >Oh, to address your question about sending material off to be
    >mastered. I have done so and the experienced was >enlightened. Meaning i was dissppointed but at the same >encouraged because I now feel I can do it myself and will.
    >
    >If you do ultimately decide to have it done professionally
    >go to the facility and be there during the process..
    >you dont know who or what youre getting by simply
    >blindly sending it off..plus it can be educational for your
    >own future needs..
    >
    >Dont go to the these guys who only seem to master one kind
    >of music..that would be the equivalent of picking a preset in a
    >mastering processor.. and Im not knocking the mastering >processor..they can absolutley do the job providing you know
    >how to use them and alot of the mastering houses have them!
    >..so if u send it to a mastering house and you see the all in one
    >box on the equipment list..dont let it surprise u

    Yeah. That's good advice: Even if only for educational purposes, I'll try that someday. The worst thing that can happen, (if you discount the money spent) is that I might be thinking "I can do that better"...


    >Also remember, the average listening music fan is very
    >forgiving if the songs are really good..so spend sometime
    >on the arrangements and keep them smart and simple..
    >
    >Less instruments or elements are better..in others
    >words try not to show off too much

    And THAT's what music's about. If the music sucks, no Ludwig, Katz, etc. can make it better.

    >O K I rambled..but I hope this helps

    Ha! So did I! But it is good to listen to other opinions. Specially when you are in the middle of the desert in the west sahara, and the only expertise I can get is about goat herding. ;-)


    >Holla back if you need some clarification or got something
    >useful to add to this..Im working on my own 10 song
    >CD and I feel pretty good about how its going.
    >
    >Good luck!

    Thanks again and good luck to you as well.



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    Hey Dijoux!
    Being where you are ....... the enclosed pictures might seem vagely familiar to you?
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