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#378670 11/30/16 08:45 PM
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I don't understand the difference or I think I have an understanding of mixing, which I think of as different tracks.

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Here's a video from Graham (TheRecordingRevolution.com) about it. I've listened to a few of his videos and I've found that he explains things pretty well. (I haven't yet heard this one.)



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MASTERING VS. MIXING

You will find about 10,000 posts and you tubes on this with as many definitions.

Mixing and mastering are two completely different professional fields, and when people are making records for labels, they use separate "mixers" and "masterers." They are specialty fields in the pro world. Home recorders have to be both.

A mix basically refers to how the levels of the instrument are set on the board (in a DAW on a real board) and when and how those levels come up and down with faders, and how they are panned. Mixing also involves some basic application of effects such as eq and reverb.

A "Master" focuses on the exact sound of the final production and gets into areas like "spectrum analysis" and "dynamic range" and volume, and many, many subtle tweaks designed to make the mix thump or sparkle.

There are many, many ways to attack this--and it gets confusing.

Some people enter the mastering phase before the bed and vocals or instrument sections bed are rendered, just after levels and fading cues have been set (the mix.) *

* There is a lot of semantic cross-talk on this in the field. In the video by Graham posted above (a great video) by the way, he talks about the importance of getting each track to sound great before you move on to the master, and he describes that as part of the mixing process. Whereas, in his description, the master is more of a process of making sure tonal color and volume are the same on all finished musical tracks (i.e., songs) on a CD or collection. However, other people describe "mixing" as setting levels on faders, panning and basic eq. The level of detail Graham is describing as "mixing" is sometimes done by people who would say they are mastering. This is what makes it confusing.

At any rate, the point is this: if you want to add more mid-range or warmth to JUST the acoustic guitar, and it is already in the mix you hand to a mastering engineer, there is nothing you can do. The cream is already in the sauce so to speak. Anything you do will affect the entire bed.

So some people like to have their hand in mastering each track, and also mastering the final. But "mastering" involves the precise SOUND whereas mixing involves the LEVELS--short version of it all.

I love Ozone 5 as a mastering tool (one of many) but I am growing somewhat disenchanted with using tools like Ozone 6 as a one stop shop for final masters. They just seem to make things too watery and brittle for my ears.

Dynamic range is the key to great music, and you can't beat the old TT DR meter for keeping you honest on that.

You want the acoustic to sound like an acoustic, and the bass to sound like a bass, and you want to make sure things are panned, but not panned too much. If you get a great EQ on individual tracks, the mix will sound warm and you will need very little mastering effects after the fact though you may choose to use some to add some extra sparkle or kick or "ooomppfff."

But, if you you don't get a great EQ and sound and mix on individual tracks before you start to use mastering software, no setting in the world will be able to help you. Hope that makes sense.

Just get a good dynamic range meter and make sure you are in the 9-12 range (or higher for classical) and you'll be good.

Also leave some headroom, about 1 db. Don't max it out.

smile

Here is a picture of my famous buddy Yoram Vazan (friend to countless hip hop pioneers) at his board. He is known as one of the best "masterers" in the world now. He helped me with some of my early stuff at the now legendary Firehouse Studios in Brooklyn.


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Marty...

The term "mastering" has gotten abused severely in the past 20 years (with the advent of home recording). The video that Noel posted (by Graham) explains it perfectly. Mastering is a term that should apply to a collection of songs - like for a CD release. It is the Mastering engineer's job to make them sound like a cohesive unit. The only reason to apply the term "mastering" to a single song is to make it "fit" into whatever sonic field it might play in - as he states - get it to the level of the CDs or radio songs it will compete against...so it doesn't stand out as "out of place" when listened to in context.

Everything else is mixing.

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Mastering is the final trip for most singles and albums before heading to the duplicator. But like choosing a producer, or a musician, or a studio, one should listen to previous work by a mastering company before turning over your work. I have paid a lot for mastering services and been very dissatisfied with the result, because the service seemed to have no "feel" for the genre of music they'd been given. I don't think everyone offering mastering services is suitable for every genre of music. For this reason we've started doing our own mastering and have been happy with the results. There are books available on the process and you don't need tons of equipment to get the job done. I know engineers who master album projects in Sonar Producer, for example, by importing all the tracks onto one stereo track in a new project and then apply mastering tweaks with the software and plugins included with the DAW. And what I've heard was impressive.

Like everything else with music production, get educated about the process and LISTEN to the final product compared to other work in the genre. Have your friends listen, your enemies, your ex, and your dog. It is an extremely subjective art in the end. My experience in doing our own mastering is that less is definitely more. Fiddling with the final product too much is the kiss of death. My favorite program for mastering these days has been around a while - CD Architect from Sony.

Just sayin' grin
Bob

Last edited by Bob Buford; 12/01/16 05:53 AM.
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Originally Posted By: Bob Buford
Mastering is the final trip for most singles and albums before heading to the duplicator. My experience in doing our own mastering is that less is definitely more. Fiddling with the final product too much is the kiss of death.
Bob


Amen.

That is what I was trying to say Bob. You just said it in less words.

smile

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Everyone has commented and spot on. So I will simply say ditto.

Well, almost....


I combine the 2 into one. Yes, mastering is something that is applied to a group of songs and not so much one song alone, so I often refer to the process as "polishing the song" rather than erroneously calling it mastering.

I start my recording process with the end in mind. I have a good idea what I want the song to sound like and work from the very beginning to get there. So essentially, when I have finished my "mixing" stage, I've also mostly completed the "polishing" stage as well. It might need a few tweeks but often, it's done to my satisfaction.


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Another good "short but sweet" answer Floyd!!

smile

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This is the part where most people mess up and another great short, and to the point explanation, Herb! smile Well put, sir.

The mastering really starts when you turn on your amp, decide how you want to mic it, and what guitar you pick, as one example. Graham backs this up.

THEN, as Herb said, you do your level best to record your very best take and signal with the sound being as good as it can get before it even hits the board.

THEN, you use whatever effects you have WITH CAUTION to make each track sound as perfect as you can, and as lifelike. Remember, professional producer Bob said less is more--just because you went crazy on Black Friday and bought 100 VSTs doesn't mean you are supposed to use them all.

If you follow the instructions given on this thread by all posters, very little "mastering" will need to be done in the end as Herb said.

As an FYI, some of the very best mixes I have heard have been done by people on this forum in Real Band using very minimal effects.

That is because they let the music speak for itself, and they didn't throw in a bunch of effects that turn the music into soup.

Less is more, less is more, less is more.

smile

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Also technically - nothing to do with the sound - part of the mastering process also includes adding the meta data for the track list and ISRC codes (unique identifiers for each recorded song) which Soundscan uses for sales tracking and SoundExchange uses for streaming royality payments.

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This might help:

It's also a general guide on Mastering.

https://www.izotope.com/en/support/support-resources/guides.html


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thank you all very much.

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