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Thread April 30, 2016 editorial: comments

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1 April 30, 2016 editorial: comments

Master of None

Over the last year, I ended up doing the mastering on several of the recording projects I was involved with. I would hardly call myself a mastering engineer, but armed with iZotope Ozone 7 and Studio One 3’s Project Page (a dedicated mastering environment that’s part of that DAW), I was able to do a passable job. I got the songs loud enough without overly squashing them, made sure they were coherent from an EQ standpoint, sequenced them correctly, added in the metadata, and created DDP files when needed.

That said, working on those projects made me appreciate even more just how difficult and exacting the art of mastering is. And if the budget had been available to bring in a pro mastering engineer for those situations, I would probably have done so. I actually did hire a mastering engineer for my own album project recently, and I’m glad I did. He gave my album a finished sheen and a consistency that I couldn’t have done myself.

If the money is coming out of your own pocket, though, it makes the decision about whether to self master or bring in a pro more difficult. If you do end up trying your hand at mastering, you face more disadvantages than just lack of experience. A pro mastering engineer works in a specialized mastering studio with professional acoustic treatment and super-high-end monitoring — they have the luxury of knowing that what they’re hearing is being accurately reproduced. They’re also likely to have lots of high-end hardware, including top-of-the-line converters and cool analog processors. 

Another argument for using a pro mastering engineer is that they’ll come into the project without any preconceptions, and can be more objective in their analysis of what needs to be done. If you’re self-mastering, you don’t have that luxury. You’re already neck deep in the project, and any objectivity you might have had is long gone.

But you do have one thing going for you if you’re mastering your own project: Easy access to the mixes. What do I mean? Let’s say you discover during mastering that one of your songs is significantly more bass heavy than the others. If you had given your project to a pro mastering engineer, he or she would likely tried to fix it using subtle and extremely targeted EQ to lower the bass in the mix without affecting the rest of the signal that much. It’s tricky though, and could end up affecting other parts of the frequency spectrum adversely. But if you’re mastering your own project, it’s easy and fast to simply reopen the mix, adjust the bass level, and bounce out another mix. You could call it “mastering by mixing.” The other advantage to DIY mastering, of course, is that it’s free. Then again, you get what you pay for.

Have you dabbled in doing your own mastering? What have your experiences been like?

2
I hear what you are saying Mike. I use Studio One because it has the Projects/Mastering suite. The problem I run into is because of unreliable room acoustics, etc. it's nearly impossible to get a mix worthy of mastering. So I bounce back and forth...new mix...new master. And this can go on a long time.
Too bad I can't find a mastering studio equivalent of myself (home hobbiest) that would do my projects a little less expensive that what I have been quoted
($2-300/song). I tried the 'robo-mastering' company that has emerged the last little while. It's different than my mixes but not better.
3
I've tried Mike. But, I must say that my own results have been questionable (at best). I'm working on a project right now (REAPER 5) involving multiple tracks and multiple instruments. Look, I'm just a piano player, not an audio 'mixologist'. <lol> However, I must say that in spite of my amateuristic dabblings, I'm having loads of fun composing some of these rather complex Jazz pieces. (Who needs a band)?:D:

One thing is certain though. The mixing part is no fun at all (at least for me). And, if I had the extra dough, I too would hire a professional engineer to handle that aspect of music creation.
4
Well, DIY is not totally free. You need to possess some mastering software/hardware plus the time involved.

:)

But I get what what you mean. Excecially about having access to the original project.

Probably the biggest/first problem for DIY mastering is having a neutral sounding room as you mentioned. That's always an issue when mixing/mastering my own stuff. I have to constantly check a commercially released CD I like to see how much too bassy etc my stuff sounds.

By the way, I like your columns Mike! Always interesting, nuetral and well written.
5
Quote:
Well, DIY is not totally free. You need to possess some mastering software/hardware plus the time involved.

I meant free in the sense that you wouldn't have to lay out money at the time of the mastering to do it, but your point is well taken.

Quote:
By the way, I like your columns Mike! Always interesting, nuetral and well written.

Thanks very much. I really appreciate that. :bravo:
6
Quote:
One thing is certain though. The mixing part is no fun at all (at least for me). And, if I had the extra dough, I too would hire a professional engineer to handle that aspect of music creation.

I hear you. Although I do like to mix, sometimes think if I had the $$ to bring in a really good mixer, it could make a big difference.
7
Personnally, I like mixing a lot. It's like the work of a sculptor - that's what I Always compare it to. I really get a kick when the tracks come together after carefully applying EQ, compression and creative FX. If you want your tracks mixed, you can send them to me :D:
8
Quote:
Personnally, I like mixing a lot. It's like the work of a sculptor -

;) I agree with you about mixing. It's probably the most creative aspects of music production. I just sometimes wonder what my music would sound like if I brought in a really great mix engineer.