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Thread Mastering Live Band CD

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1 Mastering Live Band CD

I've been working on a project to record my band in a 'live' environment.
Although the recording was actually made in a rehearsal room, everyone stayed in the same room so that I could achieve a 'live sound'. The overhead drum mics do pick up some guitar and bass and this was all intentional.

I used a Fostex 8 track hard-disk recorder so that I could master the tracks later. I'm really pleased with the results, but what I need are a few tips / some advice on mixing. The CD I have made sounds fantastic on my PC and Hi-Fi, but some (not all!) other people that have played it say they cannot the bass is not loud enough or there are other 'EQ issues'.

What I really want to know is how can you master a CD that will sound good on most CD players? I realise it's probably impossible to have it sound great on everything!!

Thanks in advance!!
What speakers did you master the current version with? Problems as you describe are often symptoms of mixing with poor speakers, or in a bad room. SOMETHING in the mixdown listening environment, anyway.

You mixed/mastered it at your desk on your computer speakers, didn't you? ;)
The Axeman (##(===> Cuts From My New Blues CD
Hi Axeman - thanks for your reply. Initially I did indeed mix on my PC speakers, but soon realised this was a bad move! I've got 5.1 surround sound - so not a typical Hi-Fi set-up! Since then I have been mixing it through my Hi-Fi speakers. These aren't anything special, but I thought they might at least be 'average'.

Ok, so you're probably right - it may be down to speakers. Do you have any suggestions as to what type of speakers / set-up I should use?

I am mixing on my PC at the moment, so are there any decent PC Speakers that could do the job?

Thanks again for your help!
I'm not aware of any PC speakers that are up to the task, but there is no reason why you couldn't hook some powered reference monitors to a line out on your soundcard. Stereo speakers don't cut it either because they are designed to have a response curve that sounds good, rather than one that is relatively flat and accurate.

MAudio and Behringer both make some rather inexpensive (say $250-$350 a pair) monitors that are supposed to be decent. I used a small pair of Audix PH-5's for a couple of years, then graduated to a pair of Event 20/20bas monitors that I've used for several years. If you get a pair of reference monitors, spend some time listening to professionally done CD's of similar instrumentation and genre on your system. This will give you an audio "target" to shoot for. Then take your mixes around to avariety of systems and see what works and what doesn't. Soon you'll know your setup and your room, and you'll be able to knock out decent mixes on the first try.

The setup and room are important, too. Your speakers should be placed so that they form an equilateral triangle with you head at the apex, level with your ears and angled @ 45 degrees in facing you. The speakers should never be in a corner, and they should be out from the wall at least 6-8 inches. Whatever you use to mix (mixer or mouse/screen) should be accessable without having to move your head out of the sweet spot.

Don't mix for long periods of time (more than 1.5-2 hours)without taking a 20 minute (at least) break ot rest your ears. They get tired, too.

Hope this helps.
The Axeman (##(===> Cuts From My New Blues CD
Hi again Axeman - thank you so much for taking the time to reply. Your comments are very useful and I shall take them into account when mixing my next CD.

I shall also look into getting some powered reference monitors as you have suggested.

Thanks again!!

It's actually not too bad. The band is pretty tight, and if your recorded that live as a onepass with no overdubs, then I'm impressed!! I just did this with my band for a demo, and I know how hard it is to do that!!

That having been said, the mix does need help. It's very flat sounding and there is no stereo field to speak of, except for maybe the drum overheads.

First of all, how much control do you have on the Fostex? Do you have separate tracks for guitar, bass, and drums? If you do, I think I'd export the tracks as wave files into something like Cakewalk or Cubase and work the mix on the track level first.

I would use some eq and compression on the guitar and bass. Both lack the strength to carry the tune as a three piece on the recording.

I would EQ/compress the bass to give it more low end and low mid thump. I might even experiment with adding a tiny, tiny bit of chorus to give it some movement and sparkle.

I would eq/compress the guitar to give it a little more in your face sound, I would pan it to the left some, and then I would create a copy of the track, put about a 100 ms delay on it, set it so that there's very little dry signal in it, and then pan that towards the right some. Set the delayed track considerably lower in volume than the main track on the left. Watch what that does for the "spatial" aspects of that track....

If you don't have any control over the individual tracks, then I would take the main mix into your audio editor and I would try to use the frequency spectrum differences between the instruments to add some judicious eq along with some multi band compression. You won't get great results this way, but you may be able to punch the overall recording up a little.

Lastly, there was very little high end on the recording overall. As a result, the tune sounded kind of dull and lifeless. Even though none of the instruments you'e recorded have fundamentals in the high end (except the cymbals), there is a lot of aural information about space and air characteristics up there, as well as harmonic content, that our ears percieve.

Hope this helps.
The Axeman (##(===> Cuts From My New Blues CD
Hi Mike,

Thank you so much (once again!) for taking the time to listen to my track and give me your comments.

What you say about it sounding 'flat' is exactly what I thought! It sounds like everything is on the same level and you can't get a feel for where the various instruments 'sit' in the mix.

I do have separate tracks on the Fostex and I imported each track into Cool Edit Pro so I could work on each track individually. Do you think Cubase would be better for this? I have been told there are some better effects on Cubase...

I shall work on the EQ and compression as you have said and I love the idea of the double guitar tracks panned left and right, slighty out of sync.

I can't wait to give these a try! I have to say, your reply couldn't have come at a better time - I was just about ready to give it all up! I was getting so frustrated because I couldn't seem to get it right!!

Thank you for all your help!!

I may send you another link at some point when I've tried experimented with your ideas!

And finally, yes, it was recorded in one go with no overdubs - I was very pleased with the bands performance. I was also doing the vocals as well as watching the recording levels on my Fostex!

All the best,

I"m glad I've found this forum when I did. Im in the same boat and working on the same exact projects. (mastering live band)