Mastering is a topic we’ve covered before. It’s the cherry on top of your overall recording, but it can also make or break everything you’ve completed before this step. I found this article to be interesting because it looks at mastering from an aesthetic view as well as a technical view. It’s really necessary not to get too hung up on the tech and miss out on listening to get the specific feel of the project you’re working on. I also like the advice to occasionally move your self out of the ‘sweet spot’ that exists in any studio setup. The sweet spot can be very specific, especially when using close field monitors. The problem is that most people don’t sit in the perfect spot for hearing the music – this is amplified when listening in an average car stereo setup. You need to expand your point of view. I also like Appelbaum’s small room setup and some sweet equipment.
Here’s a couple of short video pieces taken from a much longer video class. Again, check out the control room and some of the equipment.
Thought we’d throw some tech at you today. Most mixing is done by ear – after all, it is sound and relates most to our sense of hearing. But we’re also used to looking at meters in the studio. Often it’s just to make sure overall levels don’t clip, or to compress and add volume if necessary. You can also look at levels of individual tracks to compare them. Once you’re in the overall mix, how do you compare individual sounds on the meters? Here’s a metering device from Dorrough that gives a better idea of how individual sounds appear on a meter. I also like the street sound example they use. Wish I could afford one of these buggers.
Here’s a song from the band that introduced me to New Orleans funk. For some perspective, Cissy Strut came out in 1969. The Meters backed a lot of great R & B and funk players through out the years. A band that definitely should be better known.
What do The Meters have to do with metering? Nothing. I just like them.
A song recording project is actually a series of very distinct steps. Writing the song, pre-production, recording, editing, mixing, mastering. General wisdom has always said you can’t fix a problem with one of the steps in the next step. Also known as ‘you can’t polish a turd’ (well, i guess you could but……..). The following article gives some great tips on how to get your final mix ready for the mastering step. It could be the difference between a great sounding final product and a ‘polished turd’. Your mastering engineer will be grateful, and studio bloodshed will be reduced.
In Part 1 of our overview of recording quality we covered the trend in recording to make things ‘loud’ and the loss of dynamics and quality that result. Part 2 covers the next part of the equation – how to maintain quality sound when the source of the music is the internet. Because of file size and download time, most music people listen to cannot maintain the quality of the original recording. I don’t really consider myself an ‘audiophile’, but I can certainly hear the difference between buying an HD CD and downloading an MP3 file. Even though I listen to a lot of music online, when I purchase music I still buy the physical media rather than buying a download.
The article below discusses this difference in sound quality and the possible future of online music. Do enough people even care about quality for the changes to be made? Will Hi-Res audio be available in the future? Let’s hope so.
Has anyone noticed something missing from today’s recorded music? It seems that recording quality, once the keystone of captured music, may be going the way of the dinosaur. We’re not talking about the ‘lo-fi’ ethic which intentionally keeps the sound raw and immediate. What we’re seeing is a downgrading of sonic quality for a variety of mostly commercial reasons. Today’s entry covers what has become known as the ‘loudness wars’.
Simply put, the ‘loudness wars’ is the recording version of “my amp goes to 11”. It’s volume for the sake of being ‘louder’ than the song being played before or after yours. It takes place mostly in the mastering of the music, compressing or ‘hyper-compressing’ a song within an inch of its life. No concern for dynamics, subtlety or tone. Just LOUD – and who cares what gets lost in the process.
Did you ever go to a concert and have a friend who wants to practically stick his head in to the PA speakers – “this is f***in awesome, my brain almost exploded!!” Ummkay, can you even tell what’s being played? Seems strange that’s there’s a ‘world record’ for the loudest concert – you might as well stand next to an airplane taking off. There should be a world record for the highest quality sound….
But I digress. The following clip gives a pretty good overview of what the ‘loudness wars’ are about from a producer and engineer’s viewpoint.
Here’s a shorter video that really puts a visual explanation of over compressing and limiting right in front of you.
This is why I’m thankful that we get to record, mix and master our own music at ChurchHouse. We don’t have to be ‘volume whores’ and I’d rather not produce any music than have crap leave our studio.
I wanted to pass along an interesting article I read concerning some of the pitfalls you can encounter running a small studio. One of the major problems concerns the fact that a small project studio often does not have multiple people handling the work that comes in. As a result, one person may do the recording, mixing and mastering as well as filling the role of the producer. There are positives to this: less long discussions or arguments over how to proceed as well as a consistent vision for the project. But the downside is the tunnel vision you may incur working by yourself and the project burnout you can encounter as you progress through all the steps.
This article speaks specifically to ‘ear burnout’ and steps you can take to avoid it. One thing the article doesn’t discuss is the positives you have when more than one person works on a project. At ChurchHouse Studios we have taken this to heart and try to have several people working on different parts of the project, especially mixing and mastering. It has produced very positive results for us. Another tip I would give is being aware of who is mixing your music. I’ve found out the hard way that mixing engineers who were in very loud bands and never used ear protection may have lost much of the top end of the hearing and will mix accordingly (also a tip to use ear protection if you’re still playing and don’t have the headphones too loud in the studio).
How many of you have looked at CDs of older material and saw that they are labeled as ‘remastered’ or ‘digitally remastered’? I know when I first started seeing this, I wasn’t sure exactly what that meant. I understood the mastering process, but ‘remastered’? I’ve attached below a Wall Street Journal article that gives a short and relatively simple explanation:
When ChurchHouse Productions studio first began doing business, we used to send our completed mixes out to be mastered at other studios. This can be quite an expensive proposition. We now do all this work in house. Our mastering capabilities were greatly enhanced when our ‘Master Of Mastering’ (and all other things recording) Barett Krause joined the fold at ChurchHouse. He sent this link to me and I wanted to share it with you.
Another episode for the masses – sorry it is late but have been doing studio stuff. I had to make some equipment adjustments, purchases, and reconfigurations so it has been kind of busy.
This wasn’t as hard as I thought for getting the camera set up on a ladder, then having it take the photos without Barett or I having to do it. Not bad – cannot wait to get these four songs finished up. Got other projects that I need to get to at this point.
Okay so, number one: ChurchHouse Productions has officially welcomed Barett Krause as its second producer and engineer. Yay!
Number Two: We will be posting random video clips of Barett and I mixing and mastering, which will be available on YouTube and posted here too.
Here is the first episode:
Number Three: The music video for Electrostatic Rhythm Pigs (a.k.a. ERP) cover of Isolation, by Joy Division is due to be out for viewing by the beginning of August or late July on YouTube and here.
Number Four: The four song EP from ERP is due to be released by the end of this month.
Keep comin’ back and see what is happening!