Music Player Network
Previous Thread
Next Thread
Print Thread
Mastering PRO TIP! #3025467 01/24/20 05:38 AM
Joined: Jan 2000
Posts: 8,338
Anderton Offline OP
MPN Advisory Board
MP Hall of Fame Member
OP Offline
MPN Advisory Board
MP Hall of Fame Member
Joined: Jan 2000
Posts: 8,338
Actually it's not, but that kind of click bait headline seems to get results smile This is a technique I've been trying, and had good results. I'd be interested if anyone else finds this useful.

For me, the most important part of mastering is EQ. After finding a track's "pain points" with respect to EQ, I close my eyes, and vary the gain on each stage of EQ, turning it up way too high and way too low, then seeking the point that sounds "just right." If that's the same setting I arrived at originally, I move on to the next stage and do the same thing. Otherwise, I figure the EQ in general may need re-visiting.

FWIW, I noticed that the difference between "too little" and "too much" is surprisingly small - only a few dB.

Re: Mastering PRO TIP! [Re: Anderton] #3025514 01/24/20 03:28 PM
Joined: Aug 2006
Posts: 107
Greg Mein Offline
Senior Member
Offline
Senior Member
Joined: Aug 2006
Posts: 107
I'm actually just trying to adjust individual tracks right now but wondering if you can break down your "stages". Messing with my latest song I've been trying to adjust EQ according to a chart I pulled from the Sweetwater site.

Re: Mastering PRO TIP! [Re: Anderton] #3025520 01/24/20 04:10 PM
Joined: Jan 2000
Posts: 8,338
Anderton Offline OP
MPN Advisory Board
MP Hall of Fame Member
OP Offline
MPN Advisory Board
MP Hall of Fame Member
Joined: Jan 2000
Posts: 8,338
Hey Greg - the first thing I'd suggest is to make sure all your tracks have a consistent frequency response. In other words, if you want bright vocals, and you adjust the vocal track EQ, then when mastering if you want an overall brighter sound then the vocal will be excessively bright. My philosophy is that mixing is all about obtaining the best possible balance of all the tracks, while mastering is about optimizing that balance.

When mastering, there are usually broad areas that need to be addressed in my mixes.

Bass in the 150 Hz and under range. I want the bass and kick to be strong, but not overpowering.
Mids in the 300-500 Hz range. There's often buildup around these frequencies, and a shallow, broad cut can add clarity.
Highs in the 4- 8 kHz range. It seems most people prefer a brighter sound than I do, so I try for something that's just a bit brighter than what I want (but not enough to annoy me).

However, there can also be resonances, sometimes narrow, that need to be attenuated somewhat. Finding and fixing these opens up the sound more. Also, some areas might be deficient. For example, a slight boost around 1 kHz can help bring out the "meat" of vocals and guitar.

I find iZotope's Tonal Balance analyzer helpful for getting "in the ballpark." After the response is more or less flat, I tweak from that baseline.

Hope this helps!

Re: Mastering PRO TIP! [Re: Anderton] #3025552 01/24/20 05:35 PM
Joined: May 2005
Posts: 5,991
T
The Real MC Offline
MPN Advisory Board
MP Hall of Fame Member
Offline
MPN Advisory Board
MP Hall of Fame Member
T
Joined: May 2005
Posts: 5,991
Disclaimer: I'm totally OTB. Besides EQ there are other really good tools that can do things that an EQ can't.

I had a mix where the ringing of the snare drum was interfering with the vocals. I have the Moog Parametric EQ which can cut to (-)20dB so I notched the ringing down using the parametric. It was a real narrow notch, couldn't do that with a regular EQ. Not used often, but boy is it handy. I've sold my other parametrics but kept the Moog. Never did try a Massenburg.

Another mix involved a live recording. Guitar player was using a talkbox, and it would feedback between notes. EQ would not have been a solution because I didn't want to alter the guitar while it is playing. So I used my UREI LA-22 compressor. Like the Drawmer gate, you can dial the specific frequency range (center frequency and width!) for compression to activate, and only on that frequency range.

No one compressor works for every singer or every instrument. The critical component is not just the gain reduction element (VCA, opto, FET, etc) but also the design of the detector and control law between the detector and gain element. No two RMS detector designs sound the same. Use the same RMS detector but change the control law and it sounds different. I have a Drawmer DL231 whose compressor uses a LOG detector (not RMS) which happens to be very effective on percussive sounds. The LA-22 can transform a bad sounding kit into a million bucks.

Tube devices can be your friend. I keep a Tubeworks Bluetube bass preamp around when I want some mild distortion for dynamic EQ, not smashing overdrive. Great for getting things like EPs or acoustic guitars to be heard.

I've used a Moogerfooger low pass filter to get a better tone from a bass guitar in a mix. EQ couldn't do that. Something about that box just works.

Ambient room reverb - very short - can help lift a source in the mix. Especially vocals and percussion. My Eventide 2016 is uncanny for that talent. Tried plugins on other friend's DAW, can't get that effect.

Re: Mastering PRO TIP! [Re: Anderton] #3025627 01/24/20 11:25 PM
Joined: Jan 2000
Posts: 8,338
Anderton Offline OP
MPN Advisory Board
MP Hall of Fame Member
OP Offline
MPN Advisory Board
MP Hall of Fame Member
Joined: Jan 2000
Posts: 8,338
OTB is its own thing, ITB another. For example...

Quote
I've used a Moogerfooger low pass filter to get a better tone from a bass guitar in a mix. EQ couldn't do that. Something about that box just works.


Fortunately, that 24 dB/octave ladder filter is well-represented in the Arturia Moog emulations, and they have external inputs so you can feed tracks through them. I found that when t in a mix, there was no significant difference between using the Arturia filter compared to the one in my Minimoog. (Interestingly, when Arturia asked Bob for his endorsement, he refused and sent back a relatively lengthy list of things he thought weren't right about the emulation. The company went about fixing them, send the revised plug-in to Bob, and then he ended up endorsing it. I wonder how many companies follow the same path...)

Also narrow notches are quite easy to do ITB nowadays, you can get very sharp -24 dB filters, and linear-phase ones as well (although they chew up CPU). Do they sound as good as analog filters? Well...having been raised exclusively OTB, sometimes I've found the best way to get the desired sound with ITB is to "downgrade." For example I know exactly what you mean about that reverb lifting a source out of the mix, but good luck getting that with a reverb plug-in...I can't. But what I can do is put a lot of short delays in parallel, set to prime number delay times so they don't "step on" each other. IMHO that gives me the best sound.

As to compressors, I avoid them as much as possible because I do manual gain changes with DSP to even things out, and then add a little bit of limiting. That way I don't get a "compressed" sound although of course, for some projects you want a compressed sound. I just have a "thing" about how I want to hear vocals--on a recent mix with Chuck D's voice (from Public Enemy), compressing it seemed like a crime, and the laborious manual changes really made his voice boom. But one of the biggest advantages of ITB compressors is that multiband dynamics processors are so much easier to do in software than hardware. Not all of them sound good, though.

One outboard piece of gear I simply cannot duplicate with any software is the Dolby 740 Spectral Processor. I have some other hardware devices that are useful, like some of the older Aphex tube gear...and I haven't sold my PCM-70 yet smile.

By and large, though, having been around when Pultecs were new instead of emulations (yes, I really am that old!), I've found that outboard gear takes less effort to sound good than ITB processors. You also have to go through a bunch of ITB processors to find the ones that really shine. Some of the Waves plug-in, like the Abbey Road Chambers, are amazing. Other reverb plug-ins could be bested by an ART 01. And I'm on the fence about tubes. I'm totally down with your using mild distortion, but often, I end up using tape emulation plug-ins, driven hard.

But to get back to the OP about EQ, it's really instructive to set a bunch of EQs to the "same" settings, and then compare. There can be a huge difference. I think this is because some companies do a good job of emulating analog EQ, phase shift warts and all, while others do more "theoretical" EQs that don't have the same kind of color, but more precision.

Re: Mastering PRO TIP! [Re: Anderton] #3025749 01/25/20 07:10 PM
Joined: May 2005
Posts: 5,991
T
The Real MC Offline
MPN Advisory Board
MP Hall of Fame Member
Offline
MPN Advisory Board
MP Hall of Fame Member
T
Joined: May 2005
Posts: 5,991
Some things are better in software, some things are better in hardware. People like us have had flight time with the hardware and can differentiate whether software or hardware sounds better. Many are not so lucky and take their plugins for granted never knowing any better. Is that bad? Not if they produce a good product. But if they heard the hardware in person, they can expand their horizons.

Early EQ (and softsynths) plugins were based on generalized EE textbook filter transform functions. These functions assume perfect reactive components and perfect active devices, which don't exist. In the real world the imperfect devices impart their contribution to the sound, good or bad. The algorithms in newer plugins are better, we now have the processing power to crunch those complex transform functions that include the imperfect elements.

I don't have anything against ITB, I recognize their value. I have my own reasons for OTB processing.

Re: Mastering PRO TIP! [Re: The Real MC] #3025753 01/25/20 07:23 PM
Joined: Jan 2000
Posts: 8,338
Anderton Offline OP
MPN Advisory Board
MP Hall of Fame Member
OP Offline
MPN Advisory Board
MP Hall of Fame Member
Joined: Jan 2000
Posts: 8,338
Originally Posted by The Real MC
Early EQ (and softsynths) plugins were based on generalized EE textbook filter transform functions. These functions assume perfect reactive components and perfect active devices, which don't exist. In the real world the imperfect devices impart their contribution to the sound, good or bad.

Absolutely!! True story: When I made the Quadrafuzz back in the mid-80s, I wanted a speaker emulator, so I ganged two lowpass stages together to roll of frequencies above 5 kHz. I got the design from Don Lancaster's Filter Cookbook. Well, it didn't sound right, or particularly good, for that matter. So I went back to the book, and found out how the components were used to minimize passband ripple, phase shift, etc. I then "unbalanced" everything for maximum phase and ripple issues, and voilà! It sounded really good.

I recently compared a bunch of Waves EQs. Their analog emulations are quite accurate, and it was interesting to see how they emulated the various "imperfections." There's
an interesting article on their website that describes what's involved in their modeling process.

Quote
I don't have anything against ITB, I recognize their value. I have my own reasons for OTB processing.

I think most people have some favorite outboard gear that no plug-in replaces, otherwise DAWs wouldn't include those "external processor" plug-ins to simplify running OTB gear in the context of a DAW.

Last edited by Anderton; 01/25/20 07:25 PM.
Re: Mastering PRO TIP! [Re: The Real MC] #3025764 01/25/20 08:16 PM
Joined: Sep 2019
Posts: 822
KuruPrionz Offline
Gold Member
Offline
Gold Member
Joined: Sep 2019
Posts: 822
Originally Posted by The Real MC
I have my own reasons for OTB processing.


That is all that matters in the end, choosing a path and refining your workflow around it.

I would say I have a hybrid path. I work at getting the sounds and arrangements I want going in. This reduces the need for plugins when mixing.
I do use ambience and modulation, mostly in parallel with an unaffected track. Comparions with analog gear don't come into consideration if I can get something I like with a plugin. So far so good.

Sometimes it is a simple thing, the Rotosound TruBass strings are smooth and eliminate the sounds made by sliding your fingers over roundwound strings.
They are not as bright as roundwounds but still have great definition, sustain and enough sparkle for most bass parts. WAY more to my liking than any other flatwound string I've tried.
I emulate Carol Kaye's timeless advice about a "25 cent piece of foam under the strings at the bridge" by using a pick and my palm on the strings for some parts.

Little things that made a big difference. I won't write a list here. I will start a "What's your Best simple secrets" thread so we can have them all in one place.

Once I get the tracks recorded, I've chosen to mix ITB. I don't have a lot of space, or a budget to acquire the gear and I have an instinctive dislike of cables and connectors because 90% of my problems troubleshooting audio end up being about those components.

Currently all my audio processing hardware is for input only and fits in a single 4 space rack - a Presonus Quantum interface, a Focusrite ISA One preamp, a Cloudlifter CL-2 and an FMR RNC.
I do regret not keeping my Moog Parametric EQ, but that was sold decades ago when I didn't really have a use for it. Would be very handy now, even if I had to get a 6 space rack to fit it in.
Cheers, Kuru


There is never enough time to be in a hurry...
Re: Mastering PRO TIP! [Re: Anderton] #3026086 01/27/20 02:07 PM
Joined: Aug 2006
Posts: 107
Greg Mein Offline
Senior Member
Offline
Senior Member
Joined: Aug 2006
Posts: 107
Originally Posted by Anderton
Hey Greg - the first thing I'd suggest is to make sure all your tracks have a consistent frequency response.



I appreciate the great suggestions! I'd recorded quite a few songs but it's been years. I'm finally spending some time recording again and will essentially do it all ITB. Due to a couple moves in recent years I'd sold off most outboard gear I had. As a hobbyist I can take my time and do as much experimenting as I like and frankly, it's just more convenient for me to keep most of it in the software. I guess what I'm really trying to do is get as much clarity and separation as I can on tracks. I've spent a lot of time on just one song but I'm hoping to develop an overall method that I can use as I record more.

Re: Mastering PRO TIP! [Re: Anderton] #3026178 01/27/20 08:16 PM
Joined: Jan 2000
Posts: 8,338
Anderton Offline OP
MPN Advisory Board
MP Hall of Fame Member
OP Offline
MPN Advisory Board
MP Hall of Fame Member
Joined: Jan 2000
Posts: 8,338
To me, clarity and separation is 90% about EQ. Others may disagree smile

Re: Mastering PRO TIP! [Re: Anderton] #3026203 01/27/20 10:43 PM
Joined: Mar 2001
Posts: 11,067
David Holloway Offline
10k Club
Offline
10k Club
Joined: Mar 2001
Posts: 11,067
Originally Posted by Anderton
To me, clarity and separation is 90% about EQ. Others may disagree smile


From even my ignorant viewpoint in this area that seems the most important. I tend to outsource my mastering and that's certainly what I listen for when the tracks come back.

Re: Mastering PRO TIP! [Re: Anderton] #3026303 01/28/20 12:47 PM
Joined: Feb 2005
Posts: 312
Mike Rivers Offline
Senior Member
Offline
Senior Member
Joined: Feb 2005
Posts: 312
Originally Posted by Anderton
To me, clarity and separation is 90% about EQ. Others may disagree smile


The other 90% is mic choice and placement. wink

Re: Mastering PRO TIP! [Re: Mike Rivers] #3026350 01/28/20 05:02 PM
Joined: Jan 2000
Posts: 8,338
Anderton Offline OP
MPN Advisory Board
MP Hall of Fame Member
OP Offline
MPN Advisory Board
MP Hall of Fame Member
Joined: Jan 2000
Posts: 8,338
Originally Posted by Mike Rivers
Originally Posted by Anderton
To me, clarity and separation is 90% about EQ. Others may disagree smile


The other 90% is mic choice and placement. wink


If you're doing mic choice and placement during mastering, you have more problems than just EQ!

Re: Mastering PRO TIP! [Re: Anderton] #3026365 01/28/20 06:11 PM
Joined: Sep 2019
Posts: 822
KuruPrionz Offline
Gold Member
Offline
Gold Member
Joined: Sep 2019
Posts: 822
Originally Posted by Anderton
To me, clarity and separation is 90% about EQ. Others may disagree smile


This quite brought me back to reality!!!

Yes, mastering is very, very different than tracking. My Waveform workflow is to "master" as I go, others may do the same. In a humble home studio with the attendent virtually non-exisitent budget and no clients (well, one now), this works well for me.

Master as most people understand it is taking the final mix and polishing it, making it ready for the real world. VERY different.
I would not dispute the statement about clarity and EQ in any case.

Do people send you stems or tracks?


There is never enough time to be in a hurry...
Re: Mastering PRO TIP! [Re: Anderton] #3026389 01/28/20 08:00 PM
Joined: Jan 2000
Posts: 8,338
Anderton Offline OP
MPN Advisory Board
MP Hall of Fame Member
OP Offline
MPN Advisory Board
MP Hall of Fame Member
Joined: Jan 2000
Posts: 8,338
They mostly send tracks, although I often ask them to run off mixes with vocals +1 dB and -1 dB, as well as the level they like.

Re: Mastering PRO TIP! [Re: Anderton] #3026397 01/28/20 08:24 PM
Joined: Feb 2005
Posts: 312
Mike Rivers Offline
Senior Member
Offline
Senior Member
Joined: Feb 2005
Posts: 312
Originally Posted by Anderton


If you're doing mic choice and placement during mastering, you have more problems than just EQ!


And if you're doing much EQ in mastering to get separation and clarity, whoever placed the mics didn't do his job. That's not what "mastering" is supposed to be about, but sadly, these days, it is.

Re: Mastering PRO TIP! [Re: Mike Rivers] #3026424 01/28/20 10:27 PM
Joined: Jan 2000
Posts: 8,338
Anderton Offline OP
MPN Advisory Board
MP Hall of Fame Member
OP Offline
MPN Advisory Board
MP Hall of Fame Member
Joined: Jan 2000
Posts: 8,338
Originally Posted by Mike Rivers
Originally Posted by Anderton


If you're doing mic choice and placement during mastering, you have more problems than just EQ!


And if you're doing much EQ in mastering to get separation and clarity, whoever placed the mics didn't do his job. That's not what "mastering" is supposed to be about, but sadly, these days, it is.


So much is done direct and in the box that often, "mic placement" is making sure the vocalist is miked correctly (and hoping the vocalist has good mic technique). But the another factor is that few musicians all record in the same room at the same time, so mic placement is more about capturing the full sound of something because you have no idea what else will be in the mix. I think EQ and balance should be the province of the mix, not mastering. But IMHO, even a really good mix can benefit from some mastering techniques.

Re: Mastering PRO TIP! [Re: Anderton] #3026452 01/29/20 01:08 AM
Joined: Sep 2019
Posts: 822
KuruPrionz Offline
Gold Member
Offline
Gold Member
Joined: Sep 2019
Posts: 822
Originally Posted by Anderton
They mostly send tracks, although I often ask them to run off mixes with vocals +1 dB and -1 dB, as well as the level they like.


So you are also "mastering as you mix" often. EQ is still paramount. Clarity can be addressed but could be a challenge depending on what's been given.
And probably treading on thin ice regarding effects, panning, relative volume of instruments etc.

I was in the room at a small studio long ago (Assisting) when the Engineer/Mixer/Producer was mixing a session with the band present. Everybody wanted their instrument turned up.
He took a break, told the band to choose one member to represent them and asked the rest of them to leave. Too many cooks!

I'm guessing it is "interesting" at times. More because ther is nobody to provide guidance rather than too many.

Recently there was a remix contest I thought I would enter and when I lined up the tracks and hit play I realized that the drummer could not execute a simple tom tom fill in the intro, he hosed it 4 times in a row. I let it run a little longer until I could hear them trying to sing and then I hit stop - delete! I guess if I had to mix it for a paid job I could have but ugh... :- D


There is never enough time to be in a hurry...
Re: Mastering PRO TIP! [Re: KuruPrionz] #3026474 01/29/20 03:09 AM
Joined: Jan 2000
Posts: 8,338
Anderton Offline OP
MPN Advisory Board
MP Hall of Fame Member
OP Offline
MPN Advisory Board
MP Hall of Fame Member
Joined: Jan 2000
Posts: 8,338
Originally Posted by KuruPrionz
Originally Posted by Anderton
They mostly send tracks, although I often ask them to run off mixes with vocals +1 dB and -1 dB, as well as the level they like.


So you are also "mastering as you mix" often. EQ is still paramount. Clarity can be addressed but could be a challenge depending on what's been given.
And probably treading on thin ice regarding effects, panning, relative volume of instruments etc.
I'm afraid that wasn't clear, by "tracks" I meant stereo mixes, not individual tracks.

We need an audio language police smile How many definitions are there for "loop," anyway?

Re: Mastering PRO TIP! [Re: Anderton] #3026476 01/29/20 03:21 AM
Joined: Sep 2019
Posts: 822
KuruPrionz Offline
Gold Member
Offline
Gold Member
Joined: Sep 2019
Posts: 822
Originally Posted by Anderton
Originally Posted by KuruPrionz
Originally Posted by Anderton
They mostly send tracks, although I often ask them to run off mixes with vocals +1 dB and -1 dB, as well as the level they like.


So you are also "mastering as you mix" often. EQ is still paramount. Clarity can be addressed but could be a challenge depending on what's been given.
And probably treading on thin ice regarding effects, panning, relative volume of instruments etc.
I'm afraid that wasn't clear, by "tracks" I meant stereo mixes, not individual tracks.

We need an audio language police smile How many definitions are there for "loop," anyway?


Got it. Tracks drive me loopy too!!!!
"Final mixes" is a bit cumbersome.


There is never enough time to be in a hurry...

Moderated by  Anderton 

Powered by UBB.threads™ PHP Forum Software 7.7.3