Common Problems and Solutions


DIY Mastering


Lesson Info

Common Problems and Solutions

I guess the first thing I'll say since we although there's coming problems ambassador and I get it someone's almost every week what they're the most cod problems you guys have already think that you guys see on a daily basis that really gets to you vocals not being loud enough or eardrums being too loud were they overshadow things? Okay, so translation I personally seem to have like, a hard time getting enough high end in my mixes okay um and it really bothers me gotcha. Sometimes I feel like I'm walking the line between having too much bass and not enough presence of the base gotcha. Yeah that'd be the same with me, sir. Yeah. Okay, um I think a lot of those tend to be problems in the mix, but there are ways we could correct those. Um so, um I think uh particular with the, you know, the translating of the kick it's stare at the vocal we talked about that is my first thing it's there could be is that you you probably want to move your monitors around and figure out as you said, you're ...

getting some new monitors and that's probably some of the mexican the headphones think that you're going through his change your moderate situation the trouble is interesting because I think that a lot of time that's comes for the mike preys you're using um and that you need to get mike priest that respond teo frequencies different and have amore present high and easy and then any q that handles turning that up and then with base I tend to find that the biggest power on bases bases the last after throwing a lot of people have because guitars and drums vocals are so fun and play with it that we go okay where is this go? And I think a lot of time it's how do you integrate the base earlier in the process of making amore orton part of the process so it's funny because like, you know where we keep hearing about this thing that so much of this is about the micks and the master and you know the master's determined so much by the mix so almost all these are kind of mixing dash tracking problems and then the bastard is just where you go oh no, I didn't get this right now I have to deal with it and it's really about dealing with it at a different stage um so let's go through a few things that we can deal with right here, so I'm going to go back to my friends and love electric said this is the one that I admitted yesterday that I realised clipped but then when you know what I like the way this clips and it sounds awesome so the way we deal with clipping and, you know, I just did a re master of, like, a classic record for a lot of people that was gonna go out on vinyl and the big complete with this record was there's a great record, but it really sounded terrible, and I didn't listen to the record enough, but I know I was in that ballpark of saying this record sounds terrible when I didn't realize was is this record was totally clipped because what I did when I brought it in to re master, it was the first thing I did is I went to my input gain at the top of my plug in chain, and I just turned it down sixty bead, and I did nothing else to it. There is no other plug it on. I would this record sounds great, and it really was that the mastering engineer played the game with the loudness war, and he went way too loud, and while it shouldn't be the case that I should be able to repair it's so just as easy as turning down that fader what was so funny about this record as it was clipped in a way that that was as easy as the solution wass is, I just brought that down I brick wall, living in it. Now if it is clipped as we said yesterday, it's best to go into your mix and turn down your failures and get it unclipped, especially since we're doing ourselves. But if that's not an option let's say your hard drive died and you're trying to salvage a mix that you did that was good enough to use and you did clip it the first thing we want to do is have room to work so let's go down twelve d b and c where we have room to work I mean they usually tell you to start down about sixty be on the first thing in your chain um and see if that gives you some rooms so that that way you can eq u around you can add compression and all sorts of things that bring out the volume without it being so harsh equipped if you find yourself having to do some really crazy q you might need it to go down twelve d b um so we could go back to the kino um like I said it's best to solve this of the becks but working with you with what you got and bring it down so you don't clip mohr to give yourself some head room to work with it's so easy to do this I know sometimes it's so painful to just take this step and admit you messed up but it's really crucial the next issue that I see all far too office when we discussed yesterday as well which is it that the sampling rate you sent is just not what's right? Um when I liketo always say is that if you recorded this song at sixteen mid forty four water twenty four forty four one and you play it on adding some distortion to it bring it on up to the multiple of that so if you worked at forty four one bring it on up you're always going to bring it up to twenty for bit but bring it on up from forty four one ta ta too if you're at forty eight bringing up to ninety six so you're doing clean math once you do that then you could start to your process. One of the reasons we do this is me and a lot of other people are very convinced that the plug ins are all thes days designed toe work at ninety six or eighty eight to so the math is designed there and they sound better there's more openness and when you add harmonics and bring out things in the mix it brings out air that gets brought in by those harmonics and details they get brought in those harmonics um so the next problem becomes too much bass are too much trouble um so the easy answer for this is cq or use a multi bad per table the funny thing is, is I you know, I make the jokes about getting masters that air twelve d be too hot on base it's, usually just two or three, but that two or three is a big difference when you're talking about your overall mix it's a big difference to play around with this a little bit. So, um, what I'm going to do next is show a little bit about how you decipher which of these tools to use, so I'm going to use in track by a band we used a bunch yesterday called the stolen and I'm going to go in, and I'm going to add too much trouble to this and show how I would deal as if this actually did have too much trouble, so I'm going to use a really harsh e q to make my job extra hard while I work on speakers that aren't mine, and I'm going to put way too much for kay here first, so let's see how horrible the sound makes this sound. So obviously the first thing is is because I recorded this with this our master this with this car, but the first thing I wanna do is get rid of any high end e q that I was doing in the first place and then look at what my multi ben compression is, since I'm gonna be working on the trouble here the frequency that's affected I'm gonna want to see what it's like without that so I could really judge so I'm seeing that's still on so I'm gonna go in here and I'm gonna swoop around and try to find which frequency I find this to be pleasant so because I know this is too much trouble I'm usually going to use the shelving que so I'm going to run around and try to figure out where in the shelf I'm gonna find team this down? No way the funny thing is is I think yeah, I added seventy be at four kilohertz, but what sounding right to meet because all these accuse of different curves it's not an exact science and you can't just copy down and just do the exact same thing since I used this really cheap q that's meant to anyway djs accuse somewhere around five kilohertz and going down five d b seems right for me to balance that, but my job is not quite done because now it's still really ratty and nasty on there. So so what I'm noticing is knowing this track as well as I do I still don't hear it excitement the high end though after I took this out so I'm going to kind of go around and try to find a really broad stroke ae q in the high end to find another solution of this wait so as you see there, I lowered the cue down now on that cue, and then I moved it around a little bit. Now, I know by hearing this because I've done this so many times that a wide queue somewhere in the mid range was going to cure what I wanted, but that's part of this practice is that you need to learn that, um, I if you notice what I do a lot of time is I find around somewhere where I'm like you, but I know I'm never going to get the exact point, right? And I turned it down until I get somewhere where I like it, and then I refined the frequency that sometimes I go back and refine the gain a second time and say, ok, this is where this feels good, but I'm mostly moving around until I hear, you know, like, when I was listening to there is like I wasn't hearing an excitement in the vocal and the kick in the stair that I was hearing before I wasn't hearing the attack of the guitar is even though I did my trouble, I got my multi band set back to a point where it seemed right, but it still wasn't quite close enough, um, so if we could go back to the keynote that's, pretty much how I deal with finding a more broad, que, um, we'll get into the surgery like you when we get into that bastard's with these tracks and a few minutes um, if we so, the next thing we have is over compression, so upward expansion could help alleviate some of the over compression or help dull mixes. So this is a big one, too. Now, my biggest thing, obviously, is when we're doing d I y or when I'm dealing with clients, I know I go back, and I say you used too much compression. This is horrible, so ratios of less than one the one wealth that's someone correct someone not ratio is less than what it were raised the level I think that falls below the threshold. You want to gently increase the levels instead of compressing up. So if you think of a compressor, has patting down a signal that hits it, what this is going to do is it's going to say, come up with the signal when it get goes above that? So cool example of this is back to my friends and streets on fire from virginia beach. Um, so on this track wasn't over compressed as much as I use the technique in there with this up, you know what, I'm gonna back out of this one? I'm gonna to a different because that's a better example for later um so I'm gonna go to my good friend todd thomas was the co author of my books banned sexual harassment um todd's group sexual harassment really awesome awesome dance group but for the sake of it I'm going over compress this song will but so here's what we wear so I like this example because this song will react really bad teo over compression because it should be very open um so I now turned up the compressor three times to what it really was at on this song and what I'm going to go in and do is I'm gonna go and make a new alchemist and we're going to pretend all this was printed on here and I'm gonna actually copy the one I had uh never um so I'm going to make five bands I'm going to determine which of these bands seems the worst. So theo eso all this sounds particularly bad to me, but the base and the upper mid some particularly terrible. So to me I'm hearing around one hundred e hurts for the base and about four k, so I'm going to make a band on this that allows me to tweak those so since those are gonna be where I'm mostly tweak, I'm gonna use the red in the purple here a whole lot so on here um you see a setting called expander so there's four different modes for this and I'm pretty sure this is the moment you mean to use I sometimes get this confused and I should have done my homework on that one let's give it a try I'm using the wrong one and ah s so as you can see there immediately wants that red pocket starr said the base becomes a little less horrible muted gets a little of its life back wait with life restored from something that god destroyed dude if thin what I would think you know when something is over compressed to make it louder to a certain degree I don't know because it it just kind of goes tio you're not necessarily making it louder you're restoring you're going over a certain point make this move mohr again because the problem is what could be more dynamic I should yeah legacy well compressions doing is yeah it's lessing that movement and some movement sounds good, which is why we hate you know as much as I've been defending the loudness wars there is as we've seen a point where it gets too much and that can breathe some movement in some life and excitement back into an open track yeah so it's it's kind of just a weird concept to me because in my head and I don't know why this is I I want to go the other direction uh but the other directions compression eso like making a more complete it's it's doing the opposite I don't know why okay well I mean let me also say this let's hope you don't ever have to do this there are creative ways to do this and you know so for example we're talking camera and I in the break and I was talking about I actually use on snare drums a lot of time I'll use upward expansion on the high end so with the biggest thing was when you add high end on an e que tu a snare drum is that then you're turning up the high hat so what I do is whatever the stair drug gets hit I make it shoot up that high end so I only get the high end when the snare hits and it gives a real pop to the snare I programmed my alchemist to do that I said a threshold and all of a sudden my snare has this vibrance that I couldn't usually get without making the hi hat bleed that's what this tool comes in handy hopefully if you're doing this stuff yourself you don't have to do this I usually make somebody solve this problem about the bix what I do it it's very rare that I'm gonna ever have to use this tool um so the next problem we have is not punchy enough if we could go back to the kino um so oftentimes we get to the mastering stage, you could feel like your songs and punching tough, especially as he tried to make it sound loud since when we get to that to d point. Um, that's part of the thing is you lose some of the punch tape saturation, particularly those plug ins when you turn them too high, what I tend to find that's nice is they smooth things out but cheered you hot. They make everything spotty instead of pudgy. Um, you want to get the sort of more you may need to deal with your bass frequencies and that's the one thing is to is that, you know, there's always so much you could do to read revive punch in there if your bases all over the place and it's just wobbling around in a mess of much, uh, we want to make sure you're compressors, attack and release settings are optimized in order to do this. So I'm going to stick with sexual harassment here, and I'm going to get this compressor back to where it wass and we're going to go in and start from scratch with no compression and use fred thie, ssl compressor and deal with this guy getting this truck nice and punchy, so, um, my first day, my first instinct when this program, especially since we just heard this is that a slow attack at a fast release? They're going to punch that is usually the case there's some programme material like slow wavy music um that that's not going to the case like you know it's gonna be hard get something without punch already in the truck to do it but I know this truck has a lot of punch because these guys tracked it really well um so doing this tracks pretty punchy as it is without any compression and I took the surat compressor I had on before I bypassed it, but let's say they're telling me they want more I'm gonna try to find a way to do it so what I just found is there was a point where I turned the threshold up too high it got a little spotty and less plan chief there is a just right place yet again around that two d b when I moved the attack up the kick got a little dick and quickie instead of punchy why turned the release up? It was dragging on so it wasn't letting that compressor that kick drum pop through um in general when you're trying to get something more punchy and it wasn't punchy, this is gonna be where you go to or your multi ben compressor so on our multi bed compressor what I would sometimes do as if they were still like this is not enough so what I just did there was I turned the attack up just like I did and made the release faster, but I didn't find that helped much. Um what I did find helped a lot more was to just get rid of the bottom end. Now I found are the bottom end of the multi band compressor. Now, when I was actually mastering this track, theo, you know, I was hitting it with a a little bit on there, but if they had said they wanted even more punch, I would have gotten rid of that. That compression was not helping our cause at all and wasn't doing it every time. This is going to something different. The hypothesis I walked into this with I had to trust my years and then realized it was not the right hypothesis. I think that goes yet again with the thing of it, we can conceptualize and somebody could give you a recipe of saying let's attack more released. This is gonna work, but it's already compressed enough it's not gonna work because you're already too far past that so we can go back to the key note. I think we have one last common thing, which is harsh meds. This is a all too common problem. Um, oftentimes mixes khun sound great, but they have hard and abrasive mids um, this could be addressed with the other multiple stages will be banned compression or you could e q it so on this one, I'm going to go to my friends in hey, ana, this song is out on their band camp, which if you google hey, ana, at band camp, I'm sure you can get it, and I suggest you because it's awesome. Um, so as you can see here, when I did this song, there was a little mid dip in the queue, but so for example, if we listen this song there's a lot of mitch, especially when you see how much basis for mom wait, they get signed and I get called and say jesse loved the song way too much mids, what am I going to deal with us? So are due to deal with this cell, the first thing I'm gonna do since I've used up all my cubans is I'm going to have to make another um, so I'm gonna go here, and the first thing I'm gonna say is I know that I won't personally be happy with the song if I have to just suck out all the mid so I have to find some examples, so the first thing I'm gonna think about is what's the most moving frequency in the midst wait so what I hear is like a little woolly sound on the vocal that if I got rid of maybe that would be what they don't like and maybe I could get some more intelligently. So how do I find that you just watched me dio since I do this so fast, since I'm so used to doing this is I turned this que tu as narrow as possible just twenty five points, which is abnormally narrow like no analog piece of gear does that this is a digital domain thing only, but this is also a very comedy qu here on a lot of mixes these days is that because you could do this in the digital domain? I hear this all over dance music, particularly these days is that there's these narrow cuts over all over all sorts synthesizers and kick drums and stairs? So anyway, I'm going to turn this up and then I'm going to crank these frequencies and find that frequency I don't like, so since I just took a break for this, I'm gonna try to here where I hear that frequency again so I can memorize that frequency here now now I'm going to try to find it, so the way I find it is I turn up this a whole lot of dbs and then I moved the frequency dob to try to find it wait so I rooted around I found the frequency I didn't like and then after that I narrowed the cue tto what seemed more reasonable place sometimes I move that queue up endowed too, but I found a frequency point where I was no longer hearing as much of that frequency so inevitably because in our men in and licensing people are satan on earth they're going to call me up and say I still want less mids and I'm going to get depressed and then do my job um so I'm going to say they must mean a more broad stroke they didn't just mean my nerdy little tweak so I'm going to try to find a way of to us so I'm going to go and make a very broad q and I'm gonna start off with about three is as broad as I would go in and try to find a place where I can still be happy and we can have west bids wait so taking down another d be a core it makes it a little bit mohr radio friendly instead of college radio friendly there um same thing that's how I find as I go through I make a wide span I find a frequency where it seems did not be taking away from the song as much and then I play around with how much of it I should go and how narrow the q should go that's some of the most basic parts of mastering, especially when you hear something you don't like in there that's how I find it um so if we could go back to the keynote um the key takeaways for the section are if you can go back to the mix, start there as we've said a million times, you won't be able to fix everything, but if you were your tools, you can fix a whole lot and, you know, I even was pleasantly surprised how much were the fix of that overly compressed song and even the best mixes often, you know, I love that mix I did for them, but as you can see that curve that I had made, there was some weird, weird shapes and they're, you know, that's not one that any audio school professors ever going to tell you to do, but it's, what worked to get that truck the way they wanted it? So before we go ahead, is there any questions? Absolutely. First of all, I really want that record I'm going to get it, I love it, yeah, they're awesome and I'm surrounded by metal heads here, but it hurts when you say that I call you a metal head anyway, I like that record, so I'm pop punk metal, you big metal fitting, you know, pop punk like pop punk a lot all right, well this question we've talked about a few times but it keeps coming up so maybe don't talk about it again okay great and this was from bro mo off all up and then photo say pm the question it kind of is why not just do the mix then just use mastering plug ins on the master versus exporting the mix first why why why is there any reason why you would not just do it on the master bus of your mix? Sure rather you should do it on your master bucks a bus of the mix you should be mixing with mastering I think we should make that more apparent we talked about this a little yesterday then the problem becomes though is there's two problems that people run into is one they don't have enough dsp to do that and they want to use these really really computer consume big plug ins that don't allow you that they can't open because they have so many pockets of the other trucks. Secondly, you sometimes want to do this after the fact so you could match your tracks to what another on a bigger release so those are the two reasons to do it but I encourage you to put this stuff out and do it in the mix and get your mixes right as possible and then deal with it later if you have to make it bled with a greater record but if you're just doing a single and you have the plug in power go right ahead and do it right on your mix there is no reason to not it's not against the law as you like to say it's not against the law and in fact it's encouraged but you know another question along the same lines that I know you dressed a little bit before but a couple versions of the same question why not go back into the mix and fix it there and and then he goes to his fara say what's the point of mastering is there anything in mastering that couldn't be done while you're mixing yes so the perfect example is like what we talked about yesterday that while I was mixing that stolen a record is that I do it overall e q of putting everything mohr, tremblay and everything more basie as a whole I tend to find that not putting that hack you want everything to start and making it more faizi it sometimes works perry because also the thing you're not thinking about it the sheik was hitting post everything so I'm doing lots of compressors and if you have something that's way more troubling going into a reverb trent too much trouble sounds terrible in a reverb but turning up the trouble on something after it's been in reverb sounds way way way better compressing the overall so uh, mixed bus sounds wave different than compressing all the trucks do some people do that way? Like we talked before about how some mixers don't do you compress the two bus? You wouldn't often hear a difference between them compressing the two bucks in the tryst because they do so much compressive the tracks that it works but they found a way to do it. One of my favor mixes of the past three years is that sort of usher climax that I found out that has no too much to mix compression and that song sums justus compressed as any other song it sounds beautiful it's just the means of how you get there but I will also say it's a very, very big difference doing all this stuff to it if you can get your mixed the sound fantastic without doing anything to the two bus and then do some stuff for the to bust, you could also do it. The other thing about this is this could be and even more of an improvement at the ad like when I really have time you know the other thing I should make it say before we even get to this next session I'm a professional and because of that I'm not like a lot of you guys in that I'm not recording my own stuff I literally every day of my calendar like the hour I get back from seattle, I have to start working again, and I worked till the hour I had to get on the plane, I was literally running off files and sending them to people. I don't have an infinite amount of time to work, and some of these things are because I know how to get a great result fast for people that they think sounds really, really good. So if you want to go through this process of getting everything sound perfect with nothing, and then see if you can make it better, max, I salute you for having those time you and I were joking last night about how you spent I'm not going to say the rial number about of ours on the song, and I said, I haven't done that in four years, problem? Well, my limited experience is that there are a lot of things that if if you do it in mastering because it applies, plus every element song, it really has an effect of gluing and sort of makes everything just come together and feel nicer in a way that doesn't seem to happen when you do the same thing individually to the channels that is totally the case is, well, I think you can achieve a similar sound if you're using your tools properly, but I tend to find that this is the way I found a result, and I think that that's, another key takeaway from this course in general, is that there's a lot of ways to skin this cat. And if you find one that works for you that's great, I'm showing you what mine are so you can build your own. No one does the same, you know, I learned under alland ouch is steve of its and ross robinson. I don't do things even very close to what those guys did. I learned from them and I made my own tool set rules, and they work well for me, and people hire me for those and people hire them for them and we all make different flavors that we should not be all the same. If you could skin your cat that way and get a great result, you're happy with your awesome thank you are awesome and you just you don't have to say back, I just I understand, and I thank you for being so yeah, I just just want no thanks.

Class Description

Mastering is often the difference between a good recording and a bad one, but mastering is notoriously difficult to understand. In this two-day workshop, sound engineer Jesse Cannon — who’s worked with the likes of Ross Robinson, Saves the Day, Animal Collective, The Misfits and Man Overboard — shares what he’s learned about mastering from working at top-tier studios like WestWestSide Music and Cannon Found Soundation. 

While there’s no substitute for having an engineer master your music, that’s just not feasible for many artists. This class is the next best thing: a comprehensive guide to DIY mastering.

Jesse breaks down the mastering process from start to finish. You’ll discover the basic principles behind mastering, and learn about the processes and tools at your disposal. Jesse will identify and troubleshoot basic rookie mistakes, discuss lesser-known essential concepts as well as share his essential behind-the-board tools as he takes you through a few real-life examples.

After two days with Jesse, you’ll have everything you need to master your tracks with affordable tools.


Michael Pena

This class was awesome. Jesse goes into detail about the mastering process and best practices for mastering in an easy to understand way. The live mastering session was very informative and educational.