What is Mastering
Why don't we hear the difference between some mastered an on master material if we could turn over to the computer ah nah discreet I'd love to play you guys showman some and, uh well, listen back so this first track is a band called with electric there out of new jersey great promising young bad that to iraq some rock stuff this's their own master track you get your kicks from candy oh, I got your bed made you're in the master it's a little flattened cardboard e at times and then once we get some mastering on you get your kicks from kansas got your bed made so obviously that's a little bit more exciting when you get to that master this's ah metal band out of new jersey called ascending from ashes. Obviously with this we wanted to get it that big full metal sound if you look at the wave form difference on this one, you can obviously there's a bit of difference of dynamics between the two. So this is the unmasked heard one god knows. So obviously I would not be too happy if that went out...
into the world sounding like that. But the funny thing is is with some good mastering that could sound like this thief now a little bit of a difference so then, you know, obviously we get into dance music you know so much of the sound of modern dance music today is the way the compression released times pump especially your multi band compression on debts this is a great group out of virginia beach called street's on fire they bruce a lot of dance hip hop melted stuff this is a track they did this's theon mastered version yeah got way, baby so then you know, they gave me a pretty great track with with this instrumentally but then once you get some mastering on it, you really get it pumping and going yeah, you want a baby right now? Cool. So what did you guys hear in those a b examples? Well, I just want to say how cool it is that you're using all the different genres you really get to see the difference. I'm very lucky to get to work on a really diverse set every day because if I didn't I'd be really boy bored with my life and I see you over there rocking out to every one of those you know I'm so lucky to get to work on so much stuff I actually go home and listen to afterwards self that's pretty I run by bike to that song like almost every day to work that's awesome what you guys think on particularly what I noticed especially with the metal example well like the dynamics were all over the place before the master and those base booms were a lot fatter as soon as the master is on there. That's for sure. In that last track, I could hear you mentioned the compression and the kind of the releasing of it in the throbbing mess of it more so than in the first unmask her example. Yeah, that's. A big thing with dance today is the way the compression moves is so much of the mixes. Thes days cool. So off. Okay, we can we get some more answers from you guys? Can we have everyone else put in their two cents? I think a simple thing, uh, that makes a big difference. That I've noticed. Is that there's just the tiniest little bit of reverb on everything like it opens up the the whole entire song, it makes it sound less cardboard, as you put it. So all of them have a little bit more reverb just to kind of cleared up a little bit, or lighten it up. Well, it's interesting, I think, is that a lot of the time, the mastering brings out the reverb tales that you already have in there, too, which is really super helpful. What I loved in that last example was that it didn't sound so bad, you know, in the unmixed version but you can hear like a lot of the samples and a lot of like that stuff that kind of floats like beneath the surface ah lot better in the master version yeah, yeah, I just didn't in general I would I would say especially a being it is really interesting because I think most people would hear the unmasked attracted me like okay, when they when they hear the master track we're like, okay, that that's what I hear on the radio you know, and that's a big part of what we're going to go over to is that you have to have a goal for what you're goingto want to get too, because a lot of time you're like, oh, my track sounds good but then when you start listening to other tracks next to it with volume master like my kid was just not that big and you know it's because of my daily depression every day until I get it right that I I feel like I'm the king of the world and, you know, run outside and stop stop signs and all that fun stuff cool and shawna nami says the master versions are on more three dimensional uh that's a great observation as well yeah, I mean, I think that's the one of the things that you really want to see is that you don't get flatter like I think that's wouldn't I know I went too far in a master is when it starts getting more two d instead of three d on dh that's an important thing though its to do that's a great observation so we talk about what else is mastering um a lot of it can also be you know, putting songs in order getting it the spacings right if you have cool transitions that could be a really big deal um you know um a lot of times some people will come with really conceive song transitions etcetera etcetera so you want to make sure you put that together in the session there we go um you are trimmed song starts and ends you know, obviously no one likes to hear a twenty second ring out on the guitar at the end of a song they wantto have the next song come in and have it feel consistent in a record um another big thing with mastering you'll do is these days you know somebody with a music business book you want you always want to make instrumentals of your songs because if someone picks up her licensing you could have you know anywhere from five hundred to ten thousand dollars in the bank all of a sudden because within twenty four hours notice you had your instrumental ready to go and somebody uses it while kim kardashian princes around a pool or something um you want to have radio at its with your curse is lifted in case somebody wants to give you that awesome radio play or you know if you want to change your lyrics like mr drake and make them much more pg do your thing um a lot of time tio do alternate mixes you know, one of the biggest tricks in the book is that you know especially if you're mixing on analog desk is you'll do a vocal up vocal down if you're not sure if you like is the kick drum to out and you and the singer or fighting over it make one with the kick down make women to kick up send it to the mastering engineer what him settle your fight or if you're the master engineer settled a week later when you have a clear perspective um the other thing that sometimes could be done mastering like so we heard that track with the big sub base hits on the metal stuff sometimes you'll make, uh pass of the mixes with just the sub hits and passed with the main thing then you can after you put your mastering on you can level out those sub hits and want to meet them to the mastering a lot of people seem to be doing that especially in the dance world in the metal world is that you need these crazy dynamics and you need to balance those absolutely perfect and then, of course, we get to the most boring part of mastering, which is offering metadata so that's, how you get songs to show up in itunes and you know when you're in your car and it shows up from the radio and everything and putting in irc irc numbers and it's a whole lot of geeky fun. It's really the happiest part of my day every time I do that. So the other big question we get to is how is mastering different the mixing mastering tends to be just adjusting a stereo mics, whereas mixing were adjusting all the different tracks. Um, the other thing about mastering is if you're doing a release with more than one song is you want to get a consistency and polish on both the individual mix and one that makes sense across the record? You obviously we've all heard records were like, well, there's a lot of bass on that song and that one's real quiet that's bad master um the one funny thing is is mastering doesn't need to be different. The mixing is that if you have the d s p on your computer, you can put all the mastering on while you mix I actually because I master all day. I tend to put a master on the mix and work off that I listened to it with a mastering plug in on it so I can hear back what I'm going to hear at the end and then at the end when I I couldn't make a divided headspace where I go okay no more touching instruments let's try to make this master's goes possible I'll think about an overall e q tweak that a little bit and then if I realize what I'm doing that overall u q you know you could just get rid of that frequency by taking out the hunk and the singers were de mo voice I go in tow there and as somebody with a funny voice I take part of the part of the fight that they boys I could do that to myself now um so often times you know I think there's a big pressure that's put on all of us who do our own mastering and mixing that it's kind of unneeded because one of the things I learned working in a big mastering houses that won the big mixing guys will call you up and say, hey, I'm working on this big record can I just send you mix in here? The master would sound so I know if my kick and stare too loud or too quiet and then we send one back as we know we're going to get more business from what would be a high profile record and then they're able to go I should turn up the kickin stare after I hear allowed this is made you can do this too and you khun sheet and you can hear your master and you could go back in time and say, well my master has sent a lot better if the kick and stare wear a little louder you have that power by opening another file on doing that you can go back just like you know marty mcfly or whatever um the other thing is, uh mastering is often a compromise to keep a song consistent with a record and it could be really sad when you've like tweaked that bass guitar for hours but then you realize that that base is way too loud compared to the rest of the rest of the record and it's really making a bad decision one of the things were to go over is it's really, really important to once you get all your mixes in the sequence is the bounce around them and listen and make sure they're consistent so you're gonna have to compromise usually almost every record I've ever done there some point where it's like well the bottom end sounds really killer on this one but it might be a little too much compared to the rest of the record and we have to tame something down and it's a sad compromise but you have to be a little ruthless with yourself a times um so you guys were smart enough to not just say the usual answer is isn't mastering just making everything so much louder so it's some genres today it is about making it more aloud and excited I don't want to say loud because you hit a certain point of loudness where it takes away the excitement it gets as we just discussed two d instead of three d gets distorted and crackly and you start losing definition and hearing those cool reverb tails so we're going to find a happy medium in that um with other john doe is like, you know you're doing acoustic power pop like you know and elliott smith records not supposed to be loud it's just supposed to sound prettier and nicer that's a great thing about mastering and you just want to find a way that you know, the songs that are just acoustic versus the songs with a drum track or a drum machine how they all fit together um the other thing about mastering is even when you're doing it yourself is it's about getting an objective perspective so obviously objectivity is tough when it's yourself because we're pretty subjective to get all freud with it um but we do I'm sure you guys have all come back to a mix a week later to go he didn't notice that vocal was that loud and that's objectivity is that we spent enough time away from something that we've regained it, and sometimes you need to do that. And then the other way we can do that is by listening to other songs back to back and hearing the difference between your song and that song. Um, so the other thing about mastering is, um, it's, often times about quality control when we were listening to a song for twelve hours a day. It's really easy to look overlook things, and one of the best things when you have somebody master for you and you can afford to do that, and you have the time is that, you know, I get masters and I call up the guy, and I say, hate to break this to you, but, you know, symbols out of phase or, you know, you mix the song totally mono and hit a hit bounce wrong or something I can hear it was in stereo it's, sometimes nice to just get away and get that perspective, and obviously, if you can't get that perspective for someone else, that's what time and comparisons can give us, um, mastering, you know, when you said it's, somebody else, you know, it's, also about educated years, giving you a final check, people lost perspective, and the one thing about educated years is is when you listen to more things you're getting an education on what else your stuff could sound like so you can be that for yourself um so next time we get to is and the last thing is why is mastering such a big deal so most musicians I know they want to send it to the a and r guy and he's going to come with a suitcase and sign you to a record deal with the whole bunch of money under that contract but the one thing is is what do you want that or not you're gonna have to impress somebody in the music industry at some point you're going to get somebody to want a book you or whatever and when your music's not mastered and at the right volume if they were whistling to the band before you and you're all of a sudden quiet and like sounding weird they're not going to be that impressed and want to give you whatever you want to get from them. Um the other thing about the world today is you know, ten years ago we all had to buy cds and the decide if we like to record or not and now that's not the case is we scans for soundcloud listen to twenty things until something impresses us we don't listen through thirty seconds of music so you have to impress everybody pretty fast because you come up on spotify radio or itunes radio or whatever if it's not immediately right no one has patients for a cause they could so easily find something that's great so it's really important to make a big big impression these days um you know the fact that there was a big thing you know ten twelve years ago that people would make here's my demo and you'd put out your demo on myspace no one does that anymore because no one has the patience for a demo anymore everybody wants to hear a finnish song it's great to demo if you want to hear something back for yourself but putting it out there until everybody wants to hear your b sides and your box set it's not the smartest thing these days because people wanted just hear something that's great um you know music is more competitive ever so you got a kind of roll with the punches so think e takeaways I think from this section are mastering is way more than just making it louder um it really isn't that scary once we get to know a couple of easy concepts and uh today's mastering is not necessarily you know just about or I should say you know you want to make it so that fans in the music business and anybody who hears it is easily impressed and part of that is not having your tracks be too quiet or to basie or sounding weird because you didn't take the time to master it cool is the right questions absolutely let's start when the studio audience you guys have any questions about that always questions? Um, have you ever had a situation where you know, you have that period of objectivity where you, you know, took like a week or two off of something, went back and listen to it after the mastering process or or the beginning of and was like and thought that, you know, certain instruments need to be re recorded and had to confront, you know, somebody too bad about that? This is ah, great questions, so I have a philosophy and I have when I was first starting out, I had a lot of shame that I didn't get things right recording, but one of the things I've learned from producing records is that you don't always every time you get a higher quality like so if I've been a bad practice of doing preproduction with the band, you hear certain things, the song but you can't hear him quite is here good as well, didn't you do a debone you recorded down and like what say, we just get a quick eight track live think of the band out that I can hear more, but then as I actually start recording the song and going track by track by track you gain new perspectives and sometimes you realize that you're cool idea for the distorted bass part should have been a paul mccartney rubber soul bass sound you can either sit and live with that every time you hear a song or you can go back and do it and yes, tio tio answer the question I actually pride myself on all the time that I have no shame and saying I didn't think this through I didn't see this properly let's go re recorded I build time into my productions to actually do that all the time and yeah, I've had to there was a record I did last summer that I remixed it literally the entire record three times and two of them on my own dime because I want this man never great record and I'm not afraid to say what I didn't get something right? And I want to get it right I think you have to do that. Norton make great records is acknowledge our first impressions and first guesses I think you should trust your first impression, alak you know, statistically speaking, they all say that our first impressions are good, but we also have to be open enough to know we don't always get everything right the first try at what time do you just call it like because I know for me ah, especially working with music I always go back and I'll tweak it just a little bit and then I'll give it a week and they'll come back and do something it again like at what point do you say? You know, I feel like this is a good as it's going to get like there's never it's always a hard time for me to find a good stopping point justo be like all right, hands off, you know, that's, why it's such a great question and it's totally right one it helps with I would I do since I don't make my own music um I you should have a deadline that the bands like, well, we didn't have this out next week, so there's a deadline I think it's how helpful to do that and then sew for me a lot of time it survive is like I as we're going to go over waiters, I listened to a lot of other things and eventually I had a point where I say, you know what? This is right? But for years, you know, when I was younger, I couldn't always get to a point where I was like, this is right and it sounds just as good as my favorite record and I've accomplished what I want and I think there's a point where you kind of have to draw invisible deadlines on yourself of just say you know, I want to have this out and being marketed and getting it ready tto release by day x and you know, some of that is learning how long your tracts take to do that stuff like, obviously when you're a dance producer that's ah, tough thing, because you could sit in toil in your bedroom for six months. So there's, all these guys who put out a track every six months here, like, well, should I be waiting six months? And how much of that six months should I be doing? Yeah, events of it for me. Ah, especially if I'm doing got master like playing it out because in the dance music community, having that having that masters is key, especially if you're you're spending it like like a traditional deejay on on a cd j or what have you? And yes, you know, if that doesn't hit right on the dance floor, you immediately it's like sticks in your head you're like, I need to go fix that that has to happen right now, like but that's part of the getting the object objective perspective is that new system gives you a new perspective. So that's that's always like the thing that I feel it's hard for me, it's like I want to be ableto have it sound good on the first try instead of having to play it out and then be like oh, that wasn't quite right I wantto you know but you know it's the funny thing when you talk about that though is this like I have some friends who are big dance producers and you know what they're constantly doing is they're playing it out before they release it they're hearing on that system they're doing it like I think there's a wee as sometimes we forget that everybody's cheating I don't call that cheating but like you know, we hold ourselves sometimes to some standards that really strict yes obviously I think it's a good work ethic to strive to get it right the first time but what's also remember there's a reason diplo goes in the turntable fm and hit something or plays it out at a show and then you hear that song six months later they're testing it on the floor they're hearing the way the based wobbles in the system and then they're going back in nudging out sixty hertz because they heard it wasn't right definitely good insight thank you. All right, well, I think we have a question from the internet, so we've got a question from our buddy tom richfield who if this is the same time retrieval does thea editor of thie excellent one hundred words podcast so this is the same time we're fans shout outs, check out his his work on one hundred words podcast dot com uh, he wants to know do headphones have a place in your mastering or the inappropriate for judging stereo imaging balance, etcetera. Headphones do have a place in your mastering if you know your headphones well, there are great additional perspective, and we're going to actually go over that later. I live in new york city, so I wear headphones everywhere I go, I don't have a car, so to me the car test is if I'm like a little unsure of something, I go walk and get a slice of pizza with my headphones on when I need to clear my head and here in a different way, and just like a lot of people are like, I don't know if it's right so it's in my car, I'm usually not confused much anymore, but like when I get confused the way I know for sure if I got something all right is that walk to the pizza place with these cheap twenty dollars sign has sennheiser headphones on, so headphones have a great place if you know them well and know what you're listening for.