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Author Topic: Mastering is the stage where the mixes are ruined  (Read 12719 times)

Viitalahde

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Mastering is the stage where the mixes are ruined
« on: March 11, 2011, 03:24:20 pm »

You won't believe how often I hear this.

I've had a lot of people feeling relieved when the final product sounds like the mix, but just better. Then they open up about their past projects, usually mastered by professional mastering engineers, and what they remember is that the mastering made it sound worse.

I honestly don't know what to think about it. It makes me think if the working ethics of these engineers is just plain awful, or perhaps these customers just didn't open their mouth before the master went to the plant.

Tight deadlines? Not enough time to digest the sound after mastering? I personally encourage every single one of my customers to have a listen at home before the master goes forward, no matter how busy the schedule is. I certainly don't want to end up being the prick who ruined someone's record.
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Jaakko Viitalähde
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jdg

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Re: Mastering is the stage where the mixes are ruined
« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2011, 03:26:51 pm »

mixing is the stage where the recordings are ruined

recording is the stage where songs are ruined
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Allen Corneau

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Re: Mastering is the stage where the mixes are ruined
« Reply #2 on: March 11, 2011, 03:55:51 pm »

I've never been told this directly, of course, but...

I only hear this kind of comment from mixing engineers, usually because they think their mixes are perfect (when they really aren't).

On a similar note, I hear a lot of (forum) talk from mix engineers talking about "my mix". Sure, you mixed it, but it's the clients' project.
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Viitalahde

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Re: Mastering is the stage where the mixes are ruined
« Reply #3 on: March 11, 2011, 04:04:35 pm »

Sure, mixing engineers are touchy about "their mixes", and they have all the right to be. It's the client's mix, too.

I think all of these comments have come from the artists themselves.
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Jaakko Viitalähde
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Waltz Mastering

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Re: Mastering is the stage where the mixes are ruined
« Reply #4 on: March 11, 2011, 04:27:51 pm »

Post like this one always mess with my head:
http://www.gearslutz.com/board/6423417-post91.html

Table Of Tone

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Re: Mastering is the stage where the mixes are ruined
« Reply #5 on: March 11, 2011, 04:55:37 pm »

The worst problem I've found is when both the mix eng and the client have been too close to a project for a very long time.

That can be a difficult situation for any ME, as any correction to the mix will just be seen as wrong!

People start to second guess themselves and go round in circles for ages just on one track.

A situation best avoided by pretty much any ME!
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phonon

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Re: Mastering is the stage where the mixes are ruined
« Reply #6 on: March 11, 2011, 06:23:01 pm »

Well, it's, actually, sort of, true, under ideal circumstances.   As I've typed before, I read an interview somewhere of B. G. from back when he was still working the Studer Dyaxis.   He said that mixes sound best right before he touches them.   But that's because he is working from hi-res digital or 30 ips 1/2" (w/SR) and the mixes are done by top pros in million-dollar mixing rooms.   The master is vinyl.   The premaster is 16 bit; 44.1 kHz/2.    Ergo, the master, or premaster, _has_ to sound worse than the mix - under _those_ ideal circumstances.   

The noobie-bedroom (non-Boston) mix is the one that is easy to give the Bob Katz "letter-grade" bump in quality during premastering.   Harmonic distortions, applied even at the penultimate step of production, can, if subtly and well-applied, also benefit future auditions of otherwise sterile, overly in-the-box _sounding_ mixes.    Wooly, rich mixes, of course, want more surgical pincers.

Regardless of input quality, however, it will almost _always_ sound better having been premastered (adequately?) prior to burning to CD.    That's the reason one would pay $450/hr to watch someone make each mix a little worse sounding (but better than anyone else's "worse").   Get me?   (;   


Andrew



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Jerry Tubb

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Re: Mastering is the stage where the mixes are ruined
« Reply #7 on: March 11, 2011, 07:27:06 pm »

No 'teaser titles' for thread titles.

; - )

JT
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adamgonsa

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Re: Mastering is the stage where the mixes are ruined
« Reply #8 on: March 14, 2011, 12:02:46 pm »

Tight deadlines? Not enough time to digest the sound after mastering? I personally encourage every single one of my customers to have a listen at home before the master goes forward, no matter how busy the schedule is. I certainly don't want to end up being the prick who ruined someone's record.
Agreed. I also encourage clients taking at least a day or two to closely listen to approval files on their favorite systems.  Sometimes the deadlines are too tight to allow more than one listen, which is a shame. 

On the rare occasions I'm contacted early in the production process I advise adding two weeks to a proposed production schedule, and not to book record release shows until the record is done!  Scheduling a show 2.5 months out when the tracking hasn't even begun yet is asking for trouble. 
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Adam Gonsalves
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SafeandSoundMastering

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Re: Mastering is the stage where the mixes are ruined
« Reply #9 on: March 14, 2011, 02:21:24 pm »

Maybe it's just someone to blame for a less than stellar product overall?

I do not comprehend why a band, musician or group would let a bad product get released, did they not listen to the end product before pressing?
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Barry Gardner
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bblackwood

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Re: Mastering is the stage where the mixes are ruined
« Reply #10 on: March 14, 2011, 02:30:43 pm »

I do not comprehend why a band, musician or group would let a bad product get released, did they not listen to the end product before pressing?
Because 'good' and 'bad' are purely subjective things. We're talking about art, everyone 'hears' it differently...
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Brad Blackwood
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Re: Mastering is the stage where the mixes are ruined
« Reply #11 on: March 14, 2011, 03:57:07 pm »

Yes but "ruination" is a fairly extreme statement, it must be really badly worked to be runied.
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Tim Halligan

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Re: Mastering is the stage where the mixes are ruined
« Reply #12 on: March 14, 2011, 09:43:34 pm »

Yes but "ruination" is a fairly extreme statement, it must be really badly worked to be runied.

To a highly strung/emotional artist anything that isn't perfect ruins the vision.

Cheers,
Tim
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zakco

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Re: Mastering is the stage where the mixes are ruined
« Reply #13 on: March 15, 2011, 02:49:52 am »

Devils' Advocate here.

I have had many records "ruined" at the mastering stage. Never by an ME of my choosing, but IMO, there are proportionately as many hacks working as MEs as there are recording/mix engineers.

Often I think it comes from a misconception that if the record doesn't sound obviously different, then the client will wonder WTF they did. Another situation is simply where the ME is not experienced enough to know when to leave things alone or at least use very minimal processing. Maybe it's ego, maybe it's insecurity I dunno but it happens WAY too often.

The way I see it, if major surgery is required, then, I haven't done my job properly.

Two sides to the coin...

Z

 
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Table Of Tone

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Re: Mastering is the stage where the mixes are ruined
« Reply #14 on: March 15, 2011, 05:34:16 am »

So many variables with this situation!

Sometimes the client or producer will have their own idea of what they want done in the mastering?
This may not be what the mix engineer wants?

There may be a certain set of tools that only a certain ME has, that the mix eng doesn't have?

The client or producer may be wanting a certain sonic stamp that only a particular ME will get?

The list continues.....
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Thomas W. Bethel

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Re: Mastering is the stage where the mixes are ruined
« Reply #15 on: March 15, 2011, 09:02:00 am »

I always try to do what the client wants. Lately there seems to be a lot of "outside influence" from the mixing engineer (if the mixing is not done by the artist or band). I do the mastering and the next thing I know I get a call from the artist telling me that the mix engineer does not like what I have done to his mixes. It maybe only a certain song or it maybe the whole album. I suggest that the mix engineer come to the remastering if that is what the client wants me to do. Most times they do not show up. But after the remastering I get the phone call from the artist that the mixer does not like this or that about the mastering. It is really hard to please the client and the omnipresent specter who seems to have a lot of influence on what the artist wants and needs but never wants to be at the mastering sessions.

FWIW and YMMV
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Thomas W. Bethel
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Table Of Tone

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Re: Mastering is the stage where the mixes are ruined
« Reply #16 on: March 15, 2011, 09:46:57 am »

I always try to do what the client wants. Lately there seems to be a lot of "outside influence" from the mixing engineer (if the mixing is not done by the artist or band). I do the mastering and the next thing I know I get a call from the artist telling me that the mix engineer does not like what I have done to his mixes. It maybe only a certain song or it maybe the whole album. I suggest that the mix engineer come to the remastering if that is what the client wants me to do. Most times they do not show up. But after the remastering I get the phone call from the artist that the mixer does not like this or that about the mastering. It is really hard to please the client and the omnipresent specter who seems to have a lot of influence on what the artist wants and needs but never wants to be at the mastering sessions.

FWIW and YMMV
Ain't that the truth...
Well said!

Mix engineers trying to act as producers when they've only been hired by the client to mix the record, can be a total PITA!

The client going, "I want it loud" etc
The mix eng going, "It's too loud" etc

Who's gonna pay the revision fee?
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zakco

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Re: Mastering is the stage where the mixes are ruined
« Reply #17 on: March 15, 2011, 12:10:11 pm »

The client or producer may be wanting a certain sonic stamp that only a particular ME will get?

A sonic stamp is the LAST thing I want from an ME. Seriously. Having a "sound" goes against everything that mastering means to me. When did this idea begin? It's definitely not the tradition role of ME. But...having a "sound" is EXACTLY the reason that the biggest names in mixing are hired. Sounds like you've got some roles reversed...

I always try to do what the client wants. Lately there seems to be a lot of "outside influence" from the mixing engineer
Mix engineers trying to act as producers when they've only been hired by the client to mix the record, can be a total PITA!

I can understand how that would be a PITA...anyone acting outside of the role they were hired to fill would fit this description. Including heavy handed MEs trying to leave their mark or vision on a project when they were really hired to fine tune, balance and sequence a collection of well recorded and mixed audio.

Outside of the Andy Wallaces or Lord Alges, the mix engineer is often the tracking engineer AND the the producer (often by default). This is definitely true in my limited market and I suspect outside of NY, LA or Nashville, is probably more common than not.

It's interesting to see the MEs perspective on this. You all seem pretty confident that you have the ability to properly interpret the artists wishes. This is after what...a 5 minute phone call at best or perhaps an email or two? By the time I've finished a record, I've spent days/weeks/months working with the artist. Hell, I'm nearly married to some of my clients while a record is being made. What makes an ME feel that their powers are so awesome that they don't even need to meet the artist to have a perfect vision of what they're after?

In the more than 10 years that I've done this as a full time career, I can think of only two (out of literally hundreds) of projects where the artist wanted the master to be louder/brighter whatever than I did. In both cases I let them know my opinion but happily allowed them to make the decision as I recognize that it's their record, not mine. I am NOT citing these as examples of "ruining" a record. Those were legitimate differences in vision and without a doubt the exception to the rule.

Don't get me wrong, I highly value a good ME. I count on them to be my last line of defense and a great source of perspective when I'm too close to a project. But...you should know that some of the views expressed in this thread are the very reason that we're having this discussion.

There I've said my peace and y'all can get back to dreaming how wonderful the world would be without those pesky mixers and their unwanted opinions...

Z


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zakco

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Re: Mastering is the stage where the mixes are ruined
« Reply #18 on: March 15, 2011, 12:18:46 pm »

I've had a lot of people feeling relieved when the final product sounds like the mix, but just better.

Quoted for emphasis.

You're hired!!


z

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Thomas W. Bethel

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Re: Mastering is the stage where the mixes are ruined
« Reply #19 on: March 15, 2011, 12:35:28 pm »

A sonic stamp is the LAST thing I want from an ME. Seriously. Having a "sound" goes against everything that mastering means to me. When did this idea begin? It's definitely not the tradition role of ME. But...having a "sound" is EXACTLY the reason that the biggest names in mixing are hired. Sounds like you've got some roles reversed...

I can understand how that would be a PITA...anyone acting outside of the role they were hired to fill would fit this description. Including heavy handed MEs trying to leave their mark or vision on a project when they were really hired to fine tune, balance and sequence a collection of well recorded and mixed audio.

Outside of the Andy Wallaces or Lord Alges, the mix engineer is often the tracking engineer AND the the producer (often by default). This is definitely true in my limited market and I suspect outside of NY, LA or Nashville, is probably more common than not.

It's interesting to see the MEs perspective on this. You all seem pretty confident that you have the ability to properly interpret the artists wishes. This is after what...a 5 minute phone call at best or perhaps an email or two? By the time I've finished a record, I've spent days/weeks/months working with the artist. Hell, I'm nearly married to some of my clients while a record is being made. What makes an ME feel that their powers are so awesome that they don't even need to meet the artist to have a perfect vision of what they're after?

In the more than 10 years that I've done this as a full time career, I can think of only two (out of literally hundreds) of projects where the artist wanted the master to be louder/brighter whatever than I did. In both cases I let them know my opinion but happily allowed them to make the decision as I recognize that it's their record, not mine. I am NOT citing these as examples of "ruining" a record. Those were legitimate differences in vision and without a doubt the exception to the rule.

Don't get me wrong, I highly value a good ME. I count on them to be my last line of defense and a great source of perspective when I'm too close to a project. But...you should know that some of the views expressed in this thread are the very reason that we're having this discussion.

There I've said my peace and y'all can get back to dreaming how wonderful the world would be without those pesky mixers and their unwanted opinions...

Z

Some very good points from another perspective.

I know I am NOT a heavy handed ME and when it comes to putting my "mark" on a mastering I simply do not do it. I let the music and the client dictate what the music needs.

I know a lot of mix engineers who tell their clients "you do not need mastering this sounds awesome" and they maybe right or the maybe dead wrong. If their monitoring is not up to par or if they are so close to the action (married is a good term <GRIN>) that they loose all objectivity then it is not good for the artist or their material. They need a second pair of professional ears with a top flight monitoring setup to make the final call and if it doesn't need anything a good mastering engineer will tell the client that and leave it alone.

Unfortunately today, thanks to the economy, many cut rate mastering operations are "break even" operations or losing money and anything they can do to make money is fair game. They will tell the client that their stuff sounds bad even if it does not just so they can "master it" for money.

There also seems to be a growing number of mastering houses who make everything coming out of their operations sound like it has some "sonic signature" which they seem to feel is theirs to impart.

Some mastering engineers today also immediately go for the loudness  button even when that is not appropriate or needed.

No one on this board would do any of this but their are a lot of newbies and others that don't have the credentials, the experience or the sensibilities of the members of this forum and they get carried away with the power they have in their DAWs to make everything super loud.

Sometimes I wonder if people are really listening to what the master or is it all about the blinking lights and the images on their DAWs.

FWIW and YMMV
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Thomas W. Bethel
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zakco

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Re: Mastering is the stage where the mixes are ruined
« Reply #20 on: March 15, 2011, 12:58:01 pm »


I know a lot of mix engineers who tell their clients "you do not need mastering this sounds awesome"
IMO, records ALL need mastering. The real question lies in who is going to do it and whether or not it needs to be "improved" or simply volume leveled and sequenced. I think many of the "you don't need mastering" guys simply want to do the work themselves (more money) or perhaps they've become gun shy after a few bad experiences.  A few years back I worked with a well known producer who makes records for even better known artists. He had recently sworn off MEs simply out of frustration with the record coming back too different. I wanted to suggest to him that maybe he just hadn't worked with the right people, but considering that he had been making records (good ones!) since I was in diapers, I felt that wasn't my place to give him advice... :)
Quote
If their monitoring is not up to par or if they are so close to the action (married is a good term<GRIN>) that they loose all objectivity then it is not good for the artist or their material. They need a second pair of professional ears with a top flight monitoring setup to make the final call and if it doesn't need anything a good mastering engineer will tell the client that and leave it alone.

I totally agree. This is the reason I use an outside ME whenever the budget allows.

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Viitalahde

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Re: Mastering is the stage where the mixes are ruined
« Reply #21 on: March 15, 2011, 01:38:14 pm »

Obviously there are the times there's 3 different people telling you how things should sound, but I've got the idea that in the cases my clients have opened up at me, the ME has went into dictator mode and butchered the album.

I believe it comes down to communication. If no-one wishes for anything, perhaps the engineer just went by the general sound of the genre and made it sound "mastered". One never knows.

The expectations can be difficult to predict. Unless anything else comes up in the pre-communication, I just go by the balance of the mix because that's why the mixing is there. Sometimes I get hung up in wondering whether I should make it sound more "mastered", but since that usually sounds like ass to me, I don't.

EDIT: One I got three different, final versions for the album track order. Solving that was fun.
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Jaakko Viitalähde
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GYMusic

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Re: Mastering is the stage where the mixes are ruined
« Reply #22 on: March 15, 2011, 03:31:20 pm »

Post like this one always mess with my head:
http://www.gearslutz.com/board/6423417-post91.html

I refuse to reply to posts like that anymore.  They are anonymous.  They have no credibility with me.

MoreSpaceEcho

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Re: Mastering is the stage where the mixes are ruined
« Reply #23 on: March 15, 2011, 03:33:14 pm »

the ME has went into dictator mode and butchered the album.

how do those guys stay in business? boggles the mind.

i do sometimes get the vibe from some ME's that they believe the mix is a mere stepping stone to the final thing. whereas i feel like the mix IS the final thing and our job is just to present it in as flattering a light as possible.

some guys seem to feel like every song that leaves their shop has to be the Big Hollywood Blockbuster version of the mix, it's gotta sound MASTERED!!!!

and if you were the guy who mixed it to sound a certain way, and you get the MEGA BIONIC version back, odds are you aren't going to be too happy about it.

i know i know "you can't tell what something sounds like from looking at it", but humor me, if you were the guy who did this mix, would your heart sink when you saw the mastered waveform?


 

Waltz Mastering

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Re: Mastering is the stage where the mixes are ruined
« Reply #24 on: March 15, 2011, 04:12:55 pm »

I refuse to reply to posts like that anymore.  They are anonymous.  They have no credibility with me.
No, I agree, but with Narco,.. he seems respectable to a point... but I have also read this from other mix engineers,...
which I find strange..

Having some of my own mixes  mastered by BG, BL. and TJ in this millennium.. there was never a point were I felt let down..
if fact,  many times I was blown away and certainly in no way disappointed.  I can remember getting  the first album that I mixed for a major back from the ME and thinking... that's exactly how I want it to sound..  How did they do that?

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Re: Mastering is the stage where the mixes are ruined
« Reply #25 on: March 16, 2011, 05:18:25 am »

Quote
A sonic stamp is the LAST thing I want from an ME. Seriously. Having a "sound" goes against everything that mastering means to me. When did this idea begin?

I think it might have begun when someone back in the 60's said, lets make this cut louder so it
sounds louder than the competing labels records, enter Fairchild compressor 670 over the top.

Well of course not exactly like that I am too young to know but thats the vibe I get from seeing
posts from the respected elders here.

In reality everything in between some people I work with give me a freehand and others are
right about those previews can you cut some 6.5kHz out for me etc. etc. mix it, mash it up and can be any and all of this.

One thing that does get a little irritating is hearing songs where there is loads of "analogue fuzz" over a mix (might be attributed to 1 single compressor in fact) which I quite like but when it's been really blurred up and frazzled I dislike it personally. But I have a feeling I might be after a "frazzle" box next rather then something clean as the Summit DCL 200 can be very, very clean. But I like a touch of fuzz, like rubbing velvet backwards not sandpaper fuzz.

cheers
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Thomas W. Bethel

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Re: Mastering is the stage where the mixes are ruined
« Reply #26 on: March 16, 2011, 08:35:07 am »

^^^^^^^


Lots of times I get the bottom waveform from the mix engineer and the client wants it to look like the top waveform <GRIN>
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Thomas W. Bethel
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Jerry Tubb

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Re: Mastering is the stage where the mixes are ruined
« Reply #27 on: March 16, 2011, 09:15:08 am »

IMO, records ALL need mastering.

Well, at least 99% of them.

JT
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Table Of Tone

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Re: Mastering is the stage where the mixes are ruined
« Reply #28 on: March 16, 2011, 09:36:06 am »

A sonic stamp is the LAST thing I want from an ME. Seriously. Having a "sound" goes against everything that mastering means to me. When did this idea begin? It's definitely not the tradition role of ME. But...having a "sound" is EXACTLY the reason that the biggest names in mixing are hired. Sounds like you've got some roles reversed...

Z
Don't get me wrong.
The last record I did only had one piece in the chain and I didn't even touch an EQ!
It only came out at around 1dB louder than the mixes because that's what the brief was.

The point I'm trying to make is that the client/producer have the last word.

I've even re-recorded backing vocals in my room at the request of the client, because the mix eng had handed his stuff in a week late, there was deadline and the BV's were way too low on one tune.

The rules are quite simple.

There are none!
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zakco

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Re: Mastering is the stage where the mixes are ruined
« Reply #29 on: March 16, 2011, 11:23:45 am »

I've even re-recorded backing vocals in my room at the request of the client, because the mix eng had handed his stuff in a week late, there was deadline and the BV's were way too low on one tune.

The rules are quite simple.

There are none!

Fair enough. I shouldn't have spoken in such absolute terms...there are always going to be situations that require an unusual approach to get the job done. I guess I was thinking in more general terms about records that have been mixed to everyones' satisfaction before being sent for mastering. Personally I can't imagine letting a record out the door that (other than final level) doesn't sound as close to the way the artist envisioned it as possible, all things considered.

My recurring phrase that I say to the client is "If this record comes back from mastering sounding wildly different, then we haven't done our job properly"...

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zakco

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Re: Mastering is the stage where the mixes are ruined
« Reply #30 on: March 16, 2011, 11:29:17 am »

I think it might have begun when someone back in the 60's said, lets make this cut louder so it
sounds louder than the competing labels records, enter Fairchild compressor 670 over the top.

Sure...but I would venture to guess that the approach was more "Lets see how loud we can make it without changing the mix and pissing off the producer" rather than "Lets completely transform this record both dynamically and tonally at the expense of the producers vision"

Maybe I'm way off here...
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zakco

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Re: Mastering is the stage where the mixes are ruined
« Reply #31 on: March 16, 2011, 11:37:54 am »

if you were the guy who did this mix, would your heart sink when you saw the mastered waveform?
That waveform wouldn't necessarily make my heart sink...that is if it sounded good. I am always amazed at how loud a good ME can actually go without destroying a mix. They seem to be able to push it much farther than I can, that's for sure!
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Table Of Tone

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Re: Mastering is the stage where the mixes are ruined
« Reply #32 on: March 16, 2011, 05:39:17 pm »

That waveform wouldn't necessarily make my heart sink...that is if it sounded good. I am always amazed at how loud a good ME can actually go without destroying a mix. They seem to be able to push it much farther than I can, that's for sure!
That's true but having said that, it's because we've had a lot of practice at going loud because the client has nearly always pushed for the max!

I guess that's just the way the industry is?

If I can convince the client that loud is not always the way to go, I will always be happier for sure!
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KAyo

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Re: Mastering is the stage where the mixes are ruined
« Reply #33 on: March 25, 2011, 04:25:16 pm »

Sometimes, or quite often .. the mixes are so loud, that it gets difficult to squeeze more gain into them, without destroying, altering or smashing it to bits, before one satisfies the clients inevitable need for masters to be extra ordinarily louder than the mix given..

Plus, as  a mixer myself, I find it astonishing how so many mixes or mix engineers, knowing what they’ve done (pushed it beyond need), still expect miracles from the Mastering engineer or the mastering process itself.

The apathy and imposed ignorance shown is annoying and difficult as a task set.

Me, I am frank blatant and upfront regarding these sort of mix constraint,. as I mix a lot myself, and I know what’s being asked of the Mastering engineer is ridiculous and with diminishing returns. Period…


Ciao’
KAyo

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