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Author Topic: How far do *you* go?  (Read 8831 times)

bblackwood

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How far do *you* go?
« on: April 22, 2004, 09:55:52 am »

Another thread on the forum made me think about this question - how far will you go in mastering? Assuming you have the complete trust of the artist and producer, how far will you go to make a good master? Do you have rules, limits as to what you will or will not do? Do you fear straying too far from the original mix?

Discuss...
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Brad Blackwood
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lucey

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Re: How far do *you* go?
« Reply #1 on: April 22, 2004, 10:48:00 am »

hi brad,

my name is brian lucey ... i do mastering part time, some local, some national, some international


my approach is to listen to the whole project first and get to know the thing, and the artist, so i can see their vision.

then i hear it in my head as a finished record, based on the equipment available

then i make what i hear, being open to changes that are necessary, and better ideas as the process unfolds in sound



so far, the clients are thrilled and although i go far at times, some of the mixes are pretty 'needy'
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j.hall

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Re: How far do *you* go?
« Reply #2 on: April 22, 2004, 11:05:32 am »

this is very similar to what i've asked brad to do for me.  although this topic is from his perspective and not mine.

personally, i want the ME to do whatever it takes to ensure the art, the vision of the record, makes it through.  i'd like the ME to follow their instincts and make decisions on their own.

the two things that must be assumed is that
1.  the band, or artist, is happy with the mixes, and has ensured that what they want is represented in the song as it is displayed.
2.  the final mix sent to mastering is it, there will be no re-mix.

from there, the ME needs to "finish" the vision.  

in doing this, you have to establish trust with the ME, and you have to have an ME that can listen to the song and not the technical, sonic, aspects only.

i think this idea is a little far fetched on whole, but hear and there it's worked with myself and brad.  it usually requires some phone time, and planning.

so my answer to the question is, go as far as you have to, just honor the art, and serve it, before any other agenda.
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craig boychuk

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Re: How far do *you* go?
« Reply #3 on: April 22, 2004, 11:24:28 am »

I think it really depends on how lacking the mixes are in the first place. If they need fixing real bad, then sometimes it's necessary to go crazy. If that means a lengthy processing chain, then so be it. Do whatever is necessary to make the project sound the best that it can.
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Fibes

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Re: How far do *you* go?
« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2004, 11:35:02 am »

I'm not an ME but there are a few things I wish for in an ME.

1. The comfort to ask me to re-mix if something is getting in the way rather than shoehorning it on the back side.

2. Someone who is comfortable with their own ego to leave it alone if it's where it needs to be.

3. Constant ridicule for mixing too loud.

4. Someone who knows what the prize is and how to put an eye/ear on it.

5. Honesty and some frank discourse about the project. This IMO is the only real feedback i crave. Someone with ears that hasn't been involved with the project sexually or otherwise.

6. Making the project sound better than it is. A requirement in my world...

7. Go as far as you need but refer to #1.
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j.hall

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Re: How far do *you* go?
« Reply #5 on: April 22, 2004, 12:34:15 pm »

mid-fi wrote on Thu, 22 April 2004 10:24

I think it really depends on how lacking the mixes are in the first place. If they need fixing real bad, then sometimes it's necessary to go crazy. If that means a lengthy processing chain, then so be it. Do whatever is necessary to make the project sound the best that it can.



but isn't that really subjective?  i've done mixes that were, by any standards, really bad.  but for the particular song, it was perfectly bad.  if you didn't follow the direction of the tune and merely judged on sonics, you'd tell me to re-mix, or you'd go nuts trying to shoe-horn it.  i'm asking, where do you draw the line artistically?
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Fibes

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Re: How far do *you* go?
« Reply #6 on: April 22, 2004, 12:41:56 pm »

If you intend to do something fine. You should have enough comfort to discuss these things with your ME. Appropriate is a word i've been using a lot as of late. that can mean a far cry from sonic purity.
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OTR-jkl

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Re: How far do *you* go?
« Reply #7 on: April 22, 2004, 01:12:50 pm »

Most of the mixes I "get" to work on are in need of plenty of help. Since one of the main purposes of mastering (correct me if I'm wrong here) is to ensure proper translation from studio to world, then it seems to me that I need to do whatever it takes to make that happen. I would love to be able to call for a re-mix but that's usually not an option.

I'm not saying that I will totally change the character of the tune but I will make some radical EQ adjustments if that's what it takes for it to sound good. I usually try not to compress things much - if any - unless it really needs it.

When I do get a mix in that sounds really good already, only minor processing is needed and I try to keep as much of the original sound as possible and still make a little improvement on it.

Quote:

mid-fi wrote on Thu, 22 April 2004 10:24

I think it really depends on how lacking the mixes are in the first place. If they need fixing real bad, then sometimes it's necessary to go crazy. If that means a lengthy processing chain, then so be it. Do whatever is necessary to make the project sound the best that it can.



but isn't that really subjective? i've done mixes that were, by any standards, really bad. but for the particular song, it was perfectly bad. if you didn't follow the direction of the tune and merely judged on sonics, you'd tell me to re-mix, or you'd go nuts trying to shoe-horn it. i'm asking, where do you draw the line artistically?

I totally see your point JHall. Somehow we (the MEs) have to find out if "bad" sonics are intentional or just the result of a bad room or poor engineering skills. The track will usually disclose which...
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j.hall

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Re: How far do *you* go?
« Reply #8 on: April 22, 2004, 03:11:42 pm »

OTR-jkl wrote on Thu, 22 April 2004 12:12


I totally see your point JHall. Somehow we (the MEs) have to find out if "bad" sonics are intentional or just the result of a bad room or poor engineering skills. The track will usually disclose which...


you raise a good point about trying to decern between bad acoustic environment, skill level of mixer, and intentional sonics.  i didn't really define my point very well.  a quick example.  i was booking two different rooms in town to mix in.  for a while it was just one, and brad had plenty of comments and questions about my work prior to him starting the process.  i didn't tell him that i changed rooms due to a scheduling issue, and sent another project.  he called pretty quickly and said, "where did you mix this?"  i enjoyed the vibe and management of the new room, so i booked both for a while, and brad could call where i was, every time.  

i think it's important to minimize the variables for the ME.  what might be a monitoring issue on my end could translate to an intentional sonic decision to the ME and thus spiral into revisions and blah blah blah.

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MASSIVE Mastering

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Re: How far do *you* go?
« Reply #9 on: April 23, 2004, 12:33:13 am »

I try to get as much information on what the CLIENT thinks of it and go from there...

For the most part, I attempt to keep it relatively in the same ballpark - Here's a quote I have on my site...

Quote:

“Mastering isn’t the ‘car’ - It’s the paint. It’s the chrome on the wheels.  It’s the detailing and the wax job. Your recording is the vehicle and mastering is the custom showroom finish that sets it apart from the others.” - JS


That being said, yesterday I did three "wax jobs" - Today, I did one wax, an entirely new paint job & a little body work.   Shocked
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John Scrip
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Viitalahde

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Re: How far do *you* go?
« Reply #10 on: April 23, 2004, 12:41:06 am »

MASSIVE Mastering wrote on Fri, 23 April 2004 05:33

yesterday I did three "wax jobs"


So does the Mafia perform Brazilian Wax jobs then?  Rolling Eyes


Jaakko
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bblackwood

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Re: How far do *you* go?
« Reply #11 on: April 23, 2004, 01:27:31 am »

Looks like most everyone is in agreement - do whatever it takes to make it better. For years I had dogmatic beliefs that certain precesses were somehow 'wrong' and didn't belong in mastering, but have learned that virtually everything has a place at one time or another.

The first rule is to insure you have the proper tools to do the task, but beyond that...

So what's the most outlandish thing you've done to 'salvage' or enhance a track?
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Brad Blackwood
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jfrigo

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Re: How far do *you* go?
« Reply #12 on: April 23, 2004, 03:38:51 am »

bblackwood wrote on Thu, 22 April 2004 22:27

Looks like most everyone is in agreement - do whatever it takes to make it better.
SNIP
So what's the most outlandish thing you've done to 'salvage' or enhance a track?


I tend toward being reserved when I first approach something, but it really depends on the project, and most importantly, on the client. If I had no input from the client, I'd assume they mixed it like this for a reason and try to go in the direction they've begun and try to get a few steps closer to their vision. If I can get some client input, sometimes they want me to really change what they delivered drastically. I'm happy to do that, but not without asking first.

One regular client loves things to be significantly different when they leave compared to how they came in. Recently a project of his came in that was really kind of uncharacteristically wimpy, and it was a big hard rock/metal project. I couldn't let that stand! I think by the end I had about 10 bands of EQ going, two of them MS, and a few of them not exactly subtle (3 or 4dB,) some color pulled up on the HEDD (2.5 tape and 2.5 pentode is a lot for me), and more color on the IBIS we're trying, a slight lick of Pendulum compression, a little clipping here and there, a bit of t.c. 6000 limiting, and some L2 to finish it off.

I tend to try to do what I need to with as few bands of EQ as possible, but all these bands from four different units just worked together to make it rock. It was one of those things that didn't make logical sense to my brain, but it just sounded better the more stuff I threw into the soup. This is an uncommon job for me. I don't usually reach for so much stuff, nor push so many items so hard, but it really brought this heavy project life. It needed the color and the grit. I was a little concerned when it first arrived, but it actually really kicked ass in the end. OK, this stuff isn't exactly outlandish taken one element at a time, but it was pretty aggressive mastering, and if that's what it needs, that what it gets.

My more outlandish fixes have usually included editing. On a live album where there was a dropout and an error with some stage playback elements, we processed and flew in the playback stuff (not a big deal) and then actually grabbed a piece of the missing vocal from an acoustic gig the live sound guy happened to have on his laptop from a couple years earlier (he wasn't at the session - we called him and he emailed it) and mixed it over a piece of instrumental we grabbed from elsewhere in the track and managed to plug the hole seamlessly. The client sat there with his jaw on the floor, having been sure that he wouldn't be able to use that track, but now listening as if it had never been a problem. I love it when the clients are impressed.
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odysseys

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Re: How far do *you* go?
« Reply #13 on: April 23, 2004, 04:43:08 am »

bblackwood wrote on Fri, 23 April 2004 06:27

Looks

So what's the most outlandish thing you've done to 'salvage' or enhance a track?


Once i went to a friend in order to "enhance" his songs (i'm not a ME) through Tannoy600s.The biggest problem in a song was extreme low energy.The cones were pumping as hell.So i thought "well,let's cut it".And i put a HPF at 90Hz. Very Happy
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craig boychuk

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Re: How far do *you* go?
« Reply #14 on: April 23, 2004, 12:58:19 pm »

Quote:

mid-fi wrote on Thu, 22 April 2004 10:24

I think it really depends on how lacking the mixes are in the first place. If they need fixing real bad, then sometimes it's necessary to go crazy. If that means a lengthy processing chain, then so be it. Do whatever is necessary to make the project sound the best that it can.



but isn't that really subjective? i've done mixes that were, by any standards, really bad. but for the particular song, it was perfectly bad. if you didn't follow the direction of the tune and merely judged on sonics, you'd tell me to re-mix, or you'd go nuts trying to shoe-horn it. i'm asking, where do you draw the line artistically?


Yeah, you're right...I guess what I mean to say is: Use whatever means necessary to get the project to where the client wants it. To do this, you must know the direction they want to take. Hopefully it will be apparent in what you're listening to. If you don't know what they want, you'd better find out!

I work with alot of noisy bands, so I understand where you're coming from. Sometimes "bad" is the intent, and the intent must be respected, no matter what it is.
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OTR-jkl

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Re: How far do *you* go?
« Reply #15 on: April 24, 2004, 03:52:26 pm »

Quote:

For years I had dogmatic beliefs that certain precesses were somehow 'wrong' and didn't belong in mastering

What kinds of things, Brad...?
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bblackwood

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Re: How far do *you* go?
« Reply #16 on: April 24, 2004, 06:09:46 pm »

OTR-jkl wrote on Sat, 24 April 2004 14:52

Quote:

For years I had dogmatic beliefs that certain processes were somehow 'wrong' and didn't belong in mastering

What kinds of things, Brad...?

Multiband compression, heavy M/S processing, clipping, etc.

I typically avoided processes that changed the mixes very much (even if needed) or were fundamentally 'wrong' in digital theory.

Sometimes breaking the 'rules' makes the track better, and that's really all that matters. I think the biggest break-throughs made as a mastering engineer grows are from experience...
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Re: How far do *you* go?
« Reply #17 on: April 24, 2004, 08:37:18 pm »

Quote:

I typically avoided processes that changed the mixes very much (even if needed)

OK - when you say "change the mix", what exactly do you mean? Are you talking things like: an EQ adjustment that makes the LdV pop out more, or comp that drops the snare, or what...?

When I make radical EQ adjustments (aggressive mastering - as someone put it), its because its way out of balance and there's no way it'll translate the way it is. I suppose those things do actually change the mix somewhat. Typically what happens is that things start to be heard that were otherwise covered up.

Unfortunately for me, I rarely get a mix that's pretty much "there" already. So, it usually takes drastic measures to rope 'em in....
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bblackwood

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Re: How far do *you* go?
« Reply #18 on: April 24, 2004, 09:54:09 pm »

OTR-jkl wrote on Sat, 24 April 2004 19:37

Quote:

I typically avoided processes that changed the mixes very much (even if needed)

OK - when you say "change the mix", what exactly do you mean?

Take buss compression for example - some mastering engineers tell people to leave it off the mix even if it makes the mix better as they don't think the mix engineer is as 'capable' as they are to make it work. I want the engineer to send me a mix that sounds good, regardless of what they have to do, as long as they do nothing for the sake of level. If the mix engineer were to leave buss compression to me and the mix really shined with 3 dB of gain reduction, that would be great, except I just remixed the track - the balances of the instrumentation are completely different now.

Same with multiband compression - it's fine to fix a train-wreck but far too intrusive to use normally, imo. But my point is that five years ago I wouldn't have used it all...
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dcollins

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Re: How far do *you* go?
« Reply #19 on: April 24, 2004, 11:27:04 pm »

bblackwood wrote on Sat, 24 April 2004 18:54

[quote


Take buss compression for example - some mastering engineers tell people to leave it off the mix even if it makes the mix better as they don't think the mix engineer is as 'capable' as they are to make it work. I want the engineer to send me a mix that sounds good, regardless of what they have to do, as long as they do nothing for the sake of level. If the mix engineer were to leave buss compression to me and the mix really shined with 3 dB of gain reduction, that would be great, except I just remixed the track - the balances of the instrumentation are completely different now.




This is becoming more common in rock mixes I've received.  "I left all the 2 buss compression off, cause that's how I heard mastering engineers want it."  Personally, I blame the internet.
That and the mistaken term "hypercompression" when it's really limiting that is doing the damage......


Like B-rad says, just be sure the compression is _really_ making an improvement, and if it is, by all means use it.

DC

lucey

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Re: How far do *you* go?
« Reply #20 on: April 25, 2004, 02:03:41 am »

dcollins wrote on Sat, 24 April 2004 22:27

  "I left all the 2 buss compression off, cause that's how I heard mastering engineers want it."  Personally, I blame the internet.


the Internet is just a lot of information, not some form of evil ... people are making this mis-read on their own.

Quote:


That and the mistaken term "hypercompression" when it's really limiting that is doing the damage......


Like B-rad says, just be sure the compression is _really_ making an improvement, and if it is, by all means use it.



they can also send over both the compressed mix and an uncompressed mix, so if their compressor trashed a loud song or 2, but 8 softer ones were helped, the mastering can accommodate the whole thing.
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MASSIVE Mastering

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Re: How far do *you* go?
« Reply #21 on: April 25, 2004, 09:46:53 pm »

I for one am very careful to specify that a bit of compression is fine if the mix needs it - Just not to do it for sheer volume.  

Although, I certainly agree that there are a lot of ME's out there that insist of having nothing across the master buss at all.
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Ronny

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Re: How far do *you* go?
« Reply #22 on: April 25, 2004, 11:28:34 pm »

MASSIVE Mastering wrote on Sun, 25 April 2004 21:46

I for one am very careful to specify that a bit of compression is fine if the mix needs it - Just not to do it for sheer volume.  

Although, I certainly agree that there are a lot of ME's out there that insist of having nothing across the master buss at all.



I say the same thing, judicious 2 buss compression is ok, nothing wrong with it. I do think that multi-track compression is the way to go though and when you need to make it punchy on  the two buss it can almost always be more effective on the multi-tracks. The ME can make the tune punchy, regardless. I don't think that a lot of ME's are saying not to compress the 2 bus, just not to try to set perceived levels. It's no doubt better to set perceived levels, after any eq'ing or multi-band compression is added and most engineers won't know if the ME is going to use these processes or not. It's safer not squashing the two buss on the mix grind and allows the ME to do his job better.

Hypercompression is a correct term, IMHO, as limiting "is" compressing, just with ratio set to 10:1 and above. Limiter's like the squashalizer's which do not allow user ratio changing are indeed limiter's "but" still uses compression to achieve their results. Most variable ratio compressors these days can limit and most have infinity ratio settings (brick wall limiting). Do we really need to call them compressor/limiters? Compression covers both gear terms. We can talk semantics all day long about what to call the problem. We can change the term to hyperlimiting, but it's not going to change the fact that more and more mix engineers are trying to get hotter levels on the two buss. The reason why the ME's are complaining is not because someone uses some judicious compression on the two buss, it's because some are taking too much of the dynamics out to be effectively mastered. I mastered a cd the other day, some tunes had -5dB RMS. This is not cool by any means. Instrumental definition was highly lacking. It's a lot easier running golden gate type eq curves and multi-band to help seat instruments when there is enough dynamic range to work with, plain and simple.
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jfrigo

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Re: How far do *you* go?
« Reply #23 on: April 26, 2004, 05:14:47 am »

I suppose it's a question of perspective.

I start with nothing and add things as necessary.
I don't start with everything and remove as necessary.

The old dogma examples Brad refers to are things to be cautious of and perhaps to use sparingly, but not to avoid like the plague. Multiband, M/S, and clipping are strong medicine that you grab when you need to - not to default to any more than you sould default to "nuke" on your L2. Don't automatically reach for the sledgehammer to put in the tack, but when laying railroad tracks, knock those spikes in with the biggest sledgehammer you've got!

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Re: How far do *you* go?
« Reply #24 on: April 26, 2004, 10:53:09 am »

Quote:

The ME can make the tune punchy, regardless.

Hmmmmm.... I have found that rather difficult in some cases. Isn't that pretty mix dependent? Ex: if there is no bottom to begin with, how are you gonna make it kick. Or, if its already smashed, how are you gonna get those transients back...?
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Re: How far do *you* go?
« Reply #25 on: April 26, 2004, 01:43:18 pm »



Or, if its already smashed, how are you gonna get those transients back...?


What, are you saying you don't want to spend three days trying to manually 'draw' dynamics back in with the 'volume envelope' tool on a DAW?   Razz




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Re: How far do *you* go?
« Reply #26 on: April 26, 2004, 01:51:03 pm »

Quote:

spend three days trying to manually 'draw' dynamics back in with the 'volume envelope' tool on a DAW?

Naw, I'd much rather spend my time using the pencil tool to re-draw all the peaks...   Rolling Eyes
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Ed Littman

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Re: How far do *you* go?
« Reply #27 on: April 26, 2004, 10:16:14 pm »

Ronny wrote on Sun, 25 April 2004 23:28



I say the same thing, judicious 2 buss compression is ok, nothing wrong with it.



I agree with you on that Ronny.
I'ts not so much the buss comp. thats the problem as much as some of these guys trying half master & get things loud.

to the original question. I think one should do anything they can to satisfy the client. The thing I really learned from Brad via womp2 is to sonically enhance the mix as apose to do to much to change the mix (even if it sounds good too)
i know this sounds pretty obvious I'm a slow learner.
Ed
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Re: How far do *you* go?
« Reply #28 on: April 28, 2004, 03:57:22 pm »

dcollins wrote on Sat, 24 April 2004 22:27

This is becoming more common in rock mixes I've received.  "I left all the 2 buss compression off, cause that's how I heard mastering engineers want it."  Like B-rad says, just be sure the compression is _really_ making an improvement, and if it is, by all means use it.

DC





I'm sorry Dave--but I woulda used 2 buss compression if I didn't SUCK.  Razz
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jazzius

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Re: How far do *you* go?
« Reply #29 on: May 01, 2004, 06:22:53 am »

I think this "how far would you go" is a pretty interesting question.

I'd like to also ask it in another way.....would you consider that the best ME's have a "sound" or "style"?.....of course, anyone can do transparent.....buy the Weiss stuff and an L2, get some good monitoring and tread carefully and voila....transparent mastering.

But is this always enough, or appropriate for all styles of music?

It's easy to say "i can't make a) sound like b) because of the production/mix etc", but how do you know that for sure until you've tried every technique every which way.

2 examples i can think of are Tom Coyne's rap mastering and the Big Bass Brian sound.....i'm convinced these guys are doing some tricks, and without experimenting with some weird techniques, i may never find out what they are.

I'm interested to know if other people here think there are some secret mastering tricks that are not common knowledge?

Ed Littman

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Re: How far do *you* go?
« Reply #30 on: May 04, 2004, 04:39:57 am »

jazzius wrote on Sat, 01 May 2004 06:22



I'd like to also ask it in another way.....would you consider that the best ME's have a "sound" or "style"?.....of course, anyone can do transparent.....buy the Weiss stuff and an L2, get some good monitoring and tread carefully and voila....transparent mastering.




Well...Ted Jensen has a consistant sizzle to his sound Shocked
I think being transparent & improving the mix is very challanging.
It's easy not to do enough & easyer to do to much.
Ed
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Innominandum

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Re: How far do *you* go?
« Reply #31 on: May 15, 2004, 02:15:24 am »

That "Stereo Comp on the 2-Buss" thread got me thinking. I recently offered to master a friend's upcoming split EP for free as practice. I did two versions: a "true-to-the-original" version and an "all-out" version.

I'm well versed in the genre and I'm pretty familiar with which albums my friend considers good sounding. So I took the EP and set out to take it to the next level. It took quite a bit to "get it there" but I feel it now stands up to some really well produced releases. Unfortunately, the resulting sound is very different from the original sound.

Now, the true-to-original version sounds like an improvement over the original but I feel the all-out version is much better. The transparent version only gets it half way there. I gave him both to let him decide which direction he wants to go and if he wants any further adjustments.

I'm also not sure I want to do two versions for every job thrown my way. If they're happy with the way it sounds, that's great. But one will never know how much further it can be taken without trying, right? I also don't want to earn a reputation as a "butcher of albums." So I guess I'm reposing the question about how far things should be taken.
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bblackwood

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Re: How far do *you* go?
« Reply #32 on: May 15, 2004, 08:27:14 am »

Innominandum wrote on Sat, 15 May 2004 01:15

I'm also not sure I want to do two versions for every job thrown my way. If they're happy with the way it sounds, that's great. But one will never know how much further it can be taken without trying, right? I also don't want to earn a reputation as a "butcher of albums." So I guess I'm reposing the question about how far things should be taken.

And that's the point of the original question...

I agree doing two versions is a drag - twice the work for you and I imagine it would cause clients to question your ability to make decisions.

At the end of the day, if I know where the client wants the record to be, I'll do anything to get it there. The tough part is knowing if they really love it the way it is or if they really want it to sound like Maroon5 (you know, midrange drivers don't work, sub is set too high, 3 extra tweeters...).
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Brad Blackwood
euphonic masters
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