"Isn't the reason for Mastering to make the music LOUDER?"

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Tone, Mar 31, 2008.

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  1. Tone

    Tone Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I've been working on a project, helping to record and produce some music that a young man wrote. We've just about finished mixing, and he was inquiring about Mastering.

    He's asks the other day..... "When will this get Mastered? A friend of mine told me that's where you make it louder."

    Which is true in part, but gggrrrr........ Is there any hope??

    Can we get some definitions of Mastering here?
     
  2. apileocole

    apileocole Lush Life Gort

    Suppose we might say that mastering is supposed to be the process in which the source is optimized in levels, tone and other aspects of sound for the media on which it will be delivered and is then transfered to the final medium.

    The point where you make it louder is when you turn the volume up.

    But we all know that in a single decade, the part about "the source is optimized in levels, tone and other aspects of sound" has been replaced with "the source is reprocessed so as to minimize dynamic range and create a hashy, electronic grunge of a fidelity below levels that would reward the purchase of the product." :sigh:

    Seriously, I've heard folks repeat the same unfortunate misunderstanding.
     
  3. johnny33

    johnny33 New Member

    Location:
    usa
    Does the guy want a definition of mastering? Sounds like he just wants the cd finished. If he does care, maybe its an opportunity for you to gently tell him mastering has nothing to do with making something louder but rather making the sound come together through various techniques so its great to listen to.

    You could interject the problems that come with making things loud for the sake of loud.If he is an artist I dont think he would be happy to know that if you get too loud you have to chop things off and then lose part of the music that he is trying to convey.I guess if he just wants his cd to sound like a loud cd then good luck explaining.

    Im not sure that until a person really hears what good sounds like that they realize how bad things are sounding because of this loud thing.

    Maybe you could show him the you tube link on my signature.Or that Abba one.Then again, I think many people just dont get past the type of music in those examples to really get the point.They are too busy laughing at Abba lol.

    Mastering in simple terms to me means fine tuning everything bringing things into focus and making the music come alive.A rough painting that is a masterpiece needs something to show what it really is.Good mastering does that.
     
  4. Grant

    Grant A Musical Free-Spirit

    Location:
    Arizona
    Unfortunately, i've heard the same lame definition of mastering being the process where you make a recording louder. Another explanation that is common on recording forums is that mastering is about compressing the music.

    Mastering, as originally intended, is simply where they take a recording and prepare it for duplication.

    What mastering means today is where levels are evened out and EQ'ed so that the sound is fairly consistent throughout the recording. Compression really isn't part of it, but that's what people want to do today because they think it makes the music sound commercial.


    Uggghhh! When is that SH forum audio glossary supposed to be ready?
     
  5. Joe Nino-Hernes

    Joe Nino-Hernes Active Member

    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    Mastering is the process of transferring a master mix to whatever the release format will be. In the old days, it meant compressing it to fit within the limited dynamic range of the release format. It needed to be hot in order to get above the noise floor. This is not necessary today, however more compression is used today than ever before (or perhaps more tastelessly than ever before) Today mastering is more to tidy up the sound of a mix. Ideally, I like the mix engineer to worry about getting each track to sound good, and then getting them to balance well. Let the mastering engineer worry about tonality and overall level.

    I liken mastering to picture framing. The artist can paint a great picture, but the frame is what brings it all together. In recording, its the mastering engineer who brings it all together. But a lousy frame can ruin a great picture, so it must be done skillfully.
     
  6. johnny33

    johnny33 New Member

    Location:
    usa
    From a mastering engineer himself :). Hard to kind of explain in one sentence.I think you guys are much more than framers though.

    To me mastering makes or breaks the deal for me to a great extent.I wish more people would think that way.Sorry I guess that sounds stuck up.Its just once you hear what a great mastering or even a good one sounds like its hard to accept and relate to what is going on in that area now in the great majority of cds.
     
  7. Grant

    Grant A Musical Free-Spirit

    Location:
    Arizona
    Unfortunately, Joe, there are a lot of people trying to save a buck by mastering the project themselves....sometimes at home with the dog by their side, and the kids running about. Not that many people have the skill, let alone the proper room and gear. Not even many professionals have the process all figured out.

    A client of mine likes to call the process "massaging" the recording.
     
  8. Joe Nino-Hernes

    Joe Nino-Hernes Active Member

    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    At least someone thinks we are important :agree:

    I have a buddy who is a mix engineer, and he has to convince his clients that mastering is important. They just don't get it until they hear their mixes mastered.
     
  9. Joe Nino-Hernes

    Joe Nino-Hernes Active Member

    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    Don't remind me...Im broke because of it...:realmad:

    But more importantly, they never get to hear what their mixes can REALLY sound like. To me, its wasted opportunity. Its kinda sad...
     
  10. Grant

    Grant A Musical Free-Spirit

    Location:
    Arizona
    You should hear a lot of these indie releases. They would have sounded so much better if they had let me do them on my home PC!:winkgrin: I'm half-serious!
     
  11. apileocole

    apileocole Lush Life Gort

    I believe they would. I'm full-serious! :wave:
     
  12. johnny33

    johnny33 New Member

    Location:
    usa
    Absolutely.Until I came here I did not realize the reason why I stopped listening to new music to a great degree.

    To me its like this :

    1) work hard and starve as an artist

    2) go through 10-15 years of oblivion

    3) Finally, come up with a really good album

    4) They want to record it! YEAH! BIG BREAK!

    5) Great engineer gets it recorded. Thank you sir! Thank you :)

    6) Finally they tell me its in the mastering phase!Almost there!Almost there!

    then...

    7)10-15 years of hard work wrecked by sloshing a bucketful of loud all over my painting.


    thanks..:sigh:

    From what I understand the mastering engineer can make everyones part in the piece of work shine( and I dont mean bright) and breath or they can kill the pony.

    So yeah, you guys ARE important.Whether people realize that or industry cares.
     
  13. Tone

    Tone Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I did give him a defintion of Mastering, telling him that it is not simply 'to make it louder', hoping he'll pass this info on. And even discussed the 'loudness war' with him a bit. (though, he wasn't even aware that we are at War. :D )

    Since these are show tunes (some of a rock variety, some standard), I broke the news to him that his CD would probably not be as loud as many others. And he asked, "But I can just turn it up can't I?" ...... ahhh, some proress.


    I told him that mastering in essence, is the final assembly of the music to perpare a Master CD for duplication. Making sure the levels are proper and consistent, some compression to tame some peaks, and perhaps some EQ if needed, track order etc......

    I'm not criticizing him. He's not an engineer. Just hate to hear the mistaken perception circulating that the purpose of Mastering is to make a CD louder.
     
  14. I Am The Lolrus

    I Am The Lolrus New Member

    Location:
    LA, CA, US
    Uh I guess you guys aren't in the know... mastering = waves ultra maximizer... sheesh.
     
  15. Tone

    Tone Forum Resident Thread Starter

    You mean the Death Ray? :bone:
     
  16. Ken Scott

    Ken Scott Recording Legend

    Try looking at it this way.
    The record producer is the equivalent of the film director.
    The recording engineer is the director of photography.
    The mastering engineer is the projectionist. His job is to bring into focus what the prior two did. Not to change it.

    Cheers
     
  17. johnny33

    johnny33 New Member

    Location:
    usa
    Beautiful.Thanks Mr Scott.
     
  18. Tone

    Tone Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Excellent analogy Ken. "Bring into Focus". Aptly put.
     
  19. dartira

    dartira Forum Resident

    Now that I agree with!


    I am an ME, trying to bring into focus a couple of very difficult mixes today.
    Burning a test cd-r right now.

    You wouldn't believe (actually, I think you would) the pressure on ME's to make things as loud as
    <insert loud commercial cd here>

    I try to be conservative, but it's an expensive mission - all those revisions to make it louder...
     
  20. bdiament

    bdiament Producer, Engineer, Soundkeeper

    Location:
    New York
    Hi Anthony,

    Grrrr, indeed!
    This is like thinking the purpose of a photo finisher (or of a video monitor calibration) is to make it brighter.

    Definition(s)? Hope this helps.

    Best regards,
    Barry
    www.soundkeeperrecordings.com
    www.barrydiamentaudio.com
     
  21. bdiament

    bdiament Producer, Engineer, Soundkeeper

    Location:
    New York
    :righton:
    Folks should remember this sentence from apileocole's post and link to it.
    It is poetic in its simplicity and Zen-like in its wisdom.

    Best regards,
    Barry
    www.soundkeeperrecordings.com
    www.barrydiamentaudio.com
     
  22. Raf

    Raf Forum Resident

    Location:
    Toronto, Ontario
    Mastering engineer Noel Summerville told me: "Mastering isn't supposed to make a recording louder — it's supposed to make it sound better." Doesn't get any simpler than that.
     
  23. Mike the Fish

    Mike the Fish Señor Member

    Location:
    England
    That link was very useful. I'm in the process of trying to (re)master an old project of somebody's and I've been finding it quite hard.
     
  24. Metoo

    Metoo Forum Hall Of Fame

    Location:
    Spain (EU)
    No, the 'breath of death'™. :D
     
  25. jstraw

    jstraw Active Member

    From a lay-person's perspective, the sad thing is that when this guy hears his music mixed and played back through the monitors at the board...he thinks it's still lacking and won't be finished till it sounds "louder" (whereby louder means less dynamic).

    Again, as a lay-person, if another lay-person were to ask me what mastering is my explanation would be that it's the step following mixing (the process of making the best sounding playback from the multi-tracks) where that wonderful sounding playback is adjusted, so it sounds as much like that playback as is possible when used for production of a given medium. So the mastering for CD and the mastering for vinyl and the mastering for MP3 download would all be different and not at all interchangeable.
     
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