"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

    Excellent Barry. I will refer him to your page.

    As I'm sure you know, when you're working on a project these days and someone Mentions Mastering, (which means making it louder in their mind,) it can make you nervous. :eek:
     
  2. Metoo

    Metoo Forum Hall Of Fame

    Location:
    Spain (EU)
    I am starting to believe that all these loudness wars and over-compression began with close-micing and, then, was made worse by the pervasive use of close-miced samples. Many 70s album remasters are destroyed nowadays by over-compression and limiting because they want to make them sound like today's in-your-face music.

    I am aware that close-micing started back around the 70s, but there were still real echo chambers in use and the music back then still had some ambiance and reverb trails in it. You listen to an old vinyl of 70s music and you oftentimes hear the music as if coming from a little behind the speakers. These recordings, when remastered now end up sounding as if the instruments are stuck to your speakers and coming from them; no depth. Nuances become a nuissance, and the untrained ear suddenly thinks it is hearing more into the mix, when in reality it is being bombarded by it to the point that - to cite Steve Hoffman - even Hellen Keller would be able to notice them.

    Those nuances in the original recordings were meant to be discovered, and enjoyed, by the discerning ear, now they are presented as if compressed for a world of hearing-impared customers.
     
  3. jstraw

    jstraw Active Member

    Close-micing began with Bing Crosby.
     
  4. Metoo

    Metoo Forum Hall Of Fame

    Location:
    Spain (EU)
    Well, yes and no. Of course the singer was close to the mic, but the orchestra was several yards behind. Let me put it this way: during those years the 'mixing' was done live druing the performance.

    In the seventies the drums started to be multi-miced and close-miced, as were other instruments, not to mention when instruments started going directly into the mixing desk, but that IIRC started a little bit before.
     
  5. blind_melon1

    blind_melon1 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Australia
    The Sex Pistols captured most modern mastering perfectly, with the photo on the back of the "Flogging a dead horse" LP:D
     
  6. Grant

    Grant A Musical Free-Spirit

    Location:
    Arizona
    Problem is, most people think louder is better.:sigh:
     
  7. Tone

    Tone Forum Resident Thread Starter


    And now many think that the purpose of Mastering is to make it louder. I got a tan, just hearing that from my client.
     
  8. jstraw

    jstraw Active Member

    I disagree that mastering is supposed to make the music sound better. If the mix at the board is what the artists and producers want, mastering's task is to not make it worse...to get that sound to the reproduction medium. Am I wrong?
     
  9. Grant

    Grant A Musical Free-Spirit

    Location:
    Arizona
    Well, as posts in this thread show, the purpose and definition of mastering changes over time, and usually with the emergence and dominance of a particular format. It seems that mastering is not static. Now, of course, there are guys, like our host, who says he has never changed his method. That's fine too.

    I'm not defending the maximize guys and gals, but they are not wrong, either. The artists who want loud CDs are not wrong. We, who prefer a more "organic" sound are not wrong. That's what I like about audio, there are really no rules to this game beyond physical barriers.
     
  10. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Audiophile Music Mastering Your Host

    I haven't read this thread but someone told me Ken Scott posted on it which is totally cool.

    There was no such thing as mastering until around 1949 or so because there was nothing to master but live music. Before tape, the guy who cut the groove was called the recordist. He worked hand and hand with the mixer to get the music to "work". After tape came in and records stopped being cut live, the disk cutting guy was renamed the MASTERING engineer because the mastering person did his thing to translate the master tape to a disk. What people forget is that a tape marked MASTER is NOT FINISHED, it is TO BE MASTERED to record by the mastering engineer. THEN IT IS FINISHED. A mastering engineer did this job until the middle 1980's when they stopped making (for the most part) records. In the digital era mastering meant something else again. Now, who knows what it means, I don't. I know what I and a few other mastering dudes do but that's about it.

    In my lectures I usually give this example of old school good sounding mastering:

    You are loaned the Mona Lisa from France to exhibit at a party you are giving. You are the visual "mastering engineer" when the crate arrives. First thing you do (human nature) is to rush out to the direct sunlight and take a look at the most famous painting in the world. You want to see all the "detail" in the work. Problem is, in direct sunlight you mainly see dust, scratches and age. The actual painting is obscured somewhat under all of the bright light. Next, you hang it in your room somewhere and the key would be to find the best light to show the picture off in the best possible way. Combinations of lighting would be tried until she looks alive. When you hit that winning combination, you have it, you've mastered the Mona Lisa!

    Make sense? Do you agree or not?
     
  11. jstraw

    jstraw Active Member

    That makes a lot of sense. You don't start with the premise that your job is to improve upon Leonardo but to get what you believe he was up to into the eyes of the beholder as best as your skills and tools allow.
     
  12. Metoo

    Metoo Forum Hall Of Fame

    Location:
    Spain (EU)
    Talk about a jump in logic. Suddenly people are skipping the whole logic of this and connecting the two extremes probably based on the idea that if it is being generally done at such a technically-advanced time it's because it's good. :eek:
     
  13. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Audiophile Music Mastering Your Host

    Leonardo knew (as all artists know) that a painting isn't finished until they see what it looks like hung up in the sweet spot on a wall.
     
  14. johnny33

    johnny33 New Member

    Location:
    usa
    The word "better" is probably not the best word.But I think people are using it in a different sense here jstraw.Better here means not taking away from any original intent of the artist but bringing the total picture together so that the intent gets across even " better".

    Tough job if you ask me.I would think very tricky.
     
  15. Metoo

    Metoo Forum Hall Of Fame

    Location:
    Spain (EU)
    Yes, the only problem is that nowadays people have redefined some of the terms in your metaphor as follows:

    "direct sunlight" = boring
    "obscured somewhat" has been changed for digitally enhanced until completely in-your-face
    "best light" = the largest amount of digital compression and maximizing that the recording can take
    "looking alive" = in-your-face or it is dull and boring
    then they have it, they have finally futzed the Mona Lisa so that she looks like Paris Hilton (in other words, up-to-date) :help:

    And then, after becoming accustomed to the audio take on the day-glo look, all the natural colors in music just seem drab.
     
  16. Metoo

    Metoo Forum Hall Of Fame

    Location:
    Spain (EU)
    Steve, your words - with which I agree - sound like coming from someone who thrives on subtlety and is aware of, and respects, nuances. Unfortunately, the loudness wars and its spawn are all about the extreme opposite to balance, subtlety and, thus, good taste. After all loud, in the visual world, is synonymous with gaudy.
     
  17. Grant

    Grant A Musical Free-Spirit

    Location:
    Arizona
    I must remember the basic idea of Steve's concept, to present what's in the recording in the best way, not to change the sound. In fact, Steve's explaination would probably be the best answer to give to anyone wanting to know what mastering is. If they don't get it right away, show them with a picture of something and a light. It also works because people tend to understand visual images much more than audio..
     
  18. Tone

    Tone Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Excellent thoughts Steve. And very similar to Ken Scott's analogy about Mastering being about 'presentation'. Great minds think alike. :) ...... Very interesting perspectives from both of you.
     
  19. william shears

    william shears Active Member

    Location:
    new zealand
    I can't remember the context, nor era, but there is a quote around from George Harrison somewhere in which he describes what Harry Moss did in the mastering room at Abbey Road to "making the tracks stick to the record.." I'm paraphrasing but when I saw that quote years ago I instinctively knew what he meant even though I had never used EQ nor compression as mastering tools. Just the touch of compression/eq added to those Beatles master tapes to facilitate cutting to vinyl absolutely brought the songs 'into focus' when played back on domestic TTs.
    That for me will always define 'mastering'.
     
  20. MMM

    MMM Forum Hall Of Fame

    Location:
    Lodi, New Jersey

    Maybe "not to revise the sound", no? Judicious adjustments can be useful at times...
     
  21. George P

    George P Forum Pianophile

    Location:
    NYC
    The way most mastering or re-mastering is done today, it is literally rewriting the music. For example, in Beethoven's music there is often a very wide dynamic range, this dynamic range is specified on the score as "Forte (f)," "Piano (p)," "Fortissimo (ff)," etc. If an engineer walks into a studio and takes a tape of a performance of this work and makes it "louder," then he is literally rewriting the music, for now instead of the range being ppp to fff, the range is now cut to f to ffff, or something like that. Now, in classical music, this loudness business hasn't caught on, thankfully, but why is the dynamic markings on a Rock record less important? Forget that it just plain doesn't sound better, it simply is immoral, especially when the artist has no say in how his music is mastered.
     
  22. Metoo

    Metoo Forum Hall Of Fame

    Location:
    Spain (EU)
    Perhaps because practically everybody feels the need to leave their mark on what they do (even if it is doing it wrong). Just think of all the remixes that have been done, which oftentimes highlight more who did them than the artist whose music was remixed.
     
  23. Joe Nino-Hernes

    Joe Nino-Hernes Active Member

    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    Agreed!







    Is it my turn yet? :goodie: :D
     
  24. George P

    George P Forum Pianophile

    Location:
    NYC
    Sure, but perhaps those who feel the need to leave their mark should write their own music and then they can do whatever they want to it, provided that they are shrewd enough to get that kind of control over their music.

    Me, I think the mark should be made by the artist, period. I don't mind the engineer putting it in flattering light, but when he (or his boss or whomever calls the shots) starts thinking that he knows better than Beethoven or Stevie Wonder (IOW makes significant changes that amount to rewriting the material)- he loses all of my respect (and money.)
     
  25. Grant

    Grant A Musical Free-Spirit

    Location:
    Arizona
    I find that those who like to revise music and sound are probably better suited to the production side of the music. They are usually the artists and producers. That's what they are good at. Then there are those whose talents lie not in creation, but taking what others have done and making it better. There are very few who can do both. I think the fans are probably split down the middle.
     
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