The Art of mastering...

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Victor Martell, Jul 21, 2018.

  1. Victor Martell

    Victor Martell Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Am curious about a couple of things - I have done some internet searches, but somehow the answers found seem to belong to a different question

    In my mind I always assumed that re-mastering implied a remixing - that is a master is prepared by mixing the multitrack to satisfy different media, applying post processing if necessary, for example for a vinyl release - yet, reading from several sources I see that sometimes, masters are obtained then processing applied, without using the multitrack then we get releases from the like MFL, ORG, etc...

    That is confirmed (to me, of course) when I see Steven Wilson called a remixer, not a mastering engineer - implying his remixes are probably mastered by someone else..


    What is the process ? what are the resulting tapes/whatever digital equivalent for those stages called?

    Another question is what training is needed? is there a degree? or could I buy, let's say Nuendo and have at it?

    Thnx in advance for your answers!

  2. thermal123

    thermal123 Forum Resident

    London UK
  3. Victor Martell

    Victor Martell Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Thx - I saw that - some info, but like I said, many questions answered...

    To expand on the original question -

    Mix - > 2 channel or multi mix ( I would call this the master, but apparently is not - what is it called, accepted term that every one in the business knows? mixdown? just mix?)

    2 channel or or multi mix -> apply RIAA curve -> is this a master? I assume that it is ready for cutting and the more processing is undesirable
    2 channel or multi mix -> mastering engineer -> I assume this is a master for sure - I also assume this is where records are ruined by brickwall compression, etc BUT it is here where the mastering err masters, live?

    does a new mix imply a new master?

    and more importantly is it possible to train oneself to do this? do the mastering masters posses a degree? Could I have a go in nuendo (or something like that)?


  4. bmoregnr

    bmoregnr Forum Rezident

    1060 W. Addison
    This one is a bit all over the map but I'll take a crack at it recognizing I am just an end user and could well get corrected here.

    The vast majority of the time the artist recorded to a series of multi-track tapes eventually getting to what they consider the final version or a multi-track master tape. The vast majority of the time the artist, producer or recording engineer then mixes those multi-track tapes to a stereo master tape. Note I am leaving out mono, or say recording/mixing right to a stereo or mono master for the sake of the explanation. It is that stereo master tape that is and will always be the album.

    That stereo master tape that gets sent to a mastering engineer if not by the artist, producer or recording engineer, who then "masters" it to vinyl or a digital format. The first time this happens it generally gets called "mastered"; then whenever anyone else takes a crack at transferring that stereo master tape, likely years later, for another vinyl or digital format pressing, it generally gets called a "remaster".

    So it is is pretty rare that anyone goes back to the multi-track tapes; maybe more because that isn't what the artist intended, their stereo master tape was the final product to then be given to a mastering engineer to apply it to the real consumer final product vinyl say in the vinyl only days, later to cassette, CD etc. The Steven Wilson you cited is a case where he remixes from the multi-track tapes (so the artist said hey see what you can do to make it better than we did), most of the time both for 5.1 and 2.0. So when that remix, in Wilsons case likely remixed to a digital file, and that remix gets "mastered" to vinyl or digital-- generally called "mastered" in this case because it is a new first time for this stereo or 5.1 mix. In the beginning his remixes were mastered by others, so to your point Wilson was the remix engineer, and someone else was the mastering engineer; but I believe he learned through a couple of cases where the mastering engineer changed his remix too much for his taste, he seems to now make sure that his remix is "mastered flat" so no additional changes were made when transferred to the consumer product excepting what is necessary for vinyl.

    As you can see, it isn't an easy answer. I think you can get degrees in it for sure. I recently visited Delta State's program half on a lark driving through the town and saw their facilities. Delta Music Institute - Arts and Sciences You could get hands on experience working in a studio if they need warm bodies I suppose. I would think being a musician helps. I also think you could do a lot on your own with the tools out there these days, although I haven't touched a single one of them.
  5. Jwest97

    Jwest97 Regional Director of the Couch and T.V.

    Las Vegas, NV
    Well, Mastering is just the process of taking the final mix (multi-track compiled to two channel) of an album and assuring that each song has a seemless transition between them. It also involves making multiple masters (whether digital or analog) optimized for each format. There is no multi-track to speak of unless you're mastering a surround sound mix. What Steve Wilson is doing is revisiting those multi tracks and tweaking levels, eq, timbre, etc. on each individual track in the songs. This makes him the mix engineer. At the end of the day, the mastering engineer has a lot less power and is there to make very subtle changes/serve as an unbiased set of ears.

    If you really wanted to get into mastering, an education in music production can be very helpful. I'm not really aware of any programs that focus specifically on mastering. Usually, the curriculum are very broad with an emphasis on mixing. I'm currently attending college to learn about mixing, but the subject of mastering is lightly touched on. Just give it a go on Pro Tools, Logic, Cubase, etc. using a plug in like Izotope Ozone. I've also heard of a plug in that simulates the sound of popular streaming services (codec's and DSP's.) This allows the mastering engineer to adjust the over all level so that the DSP's and limiters built into those services affects the final master as little as possible since the limiters they use tend to have very adverse effects on the final product.
    bmoregnr likes this.
  6. Victor Martell

    Victor Martell Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Thanks for your replies - I am quoting the posters so they see my thanks. Apologies for repeating information.

    This should be pinned somewhere for us newbies - I am trying to start recording as a hobby and wanted to learn more about the final step. I have a couple of musician friends and 2 pianolinist daughters that play live often - would love to record then then go thru the whole process, all the way to mastering a final, "release" - thanks for your help. There is a not a lot of info on mastering - there is, of course info on the programs, tools, etc, but so far haven't found something that will get your started from solid basics.



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