help mastering.

Posted on
Member Since: Nov 27, 2007

man i already posted this, but i dunno where the hell it went.

im trying to follow a tutorial from the "tips" section here on mastering. the one by Earle Holder.

i dont have a linear phase multiband compressor so i been trying to follow it using my multiband comp in Cubase 4.
Ive had to play the song thru 4 times to get the peaks (unfortunately seperately) on each of the 4 bands and then change the thresholds to those new numbers.

then i get lost because thats where my compressor falls short of what's needed in regards to following the tutorial.

I have no idea what im doing to be honest, all my songs have just been mixed and spat out till this point, so improvising is not worth it.

In the tutorial it talks about the "master threshold" and "master realease" sliders which i dont have.
im guess i need some advice on what to do after keying in the new threshold times. using what i got.

i have a couple more questions but one at a time i guess.

hope this isnt to vauge.

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Since: Nov 27, 2007

Mar 18, 2009 09:08 am

well, sorta "fixed" the problem with a preset good enough for now. but still would like to know about how to do what i mentioned, properly. I guess its not as much mastering but simply getting the compression and vol right on a final mix.

MASSIVE Mastering, LLC
Since: Aug 05, 2008

Mar 18, 2009 11:46 am

It's much too vague. Some stuff is here:;frm=8#172305

I have some blog stuff here:

But one thing I'd suggest right off the bat is to lose the maul-the-band compressor. It's so rarely used in the mastering phase (no matter what the marketing guys say) that it's not even worth mentioning. Although on occasion it might have the juice to save a badly mixed project (save it - not make it louder), MBC's tend to sit on the sidelines in "real life" situations.
Since: Nov 27, 2007

Mar 18, 2009 05:50 pm

so then actually getting the full "punch" in certain frequencies is done more in the mix before hand
by using the multiband on say drums to get the punch you need?

so what's the difference between a linear phase multib comp. and a normal?
Or is it still relitivley the same?

why then is there a tutorial under mastering using this?
im not having a go, just wanna get the basic understanding of whats going on.
in a nutshell i just wanna put at least a little shine on my finished product.

So, eg: you get a finished song to master. what basic steps do you do to master it and why? (if you would be so kind good sir?)

MASSIVE Mastering, LLC
Since: Aug 05, 2008

Mar 18, 2009 08:20 pm

Punch, clarity, focus, dynamics - Part of the core. Should be there before you even place the microphone.

Multi-band (Maul-the-band) compression is just that - Compression that rips the program material into difference frequency bands, allowing you to compress them individually. Nice for de-essing, occasionally handy for "thwumpies" (that low, distorted overtone of a guitar with too much distortion) and the like. But basically, a band-aid for a broken leg.

Broadband compression is compressing the energy of the whole thing.

I'm not saying that MBC is never used in mastering, but it's certainly not on the starting team 95% of the time. If there's a problematic mix that comes in (sibilance, thwumpies, general spectral imbalance) and I can't get a remix from the powers that be, then - maybe - the MBC will come out.

Using it on your *own* mix? I can't imagine a single scenario where I'd ever suggest such a thing.

If your mix doesn't "shine" then fix it. Putting on a hat that says "mastering" on it isn't going to change what you hear... You can throw stuff at a mix all day and see what sticks - But unless you have a clear end-game in mind (which you should have had during the mix) then you're second-guessing yourself. Almost anything that sounds "different" (usually "more hyped") will sound "better" (when it probably isn't). Almost anything that sounds "louder" will sound "better" also.

why then is there a tutorial under mastering using this?

I have no idea. I read it over. Let's just say that we have completely different approaches. I could spend days going over that...

There is one particular sentence I actually agree with though - Quote:
The trick is to listen to a song completely and KNOW which tools to use. This knowledge comes from an understanding of the functionality of those tools.
- Most of the stuff before that I'm not really keen on.

So, eg: you get a finished song to master. what basic steps do you do to master it and why?

1) I listen objectively (this is where mastering your own mixes goes south quickly).

2) I mentally "visualize" where the mix 'is' vs. where the mix can go (keeping in mind the previous mix and the following mix) and what's needed to allow it to translate to the widest possible array of playback systems.

3) Hit STOP.

4) Set up a chain that will get it from point 'A' to point 'B' and hit PLAY again.

5) Tweak. Certain settings (compression thresholds for example) are easier to adjust when the mix is playing. If predicted EQ adjustments were off a bit, obviously it's easier to correct them while it's playing.

POINT BEING: If you don't *know* what the track needs during mixing, you certainly aren't going to know it later just because your focus is different.


I should add - There's nothing wrong with "throwing things and seeing what sticks" as experimentation. Experimentation is good. That's how you find out what tools do. But don't experiment on mixes you're intimately familiar with - Of course, not your own - and nothing that you're invested in or attached to. If you want experimentation to be effective and objective, you need something you can stay objective with.
Since: Nov 27, 2007

Mar 19, 2009 02:54 am

ok i been under a different impression about all this. but its good now you've set me straight on a few things.

just one more thing, if my song sounds good on some speakers and not so good in the lesser/other speakers, thats a stereo imaging thing?

i have a fair idea but can you explain for example, for me, if i have harbal and i look at the finised product on screen and the songs sounds as i mentioned on different speakers, what exactly am i lookin for there as far a the overall eq goes?

i know its about ear, but surely it looks a certain way.
something to do with peaks and valleys?

MASSIVE Mastering, LLC
Since: Aug 05, 2008

Mar 19, 2009 11:13 am

If something sounds good on some speakers and not others, the same rules apply - It's probably (first and foremost) core sounds that don't work with each other, then mix issues, then mastering issues.

If it sounds right in stereo and collapses into a quivering pile of mush in mono, that's phase cancellation. There is no plug that will fix that - By design, it can only get worse.

I won't really get into my thoughts on HarBal - Even RTA's in general.

Sure, the average 'natural sounding' mix has a relatively predictable spectral image (for the record, '1/f') that over time, resembles pink noise. But just because a mix has that "look" to it doesn't mean it will sound good. If a mix *doesn't* have that look, it doesn't mean it will sound bad.

Meters in general: Vital for calibration, decent for curiosity & training. Then shut 'em off.

(DISCLAIMER: I don't track & mix often anymore - A dozen or so classical recordings a year, maybe 2 or 3 rock/pop records - maybe)

When I'm tracking, the only meters I pay attention to are the VU meters on the preamps. Nothing else matters. My tracking converters are calibrated -20dBFS and I rarely ever cross the 0dBVU threshold on the preamps. So I don't need to bother looking at the digital levels (as I have properly calibrated the chain previously and I know a 0dBVU sine will give me a -20dBFS signal).

After that, it all comes down to the monitoring calibration - Also etched in stone. -7 on the Avocet with a -20dBFS pink signal will give me 85dBSPL at the mix position. I tend to mix with "movie" headroom (around -24dBFS) so the Avocet is usually at around -4 or -3 typically.

Mastering, same thing - Except that the Avocet might be at -17 or so. Both the DA and the AD of the mastering converters are calibrated to -10dBFS. So even with ridiculously loud program material, the analog chain is hardly even breathing (and this is with gear that actually has ridiculous amounts of usable headroom - But just because you have it doesn't mean you need to exploit it).

I don't care about gain reduction meters - Heck, the ones on the STC-8M (my 'go to' compressor) are blocked half the time. I don't care what the meter reads as long as the box is doing what I want it to do.

The HEDD's (main converter set) meters are very high resolution and very fast - But again, I don't really care what they say once I know they're working.

Sorry - Session starting up, must go.

POINT: Meters, analyzers, etc., should confirm what you're hearing - not decide what you're doing. While there may be certain similarities between what you hear and what an analyzer might show, allowing the meters to dictate your actions is... Uh...

I don't need a speedometer to tell me that I'm going fast. I don't need a thermometer to let me know that it's hot outside. I don't need a hygrometer to tell me that it's humid and sticky.

Although if you have the chills and feel very cold and the thermometer says that it's 80 degrees (F) in the room, then there's probably an issue. If the hygrometer says that the relative humidity is only 10% but you're sweating bullets, there's probably an issue. In those cases, your calibration is off. And again, the meter is simply confirming that fact.

I'll try to come back to this later...

I am not a crook's head
Since: Mar 14, 2003

Mar 19, 2009 11:15 am

Also MM, remember that almost all of us here record as a hobby. While we're always interested in getting the best sound possible, its a pretty safe bet that few of us have any options better than mastering our own mixes.

We greatly appreciate the advice though, since you have MUCH more experience than most of us put together in this area.

Czar of Turd Polish
Since: Jun 20, 2006

Mar 19, 2009 11:46 am

I have tried that tutorial several times. Leaving the MBC out of the chain helped me alot, it really did nothing for me (except make things worse).

I'm sure that has alot to do with experience but I was much happier with the end result by EQ'ing that extra punch to my kick.

I don't follow that process anymore really. And although not all will agree my chain is now...

Q1 single channel ParaEQ rolled off at 40
Light mastering reverb (one of those you can't tell it's there, until it's not mixes)
L2 limiter - Louder, but not smashed
Since: Nov 27, 2007

Mar 19, 2009 07:53 pm

yeah well "Capnen" tis what i ended up doing in the end pretty much too.

still my average RMS was still at -15 odd dB.
getting the punch i want from EZ is ******* hard. coz really it sucks for anything but death.
that kick just has something about it that ****s me to tears, so i try to hide it a bit more.
and so i guess the rest of the mix suffers as a consequence. cant heavy up the guitars too much and cant bring out the rest of the kit too much or ya cant hear the kick at all.

MM, i wish i could understand alot of what you said in last post as far as details go. but i do get the overall message.

im just really wanting to get more an overall consistency to a finished song's eq.
by looking at harbal i can kinda use it as a (where i went wrong in my mix) reference point.
for example realizing that overall in that mix i proly put on too much top end, but dint realize while doing it to individual instruments.
its a matter of training my ear better and like you say MM, knowing where the mix is going and from where, before ya start is the key.

i learned alot from my last song i'll tell you.

cheers for the help.
song's in my prof. if you wanna check it.

Czar of Midi
Since: Apr 04, 2002

Mar 21, 2009 02:02 pm

Deon, one thing you will find yourself doing is trying so hard to get the individual track to sound like you think it should. I even did it in my younger days.

WELL ****** STOP IT!

Like that? Anyway, what you are doing is a good starting point. But many people make the mistake of spending countless hours trying to make the track sound good all by itself. That simply doesn't work. You need to tweak the track while its playing with the other tracks. Otherwise you could spend days going back and forth not figuring out why it isn't fitting. But in many cases the mind will play tricks on your ears. It sounded good on its own so now it sounds good in the mix. At least that is what your head is telling you after twiddling with it for hours.

So don't spend much time working the individual track on its own. Work it while its in the mix.

That said, there are time when a track has its own individual sound and you need to build the rest of the mix around it. But always count on what you hear in the entire mix, not just on a soloed track.
Since: Nov 27, 2007

Mar 30, 2009 04:27 am

yeah noize i know what you mean, i feel i been thru that stage, now im finding the less i mess with the eq's the better its sounding. im really getting the whole, "only a little tweak of eq" thing.
ive found with other songs ive done, if i go back and just start all over, and hardly touch the drums eq wise and take a tad of poo out of the guitars it kicks the *** of the previous mix.

used to be spending way too much time on the eq of the mix when its totally counter productive.

again, yeah, a good sounding guitar by itself hardly ever fits in the mix that way.
so now im starting to look at what the song needs guitar wise, before i even put the mic in place.
cheers for the tips mate.

Czar of Turd Polish
Since: Jun 20, 2006

Mar 30, 2009 12:54 pm

Took me 3 years to finally understand less is more :) Metal, that's a beast unto itself and requires special treatment imo. Most other stlyes, they get better the more I worry about mic placement and the less I process them.

Czar of Midi
Since: Apr 04, 2002

Mar 30, 2009 04:11 pm

Yep, not saying you can't boost and EQ. But here the only time I boost is to achieve an effect with the sound. Not really to make it fit, but more to make it sound like something else.

That one thing I think I really like about electronic music. You are so much more open for experimenting. Straight up rock or metal almost always will need certain things to fit all together.

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