Making sure all your punches are done, individual instruments are processed like you want, and getting ready to premaster.
When you are done recording all the instruments, you are then ready to prepare for premastering. Make sure there are no mistakes left on the tape to be "punched", make sure the noise has been reduced to the minimum possible, and the levels to the maximum possible.
Listen to your recording several times and decide where you want all the instruments in the stereo image, where you need to process in the mixdown (adding compression to vocals or solos for example) and how you want each instruments level set. Once you decide on all this, you are then ready to do the final mixdown to create your premaster.
Some things that I commonly do when hired to master for a band is this...often times the home recorder uses Dolby NR thru the whole recording process, which isn't bad, but it does lessen the highs and lows of the final product. To remedy this, I use a parametric EQ to bring up those frequences, just the extreme highs and extreme lows. Also, I often boost a little bit at around 500Hz this helps bring some vocals out of the mix, which really helps if you are dealing with a vocally weak recording. Another great frequency band to work with is the 2000Hz range. Used in moderation, it can bring out the 'sizzle' of a distorted guitar like nothing else, but, use it sparingly, as with all these frequency ranges, to much of a boost and the tape will start sounding 'lop-sided', for lack of a better term.
One of the most important things to keep in mind while premastering is that you need to fadeout instruments that have a momentary volume swell, or unusual things like that that just happen once in a while. those must be fixed at the mixdown/premastering stage off the game. Once the recording is all mixed down to two tracks, it's over, the stage is set, and the only things that can be done at that point are reverb compression and other dynamic effects like that.
The most important effects processing, song and instrument fading in and out, any effects on the vocals, such as intentional over-reverb or delay or the like, should be done while laying the track if possible. Of course, big professional studios often do this in the remix by patch the vocal track into a seperate channel and effecting that but then those studios generally have 48+ channel boards and 24+track recorders, so as always, this website is aimed more at the 'make-do' frame of mind for us starving artists.
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