The mastering for this project has taken place in the studio’s on campus, for my project 1 mix, I mastered at home on non calibrated monitors in a weird position in the room. The result was not very effective, nor was it what I would deem now, as an industry standard master. I have been mastering in the Audient 8024 studio on campus, the benefit of which is that there is the Avalon and an honest pair of Dynamic Audio monitors, far more honest that the Opals that I am used to mixing on. What I was hoping to achieve with this mastering process was to add, some quirky plugins and processing to really spice up the tracks.
When these track are released, which will be sometime next year, we aim to publish them on Bandcamp, SoundCloud and Youtube, sharing on Facebook and Instagram. These platforms have recommended formats for the audio that is uploaded to them. Bandcamp and SoundCloud both will accept 24 bit depth WAV files at the mostl, and sample rates from 44.1k upwards. They will also accept and MP3 encoded file.
Radio is a bit of a different story, song length has a limit on air time which is quite often between 3:30 and 4 minutes which is the biggest length that I am aware of. This is why I made a radio edit of Little Loco, I am unsure about Baby It’s You as I would be shaving off a minute and a half of audio from it. Little Loco is radio friendly territory already luckily. The section I cut out was just after the bridge solo, there is a random 12 second or so breakdown before kicking into the third chorus. It is not 100% vital to the track and is quite easily omitted and then faded back together.
The track is a bit of a big rock song, so I aimed to add more edge and brightness. So I opted for some Mid Side processing, which enabled me to process the middle and sides differently. Straight away I tried to find the sweet spot with the mid track that would line with the sides tracks to be properly in phase, this spot was roughly 1dB above unity gain. I then added the Abbey road RS127 rack plugin, which adds “brilliance”, a real sweetness to the high end which I set to 3.5K and +4db. Then adding the same plugin to the mid track with +2 db.
The track was sounding much brighter, our lecturer then showed me something very cool. Basically, we split the track into two mono tracks and then one by one ran them through the Avalon, running it clean, only using the the EQ. He set the high shelf to 32K and boosted it by only couple of dB, but the effect was amazing, yet incredibly subtle, as if someone had removed a blanket from in front of the speakers. It added a lot of height and air to the top end. Finally, our lecturer showed me what a bit of multiband compression can do to just tuck everything in and tame the whole track, this was possibly the most subtle processing however it made the track feel just that extra bit cohesive and like it was being played from a CD. The limiter used was an Izotope Vintage Limiter set to “Tube”, the ceiling brought down to -0.3 dB to avoid any jumps from intersample peaking and just to keep it safely from regular clipping.
Baby It’s you:
For this song I went into the C24 studio, the benefit of this studio is the mastering outboard gear which I made good use of. The BAX EQ and the Foote Compressor, both of which a quite subtle for the purpose of detailed mastering. I ran the EQ after the compressor as I didn’t the compressor to flatten whatever EQ’ing did. I added in some 18k at around 3dB which like the Avalon for little Loco added some air and space. With the compressor Steph showed me this technique to set the sweet spot for the attack and release, where you absolutely hammer the ratio, ratio, threshold and the gain to slam the track, then roll back the attack until it’s not choking transients, and then roll off the release until it’s not choking the following transients. The ratio was fairly light on at 1.5:1 and the gain reduction maxed out at around -2.5 which is a very comfortable amount of headroom for dynamics to still have a lot of presence. I used the Izotope Vintage Limiter set to “Tube” again, with the ceiling brought down to -0.3 dB.
I aimed for an average integrated LUFS value of -13.0. In the chorus and other louder parts the short term value was reaching -12.0 and the quieter parts such as the verses around -15.0. At this point the song was hitting the ceiling fairly regularly getting the tracks to a nice and loud level. The mastering I feel went fairly well, improving the tracks a lot. They sound far more lively than mixes and generally
Comparison to Industry Standards:
I feel like in terms of the quality of the performance, that I have reached near to, if not, and professional standard, particularly with my level of editing and performance correction in post. I’ve mentioned how in a previous blog how it’s generally a dead giveaway that the mix sounds ameteur if there are mistakes in the edit or performance. I have really put a great deal of time into getting the sound of the performance to a next level for myself.
If I had to compare these songs to a similar sort of production, I would probably go with Trippin’ The Light Fantastic by Ball Park Music.
As well as Kevin Parker from Tame Impala, as their Producer and Writer he is a big part of the bands inspiration and is a fantastic producer.
This is perhaps the area or point of view that I was missing from this project, the producer role. I relied quite heavily on the creativity of the band and the songs to make the songs special and a high quality “production”. When I listen to rippin’ The Light Fantastic by Ball Park Music, it just sounds a little bit more like a song you would hear on the radio, and like it has more character and production value. Not that the quality of the The Grüvs songwriting is any lesser, their songwriting is awesome! The production value I’m talking about, is generally having a push for certain tonal aesthetics, ideas, or even addition instruments or sounds. My project is pretty much just “the band”, which isn’t a bad thing, however it can be really beneficial for the development of bands sound and character.
I’ve compared Little Loco to Trippin’ The Light Fantastic, whilst the track felt like it was felt like it was fairly pushed, I think I could have pushed it a little more with the limiter threshold. Trippin’ The Light Fantastic is running at a couple of dB higher and is generally just a tiny bit louder, and a little bit more like a radio master with it’s higher level. I think I could have afforded to push the songs a little bit louder to be in the same ball park (pun intended). I think the mix was also maybe a bit brighter, I think throughout my process I haven’t mixed in quite as much high end, the brightening in the mastering process was effective however I only really added extreme high end and not so much the more aggressive and noticeably brighter high mids (roughly between 3k to 7k). I would say I was worrying a bit about having too harsh a mix throughout the process and I feel like for all of the resonant high frequencies that I removed, I should have replaced to some degree.
note: (On top is Trippin’ the Light Fantastic, below is Little Loco)
I have travelled a large distance with this project. I have really stepped up my recording quality level since the last EP I did in trimester 2, just going to the effort to experiment and research on techniques, principles and different tones for pre production really prepared me to get a better sound. My confidence in the studios has gone up also, the further use of the desks and the outboard gear has been a real benefit for my project. Things such processing the vocals and mix through the Avalon for recording and mixing, and using the 1176 compressor for the bass.
I have improved on my artist coaching and production, I felt very involved when it to electric guitars and vocals, the guys would often ask for my feedback on a harmony line or guitar part, and I would give my honest opinion in the kindest way possible. Especially with the lead guitarist James, as a guitarist we had a lot in terms of taste for tone in common and we were able to bond over it and he really respected my opinion, despite it being their song. Similarly with rest of the band it really helped getting to know them and their tastes, the relationship was really casual and relaxing and the bonus of this was they seemed quite comfortable performing in the studio.
I feel a lot more confident about taking on a musical project, as well as a project on my own. Managing it was a struggle at times with the band, although I could safely say that I managed my bookings and time spent on the project well enough to not lose lot of sleep. I did spend an extensive amount of time in the studio’s, I wanted to avoid mixing at home as much as I could mainly because of my limited plugin supply, but also due to the poor quality sound environment. I have learnt a lot about session management and workflow between stages of the project, so from recording drums to editing them, and then to recording bass, to editing it and so on.
I am a little disappointed that I couldn’t deliver all 4 tracks to the standard of a high quality master, partially because I did a lot of work recording and editing them and won’t receive any credit for it, however I will be back in the holidays as soon as I can. I believe this project, when finished with artwork could really give the band some traction in their genre and in the Indie/Alt rock music scene in Brisbane. Unfortunately I won’t be releasing a link to to songs as the band (hopefully) will be releasing the songs when they’re all back in the country at the beginning of next year.
Perkins, J. (2014). The 2014 Mastering Guide to Audio Formats and Delivery Mediums. The Pro Audio Files. Retrieved 8 December 2016, from https://theproaudiofiles.com/audio-mastering-format-and-delivery-guide-2014/