PDA

View Full Version : Maybe I've been goin about this whole mixing and mastering thing all wrong.


BlackPanther
10-04-2009, 04:16 AM
Ok so I use Reason but I'm sure it applies to all DAW's. Before I start working on the song I create the mastering suite combi. For those who don't know it, the default has a parametric eq, compressor, stereo imager, and a maximizer/limiter.

When you add it, it stops everything from clipping and stuff. What I want to know is, should I start off not adding the mastering suite and work on the song without it and adjust the levels so it doesn't clip or am I fine doing what I've been doing? I do it with my drums in it's own combi patch as well along with other instruments that I think may need it. I hope that wasn't such a confusing question.

Rozovian
10-04-2009, 10:11 AM
I would advise against it. It makes you think your track sound better than it really is, so you won't do the mixing as good. You can easily get a balanced sound but you might lose much of the transparency of the mix.

What I do is just keep a limiter on while mixing, then add the others. Granted, I'm not pro enough to have anything to show for how awesome that works, but I think it forces me to mix the tracks better. Better mixed tracks+output effects=win. :D

Yoozer
10-04-2009, 12:04 PM
Don't throw limiters or compressors over things.

Just make them not clip in the first place.

If it's too quiet, compressors are not the solution to the problem. Turn the volume of your speakers up.

Harmony
10-04-2009, 04:35 PM
Agreed. To bake a cake, you don't start by putting frosting on the eggs, sugar and flour.

BlackPanther
10-04-2009, 05:39 PM
Haha a very creative way to put it in perspective. So wait till the very end to do my mixing/mastering, got it.

Gario
10-04-2009, 06:58 PM
Ah, considering I use the exact same setup and program, let's see if I can help you out...

When I took a recording class about 2 years ago, my teacher said something that I've used as a rule of thumb - "Recording and mixing is like a dealing with water flow. You want to start with the strongest flow right in the beginning (recording), so set that to it's highest level without introducing dirt into the system (clipping and such). The water flow can be amplified and such, but if the original source was weak or had problems with it the problems will be amplified, as well. You must work from the most basic level up, or else you'll run into problems that are impossible to fix.'

Yeah, not word for word, but it's the general idea. Point is, work from the bottom up - you'll run into problems you cannot fix, otherwise.

I turn off the mixer when I work in Reason (hit the 'bypass' switch on the master mixer), but I set the settings up in it so I can simply switch it on and off at will to hear the final product. It's nice to hear the music with the mixer settings, and it's also important to write the music without the mixer settings so you can take care of the problems when they arise.

Scrap McNapps
10-04-2009, 07:36 PM
Don't throw limiters or compressors over things.

Just make them not clip in the first place.

If it's too quiet, compressors are not the solution to the problem. Turn the volume of your speakers up.

I agree. I would also like to add if you find that all your stuff is clipping prior to limiting, you are running a few of your tracks too hot and you need to turn down the volume of a couple of your tracks (at your discretion). Limiting of course raises the volume of your music, but it can also affect your dynamic range as certain sounds and frequencies are cut while the lower sounds get louder. It's very noticable when you play with the limiter.

Harmony
10-04-2009, 09:04 PM
Haha a very creative way to put it in perspective. So wait till the very end to do my mixing/mastering, got it.Well, sort of. According to the common definitions of mixing and mastering, you can't really mix at the end; it's the process that takes place throughout the recording process in preparation for mastering. Continuing with my cake analogy:

Audio Mixing is:

Blend 2cups flour, 1/4 cup sugar, 3 eggs, 1/2 cup milk.
Add vanilla to taste.
Check consistency, if too lumpy, add more milk.
Bake at 400deg until golden brown.
Let cake cool.

At this point you have a pretty good cake that you could share with friends. But to kick it up a notch...

Audio Mastering is:

Spread frosting on cake.
Garnish with those little candy things.
Slice into serving portions.

So yeah, at the mastering stage, you shouldn't be adding more vanilla the mix, and at the mixing stage you shouldn't be trying to garnish the cake while it's in the oven. Of course everyone does everything differently. That's just what I'd call the textbook application of the terms mixing and mastering. Don't know if that helped, but talking about cake never hurt anyone.

zircon
10-04-2009, 09:20 PM
At the same time, you gotta do whatever you think works best for you and your music. I personally start putting my mastering plugins on early into my work on a track. I never mix or master separately - that stuff happens while I work on the song. Even a subtle mastering effect can alter the balance of the track so I prefer to keep that stuff on throughout. This is actually how The Crystal Method works, too.

Meteo Xavier
10-04-2009, 10:36 PM
I've tried it both ways and starting out with mastering stuff on it already just doesn't work as well. It almost feels like you're "boxing in" your soundscape, if that makes any sense. Its stifling, especially if it turns out your mastering suite isn't that great to begin with.

My suggestion (suggestion, not recommendation) is to write your track out, THEN go back and mix it, THEN go back and master it. The point is you're going to have to go back again sooner or later anyway and doing too much stuff at the same time can be wearisome and make it hard to finish the song. You could write the song first, wait a day and let your ears rest, go BACK and fix it from the drums and bass up, wait another day, go back again and see if it sounds like you want it to, fix until its ready, THEN go back and master it.

Try it both ways and see which works best for you. I recommend writing the track first, because then at least you will have finished the music, you can always hire someone to mix and master it for you.

tefnek
10-04-2009, 10:56 PM
I agree with Zircon - that's how I work too. I actually have a pre-master track where everything goes before it hits the master (which contains compressors, eq, etc) so that I can make sure that nothing is clipping.

avaris
10-05-2009, 12:04 AM
At the same time, you gotta do whatever you think works best for you and your music. I personally start putting my mastering plugins on early into my work on a track. I never mix or master separately - that stuff happens while I work on the song. Even a subtle mastering effect can alter the balance of the track so I prefer to keep that stuff on throughout. This is actually how The Crystal Method works, too.

Ditto, same here.

Proper grouping and bussing, with minimal amounts of natural/transparent compression goes a loooooong way sometimes. It's an excellent way to make sure your low end is in control and solid.

Gario
10-05-2009, 12:21 AM
Zircon has a good point - and so do the people that say you should mix first, master later. On Reason you can do both without a problem. On the mastering combinator you can bypass the mastering with a simple click (the switch is on the top left of the device - a switch that says 'On/Bypass/Off') and you'll be working on a track that has no mastering. If you want to check to hear how the mastering works with the musical space you can simply turn it back on temporarily and run the track. That way you know how the current finished product sounds and you'll be able to avoid the problems of working in a pre-mastered track.

Hopefully that'll give you the best of both worlds (that's how I work, anyway - it seems to work well for me).

BlackPanther
10-05-2009, 07:20 AM
Ooo got lots of different input on this, thanks guys. What I do is similar to what zircon and tefnek does. I actually think I'm improving production wise but I thought there might be a better or easier way but I guess it just comes down to personal preference. Although I'm pretty comfortable with what I'm doin now, there could be some other way that I like or even new techniques I could adapt to my current style so I'm gonna keep experimenting.

Yoozer
10-05-2009, 11:30 AM
The mastering chain in Reason is complicated. The complexity is hidden in a single Combinator with a handy list of presets, which is nice, but not clarifying. Because the Combinator can be reduced to a single rack strip in Reason, it's attractive to leave it closed and then pick a preset that suits you.

This is similar with all-in-one mastering plugins like Izotope Ozone (which has a bewildering user interface). Because complexity is optional you don't actually know what happens when you zap through the presets - but more importantly, you don't know why that particular choice was made.

Start with no mastering combinator at all. Put an acoustic drumloop in NN-XT - preferably something that hasn't seen any editing at all yet.

Throw the M-Class compressor over it. Study what it does; systematically experiment with changing one value at a time. Try to map for yourself why it has an effect here or there but doesn't seem to do anything with anything else.

Then, do the same with separate percussion instruments; what makes the snare drum splat, what makes the kick thump?

Then, add the M-Class EQ after the compressor. See what happens; and try it before the compressor, too. By boosting or cutting part of the frequency it can influence the reaction of the compressor because most of the volume energy is in that range and you just cranked it down or up.

The reason you should try to do this with an acoustic drumloop is so that nobody else with an EQ/comp/limiter has had the chance to ruin everything on beforehand. E.g. there's actually something to kick or inflate left.

tweex
10-05-2009, 12:44 PM
Rashad, also keep in mind that when you have the Master Combi, the default settings is that the limiter is the only active device. You have to manually trigger the EQ, Stereo Imager, and the Compressor. The EQ may be "On" but it's set at 0 so it makes no difference. Having the limiter on from the beginning is not a bad thing and when I use Reason, I ALWAYS have it on. I also almost always activate the high shelf as well at some point.

Gario
10-08-2009, 02:31 AM
You keep the limiter on all the time? I actually found leaving the limiter off allows you to create a much harder sound for, say, good juicy techno and such. But yeah - you need to set the mastering and such to your liking before you switch it on and off :)

tweex
10-08-2009, 02:33 AM
You keep the limiter on all the time?

Yes, I do. The work around is called side chaining.