Sunday, March 16, 2014

Yes, Master...

What the heck is mastering anyway?  It's sounds kind of kinky, first off.  Well, it has nothing to do with any of that 50 Shades of Grey nonsense.  It's actually the last step in recording, where all your levels are evened out and your stuff gets final tweak and a bit more compression.  It's a crucial step, because it makes the music sound professional - or at least less unprofessional.

Now, it's not like mixing.  If you ask your mastering engineer to make the slide whistle louder, he can't really do that.  But he can bump up the equalizer range where the slide whistle is.  This will also make everything else in that range louder, too.  Be careful what you wish for.  More importantly, all your instrument levels should be dealt with during mixing.  I know, I know, some things sneak past you; that organ is too damn loud and the bass is playing the wrong note and the drummer is speeding up.  Mastering can't help you with those things.

Last Monday, I had my Day of Mastering.  In my previous efforts, I've sent my tracks to a mastering engineer and he's sent them back to me, I listen to them, make notes for changes and he sends me more versions until the thing sounds normal and acceptable.  This process usually takes a few weeks.  He's mastered three albums for me and I still haven't met him.  Don't get me wrong, he's done a great job.  But I wanted to witness the process.  And the fact that I would have to hear any given track just a few times and make suggestions was a little daunting.  I mean, what if my ears didn't hear something right?  With the old way, I could listen to any track a bazillion times and pick out even the tiniest of errors.  This time around, it was just a bit overwhelming.  Luckily, the guy I worked with was great.  His has a very professional ear, so he knows what to bring out to make a recording pop.  He did a tremendous job.  I was mostly just this approval machine, because his decisions were all very much in line with what I wanted.  There were only a few things that I wanted to bring out and even fewer things that needed revision.  The session was on Monday and by Thursday, I had something that sounded great. 

The long and short of it is that the album is done.  It's off being manufactured right now.  It should be done in a few weeks and it's being released and radio promoted at the end of April.  It should do well with young persons as it does include much of the rock 'n' roll that they crave.  Meanwhile, I'm busy writing tunes for future albums.  As always, I'm worried that I won't be able to top this effort.  It's kind of strange, I was quite unsure about this album.  There were a lot of variables that would only be made definite in the studio, as I was hiring a lot of live musicians.  I tell you, it was one of the best decisions I've ever made.  But before I began recording, I was sensing disaster.  The opposite happened thanks to incredible musicians and a wizard of an engineer.  I have similar concerns about this upcoming album.  We're going to record it in August.  That should be interesting.  I'm currently writing two or three tunes for it.  I have a little less than five months to bring everything together and I'm already sweating the details.  If this last album is any indication, it should go well.  And everybody will have fun.  And then in six months, I'll write another post about mastering.    

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