Re: [Harp-L] Mixing and Mastering advice...

Thanks in advance for any and all suggestions of mixing and mastering...

First, make sure you've heard some mixes by the guy who is mixing. Make sure you like them. Make sure you like being with the guy for the hours it is going to take.

Unless you have some very definite opinions about how you want the CD to sound, and perhaps some examples to play for your mixer, let him/her listen and come up with some general ideas - a rough mix of the first tune. If it's in your ball park, say so and especially talk about what you like about the mix. As the mix progresses a good engineer will be asking for your opinion alot. No need to be polite if things are going off in any direction but one you like. The engineer WANTS to know what you feel about things every step of the way, if he's any good. You'll quickly develop a language, a shorthand you can share. Once the first mix is done to your mutual satisfaction the engineer will have a good sense of how to proceed with the rest of the tracks. Your satisfaction is far more important than the engineer's, however, so if you like something SAY SO. And if you don't, SAY SO. Don't be intimidated by your differing levels of experience, your ears are fresh, you have years of listening to recorded music, your ears know more than you think they do.

The thing in a mix is, you're going for a result that gives you a feeling. This means you don't need to know what each piece of outboard gear does. It means when you get a strong feeling from a mix, tell the engineer to stop. These days in an electronic studio most of what has been done on a mix can be snapshotted. If the engineer thinks he can even do better, snapshot this mix as it is when you get the feeling from it. It may well be the one you go back to. If the new mixes also give you strong feelings, as sometimes they will, great. If the best feeling you get is listening to that first mix, go with it. If your budget is way short, you may say stop, that's it, this gives me a feeling, let's go onto the next one.

As for mastering, do not master at the same place. Use a fresh set of ears. Mastering engineers are a very special breed with unique training, ears and equipment. Also, you'll have a fresh set of professional ears on the case. Hiring your mixing engineer to master is sort of like when bozos hire the guitar player to play harmonica.

You will be tempted after the mixing work is done to not master. It'll sound great, you're walking on air, a mix sounds SO much better than pre-mix.

Don't give in to the temptation. The difference between the final mix and the sound you'll hear with a professionally mastered version of same is eye-opening. Mastering is the finish carpentry of the record making craft - don't let your music be like an orange crate. Bite the bullet and pay the costs. (Nowadays alot of mastering houses are experiencing a crunch. Many of them will be willing to cut their posted fee for us small potatoes.)

Listen carefully to the master that your mastering house gives you. Listen in lots of situations. List what you don't like. Mastering engineers expect you will come back with notes, what works for you, what doesn't. It can be a many step process. Back in the early 90's my duo, the vonBrellas, did four masterings, each one radically improving on the last.

By the same token, when I mastered my new CD I could not hear any problems in the first pass. I took it to a friend with far better ears than my own, and he couldn't hear any problems either. I am delighted with the sound quality of my CD, and the people who are buying it mention how much they like the sound after discussing the other things they like about it.

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