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

I read through Alex's message, and it's quite problematic, at least for me. Most importantly, I believe he confuses mastering with mixing in the middle of his discussion. Neither should be done by giving an engineer some notes and hoping you'll get what you're hearing in your head.

First of all, since you are not very experienced at mixing, I would guess that you wouldn't have many notes to give an engineer in the first place. But if there's a recording you want yours to sound like, THAT'S a very good note. But you should be there for the mixes, every step of the way. You'll learn alot with every song.

On the other hand, many mastering studios charge extra if you want to be there while they're working. This is because very, very few producers would have any useful input DURING the process. Your responses to the outcome of the process - that's an entirely different matter. I've been to a few mastering sessions, with excellent producers, and the less they said the easier it was for the engineer to do something worthwhile for them.

Alex's mention of timing sections didn't make sense to me (which doesn't mean it doesn't make sense, just not to me), but it did remind me of something that's really important and quite often neglected: the timings between songs. Once you have your mixes, and you've decided on the sequence in which they'll appear on your CD, you'll need a program called "Audigy." Audigy is available for both Mac and PC, for free. (If you already have an audio editor on your computer, use that one, as you'll already be familiar with its workings.)

Load the first two song files into the same project. Play around with the space between them. Listen to the ending of the first song and FEEL how the beginning of the second song feels coming after different lengths of silence. I put three hours into this activity on my latest project. After a while, you'll swear you can hear the difference a few miliseconds make. And very suddenly, mainly through random monkeying around, one gap makes magic - suddenly the leadout and lead-in make musical sense. Weird. Make note of the exact timing of the gap. Then place the third song after the second, and repeat the process. Give your mastering engineer this precise gapping information.

You will of course want to do this away from the recording studio, with the hours clicking away. Presumeably you'll have finished mixing at this point, but not yet sent the tracks to your mastering house. Taking great care with your gaps gives a sense of drama to a CD.

Unfortunately, these precise gaps will be nearly meaningless when your CD is put on an iPod, or on a Flash jukebox on your website. There's a way of maintaining those gaps, however. It's somewhat elaborate, and would confuse this discussion, but if anyone's interested, lemme know. In any case, when I listen to my CD in the car, the gaps really add something to the experience. When I listen to it on my iPod the music does quite well without those gaps, but I miss them.

Did I mention that at every stage of the recording you should not say you're done until it's something you would want to listen to a whole lot - and not just because you're on it? If you make a CD of music that you yourself would feel compelled to own even if someone else made it, then you may have made a CD which people who share your taste would feel compelled to own. This is harder to do than it sounds, but if you stay focused on making a record you yourself love, step by step, you may wind up with one.

This is the very heart of the process in the end. For instance, if the band hits a groove that doesn't kill you, try again. Do not say to yourself, ah well it doesn't kill me but maybe I'm wrong. It's likely that everyone in the studio is thinking, this groove doesn't quite cut it, but everyone else seems to like it. Calmly suggest a retake and work with the key players to make a groove that is stronger. Same with mistakes. Don't leave them in if you dislike them even slightly, because after just a few listens they'll be the only thing you hear. Every step of the way work toward music that surprises and delights you, and for which you'll never have to make an excuse. (Sometimes it just comes out, sometimes you have to try try try.) If you make music you love to hear when you perform, you're perfectly capable of doing it in the studio. But don't settle for less.

Otherwise you'll be asking people to buy a CD that doesn't knock you out. "Please buy my CD. It's sort of good."

That's why I listen to my CD in the car and on my iPod. I really, really like it, and worked hard to make it so.

Finally, before you master you'll want to go to
and get your free ISRC codes for your songs recordings. Your mastering engineer will embed them - inaudibly - into your mastered tunes. Instead of my explaining this stuff, just go to that page and read the info. No matter what you think of the RIAA, you do want those codes in your tunes.


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