Last month we talked about the 2track instrumental and the mixing of that instrumental. Now we will talk about proper mix levels for the best possible master. I know that most everybody nowadays wants their song to be loud and proud! I feel that but, there is a proper way to achieve that as well as a wrong way to achieve that. Let me explain.
Do not normalize or place a limiter on your mixes in an attempt to make your song loud before mastering. This severely derails the mastering engineer's ability to give you a quality sound. You should leave your mixes in their raw form, ideally -1db to -2db below zero; this gives the mastering engineer "room" to increase the overall volume before distortion is introduced to the signal.
The goal here is to have the loudest possible volume without distortion. If you hear distortion, you have gone to far. In my personal opinion I believe quality should win out over top volume any-day. A lot of today's songs are loud but they lack the clarity, quality and warmth of the recordings of yesterday. Take Ice Cube's "amerikkka's most wanted" CD or Blackstreet's self titled debut CD, both of these Cd's may not have been very loud, compared to today's standards but they sounded great! I would gladly turn up the volume myself on the CD player any day to get a better sounding product! But that is just me. Lol
There is a trend going on in this age of the DAW that is very misleading to many. It is the 2track instrumental mix that many producers are sending artists instead of the full tracked files of the beat. Now before you producers go off into a hissy, here me out. I am a producer so I understand that you want your beat to sound a certain way, i have no problem with that. The issue is this, when the artist sends the song off to get mixed, you handy cap the mixer. In other words, you take half of the control of the mix away from the professional.
When a song is mixed, the best and most quality way, is to have all tracks separate including the individual instruments used to produce the beat. Having this option, gives the mixer control over the entire mix instead of having to work around issues that may be apparent in the 2track instrumental mix. Just because you can produce a hot beat, doesn't mean that you can correctly mix it. A lot of 2track instrumentals i get are distorted, muddy and down right bad; and there is nothing I can do to fix it, so I have to camouflage it the best i can so that whole of the song sounds good but not great! There is a difference.
The correct way to keep your sound intact while giving the mixer the individual files separate and tracked out, is for you to be in the session when the mixing is going on. If you can't physically be there because you may be in another city, you can always send a reference file for the mixer to follow as well as communicate via phone, text or email. There are many ways to make sure your beat sounds the way you want it, while giving the mixer all of the tools he or she needs to give you a quality mix on the entire song.
Keep in mind, most anyone nowadays can record but not everyone can mix! Mastering is a whole separate issue that we will tackle next month!
Til then, Keep the music Bangin'!
Well as we go further into the digital age, the loudness wars continue to increase. It's all about who has the loudest music on the planet and the little nuances that once defined music are long gone. Oh how I wished they would come back. One of the best mixed and mastered CD's of all time was Ice Cube's Amerikkka's Most Wanted. The CD sounded great, clean high's and banging lows. It wasn't the loudest CD, but it was the cleanest and best sounding i had ever heard. The next best CD was Dr. Dre's Chronic, it too had the right balance between loudness and clarity.
Today's, artists want it loud. They don't care about clarity. What ever happened to just turning up your own volume on your CD player, radio, stereo, computer or whatever you choose to listen to your music on? These days we are lazy, we want it loud and we want it now!
I think we should not sacrifice clarity for volume. I am all for a loud master but once you start to hit the ceiling and the dynamics are lost, the music sounds stale, fatigued and bound. It also introduces distortion a lot of times. We have to get back to clarity if music is to ever sound clear again. We must have balance.
Now the customer is always right, If you want it loud, I can do that and I will give you what you want. But, for my own songs I am going back to the old school and keep it clean and mean; loudness has to take a back seat and I will reach for the knob and turn it up on the radio!
This is a question that is often asked by many in this day and age of the D.A.W. (Digital Audio Workstation).
Well, the answer is two fold. Yes and no!
Yes, you can generally mix and master your own song if you have knowledge of signal flow, a general understanding of how eq's, compressors and limiters work; as well a couple of years studying the over all sound of a great mixed and mastered song. But, if you don't have this knowledge, the answer would be no!
Most people think that you can pull up a couple of presets on a plug in and that's it. Naw, you are in for a rude awakening when you find out that your song doesn't have the clarity, depth and presence found with most of today's hits. Now granted you will have a couple of songs that are mixed and mastered like trash that will eventually become hits, but would you want to chance it! I wouldn't because as a radio dj as well, it often gets tossed aside.
So as a rule of thumb it is always better to have someone mix & master your song who has the experience if you want your song to be able to compete with the big boys. There are some things that only come with experience and knowledge of the craft, mixing & mastering is an art just as producing and writing a song. It's all about the ears and the knowledge.
Now, if you are doing a mixtape or something along those lines, I say save the money and do it yourself. But when the time is ready to make your song available for sale or radio play, nothing beats a professional.
If you have any questions about mixing, mastering or recording in general feel free to comment and I will do my best to reply.
As always keep the music bangin'!
You may ask why do I need to get my song mastered? That's a good question besides the technical reasons outlined on the mastering page, you need mastering to give your song that polished radio ready sound. That sound does not come from just mixing alone, it is an extra additive that occurs in the mastering stage. Ever wondered why you sometimes hear one song on the radio and then another song comes on right after it that is clearer, louder and has more presence than the song before it? Well, that is what mastering will do? It will make your song stand out from the bad sounding songs and blend in with the good sounding songs.
Keep checking back, as I will be periodically adding more mixing and mastering tips! Until then,.... Keep Bangin'.
Don't let the new year end up being the same old! God has much in store for you but you must start by cleaning out the old. Take a look at this past year and determine what has held you back from you goals, was it wrong living, lazy living, non- focus, lack of God or something else. Many of you reading this may have no knowledge of God or believe in him at all, if this is you, I want to challenge you this year to search for something beyond yourself and your abilities. God is real as well as his son Jesus, I have known him since 96. As this being my first blog, I don't want it to seem that all my post will be religious in nature, they won't. Many of my post will have to do with music and me giving back any knowlege I have gained over the years. But, I just felt led to write this today, in hopes that you who are reading will dare to do something different in 2011. I pray that you will be blessed in all that you do!
As Always keep the music bangin!
I am a total music fan and enjoy working in the studio. To know me is to know music.