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Hello people,

one question, I'm sure that this has been asked zillion times so I'm hoping you won't take this as a bad thing :D . I have been in music from my childhood and I have been playing numerous instruments, I'm not a virtuoso kind of guy but I get around with sounds and few instruments. Just recently I have found way to finance and make me a small modest studio to make some music. I was never a technician and when it comes to sound engineering I'm  tabula rasa ( empty board). So to make the long story short, the music I made sounds a bit flat, I need mastering, I'm willing to learn all about it and I was searching the web and youtube for videos and there are millions and millions of guides and videos on mastering, 80% of which are totally unusable. So if somebody could direct me to some kind of guide which can be helpful for a beginner that would be very helpful. Thank you ,

K.

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First of all, there are two stages in the process of getting good sound: Mixing, and only then, Mastering. Mixing takes in everything you do to maximize your sound, such as adjusting volume, reverb, EQ etc. Only then are you ready to do mastering. Many people confuse the two. Mastering is putting the final sheen on an already well-mixed piece of music. If it's not mixed well, mastering will be of no use. It's also considered somewhat esoteric. 

Maybe you already know this. If that is the case, and you already know how to mix well, then you need to learn how to master. Personally, I rely on plugins, with good presets. For example, I use Cakewalk software. I don't consider myself all that great at mixing, but I do the best I can. Then I use their LP64 EQ plugin. It has a preset called Subtle Analog Warmth, which really helps in putting the final sheen on my music. I don't do anything beyond that, because like you I'm just not fluent with this stuff. 

One other thing: you didn't mention if you are doing live music or midi. If live, then you also need to ensure you record it well. Then mix, then master. With midi, the recording part is built in. 

Probably the best way to learn mastering, and also mixing, is with hands-on help from someone with experience. Failing that, a good book. I agree, tutorials usually don't do a good job with something this complex. 

Finally, you can always send it out to someone to have it mastered for you, assuming you're willing to pay.

Hi Krsto =

What Michael says is good advice.  Recording is an art that requires time and study much as any other and to a certain extent you must find your own path through a world full of styles and methods.

I'm certainly no expert but if you participate in a forum such as this one it can be helpful.  If you post examples of your work and tell us what equipment you have and what techniques you have applied we can make suggestions that will be useful.

The single most important technique that I hear emphasized over and over is the use of a reference track. To do that you find a professionally mixed track in a similar style to what you are working on and you place it into your DAW  at the same volume as what you are working on.  By comparing the two tracks you can make changes to your track to improve it and also you will be training your ears hear the difference.

I forgot to mention that mastering also takes in producing an album. Much music here is single-movement stuff, occasionally something multi-movement. but if you're doing songs, you need to make them all have the same characteristics (same volume, compression etc.). One way you do this is with something called "normalizing." It will make all the tracks have the same general dynamic range. But to too many people, normalizing just means making something "loud and punchy." So ,we need to know what kind of music are you doing? and as Ingo suggested, maybe post something. Post it in the Music Technology forum.

I graduated last year in Music Production so I'd love to hear something and help you out if possible. I've found that most tutorials/online courses cover mixing pop (drums, guitars, vocals) and don't really cover classical music. This is usually because if you have recorded a well written piece it doesn't need a great deal of production and most of it is in the actual recording.

I'd agree with the advice above about the mastering process. It's not a fix, it's to add polish to an already great mix, so my advice would be to concentrate on getting solid recordings first and build on that.

Start with just one instrument and get a nice clean recording then get a reference track and match the mix. So for example if I had a flute solo, I'd find a flautist and a nice space, research recording techniques for flutes and decide on my mic setup. Concentrate on capturing that flute in that space and making the recording sound as natural as possible with no effects or reverb added on. I have nice clean preamps so I go for a -5 or -3 level depending on what I'm going to do with it.

For a flute reference track I have Debussy's Syrinx - this is from the Debussy Edition. Make sure this is the original CD track or a lossless rip (not some crappy mp3 or Youtube recording) and use this to match your recording.

There is an EQ from Fabfilter that will match EQ to a reference track or do it by ear - output the track and put it through Izotope Ozone, again matching with your reference track. This is a rough guide and different in every case but it's a quick and dirty way to get a nice sounding recording that you can improve upon as you get more experience.

If you want to pay for mastering services, skip the Ozone step and find an engineer in your area and ask to sit in on the session, you'll get a load of tips on your recording/mix and an idea of the process. You'll also find a load of expensive gear you'll want to buy for mastering so be careful haha.

Hope this helps.

Thank you very much Michael, I will do as you suggested and upload some of my work on the forum when I get a chance. And I'm doing midi music, type of scoring atmospheric music. I'm recording simple things in nature and my surroundings then I try to match the video with music - ( I find this very relaxing)



michael diemer said:

I forgot to mention that mastering also takes in producing an album. Much music here is single-movement stuff, occasionally something multi-movement. but if you're doing songs, you need to make them all have the same characteristics (same volume, compression etc.). One way you do this is with something called "normalizing." It will make all the tracks have the same general dynamic range. But to too many people, normalizing just means making something "loud and punchy." So ,we need to know what kind of music are you doing? and as Ingo suggested, maybe post something. Post it in the Music Technology forum.

Thank you guys very much for the answers, I'm not a long time member but I can already see that this is a great forum with a lot of people trying to help, Thanks!

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