I got it mastered and now I hate it

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HIMA
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I got it mastered and now I hate it

Post by HIMA » Fri Aug 14, 2020 2:32 pm

I finished a track, the first I ever finished after years of making loops. Weird thing was, I still liked it. And I was so hyped to have finally finished a song... so I had it mastered by someone respected by producers i like.

And i hate the end result.

Besides all the composition issues i felt I'd missed and the missed opportunities presented by the track, the mix had lost all depth. Everything was squashed against the glass. And I'm not sure that was my issue or the mastering service.

Could it have been caused by me running in at -13Db in the mix i provided 'causing him to limit to all hell?

I have to mix in cans (beyerdynamic dt 990). Is that creating issues when I'm trying to get levels? I am using Sonarworks...but still... you know; headphones.

Good news is, I just finished my second track. Broke through the invisible barrier and learnt so much in the making of the 2. But before I send it for mastering, i'd love some thoughts on this.
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Re: I got it mastered and now I hate it

Post by jorg » Fri Aug 14, 2020 2:54 pm

As electronic recording artists, we have such fine-grained control over every aspect of the material, that I believe we often end up with the track sounding pretty much the way we want it, without mastering. Sometimes I'll add a tiny bit of compression, and that's plenty.

If you send it to somebody who's embedded in the commercial industry, they will most likely follow today's standards, which demand two things:
(1) Over-compress to the point of losing all dynamic range.
(2) Use a side-chain to duck the audio in time with the kick drum, resulting in an extremely unpleasant breathing (or "can't breathe") effect.

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Re: I got it mastered and now I hate it

Post by Happiness Forever » Fri Aug 14, 2020 2:59 pm

You dont have to accept the results of the Mastering if you dont like it. Just because it was done does not mean that that is the Final Word on it.
Talk to yr engineer, tell em what you said here. Get the mastering that you want and that you are paying for.
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Re: I got it mastered and now I hate it

Post by tioJim » Fri Aug 14, 2020 3:06 pm

Congratulations on finishing something. It’s the most important lesson to learn.

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Re: I got it mastered and now I hate it

Post by mritenburg » Fri Aug 14, 2020 3:07 pm

I’m sure you’ve heard over and over that mixing on headphones can create lots of problems when trying to produce a mix that translates well to multiple playback systems.

One thing you could try is focusing on your mix rather than the master. You could send your dry stems to a mix engineer who has a good track record for producing mixes that translate well.

A good mix that translates well should not need a ton of processing in mastering. Mastering should really only include some general eq curves matched against reference mixes in the same genre, some general soft compression, and some brick wall limiting to produce a master that meets certain format standards for CD duplication, vinyl duplication, streaming, etc.

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Re: I got it mastered and now I hate it

Post by htor » Fri Aug 14, 2020 3:22 pm

:hmm: did you never actually listen to the mix on a set of speakers before sending it off to mastering?

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Re: I got it mastered and now I hate it

Post by ws9848 » Fri Aug 14, 2020 3:33 pm

I don’t think I have ever been 100% happy with anything I’ve had mastered. Also, a big rule is to not mix with headphones.

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Re: I got it mastered and now I hate it

Post by HIMA » Fri Aug 14, 2020 4:39 pm

htor wrote:
Fri Aug 14, 2020 3:22 pm
:hmm: did you never actually listen to the mix on a set of speakers before sending it off to mastering?
no, i still haven't heard it on speakers. :foul:

I have a few sets of headphones that I know really well. There are no speakers I 'know', so i haven't even tried. Now that i write this down i feel really dumb.

Guess I should give it a go. Probably I should get to know a set of speakers and my room. Hard in an apartment... Next thing you know I'm building sound treatment in a 5 year desperate bid to get the perfect room in an imperfect space. AAAhhh. it never ends. And all this to ejaculate emotion in 5 minute spurts... Therapy wold be easier.

Thanks all for the thoughts. It's always good to hear differing ideas.
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Re: I got it mastered and now I hate it

Post by dubonaire » Fri Aug 14, 2020 4:52 pm

If I felt I had a track worth mastering professionally I would probably, spend the extra money and send stems to the engineer and have it mixed as well.

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Re: I got it mastered and now I hate it

Post by htor » Fri Aug 14, 2020 5:10 pm

jorg wrote:
Fri Aug 14, 2020 2:54 pm
As electronic recording artists, we have such fine-grained control over every aspect of the material, that I believe we often end up with the track sounding pretty much the way we want it, without mastering. Sometimes I'll add a tiny bit of compression, and that's plenty.
i agree very much and i'm convinced i can master my own tracks the best in a sense. many artists in electronic music already have the tools and probably much of the needed knowledge to master and mix, so why not try? but, a pair of new and fresh ears i think is important. you as the musician will hear the track differently (after the 100th time) than somebody just tuning in. that might be a good thing or it might just be a terrible thing. your lovely track might be decapitated, gentrificated and mutilated. poor track.

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Re: I got it mastered and now I hate it

Post by ATW » Fri Aug 14, 2020 5:24 pm

There is some interesting stuff in this thread regarding software for self-mastering:
viewtopic.php?f=30&t=213167&p=3099225&h ... g#p3099225

Ozone comes up a lot — have not tried this yet as mastering is something I haven't dug too deep into. Anyone tried this?

I hired a mastering engineer for one track a few years back. It has a combination of acoustic and electronic sounds, he did a great job and would definitely work w/ him again. Reasonable price, one take and done. Spotify link if you're curious, and PM me if you'd like the name of the engineer.

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Re: I got it mastered and now I hate it

Post by ndkent » Fri Aug 14, 2020 6:34 pm

I'm a firm believer that when you do something fairly new it takes more than one go at it to get a decent result. The goal is to learn from what happened rather than let it instill doubt. Certainly now you can describe your goals more specifically than before.

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Re: I got it mastered and now I hate it

Post by induktor » Fri Aug 14, 2020 8:16 pm

When I work with a client, I discuss what they're after sonically, if they have any reference tracks of other artists mixes that they like, how loud they want the finished product, what is the target media, etc. Current standards are pretty fucking loud. CD for example is -9 LUFS. A good mastering engineer will do revisions within reason.

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Re: I got it mastered and now I hate it

Post by Michael O. » Sat Aug 15, 2020 2:14 pm

induktor wrote:
Fri Aug 14, 2020 8:16 pm
When I work with a client, I discuss what they're after sonically, if they have any reference tracks of other artists mixes that they like, how loud they want the finished product, what is the target media, etc. Current standards are pretty fucking loud. CD for example is -9 LUFS. A good mastering engineer will do revisions within reason.
This for sure; it seems like there must have been a lack of communication initially. Mastering engineers not only want to end up with an objectively well-mastered product, they also want it to be subjectively well received, and the most important subject in that context is the client whose work they were entrusted to master. It is normal, typical, and expected to request revisions if deemed necessary, and it helps to be as explicit and specific as possible when describing your goals for that revision. Feedback and communication is important at every stage of every collaboration, and having mixes mastered is ultimately a collaboration between the artist/producer/mixing engineer and the mastering engineer.

Additionally- sometimes mixes simply aren’t quite ready for mastering. Just as a mixing engineer sometimes receives projects that are not quite ready for that stage (i.e., they need more production-centric work done, like arranging, in depth fx treatments, etc.), mastering engineers often receive projects that have issues that would best be fixed in the mix stage. Imo, a mix should sound subjectively great, well balanced, and 99%-100% of the way there in terms of artistic goals being met. The mastering process is, ultimately and most precisely, intended to ensure that a mix is suitable for whatever media it will be published as, not as a creative/artistic reimagining or reworking of a mix that already ought to be in a finished, ready-for-mastering, state.

But that’s all general stuff- in short, reassess your piece, determine whether anything needs to be done on your end (production+mixing) in order to get the piece closer to your ideal, communicate that ideal and how best to reach it with your mastering engineer, and then finally (and hopefully) enjoy the fruits of your labors. But remember: every experience can be a learning experience, and, in an ideal artistic career, every work you create is more satisfying and subjectively better than the last, so never get discouraged by any perceived shortcomings in a current or past project, but rather always try to keep in mind that which you’ve learned in order to better achieve the goals of your next project.

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Re: I got it mastered and now I hate it

Post by cretaceousear » Sat Aug 15, 2020 2:20 pm

As far as monitoring goes I think playing it on *anything* different is good. If you find a part stands out too much, even on a crappy speaker, it probably needs taking back. The other thing I like to do is play mixes in the car or while doing the washing up - anything so you aren't concentrating on the music every second - when you focus back in you can hear different things and its good for getting perspective.
Not had anything mastered but I'd only be expecting a polish, not a louderised kicker.
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Re: I got it mastered and now I hate it

Post by emmaker » Sat Aug 15, 2020 2:47 pm

cretaceousear wrote:
Sat Aug 15, 2020 2:20 pm
As far as monitoring goes I think playing it on *anything* different is good. If you find a part stands out too much, even on a crappy speaker, it probably needs taking back. The other thing I like to do is play mixes in the car or while doing the washing up - anything so you aren't concentrating on the music every second - when you focus back in you can hear different things and its good for getting perspective.
Not had anything mastered but I'd only be expecting a polish, not a louderised kicker.
Yes that's the way to do it.

One of the reasons for mastering recordings is so that it sounds good on headphones, portable players (use to be boom boxes, walkmans), good stereos, crappy stereos, car stereos....

A good engineer would/should play stuff on as many different systems as they can. They get to be great engineers when they get enough experience they know what to do without playing it on all those systems and just do things directly.

To me though electronic music is a different situation when mixed and mastered. With let's say instrument and vocal traditional music there is what I would say is a certain ambiance. By that I mean an acoustic, open air sound. With electronic music we create that feeling in a way we feel appropriate for the piece we are working on. We have less expectations and be more creative with what we are doing. I think that takes a different mindset when mixing and mastering electronic music.

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Re: I got it mastered and now I hate it

Post by mritenburg » Sat Aug 15, 2020 3:11 pm

There is no one right or wrong way, but I would argue that mixing is the proper stage in the music production process for ensuring that your mix translates to multiple playback systems.

Mastering is simply the final touch to ensure that your mix conforms to whichever distribution format(s) you plan on using to release your music. Typically, multiple masters are produced that conform to various release formats. CD, vinyl, iTunes, streaming, etc. all adhere to different standards. For instance, newer standards that are gaining wide adoption include: CD at -9 LUFS, Spotify at -14 LUFS, iTune at -16 LUFS, etc.

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Re: I got it mastered and now I hate it

Post by skkatter » Sun Aug 16, 2020 2:56 am

A good mastering engineer will do a revision for you if you don't like the initial master.

However, the whole "this is the first track I've finished in years and I just use headphones" statement points to a problem with the mix. Headphones are great for checking certain things in a mix, but you also need to hear it on proper speakers in a room at various volumes. Also it's your first track in a while, it won't be perfect. Your 20th track will probably sound much better!

Post a snippet of the unmastered audio up and people here can check it on their sound systems.

Also the master could actually be an improvement but not sound great on your Sonarworks EQ headphone system.

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Re: I got it mastered and now I hate it

Post by lisa » Sun Aug 16, 2020 3:22 am

In my experience, mastering tends to bring out issues with the mix (if there are any). When mixing using headphones, there are usually many. :)
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Re: I got it mastered and now I hate it

Post by IEC » Sun Aug 16, 2020 6:09 am

perhaps try mixing with a limiter on the master, so you can sort of preview how it being smashed later will affect things. if you want to get the track professionally mastered you can bypass the limiter when you render the track and send it off...

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Re: I got it mastered and now I hate it

Post by johny_gtr » Sun Aug 16, 2020 2:25 pm

I think that mastering overvalued instead of cases if you produce some vinyls (and even this fact allows you to spend money on a good pro-mastering).
For the rest - spending more time on mixing the material give better results. If you have a friend with good tape recorder and pair of eq/comps- it can be great for an experimental electronic music or ambient.
For my ambient project I dont care how its sounds in a car(hope than nobody listens my music during driving), big malls . It should sounds like I hear in a quite good speakers/phones and sound not bad in airbuds (to help some guys sleep like many uses ambient music)
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Re: I got it mastered and now I hate it

Post by dogoftears » Sun Aug 16, 2020 4:17 pm

if you don't like your master, the first thing you could do is communicate with the engineer, tell them what you don't like, a free revision is generally standard in mastering. communication is everything-- tell the ME what you want and give examples of albums they've mastered that you like the sound of, and/or send reference tracks that you like.

line up the master with the mix in your daw, turn the volume down of the mastered track until it matches your mix *by ear*, and a/b between the two. using this technique it is very easy to deduce what tonal and dynamic changes the ME has made.
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Re: I got it mastered and now I hate it

Post by HIMA » Sun Aug 16, 2020 4:40 pm

lisa wrote:
Sun Aug 16, 2020 3:22 am
In my experience, mastering tends to bring out issues with the mix (if there are any). When mixing using headphones, there are usually many. :)
Yes, I think that's exactly what's happened here... but for sure it's been a huge learning for me. So even though I hate the track, it was all good. NDKENT said it:
ndkent wrote:
Fri Aug 14, 2020 6:34 pm
I'm a firm believer that when you do something fairly new it takes more than one go at it to get a decent result. The goal is to learn from what happened rather than let it instill doubt. Certainly now you can describe your goals more specifically than before.
Thanks for suggesting having a listen skkatter, but as i said... i hate it, so now it's too embarrassing to share.

But I'm just, almost (last 3 changes, i swear!) finished that 2nd track. And if anyone feels up to it, DM me. I'd be happy to share it for a second opinion. Even if it's not professional, at this stage in the 3 weeks of making it, some comments from anyone who makes music with love and passion, can't hurt.

EDIT: I am curious if we all apply the same definition to the term mastering. I paid around 50 Euro, sent my kick, bass and the remainder as stems, and got my track back 5 days later. With a short note saying something to the effect of 'Here you go buddy. Ltr'. The guy is a pro (at least he does work for pros). Shit, it was 50 Euros to get one step closer to my life dream*. You have to contribute to the war effort, you know...

Anyway, I get the impression mastering is something different for others. And I'm wondering what that might look like.

*Slip that vinyl with my track on it out the sleeve, put it on a slipmat and put that needle down. Then hear my track come out some speakers and love it. Really, how hard can that be? :despair:
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Re: I got it mastered and now I hate it

Post by wuff_miggler » Sun Aug 16, 2020 5:28 pm

the thing about mastering...

is that - in teh time of yore - was about trying to get tracks half of which may have been recorded in different studios on differen mics, mixed with different desks to sound unified....like a single product. With levels good for its intended market. Yes that involved outboard gear, compressors EQs, blah blah.

as the bar to entry into music production and sound engineering has lowered...essentially allowing anyone to play - mastering has turned into a "this is the best i can do mr, please fix my track". And it's also turned into "oooh u have this expensive compressor, PLEASE SIR PUT THE MAGIC FAIRY DUST ON MY TRACKS". if this is the case - if you are expecting to be blown away by what you get back - you more than likely need to learn more about mixing, or you're the type of producer that would prefer someone external to mix for you.

that last paragraph sounds snarky - its not meant to be. I just mean - perhaps you might benefit by approaching a different person - to mix...or engineer your tracks rather than master them.

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Re: I got it mastered and now I hate it

Post by Default1 » Sun Aug 16, 2020 8:20 pm

This is an interesting thread. I was in a similar boat to yourself recently, having had my first mastering experience at the start of the year. I was quite happy with the result.

I also struggled in the beginning.

Here is what I do: Before you put down your final mix, try and listen to it on as many devices as possible. I take my mix up to my shitty car stereo and listen to it there - including with background noise driving - I listen to it on my phone speaker, I listen to it on headphones, I listen to it on good speakers. Once you have played it on a number of different systems, including shitty ones, and it sounds acceptable on all of them (will never sound great on all of them), then you know you are done. Stop and move on.

Everyone has had a similar problem to yourself. It sounds great on your cans or home monitors or whatever, and garbage everywhere else. I counselled a friend on this recently and now his mixes sound great. I had the same problem, my mixes would sound great at home, and then listening elsewhere just woolly and muddy - too much mid bass. I realised, that like most home composers, it was the room I was writing music in, which is just a bedroom. It has parallel walls, floors and ceiling/floor, which is a bad acoustic environment. There is a horrendous mid-bass suckout because of the standing waves. So, my tracks sounded great in one room in the world. Garbage elsewhere. So, I just started listening to it everywhere: trudging out to my car at night just to put it on another stereo.

There is nothing wrong with composing using cans per se. But, even after a days work, try listening to it on your phone speaker, your car stereo, take it to work and listen to it on your computer... whatever, just use it on a variety of different systems. They don't have to be super high fidelity (though it is nice to have access to such a system), remember that most listeners will be listening on their phones or with horrendous blue tooth ear bud speakers.
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