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WIGGLING 'LITE' IN GUEST MODE

Release without external mastering - what is your workflow?
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Production Techniques  
Author Release without external mastering - what is your workflow?
Eichburger
I’m interested to know how other ‘home brew’ wigglers are preparing their tracks for release whether that be for physical formats or online. I’m deliberately avoiding calling this ‘mastering’ as I think that term confuses things when talking about a d.i.y. approach.

So I mean everything downstream of tracking and mixing. What’s your workflow? Do you stay I.t.b. or do you use hardware? Do you make a recording of your mix and then further process or do you do it all in one hit.

If you are putting tracks together in EP’s or Albums how do you get consistency in terms of loudness and eq? I find this particularly difficult. How do you maintain perspective?

Also, what do you consider in terms of optimising tracks for a particular format. I know it’s considered good to have the master peaking just under 0dbfs for digital formats. Anything else that needs to be considered? What about loudness processing?

I’m just beginning to find my way in this but I’ve found that the info on forums is limited and often confusing. One big issue is that a lot of discussions become about commercial mastering methods being the ‘right way’ rather than what might work for our own limited contexts and budgets.

My setup is quite basic and mostly o.t.b. I have 2 x Joe Meek Mec 500, 2 x Lindell PEX500 and a Klark Teknik DN500 on the stereo bus of my mixer. The Klark is mostly providing a smidgen of limiting or more often soft clipping to bring up the loudness of the track.

The stereo bus then goes back into my sound card (Audiofire 8) preamp inputs to be recorded back into Cubase peaking at about -6dbfs

Once ITB I pull the level up a little to bring the final peak level to -0.6 dBFS and then render to .wav and upload the 24bit 44.1 Mbps to Bandcamp.

Would be great to hear what others do.
unrecordings
I've an early Maselec broadcast limiter, which I've set up so it's below threshold most of the time. Record into my trusty Alesis Masterlink at 24bit/44.1k - export that into my iMac - normalise my usual fare to -0.3dbfs then edit/top & tail etc, saving a 24bit/44.1k wav as the master file, but creating a 16 bit version for upload
Fastus
If your doing your own mastering, this maybe some help, esp if you're prepping work for DL services and it's from Tarekith, who if you can spend the cash is an excellent mastering engineer particularly with electronic music.:

https://www.warpacademy.com/current-trends-in-mastering/

Also this freebie is helpful for reading LUFS and TP (discussed in the article)
https://youlean.co/youlean-loudness-meter/
Koekepan
If I'm working on computer (regardless of how the sounds got there):

First, double-check the mix on my monitors to check that it sounds OK (the amount of time I spend on this is heavily dependent on deadlines, and if I'm using software for production I generally pre-load mixing decisions by intelligent incorporation of bus compression and EQ in the signal chain) and then render a file.

Then I pop it into Audacity for a quick management of silence truncation, fades in and out, and normalisation. I generally normalise to -1dB. If the spirit really moves me to do so, I might add a final EQ and/or compression stage in Audacity just to dial the sound in, but because of my prior workflow it's rarely necessary.

If I'm not working on computer:

Chances are I'm working on my Tascam DP32SD, in which case the process is fairly similar, except that on the one hand the available effects are fewer, and on the other hand there's more of a direct control option to the mixing stage. I try to use Bob Johnston's advice and get the headphone mix right first, which saves time later, but especially in some cases I want to ride the faders to blend sounds in, and the Portastudio is very friendly to this approach. Finally, render, normalise, and save it on SD card for copying elsewhere.

Solely the opinion of the author: most people radically overthink the mastering phase, and sweat blood for weeks over inaudible differences. Compose and select sounds for 90% of the time, record for 9%, mix for 0.9% and master for 0.1%. Much better results than composing and selecting sounds for 0.1% and mastering for 90% ...
lisa
I record my modular on separate tracks and mix it in my DAW as well as I can (not very well and takes me forever). Then I run it through iZotope Ozone 8 for mastering which works quite well.

If I where to make a real release again (as I used to ten years ago) I’d pay for professional mastering.
Eichburger
Thanks for all of the replies and thanks for those links Fastus - excellent article. Good to hear what others are doing

Koekepan wrote:
Compose and select sounds for 90% of the time, record for 9%, mix for 0.9% and master for 0.1%. Much better results than composing and selecting sounds for 0.1% and mastering for 90% ...


I wouldn't argue with that but might have a lot of trouble keeping to it!

Part of what I am thinking about here is the way that in a home/hobbyist setting these activities can overlap or even merge and how this might invalidate a lot of received wisdom about 'mastering'.
unrecordings
A lot of mastering is just good common sense - for example, get your processes in the corrct order, check your mixes on different systems - if you normalise, do that before you top & tail the track or render final fades. Keep your final mix & your final master as separate files so that you can go back and re-do anything you're not happy with. Name your files sensibly and keep a spreadsheet to keep track of mixes, file names, ISRCs etc

Everything else (in the specific context of this thread) is just art / snake oil - depending on your technical confidence & experience

Unless of course you're fascinated by the process, in which case self releases are a good way to learn best practice - because after everything I've said above, there's no point compromising your art for a lack of commercial value/drive/whatever

Check out Bob Katz too

Edit: One more thing. People have their little magic processes that they feel adds a sparkle to their tracks, for some it's an emotional crutch that legitimises the process - whether adding 'air', 'whoosh', or layering 'room tone', running files through a cassette recorder etc etc. Don't be afraid of that. If you like it, go with it - again, it's your art, there are very few rules...
dubonaire
I thoroughly recommend spending some time listening to or reading interviews with Rashad Becker. There is a lot to learn. One thing I learned was that I was mistaking loudness increases as compressor benefits. This was more a mixing issue, but I effectively took compressors out of the mix and increased the volume with the same outcome and a livelier sound.

A key point he makes is that a big part of mastering is having someone other than you listen to your mix.

If I want to release something seriously, I feel I owe it to myself to get it mastered by an expert. I actually think it's a bargain. Visual artists' presentation media is expensive. Your art is worth it. If it's just for social media, I'm not sure it even needs mastering, because it's effectively disposable.

https://youtu.be/K6UBJniOynM

https://daily.redbullmusicacademy.com/2017/04/rashad-becker-interview

http://www.roberthenke.com/interviews/mastering.html
naturligfunktion
I record everything on separate tracks, spend a good amount of time in the DAW to make sure it sounds N I C E. Then I print the track and listen to another set of speakers, I mix the songs with other tunes, make adjustments and do this back and forth until I am pleased. Then the song is done and I make the final print.

At this point I either:

1. Release it on soundcloud. My soundcloud is generally filled with quicker songs and what not.

2. Save the song, gather up a few that sounds extra nice and send them to for a proper master. I really like Curved Pressings. Then I might even press them on vinyl. This has only happened once, but it was really nice so I think I will do it again. Otherwise I release on Bandcamp and Spotify, mastered and sounding really good.

EDIT: I do highly recommend to send your song to a proper mastering studio. I never do my own mastering and I do not use compressors or anything like that on my master track (I use compressors relatively sparse actually). The philosophy I have is that if you do your own mastering you will "make the same mistake twice". Therefore I really think it is a good investment to let someone else master your tracks.
Eichburger
Thanks again for all the replies. Some great tips there.

For me the decision to not have my work mastered is an artistic (or perhaps narcissistic!) one in that I want to be the sole author of my work. I also work as part of a duo and our two releases were sent out for mastering. I'm still a bit on the fence about the results though.
dubonaire
Eichburger wrote:
Thanks again for all the replies. Some great tips there.

For me the decision to not have my work mastered is an artistic (or perhaps narcissistic!) one in that I want to be the sole author of my work. I also work as part of a duo and our two releases were sent out for mastering. I'm still a bit on the fence about the results though.


I understand you wanting to be the sole author but I don't think you should see someone else mastering as losing authorship. A good mastering engineer will be trying to help you get closer to what you originally intended. Seriously they spend all day every day focussing on sonic minutae that gives them the kind of trained ears I will never have, or they have access to studios I could never afford. And if I was going to vinyl I have no idea how to master a vinyl record.

If the mastering process changes your work that much it's not mastering, it's mixing. And if you didn't like the results the work not being mastered how you want so maybe go somewhere else.

It's probably at the mixing stage where authorship is blurred, but for many great acts that has never been a problem.
Eichburger
unrecordings wrote:
A lot of mastering is just good common sense - for example, get your processes in the corrct order, check your mixes on different systems - if you normalise, do that before you top & tail the track or render final fades. Keep your final mix & your final master as separate files so that you can go back and re-do anything you're not happy with. Name your files sensibly and keep a spreadsheet to keep track of mixes, file names, ISRCs etc


Really good point about the files. They always get in a total mess no matter how I try to organise them. It's that thing of being in a creative flow and not wanting to bother with 'trivia' but then cursing myself when I'm trying to remember which version is the finished one.

unrecordings wrote:
People have their little magic processes that they feel adds a sparkle to their tracks, for some it's an emotional crutch that legitimises the process - whether adding 'air', 'whoosh', or layering 'room tone', running files through a cassette recorder etc etc. Don't be afraid of that. If you like it, go with it - again, it's your art, there are very few rules...


I've become a bit suspicious of anything that looks like 'betterizing' having been down the reel-to-reel/distortion/burying-an-8-track-cassette-in-soft-peat-for-5 -years route in the past.

At the same time I'm still continuously searching eBay for some rare and forgotten piece of gear that will add that magic. It's a curse!

As others have suggested, I am now really trying to get the sound right at the tracking/mixing stage and only using any post mixer processing to enhance what is there.
unrecordings
Yup I'm very much for capturing the vibe and not kicking that can down the road.

As for organisation, I'm still catching up on some tracks, nearly 20 years down the line

Funnily enough I did master something through a jar of Henderson's Relish a long time ago, just for the crack of it - sounded tasty Rockin' Banana!
notmiserlouagain
Was it a Loudness Jar?
unrecordings
Not sure what you mean, but no probably not a loudness jar. It was just something I made - a little jam jar with a pair of phono sockets in the lid, soldered to some sheet copper vanes. I filled the jar with Henderson's Relish:

https://www.hendersonsrelish.com

I plugged in a couple of SPDIF cables and tranaferred some digital audio through it - because I could.

I've still got the jar, over the years the copper vanes corroded quite beautifully

Edited to add: I understand wet string would have been equally effective, but we're getting into combative territory and I wouldn't want to derail the OP's thread
dubonaire
What the fuck are you talking about?
unrecordings
dubonaire wrote:
What the fuck are you talking about?


Be nice there's a good chap
Eichburger
unrecordings wrote:
we're getting into combative territory and I wouldn't want to derail the OP's thread


Not at all. Condiment based processing tips always welcome...
unrecordings
Eichburger wrote:
unrecordings wrote:
we're getting into combative territory and I wouldn't want to derail the OP's thread


Not at all. Condiment based processing tips always welcome...


Don't use Lee & Perrin's - it'll taste shit Guinness ftw!
dubonaire
unrecordings wrote:
dubonaire wrote:
What the fuck are you talking about?


Be nice there's a good chap


Sorry, should have added a lol
unrecordings
dubonaire wrote:
unrecordings wrote:
dubonaire wrote:
What the fuck are you talking about?


Be nice there's a good chap


Sorry, should have added a lol


Rockin' Banana!
calaveras
I used to go back and forth trying all kinds of things to maximize volume, increase bass etc. But that quickly gets you into a low dynamic range high rms average level mix. Which isn’t the solution to all things! I like to exploit dynamic range that we get from digital.
Not destroy it in a vain quest to compete with pop music sensibilities. I do however usually put a UAD Neve 33609 or 1176 on the master buss with a UAD 1081 or Trident EQ.
This just kind of catches the very peaks of things and makes the mix cohesive. But I am going back to old fashioned mixing with an analog mixer. So workflow will change.
unrecordings
Ah the good old days (not) - Decades ago in that same quest I used to have an original silver/black DBX120 (boom box), SPL Vitaliser, some kind of bizarre vibration driver and a collection of ex BBC brickwall limiters. These days all you have to do is keep the noise floor down (not difficult) and mix as quiet as you like - I still mix analogue, it's much more fun. In case anyone wants to know: 2009 iMac / Logic 9 / 2x Audiofire 12s used pretty much just as a multitrack into 16 channels of Allen & Heath GS3

Edited to add: Which come to think of it goes back to the original point - I'm doing this for fun, not for profit - so the round about, I daresay esoteric route is the most effective - for me (as opposed to being a jobbing producer with those very pressing time/budget/client concerns)
naturligfunktion
calaveras wrote:
I used to go back and forth trying all kinds of things to maximize volume, increase bass etc. But that quickly gets you into a low dynamic range high rms average level mix. Which isn’t the solution to all things! I like to exploit dynamic range that we get from digital.
Not destroy it in a vain quest to compete with pop music sensibilities. I do however usually put a UAD Neve 33609 or 1176 on the master buss with a UAD 1081 or Trident EQ.
This just kind of catches the very peaks of things and makes the mix cohesive. But I am going back to old fashioned mixing with an analog mixer. So workflow will change.


I very much agree to your point about volume and dynamic range grin
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