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  • Collaborative Mastering

    I had posted about this originally just before the last time the front page got nuked, so the thread didn't get much play. But I think it's worth re-visiting.

    Bottom line is I have a friend, Steve Turnidge, who's a professional mastering engineer. I wanted him to give a "reality check" on my mastered Neo- album. He offered to master the songs with no strings attached - if I liked something better, use it and if not, don't.

    As it turned out I liked a couple of his masters better, but also liked sections of some of his masters better. So I spliced the sections in with the existing masters. Fortunately, our styles are sufficiently similar there was no jarring disconnect, but sufficiently different that there was a subtle difference in "flavor" over the course of the album. There was also one song where I liked what I did with the dynamics better than what he did, but liked his EQ better...so I mimicked his EQ on my master.

    I really haven't heard about the concept of collaborative mastering before, probably because it's expensive enough to pay one pro to do the job . Also, one of the reasons for mastering is, after all, to have an objective set of ears. But I have to say this was an experiment I would consider a success, and something I'll try again in the future.
    N E W S O N G ! To Say 'No' Would Be a Crime (Remix) is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

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  • #2
    Back when mastering involved spinning tape reels and lacquer disks, it was customary for the engineer or producer (and/or artist sometimes) to attend the mastering session and go over adjustments that the mastering engineer proposed making. Today mastering has a totally different meaning, or a few different meanings depending on who's involved. The home recordist just wants someone to make his recording sound better however he does it. The high-falootin' producer wants it to sound exactly the same only louder, and there are certainly some in-betweens.

    I see no reason why there shouldn't be come collaboration in mastering, just as there is in mixing. I don't see any reason not to use what you like and not use what you don't like (or ask the mastering engineer to make those sound like the ones you like). But I think that splicing what amounts to two mixes together in the same song is something other than "collaborative mastering." It's creative editing, maybe.
    --
    "Today's production equipment is IT-based and cannot be operated without a passing knowledge of computing, although it seems that it can be operated without a passing knowledge of audio." - John Watkinson, Resolution Magazine, October 2006
    Drop by http://mikeriversaudio.wordpress.com now and then

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    • #3
      Originally posted by MikeRivers View Post
      I think that splicing what amounts to two mixes together in the same song is something other than "collaborative mastering." It's creative editing, maybe.
      Wel, it's splicing two masters together, and we collaborated, so...
      N E W S O N G ! To Say 'No' Would Be a Crime (Remix) is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

      Subscribe, like, and share the links!

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Anderton View Post

        Fortunately, our styles are sufficiently similar there was no jarring disconnect, but sufficiently different that there was a subtle difference in "flavor" over the course of the album. There was also one song where I liked what I did with the dynamics better than what he did, but liked his EQ better...so I mimicked his EQ on my master.

        I really haven't heard about the concept of collaborative mastering before
        It's very useful that you and he have some similarity. I don't know what would've been involved if you liked some of yours and some of his, but there were too many dissimilar things to enable splicing.

        I dunno... for me, this collaborative thing is a cool idea in that it lets one microscope yet another process in the recording art. But... it's not a cool idea because... it lets one further microscope yet another process. I'd be in yet another level of choice-making stress.

        My problem is that I want less microscoping nowadays. I'm somehow gradually losing my control-freakiness. I no longer mix my own stuff, finding others create results that I like way better. That alone relieved so much stress for me. Mixing was never fun for me, but dang it, no one else was gonna get THEIR hands on my faders unless I was still in charge and did what I wanted. Even if their ideas were better.

        Last time I considered self-mastering was to buy a Finalizer box in what, 2004 or whenever that concept came around. I'm glad I didn't. I would've just stressed myself more. All these mastering plugs are the same situation. I personally have to let go at mix and at mastering and get another human level involved that is completely outside myself. That increasingly seems to be the only way I can find real magic. Not a new concept.

        I wouldn't do well with collaborative mastering. I hand it to you Craig that you stay eager to delve into the rooms, the control circuits before the microphone, the signals going into the microphone, the mix of those signals, and then the mastering. I'm surprised you don't also own a lathe

        I still love tracking, even though I don't do the Prince-all-instruments-by-me approach much any more, preferring to bring in a string quartet or do a basic track with fifty takes of guys in the room till the feel's right. I woulda never brought in other people in the 80s-90s. Now, I'm just liable to not play anything on my own tracks... well it hasn't yet come to that.

        I suppose it'll get to the point of intelligent non-human collaborative mastering at some point. Like "hey Cortana, check around planet earth and lemme know what you'd change on this mastered pass"

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        • #5
          It actually wasn't very stressful, or cause any agonizing. I loaded my file into SONAR, loaded Steve's, and set up exclusive solo to switch back and forth between the tracks. We mastered our tracks to the same DR figure so there wasn't a lot of level-matching required. Actually all his masters were good, but I had a very specific sound in mind for some cuts and when that sound was obtained, I wasn't going to change it.

          As to my "do it allness," actually for the "Neo-" album (which I just uploaded to YouTube today - all 3.7 GB - but it's not public yet; I need to look at it and make sure the upload was AOK), Mark Longworth wrote two of the songs and did backup vocals on one, and I used drum loops from a real drummer. There were only two cuts where I played a drum part with a drum module, but that's because the songs required it.

          These days what's happening is I'm cutting loose from myself for the "creative impulse" part of the process. In a way it's the opposite of a control freak, I let myself be controlled by whatever the muse is and the songs just...happen. At that point, all the mixing, mastering, etc. becomes dictated by the song. So I just follow the instructions, and the song ends up being mixed and mastered It's kind of like paint by numbers. What's more, I'm finding out a lot of the songs aren't really dependent on the mix, so "refinements" just aren't an issue. This is especially true because I'm cutting fewer tracks than ever. If you have only 6-7 tracks, there's only so much you can do with a mix.

          The "Neo-" album was a different process. I started it in late 2012 but between then and now I moved three times, changed careers, had an extended illness, and wanted to do videos for all the songs. I also re-cut a lot of the tracks when I got healthier. It freaked me out to compare the vocals on my demo songs that are on YouTube now with the recut versions. I made me realize what shape I was in at the time, and how unaware of it I was.

          Anyway...as to your approach, you also seem to have found something that works for you, and are willing to change and go with whatever direction seems right. And for you, that also seems to involve "letting go" although it manifests itself in a different way.

          I think the lesson here is along the lines of "water seeks its own level." The water doesn't have to think about it, it just comes naturally. I think the more we can keep ourselves our the process and acquiesce to whatever the music wants, the better off we'll be.

          I doubt it will be four years until my next "drop"...I'm thinking maybe an EP in a few months if I don't go nuts with the videos. The EP's working title is "Simplicity." I think I'll have Steve master it
          N E W S O N G ! To Say 'No' Would Be a Crime (Remix) is now streamable from my YouTube channel.

          Subscribe, like, and share the links!

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          • #6
            Welcome to how real music is made (even if it's made using non-traditional instruments). Although I'm not a songwriter or composer, I've always approached recording much the way you're describing - people play music, and what they play tells me what to do (or mostly not do) with it. I've never used more than 16 tracks, so I still have 8 to spare on the Mackie recorders if someone has a really good idea.
            --
            "Today's production equipment is IT-based and cannot be operated without a passing knowledge of computing, although it seems that it can be operated without a passing knowledge of audio." - John Watkinson, Resolution Magazine, October 2006
            Drop by http://mikeriversaudio.wordpress.com now and then

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