Recording - April 2016 - 43
or are cluttered. This is usually due to a combination of the room and the speakers
and the listening position; they can't hear what they need to.
Another issue: vocals that are too bright, with very dark or dull instrumentation surrounding them. You can't boost the high end to open up the instruments without making the vocal harsh. Or it can be the other way around, with acoustic guitars or cymbals that are very bright vs. the vocal. That's when I communicate with them and get
them to adjust the individual tracks and send a new mix if they are willing to do so.
Are there particular things that you would suggest that a singer/songwriter keep
in mind, or be prepared for, before bringing you a demo to master?
First of all, watch your levels. Don't print hot. Even if you see a thousand tutorials
showing how some guy's using a plug-in or something to push things up, be moderate with your levels. You can always level up, but if you print hot, you can't really
lower it down. It's like food that's overcooked. So I would recommend printing mixes
around -3 to -6 dBFS peaking; that way you have enough range.
After you print it, look at the WAV files. Sometimes you might find a few spikes
here and there. Those spikes are probably because either an instrument was hit too
hard there, or there was a combination of instruments that accumulated at that
peak. Go back in, see where it is, and lower the specific instrument that created it.
Otherwise those spikes will trigger compression later. Don't compress the whole mix
when fixing a few spikes will do!
When you mix, work in whatever resolution and sample rate you normally use for
tracking. Don't try to upsample or downsample or do fancy stuff to your audio; it's
much better to do that at the mastering stage, where the tools are more refined.
File management is super important. After you've printed the mix, I would recommend renaming it with the name of the artist, and then the song, and then the mix
number, 1 or 2 or 3, whatever. That will make things really easy either for the mastering engineer, or you or anyone else involved, because you'll know exactly what
song it is and where to find it.
An interview with Maor Appelbaum
How do you feel about people who tend these days to ask the mastering engineer
to do stuff that would normally be the mix engineer's job? You know, they say "I
want to get this mastered but I can't seem to get my vocal to sit right and if I gave
you the stems, could you do something for me?" What's your position on that?
Well, there are people who do stem mastering; they'll take an instrumental and a vocal
and put them together in a way. I personally don't like doing so, because I'm entering the
realm of a mixing decision, which I don't feel is up to me. There are too many variables,
too much guessing-it's hard to know how to please the client.
Sometimes I get two versions-a vocal up and a non-vocal up. I listen and see
what sounds better; sometimes both sound good, so I might master both and let the
client decide which they prefer.
Any other particular things that you think recording songwriters should know
before they make use of a mastering engineer's services?
It would be good if they understand that mastering is part of a larger process. If they
try to push things to make their mixes sound like what's out there, they might overcompress or use too much EQ or clip, just in order to get close to their reference tracks.
Always leave room for the next person to work on your song. If you are recording
and mixing, leave room for the mastering engineer to work out how much highs or
lows or mids he needs, how loud it is... let him do that. You can always ask for more,
and figure out if it's too much or not. Keep an open mind and leave space for the next
person in line to work on the song, so his hands are not tied.
Like I said before, these things can go viral. So think twice before you release
something; if it will benefit from a mastering engineer's touch, don't release it unmastered-wait for the mastering to come back, see that you're happy with it, and if not,
make the revisions needed to improve it.
When it's all done and you're happy with it, then release it. You're probably going to
get more people interested in it, because it sounds better. More people will connect with
it. You'll never know who will hear what version, and you might never get the chance to
say, "Oh, that's the rough mix... you should hear the mastered track, it's way better."
Learn more at maorappelbaum.com
RECORDING April 2016
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Recording - April 2016
Recording - April 2016 - Intro
Recording - April 2016 - Cover1
Recording - April 2016 - Cover2
Recording - April 2016 - 1
Recording - April 2016 - 2
Recording - April 2016 - 3
Recording - April 2016 - 4
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Recording - April 2016 - Contents
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Recording - April 2016 - Cover3
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