Mixing & Mastering on a Low Budget

Discussion in 'Recording In Progress' started by wetland10, Oct 2, 2009.

  1. wetland10

    wetland10 Tele-Afflicted

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    I know I've asked this before, but I'm not a bit in a bind. My band does this on the side for fun, although we take it quite seriously and want to push it as far as we can. But as such, we don't have a very large budget to produce our current album. We tracked everything ourselves in our makeshift studio and the quality is very good. We now need someone to mix and master the project. I don't have the time to learn the process and do it myself, so we really need an engineer to do this.

    However, we don't have a very large budget and I've been searching for an engineer. I've seen deals on the internet but am reluctant to just send my songs to anyone and hope for the best.

    So, who has used someone that produced good results at a fair price? I know that is relative so I will give you a guide. This one guy we spoke with wanted to charge us $100 per song, for 12 songs. that's too high! I'd like to see if I can do this for around $500 or lower. Am I crazy or is this possible?

    Wayne
     
  2. woodman

    woodman Grand Wazoo @ The Woodshed Gold Supporter

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    the last real album i made, we had right around one hour of material mastered for $500 locally (Studio B in Charlotte). so yes, it can be done. you just need to find the right place. it's nice to work locally because you can generally sit in on the session(s) and help guide your record's destiny.

    a whole lot of the mastering process is about the room — it has to be tuned as close to acoustic perfection as possible. so that's a lot of what you're paying for.
     
  3. Old Cane

    Old Cane Poster Extraordinaire

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    Try over at gearslutz. they have lots of big names and some wanting to get started. Some are real pros and $500 is very much in line with what they charge.
     
  4. Tim Armstrong

    Tim Armstrong Super Moderator Ad Free Member

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    Mixing and mastering are two separate steps, and really ought to be done by two separate people.

    The mix is the the key part, and you want the best mix possible. A great mix, that translates well to a variety of listening situations (hifi stereo, boom box, car system, iPod) is what you want.

    Unless you're hoping for lots of radio airplay, mastering is absolutely optional. A pro mastering engineer provides a second set of ears in a really great (and very expensive to build) acoustic environment, with lots of very expensive pieces of equipment, and provides a very small amount of final eq and compression tweaking to the already done final stereo mix to optimize it for radio airplay, mostly to "make it louder" so it stands out or at least keeps up with the stuff they're already playing.

    Not to say that isn't a very valuable thing, but the best mastering engineer in the world can't make a less than great mix sound great...

    Tim
     
  5. Old Cane

    Old Cane Poster Extraordinaire

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    Tim, sorry, I missed the part in his post about mixing and just saw mastering. I think for most of us working at home mastering is not just so much Louder but Evenly loud. I know a lot of my mp3s on myspace come out at different volumes. I agree about optional but it is nice when you can afford it. MEs can and do fix some minor mixing problems but I agree also that both should be done by another set of ears when possible. If the mixer has no better room and equipment than you do you may as well mix yourself. I'd let it sit for a week or so and NOT listen to it at all if you plan on this. Most don't have the patience but it does help. If you do mix it yourself try to one song all the way before you move on. Take lots of breaks. Use monitors, not headphones.
     
  6. Tim Armstrong

    Tim Armstrong Super Moderator Ad Free Member

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    Hey, I wasn't aiming that at you at all! Just responding to the OP's post!!!

    :D

    I DO have my occasional project mastered, and when I do, I use Bob Ohlsson , who's based in Nashville now, but got his start at Motown in the mid-60s. He doesn't hardly suck! His rates are quite reasonable, too...

    Tim
     
  7. rand z

    rand z Friend of Leo's

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    yep...


    rand z
     
  8. wetland10

    wetland10 Tele-Afflicted

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    I'm fairly knowledgeable in this area but I am not at all in using the actual software to do it. In the best case two different people would mix and master, that I know. But I'd like to find someone who could at first mix the project for a fair price. Mastering is a necessity to me and if not cost prohibitive I would like to have it done as well.

    I wish I had the time and software to do it myself, but I really don't. I may in the future, but just not now.

    It's a tough call, but hopefully I can find someone. Thanks to everyone so far for their help.

    Wayne
     
  9. refin

    refin Friend of Leo's

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    Alot of music today doesn't need to be mastered-------it's just going to end up coming out of an ipods's earbuds into the ears of a texting teen.:lol:
     
  10. wetland10

    wetland10 Tele-Afflicted

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    That's true! I guess I'm a bit old school in this department though.

    Wayne
     
  11. refin

    refin Friend of Leo's

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    Me too! ;)
     
  12. Old Cane

    Old Cane Poster Extraordinaire

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    Right but nothing wrong with still wanting it to be right. With mp3s we need all the help we can get. But yeah, I agree with you and Tim both in that if you are going to leave out a step this is the one to leave out. I still think you can mix youself. Saying you don't have what you need (and you have at least 2 ears) doesn't quite make sense. I mix with what I record with, Cubase, and a pair of monitors.
     
  13. wetland10

    wetland10 Tele-Afflicted

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    Here's the thing. Technically we have the software needed to do it. And a good PA system that we could probably hook a laptop to. However, what I don't have is the knowledge for adding compression, EQ, reverb, and whatever else to each track to turn it into a finished product. I can tell you what I like and dislike, and have a good ear for music, but I just don't know what goes where, how much, etc. I could learn, but too much of a learning curve for the moment.

    Wayne
     
  14. Old Cane

    Old Cane Poster Extraordinaire

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    That's mastering, not mixing. Mixing is listening and balancing. I get things set as to how I want them to sound then my mixing is just volume and placement. I only eq when stuff is clashing and do that long before I actually mix. Maybe this is because i guess I really just mix as I go.
     
  15. wetland10

    wetland10 Tele-Afflicted

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    my understanding of the subject is this:

    Mixing: You are talking about individual tracks within a song. Levels, song volume, EQ of each track, compression (usually involves drums), reverb, etc.

    Mastering: You are talking about a song as a whole as part of an album. Overall EQ, volume, even volume throughout an album, compression, etc.

    Anyway, that's just my understanding.

    Wayne
     
  16. Old Cane

    Old Cane Poster Extraordinaire

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    Well, compression can involve anything or nothing but if you aren't already mixing it yourself.....how are you listneing to it? Un-touched tracks coming back at whatever volume they were recorded at? No, come on, you're treating each track either as you record it or when you listen back. This is just a little word play on my part but I think you get my drift. And yes it would be very nice to hire a Mix guy and a master guy. I'm still not sure if that should be the same guy unless that guy is you. I'd feven feel good about one bandmember mixing and one mastering if so inclined. Don't get me wrong. Hiring someone who does this for a living is a good thing. And like I've said several times, over at gearslutz I bet you could find 2 such guys for the money you have to spend.
     
  17. wetland10

    wetland10 Tele-Afflicted

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    Your idea to post on gearslutz was a good one. I posted an ad. Also got some private responses to ponder.

    I gave myself less credit than I should. Playback has been mixing.




     
  18. Tim Armstrong

    Tim Armstrong Super Moderator Ad Free Member

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    Nope. Mixing is taking all the individual elements and blending them into a final stereo mix, adjusting volume, panning and eq certainly, but also providing every other bit of processing that it may take to get the finished product, be it reverb, delay, compression, doubling, fades, edits and even the dreaded tuning.

    A mastering engineer takes the FINISHED mix and gives it a quick buff'n'shine, fixing it so all the different songs work together volumewise, tweaking the eq slightly if needed, applying compression if needed to the whole track (originally to keep records from being so dynamically hot that the needles would jump out of the grooves, now usually to make the recordings seem louder on the radio). Mastering engineers don't touch the actual mix, though.

    I've mixed a bunch of recordings, and I've mastered one of my own and one for someone else (a friend who had a bunch of recordings made over a 30 year period, from a bunch of different studios and mixing engineers) and it was really challenging and frankly fun to get a pile of such different recordings to sit together as a coherent whole!

    Tim
     
  19. woodman

    woodman Grand Wazoo @ The Woodshed Gold Supporter

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    mixing = working with multitrack recordings.

    mastering = working with a stereo track.
     
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