Welcome to the ninth instalment of Monday #MusicMatters as part of the JAMS Canada PRO Series – “Here’s What I Know”.
We caught up with Dave Daw for his insight about mixing & mastering
What are some tips you can offer to musicians when mixing their music?
Everyone begins at their own level, so everything in your project is only as good as the weakest link, whether that is the equipment or the engineer; so never consider it a sign of weakness to reach out for help with things that you are uncomfortable doing, or for which you are not properly equipped. Not every musician is comfortable behind a recording console and sometimes it makes sense to focus on your strengths as a singer, musician or songwriter and get help with other (technical) things that might be holding your project back.
We frequently have clients come to us who have been working on a home-recorded project for years (never finishing it) and finally decide to just go to a professionals studio where they can simply focus on their performance and actually (finally) get the job done and the project released. Allowing someone else to handle the technical aspects of your recording (particularly if this is not in your comfort zone) often frees you up to just focus on making better music.
Some studios record the song and recommend getting it mixed either elsewhere or with another set of ears. Some say you can have it recorded and mixed in the same studio but to always leave at least a couple of days before doing a final mix.
What is your preferred method for mixing?
This ultimately comes down to the combined abilities and experience of those doing the recording, as well as the technical capabilities of the facility where you record. Any professional recording engineer or studio should be capable of taking on any aspect of a project and/or doing the entire production; although some facilities or engineers (for variety of reasons) may opt to send final mastering “ out” to ensure the best possible end result. Opinions on the best approach to mixing will differ as this process is very subjective, but in my view any professional engineer should have no problem going directly from tracking to mixing; even on the same day.
How important is it to listen to a mix on several kinds of speakers? And why?
While it is good to listen to your mixes on a variety of systems to get an “idea of how they might sound on the good, the bad and the ugly”, it can also add a great deal of confusion and frustration, which can result in you making poor mix decisions. You need to realize that whatever other people listen to your project on is what they are used to, so even if it sounds terrible to you it is what they know; so rather than confusing yourself at this critical stage of production, it is probably more important to just remove all the “ guess-work” and have your project mastered by someone with the experience to ensure you optimal results on a variety of systems.
Why is having your song mastered so important? What happens when you don’t?
There is little doubt that most audio masters will benefit greatly from professional mastering.
Upon request, Summit Sound will provide a free consultation service for your master, and can recommend the proper mastering services, along with cost estimates, to ensure a professional finished product.
Digital mastering in it’s most basic form, is the step in manufacturing following mix-down, where this information is re-loaded into a digital workstation and a master “red book compatible” CDR (or DDP master) is created, including the “PQ” codes a CD player uses to identify selections, mutes and item timing, as well as embedded CD-text, ISRC codes and other required meta-data.
More advanced mastering can be a complex process involving additional frequency selective compression, EQ-ing, noise reduction, stereo enhancement, complex editing, and overall loudness enhancement. Mastering is typically used to match sounds or levels between tracks, or even to alter the over-all sonic content of the entire master.
Not everyone with a computer, a BIG hard drive, and a CD burner is a mastering engineer… (we commonly see serious damage done to perfectly good masters by people who don’t know what they are doing).
Even the basics like proper P&Q codes embedded CD text, ISRC codes and a printed log sheet are essential for track identification etc., so if you don’t really understand how to get these, it may be wise to leave this job for the mastering engineer.
How has COVID 19 impacted you? How have you had to pivot?
We were required by law to close our studio during Covid-19 as we were not considered an essential service, however despite being allowed to re-open in the first phase of the lowering of government restrictions, since most of our clients are musicians who still have no work, none of them are in a position to record or re-order product since they are not performing.
We were fortunate to have some mastering as well as some audio mixing, editing and video work for CDN & US clients who produce dramatic and animated work that we could do in the studio during the time that we could not have clients visit the studio.
We are available any weekday 24 hrs per day for free consultation on any topic related to custom music production.
David Daw is a co-owner of Summit Sound Inc. and a member of the Covenant Award winning vocal group the Proverbs. Dave is a graduate of the Loyalist College communications studio techniques programme, chief engineer and president of Summit Sound . Dave works regularly as a producer, recording & mastering engineer, vocal coach & background vocalist in the studio; and outside the studio as a pro-audio & lighting consultant and installer.
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