Mastering

Prism Sound Titan

I’ve added a new flagship interface to the studio to add more clarity and depth to our production. I met Frank Oglethorpe at an event in San Francisco and got to hear the Atlas & Titan in action. The audio detail was giving me chills and put me in a space where the music was visual.

The Titan was in a small studio room that had treatment on the walls. It was an ideal situation to test out the ability of the DA and hear some recent mixes I’d just finished vs. mixes at the hosting studio. There was a difference in the low end where the frequencies had more depth without the mud. I immediately knew I had to demo a unit at my studio to hear if the mixes benefited from the converters in the Titan. 

 Engineer David Hughes at Shine On Studio.

Engineer David Hughes at Shine On Studio.

I connected with Jeff Briss from Cutting Edge Audio and got the approval from Frank to demo a Titan. When it arrived, I wasted no time connecting it to the HDX system. The first mix I played came to life and filled the room with rich detail and precision clarity. My eyes got large and my ears were saturated with excitement. This was such an amazing experience that I knew a Titan was the missing piece for the studio. 

I’ve had the Titan now for a few months and the response is exactly what I want to hear from my clients. Everyone loves the full sound and clarity that the audio has on every system they playback their music. This was a serious investment and it has already paid dividends that make it worth every penny.  

I highly recommend Prism Sound and their audio interfaces. Send me a message and I’ll hook you up with info on how you can connect with the right people to demo a unit for yourself.  

Plugins - An open discussion

There are way too many plugins out there and you may feel confused on which ones to buy and incorporate into your workflow. Here is an open discussion for you to ask questions and get insight for all those plugins. I'll regularly post any new releases or deals that I come across for those plugins that you should consider adding to your system.

Mastering | CD or MP3

Many of my clients have been asking me if they should release their music on CD or MP3. In many ways, this is a no-brainer answer for most engineers. Yet, there are advantages to both formats. I'd say it has to ultimately come down to your budget.

CD audio is scientifically a higher resolution, but also comes at a higher cost. MP3 audio is easier to distribute and has the advantage of encoding metadata directly into the file. If you have the budget, go with CD masters, trust me, your fans will appreciate the increased audio quality. MP3 files can always be encoded from the CD audio.

If you do release MP3 files for your music, please use a quality codec and encode the files at 320 Kbps. Audiophiles like myself can hear a noticeable difference in the quality of audio as the Kbps encoding is lowered. A quality codec will also dither and render your audio without adding too many artifacts.

This topic can go on and on, so please leave any comments or questions and I'll respond as soon as I can. Thank you for reading this blog post.

Mixing | The loudness war

The loudness war is finally coming to an end. Many of the studio clients are asking me to determine the overall level of the mixes. This gives me the ability to mix more dynamic range into the audio instead of smashing the audio to squeeze as much volume as possible out of the tracks. This makes me so happy to hear quality music being produced at the studio.

Mixes that are smashed and hyper-compressed are lifeless and have no soul. The industry is flooded with this garbage and now we have a generation that will have to live with some form of hearing loss. I'm not sure what record execs were trying to achieve. They didn't sell any albums this year. Only Taylor Swift went Platinum and her album is not hyper-compressed. Go figure.

Mastering | What to expect

I regularly get the question, "what is mastering?" So let me break it down to the fundamentals. Mastering is basically checking your mix for any problems and then optimizing it for release to the public. I have had some mixes come in for mastering that are ready to go and don't need any adjustments. There are also the mixes that come in and need to be sent back to the mixing engineer. Mastering cannot fix a bad mix, so don't send your mix in if you don't like the way it sounds. A good mastering engineer takes a good mix and makes it better without squishing the dynamics out of the mix. Putting a limiter on the master buss is not mastering.

Here at Shine On Studio, we master your track with precision tools to enhance your mix. We do not alter the mix or make drastic changes to the EQ spectrum. You spent a lot of time working on your mix and we ensure that your masters sound clear and dynamic.

We do offer a class on how to master music. If you'd like to enroll or get more info, please comment or contact the studio.

Mastering | Getting your mix ready

I'd like to offer some advice about mastering. Many tracks come in to the studio for mastering and sometimes the mixes are not ready to be mastered. So here are a few tips on how to get your mix ready for mastering.

The primary thing to keep in mind when mixing is to make sure that you leave enough headroom in the mix for a mastering engineer to work their magic. So many times I get a mix that has absolutely no headroom. The dynamics of been squished to a point of no return and it is virtually impossible to master these tracks. Be conservative with the volumes of your mix. If you want your music to be louder just turn up the volume on your monitors. Do not use a limiter or a compressor to squish the music and boost the level. It's a good idea to not sacrifice the dynamics of your mix for increased volume levels. Use meter software and make sure that your mix has at least 6dB of headroom. This means that the maximum peak level of your mix does not exceed -6dBFS.

Dither is another area that can be confusing. To keep things simple, don't use dither if you have no idea what it does. If you track at 48KHz | 32 bit when recording and mixing, then make your mix at the same settings. The mastering engineer will do the dithering for you and make sure that the audio fidelity is maximized. If you convert your files to a different sample rate w/o dither, then you could induce artifacts or digital distortion into your mix.

If you're not quite sure how to deliver your files for mastering, then just ask your mastering engineer. Be sure to send the best quality files, too. Don't send MP3 versions if you have WAV files available. There are many sites that allow you to transfer big files for free. Sites like wetransfer.com is a great site for file sharing.

Hope this gives you a little more insight. Please leave comments and questions.

Preparing Tracks for Mastering

The recording and mixing is finally completed and you're really happy with the final mixes. Now, you're ready to get your tracks mastered. There are a few things you need to make sure are in place before you send your tracks over to the mastering house.

First, make sure your peaks don't exceed -6dBFS. There needs to be some headroom for the mastering engineer to work. When you send your mix with no headroom, the mastering engineer is limited by what they can do. When I've worked on tracks that have no headroom, I have to spend time with the gain structure to allow for any adjustments that will enhance the mix.

Second, send uncompressed .wav files for mastering. It is never a good idea to send in .mp3 files for mastering. The lossy codec of the mp3 has stripped away rich audio details that the mastering engineer will need to deliver a quality master. It's best to send files from their original sample rate and bit depth. If you tracked at 96KHz, then send the mastering engineer 96K .wav files to master. The mastering engineer will do the final dithering and make sure that all files are formatted for public distribution. If you're unsure of what to send a mastering engineer, just ask them. A mastering engineer will be more than willing to provide you with details about what to deliver. This will save a lot of time if there are any problems with the files you send over.

Last Minute Christmas Gift Ideas

For one reason or another, you find yourself at the last minute looking for a gift. There are many options and you just don't know what to get. You could go with a gift card...those are always popular. Why not surprise them with a gift that will capture their creative essence? A gift certificate to Shine On Studio is more than a gift, it's a self-esteem boost. It's a statement that you believe in someone else's musical talent and want to encourage them to create music they can share with the world.

The holidays are all about giving and showing how much you care. That's exactly how we feel about each client that records at Shine On Studio. We're offering discounts on all our gift certificates up to 20% off. Our $500 gift certificate is on sale for only $400! That's an extra $100 we're throwing in to sweeten the deal. Our way of saying thank you for choosing us to work on your creative expression.

Our gift certificates can be redeemed for any studio service: recording, mixing, mastering, pro tools lessons, guitar lessons, drum lessons, rehearsal time, & beat making classes. They never expire and always retain their value, so your musician can take their time creating their masterpiece.

Visit our "Booking & Rates" page for more details.

How to prepare for a Recording Session

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You're ready to record your music, but you've never been to a recording studio. Let me give you a few tips on how to prepare for your recording session.

First thing, be ready to record. You need to be well rehearsed and have final versions of your songs ready to go. Don't waste any time trying to figure out parts of a song. Have everyone on the same page so time can be spent getting good takes for mixing.

Second, give all your instruments a tune up. Put new strings or drum heads on a day or two before your session. This will give them time to stretch out and stay in tune while you record. Always bring spare strings,sticks, straps and other gear so you don't waste any time running to the store. 

Third, be well rested for your session. It's important to stay focused and attentive to every aspect of the session. Keep your ears rested. Don't listen to loud music before you go into the studio. Bring snacks and bottled water with you to keep your energy up.

Forth, protect your investment. You're spending your hard earned money on the recording, so be prepared to back it up. Bring a hard drive or flash drive with lots of empty space to back up all of your recordings. HD sessions can get big quickly. High sample rates and bit depths create big files. The average 4 minute song can have a folder that is 5 GB, so if you've got 10 songs on the album, you'll need 50-60 GB of storage. It's always a good idea to bring blank CD-Rs if everyone in the band wants a copy of the rough mixes.

These are just some of the basic things you should prepare before going into your session. It's always a good idea to discuss your project and ask any questions before you get to the studio. If you and the engineer are on the same page, the session will move along efficiently and the recordings will reflect the productive environment.