Saturday, 24 May 2014

Mastering Time - Part 2

I'm very close to finalizing the music on my new album. Of course I still have to decide on a title and get the artwork done but that's another story. The final part of mastering for me is to create a montage of all the tracks, which I do in Steinberg's Wavelab software. Basically the single audio files are dropped into the Montage workspace (as opposed to the Track Editing workspace) in a linear format, in the order they will appear on the finished CD.
Start and stop markers can be placed either end of each file and gaps inserted between tracks. You can also crossfade tracks into each other so there are no gaps, but as long as you have inserted markers the finished CD will still play continuously or you can still skip from track to track.
The best feature for me of this software is allowing you to match the volumes of each individual track to one another. By simply clicking an icon and holding down the mouse key you can raise or lower the volume of any individual track without affecting any others in the montage. You can tweak away until your hears content, getting levels right until you're completely happy and the sound is balanced across the whole of the finished CD. An obvious but great tool.
There are so many more features I could waffle on about such as track naming, fade in/outs, ISRC codes and so on, but just to get your basic CD sounding professional this is a great piece of software.
There are numerous video tutorials on Youtube for Wavelab and I would recommend checking them out. As the old saying goes - Knowledge is Power! Best of Luck...

Saturday, 10 May 2014

The Rolling Stones - just the feel!

Just watching "The Rolling Stones Return To Hyde Park"  in 2013. It was 44 years to the day since they first played there in 1969.

What strikes me has they go through their classic songs is not only the energy they can still bring to the show, but the passion and feel they play with.

Of course as a bunch of musicians playing together for over 50 years now they are something special. But it is the sum of the parts that makes them unique.

I wouldn't class any of them as virtuoso players but its the emotion that each one can put into a single note, lick or song. Along with that is knowing what to play and when to play it. They always seem to leave the right gaps in the right places and just gell as a unit, like no other.

My take is that its not what you play or how many notes you play, but how much feel and expressiveness you are able to convey and this comes across in bundles from The Stones to their live audience and through the TV screen. Long may they continue...

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Mastering Time - Part 1

As I work for myself I sometimes get quiet times in the day and this I find is an ideal time to work on my music. The house is empty and I can make some noise MWah!!
This week I've been mastering my third album (which is close to completion) in a program called "Wavelab" by Steinberg. This is a great program as it simply allows you to drag and drop music files into the work space and use up to 8 plugins simultaneously, to affect the sound.
I tend to use a similar sequence of plugins usually (but not always) in this order.
1. EQ - firstly to get rid of low end rumble
2. Another EQ  with more options just to give me more to play with.
3. A Multi-Band Compressor, split into 3 to 5 bands across the frequency range. So I can just compress the bass/mids/top or wherever I think is needed
4. A Limiter - to allow me to bring up and maximise the volume if needed.
5. A Leveler - in case I am comparing 2 or more files (usually a reference track) so I can hear the tracks at the same volume for comparison. As its easy to misjudge sound if the volumes are even slightly different.
6. A Stereo Expander - I don't always use this but it widens the stereo field and can excite the sound (make it brighter and bigger) but this can sometimes be too harsh I find, but is a useful tool to have.
7. and 8. Then one or two Analyzers to help visually look at the sound frequencies and dynamic range of the track. Although these can be great at times they can also mislead and its always best to use your ears rather than your eyes when mixing and mastering.
I would always add into the work-space a reference track that you know well, so you can compare your own music to an industry standard piece of work. I tend to use tracks by Peter Gabriel - usually "Red Rain" from the "So" album.
An excellent resource if you do master your own music is a great website run by top mastering engineer Ian Shepherd called "Production Advice". You should check this out as it is full of great articles, videos and advice to help the home studio musician. I've certainly learned a lot from Ian