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Mastering preparation

Good mixes preparation for mastering goes a long way toward a better sounding and less costly final result. Preparing for mastering is an important step. So, the following ia some useful advice:

  • book the session at least a week in advance, so you have time to decide about any last minute question. Make a list of the songs in the order you want on the final CD or vinyl. If you ask for certain editing, please write it down; also write down any other thing, like raising the lows into a song, etc. Make sure you provide a list of phone numbers so that you, your producer, and your band players can be reached.
  • bring the highest resolution mixes you can. Do not buss compress when mixing (except when the type of music is asking for, quite rare anyway), just make sure the mixes sound good.
  • if you would like to remove noise, please include examples of the floor noise you want to be removed- a few seconds would be just great.
  • have a list with the tempo of each song; this is needed because, in order to maintain the flow of the album, the very last beat of the first song has to stay in tempo with the downbeat of the next one. This is called spread and is used in most of the cases.
  • include all ISRC codes with the songs in case you want them written, we have to have them before we burn the master disc. The codes are written on the CD - in the sub code - Q channel, as every recording has its own code. Each ISRC is a unique and permanent identifier for a specific recording which can be permanently encoded as its digital fingerprint. They make it possible to automatically identify recordings for royalty payments. Each ISRC is 12 characters long; check the internet for more info.
  • bring with you some recordings that you feel are in the same vein with your music; they will help the mastering engineer to get a sense of what type of sound you're looking for. This is not about trying to copy somebody, but rather to better understand the relation between your music and the sound.
  • make a couple of mixes of the same song, make a "vocal up", a "vocal down", a "solo up" and a "solo down"; you may be happy you did that. The compression tends to change the balance of the leads to the track bed, so you give the mastering engineer some room to breathe and definitely get a better final product. It is better to have the vocal too hot than too soft. Use de-esser at mixing for vocal, it gives clarity and keeps the sound from becoming to harsh. Also, use an auto-tuner at mixing, we can not bring the voice in tune at mastering. Pay attention to cymbals, they are usually too hot. De-essing is extremely essential for mastering for vinyl, please contact us for more details.
  • always bring safety copies of your mixes! It would be a great idea to bring the original premixes. So, always make an uncompressed mix along with the compressed mix you have prepared during mixdown.
  • check your mixes before you submit them to us: listen to them on good speakers and at different volume levels. Make sure the mix isn't clipping. A good rule of thumb is to have the peaks at -6dB. Always mix in 24 or 32 bit even if the source tracks are 16 bit! Do not sample rate convert!!! Always leave some room at the beginning and the end of the song (at least 10 sec) and don't perform any editing or fading.
  • if you submit CD or DAT, always avoid digital clipping and use outboard converters. Because the meters of most DAT recorders are not accurate, don't allow the peaks to go over -3 or -4dB. Never ever compress the stereo output buss unless the music dictates it, and it is actually for musical purposes, not for squashing.
  • export the mixes as .wav or .aiff files at 24 or 32 bit, the higher the resolution, the better, and burn the files on CD/DVD, bring them on USB sticks or hard drive or send them through dropbox or wetransfer. If it's a tape make sure it is properly labeled and marked.
  • for a DAT, have IDs on all the songs and because sometimes tapes get chewed (they were never intended to be a pro format), back it up before you bring them here.

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