Not sure anyone is left here… But I thought I’d share some of the music I have mastered in 2021. My clients are mostly indie artists with small or no labels and not everything is worth listening to but here’s a small selection of tracks I thought some of you might enjoy:
Cyberpunk pop (was actually the producer on this one):
Thanks! I gave each one at least a partial listen to get a sense of it. I may come back and listen more later, it’s a lot of tracks. I liked “Enfants du pétrole” the best, kind of a Pop/Rock song maybe, but most of the styles are different than I’m used to, and some are in non-English languages which makes it challenging to understand the lyrics.
You probably could have posted this in the regular forum under Progress Logs or something like that, more people would see it. The Backstage category is not seen by all members, only the ones who have opted-in to see it previously.
I’d be interested if you want to talk about your mastering process. IIRC, in a thread some time ago I think you said you don’t use compression or limiting much in mixing, but I assume you do use those in mastering? My memory is foggy, but it seems like you had a classic/purist approach for the most part.
Well thanks for giving it a listen, and it’s nice to know which one was your favorite. I wouldn’t have bet on this one TBH.
Yes I’ve advocated for dynamics a lot on this forum and I know it might seem like I think of dynamic reduction processing as a bad thing, but I’m not. It’s just that I strongly believe that dynamics reduction is detrimental after a certain point (which is different for every genre, and even every song), and I think that a lot of abuse is still going on in the industry these days, even though the peak of the loudness war is long past.
To answer your question, I’ll describe my mastering process briefly. It’s always the same and it goes like this:
This is when I talk with the client about their artistic goals, gather the material and necessary info, and agree on things like price and turnaround time.
I start by listening to the final mix, not as an engineer but as a curious music lover, and I pay attention to what the music makes me feel, and make mental (sometimes written) notes. This is very important to me as I think the first listen is hugely revealing, and you can only listen to a final mix for the first time once.
If I’m ready to go I send a confirmation to the client. If for some reason there is something I feel might be better addressed in the mix or if I have a doubt, we have a discussion about it until we both agree that the mix is ready for mastering.
Clean up and check
If necessary I will clean up things like digital clicks/pops, sometimes (rarely) correct some phase rotation or DC offset issues, prepare the session, name the file, insert start and end markers, and apply positive or negative gain to the audio in order to get the peaks where I need them.
From there, I will start by addressing the things in whichever order is preferable, which is often different from one song to the other, although I seem to start with EQ or compression more often. I only use EQ or compression if there is a need, which is not always the case. I sometimes use harmonic distortion (exciters), imaging (decrease or increase the width on some frequency bands), multiband compression or dynamic EQ (mostly for de-essing), but all of these are less frequent than EQ, which remains the most frequent thing I do.
A/B and QC
I actually do this throughout the process but almost always finish with this: I level match and A/B compare the final mix and my master to make sure I haven’t made things worse. Currently I use a plugin that does this automatically for me (the gain matching, not the decision making )
Limiting and dithering
Limiting always comes after that, and I almost always manage to get the loudness close to where I think it needs to be before limiting, so that I only use the limiter in a transparent way, mostly to set the ceiling and gain a few dBs (or tenths of dBs) if needed. Dithering always comes last, and is only necessary when truncating bit depth.
I render the files in the necessary formats (usually 4824 and 4416) or sets (DDP) and upload them to a secure private, streaming site (I use Samply audio) for the client to listen and approve or comment
If necessary I do the requested revisions and upload a v2 (my standard rate includes 2 revisions, which is most of the times more than enough)
Once I get the client’s approval I send my invoice
Once I get paid, I create a shared folder where I upload the files and other relevant documents (invoice, instructions on delivery etc.) and send the link to the client.
I don’t know why I like it, I just do. Lots of elements in the music and vocals I like, and it was probably the closest to the style of music I like (Rock, Metal) though it seems to have more of a Pop sound. The car starting up at the beginning reminds me a bit of Roxy Music “Love is the Drug” from back in the 1970’s. Then the organ and toms sound cool in the intro, and it sounds like a low-level distorted bass or synth or something. I haven’t figured out what the singer is saying, I guess it’s French and the title means “children of oil”? The song is strong on vocals and drums, and most other elements are fairly subtle and in the background. I like the bridge at 4:03, it gets a little more rocking. Airplane sound at the end, the outro. So with that and the car at the intro, the petrol/oil theme seems to be there.
Yes, the war mostly passed but it did change a lot of things permanently, so it’s good to be reminded of musical dynamics to balance things out.
That’s a great point!
That’s probably how things were designed to be from the beginning, but of course sometimes people want to push the limits and see how far something can go.
Hey @Lophophora! Thanks for posting this. I’ve been meaning to have an area here for indie music to be shared and I just moved this thread over to that space. I’m checking some of this out as I type. Good stuff!!