Mastering Services ???

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Mastering Services ???

Post by DigitalMusicProduction »

Hi

Regarding previous posts concerning many aspects of music production, which many of you on here have given expert advice, I'm sure some of you are aware I've been struggling to add the finishing touches to a collection of piano tracks, at this point I've now realised mastering is not only out of my skill set, but a complete art in itself.

I'll therefor be looking at first to get a single mastered, sure there are dozens out there, but could any recommend a decent online mastering service. I know most of you are are in the game yourself, so I'm sure I'm asking in the right place.
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Re: Mastering Services ???

Post by Trevor Johnson »

What medium are you delivering your single on?

For vinyl, I have always used a mastering engineer. And I still love vinyl, probably in spite of, rather than despite, its inherent 'deficiencies'!
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Re: Mastering Services ???

Post by RichardT »

I've only ever used real mastering engineers, so I can't comment on automated services. If you want a mastering engineer who is excellent on classical material (and everything else!) try Eric James.
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Re: Mastering Services ???

Post by Trevor Johnson »

Thanks, Richard, to the link to Eric James.
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Re: Mastering Services ???

Post by Lophophora »

Hi there,

It sounds like you already discussed your track in other threads, which I haven't read so I apologize if I'm missing or repeating something here.

I would recommend you hire an experienced, human mastering engineer rather than use an online algorithm. Mastering isn't just matching a tonal balance or a loudness target, it is many more important things like:

- Quality control: a mastering engineer has a monitoring system and a listening process that will reveal every little defect like clicks, pops, hissing noises, low rumble, phasing etc. that you might have missed in a mixing room environment.

- Fresh perspective: when an artist/producer/mixing engineer achieves a final mix, they have usually been listening to the song repeatedly for days or weeks. Habituation might make us overlook an oddity or shortcoming that would otherwise be easily spotted by a trained professional on first listen. But here’s the thing: you can only listen to a final mix for the first time once.

- Delivering the right format for the right release strategy: if you upload your music as a music video, on streaming platforms, on CD, vinyl or specific formats like Apple Digital Masters, immersive audio etc. there are different file formats and qualities that a mastering engineer will deliver while an automated service will usually just produce a unique format.

- Emotional impact: a human mastering engineer will pick up on the artist's original intent and can maximize the emotional impact of a song with specific moves like a subtle volume bump on a chorus, reducing the width of a section to create a nice contrast with the following section, etc. that an automated service will completely ignore.

This is particularly true for more acoustic/organic music since most of the AI services use averaging methods over a large database of music, and the vast majority of music that is uploaded is revolving around electronic/hip-hop/pop music.
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Re: Mastering Services ???

Post by RichardT »

Lophophora wrote: Sun Sep 26, 2021 10:10 am This is particularly true for more acoustic/organic music since most of the AI services use averaging methods over a large database of music, and the vast majority of music that is uploaded is revolving around electronic/hip-hop/pop music.

This is an excellent point. For piano music the changes a mastering engineer makes will generally be very subtle - removing a bit of muddiness, or supporting the upper mids. Each of these things involves a number of slight EQ and compression techniques working together. The automated algorithms will not help here at all - and they are likely to do serious damage to a piano piece!

Lopophora's other points are very good too. In quite a few of my tracks, my mastering engineer will pick up something wrong in the mix that I need to fix. Knowing that he's going to listen with good ears with top flight equipment and acoustics actually encourages me to go the extra distance in getting things as good as they can be before I submit them to him.

Unless you have an extremely good monitoring environment, your mastering engineer's will be better, and so they will hear things you won't, and will fix them for you. For example, balancing the bass frequencies is often an area where home studio owners struggle because of both monitoring and room limitations.

An additional point is the learning you can get working with a mastering engineer. Working with mine has significantly improved my mixing skills and enabled me to look for the things he looks for myself before I send tracks to him.
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Re: Mastering Services ???

Post by Airfix »

Automated mastering - dream on.
I have some 'adaptive' stuff - eq and comp equipment - it's an average result. It is not AI - it is data analytic using reference material - it is not intelligent ears
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Re: Mastering Services ???

Post by DigitalMusicProduction »

When i mentioned an online mastering service i wasn't refering to "Automated mastering" but rather an actual mastering engineer remote from the studio, meaning I've been in contact with Abbey Road and Metropolis studios to discuss mastering the track with their online mastering service. I have a choice of engineer, but first need to decide which studio to go with, as prices vary.. and not having a sizable wallet means making the right decision.
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Re: Mastering Services ???

Post by RichardT »

DigitalMusicProduction wrote: Mon Sep 27, 2021 3:27 pm When i mentioned an online mastering service i wasn't refering to "Automated mastering" but rather an actual mastering engineer remote from the studio, meaning I've been in contact with Abbey Road and Metropolis studios to discuss mastering the track with their online mastering service. I have a choice of engineer, but first need to decide which studio to go with, as prices vary.. and not having a sizable wallet means making the right decision.

OK - good luck! My recommendation is - stick to one engineer if you are happy with the results. It really helps if you build up a good working relationship with your mastering engineer over time.
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Re: Mastering Services ???

Post by DigitalMusicProduction »

RichardT wrote: Mon Sep 27, 2021 7:23 pm
My recommendation is - stick to one engineer if you are happy with the results. It really helps if you build up a good working relationship with your mastering engineer over time.

Thats a valid point I'm sure, thanks again for your input everyone.
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Re: Mastering Services ???

Post by jaminem »

DigitalMusicProduction wrote: Mon Sep 27, 2021 3:27 pm I've been in contact with Abbey Road and Metropolis studios to discuss mastering the track with their online mastering service. I have a choice of engineer

I use Matt Colton in Metropolis.
Superb....
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Re: Mastering Services ???

Post by DigitalMusicProduction »

jaminem wrote: Wed Sep 29, 2021 11:23 am
I use Matt Colton in Metropolis.
Superb
....

Thanks for the tip Jaminem,

To be honest i felt a little naive at first approaching a high end professional mastering house such as Abbey Road or Metropolis to master a solo piano track, assuming the majority of their work consists of more lucrative projects such as mastering full bands EDM or orchestral works etc, and that solo piano might seem a little insignificant in their work chain. Nonetheless if you want your music to sound the best, thats what their there for..
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