Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Twitter Interview - An introduction to CD Mastering

Yesterday I did a short Twitter interview with @DIY_Musicians about mastering - it was slightly chaotic but good fun, and the people reading seemed to enjoy it. It may or may not have been the second ever such interview in the UK, if @neil_mccormick's really was the first.

Here is the complete text, in case you missed it.


DIY_Musicians: Let's jump straight in, Ian. Q: What is mastering ?

ianshepherd: Mastering is turning a collection of songs into an album - by balancing them, not matching them. Also http://twurl.nl/m8bwvo 

DIY_Musicians: Great link, thank you... I was wondering how you would answer that in only 140 characters :o)

ianshepherd: [Grin] Cheating, technically, I suppose !

DIY_Musicians: Q: What do you actually do ?

ianshepherd: I listen to music, and change it so that I like it better :-) Luckily, my customers agree with me, almost all of the time ! 

DIY_Musicians: Q: What are the most important tools of a Mastering Engineer ? 

ianshepherd: My ears, my experience, the monitoring (speakers), the room, the audio equipment (EQ, compressors, DAW etc) 

DIY_Musicians: Q: What's your favourite piece of audio equipment ? 

ianshepherd: My monitors ! B&W 801s - and I use the TC Electronics System 6000 on nearly every job - great converters, great processing

DIY_Musicians :Anyone interested can find out more via... @tcelectronic

ianshepherd: B&W loudspeakers - @Bowers_Wilkins, More info on mastering monitoring here: http://twurl.nl/pr0hjm)

DIY_Musicians: Q: Why is it so important to have great monitors in a great room ? 

ianshepherd: Because you need to be able to hear *everything* - accurately. Otherwise you risk doing something unnecessary or detrimental 

DIY_Musicians: Knowing what you're listening for is essential. Q: Is DIY mastering possible ?

ianshepherd: It's possible, but hard ! It's difficult to be objective about your own material, and hard to get a good setup on a budget 

DIY_Musicians: Q: But, aren't there lots of mastering plugins now ?

ianshepherd: Yes, but it's all about hearing the music clearly and objectively, and having a vision. You need knowledge as well as tools. 

DIY_Musicians: Q: That's something you can learn, right ? 

ianshepherd: Yes, to a certain extent, but personally I think it's also an instinct. I wrote about it here: http://twurl.nl/gnkiki

DIY_Musicians: Thanks for the link - that's great 

DIY_Musicians: Q: Do you have any hints and tips for people who want to have their music professionally mastered ?

ianshepherd: Yes ! Never let digital meters clip (hit zero). Don't use too much compression. Provide 24-bit files where possible...

ianshepherd: ...leave the tops, tails (fades) and gaps for the ME. Always use dither when processing. Use high-quality converters

DIY_Musicians: Excellent advice. Q: Where can people find out more about mastering ?

ianshepherd: Follow me on Twitter ;-)  http://twurl.nl/b3aohf And, here are two great mastering forums: http://twurl.nl/xb2vhr & http://twurl.nl/xm57pc

DIY_Musicians: Some cool links to take away for further reading - we like that. Thanks for your time, Ian. We really appreciate your support. 

ianshepherd: You're welcome, thanks for asking me ! 

DIY_Musicians: @ianshepherd also runs the Production Advice site, helping you get a better recording & mix http://twurl.nl/jzxdde


If you found this interesting, you might also like to check out this interview I did with Pete Whitfield from the Manchester College.

Feel free to tweet me any questions you may have as a result of this interview, or in fact any questions at all about mastering.