Author Topic: Ambient music and Mastering  (Read 24384 times)

petekelly

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 589
    • View Profile
    • LuminaSounds
Re: Ambient music and Mastering
« Reply #20 on: February 05, 2009, 01:35:39 PM »
Immersion,

I'm not devaluing the use of compressors, but as APK and others has pointed out, corrective Eq may
be useful to your needs.

I use a parametric Eq very often, it is a very useful tool for 'sculpting' harsh or peaky/boomy
sounds. Real-time spectrum analysers are also very useful as they allow you to see the frequency
ranges that are problematic, which you can cut with the Eq.

In 'corrective' cases I always cut the offending frequency ranges using High or Low Q values
depending on the case. Very high Q cuts are great for removing peaky resonances without unduly
affecting the rest of the frequency spectrum. Low Q values for say a 200Hz to 300Hz 'boomy' peak.

I should point out, that this is something I do on any of the sounds in a multitrack session that
are problematic - not just on the Mixdown.

Also, as has been mentioned, cutting the very low and very high end (to a lesser degree), is
good practice. 

Lastly, on a personal note, I would never use reverb at the end of any chain regarding mastering.

cheers
Pete

Ekstasis

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 872
    • View Profile
Re: Ambient music and Mastering
« Reply #21 on: February 05, 2009, 01:53:09 PM »
Yes Pete, I hear you.

You got two choices, you either cut frequency bandwidth or dynamic range, which sounds best is highly relative...depending on your mix.
To some people in here, it seems almost like the pure sound is "holy" not allowed to be touched with compressors.  With an Equalizer you do
manipulate the "pureness" of sound as well, since you artificially distort the frequency spectra, with compressors you manipulate the dynamics
but with the difference that all audio information in the audio is audible in the mix. 

APK

  • Global Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2205
    • View Profile
    • DataObscura
Re: Ambient music and Mastering
« Reply #22 on: February 05, 2009, 06:22:33 PM »
"To some people in here, it seems almost like the pure sound is "holy" not allowed to be touched with compressors."

That's certainly not my view.
I'm very much a sound mangler ... I will do to a mix whatever makes it better to my ears.
www.dataobscura.com
www.dataobscura.com/apk
The Circular Ruins / Lammergeyer / Nunc Stans

Paul Vnuk (Ma Ja Le)

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 353
    • View Profile
    • Paul's Myspace
Re: Ambient music and Mastering
« Reply #23 on: February 06, 2009, 07:33:04 PM »
I gotta say in many ways this is a very bizarre discussion. Its like mastering is some right or wrong voodoo. APK hit the nail on the head, Mastering is essentially massaging a collection of tracks into a final release ready product.

It really is that simple...and yet it isn't.

Mastering engineers use specific equipment specialized to this task. The best advice I received from a professional mastering engineer was:

One EQ, One Compressor and one Limiter in that order. You use them all in tandem to achieve the desired sound, some more than others and maybe very little of each. Usually good final mix maybe only a boost or cut of 1.5 to 2 db of a frequency is all that is needed, and most of the time you may be just "tickling" the compressor to control the dynamics a touch.

Mastering should not be used to rescue and save a mix. If its that bad, fix the mix first.

My best advice and one which I am sure will be met with much disagreement, is use an outside mastering engineer whenever you can. A second, specific and specialized set of ears is invaluable to the final presentation of music, even ambient.

Paul
"I liken good ambient to good poetry ... enjoyable, often powerful, and usually unpopular" APK

Ekstasis

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 872
    • View Profile
Re: Ambient music and Mastering
« Reply #24 on: February 06, 2009, 10:21:19 PM »
There is also an danger of letting some one else master your music in this type of music.
For instance, many of the albums that have been mastered by Steve Roach SOUNDS like Steve Roach.
Of course the final result gets better for the most part, but one should be careful before deciding someone else to form your music.

Paul Vnuk (Ma Ja Le)

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 353
    • View Profile
    • Paul's Myspace
Re: Ambient music and Mastering
« Reply #25 on: February 06, 2009, 10:49:48 PM »
Actually that is the misconception, a mastering engineer should not have a sound, they should not change the composition of your music. They EQ & Compress, that should in no way alter or harm the integrity of your tracks, it should really just improve fidelity, thats all.

I agree you need to pick a mastering engineer who understands this kind of music. Most of the best sounding albums in our genre were mastered by people other than the composer.

Bob Ohlson is a great example.

Paul
"I liken good ambient to good poetry ... enjoyable, often powerful, and usually unpopular" APK

Ekstasis

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 872
    • View Profile
Re: Ambient music and Mastering
« Reply #26 on: February 10, 2009, 02:45:12 PM »
Yes, sorry, maybe Steve Roach was an bad example, in reality his remaster albums should rather be called "remixes". I think that every ambient artist, more or less want to sound like Steve Roach, so I can understand how artists would want him to remaster the music, while they on the other hand sacrifice their own artistic expression with 50%, but most likely the final products usually is better though...

All I am saying that remastering and ambient music is an extremely sensitive process, ambient music is about shape and forms, it is not the same as an production for an rock band for example...

But I can also agree, that 4 ears might be better then two, but I still think the best would be if the artist and creator himself is part of the remastering process, so he/she can make the artistic decisions...

Paul Vnuk (Ma Ja Le)

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 353
    • View Profile
    • Paul's Myspace
Re: Ambient music and Mastering
« Reply #27 on: February 10, 2009, 08:51:29 PM »
you are right, re-mixing is a whole different subject. Mastering is just that, say you have 5 finished mixes for your cd, all mastering does is apply judicious amounts of EQ, Compression and limiting to ensure that each track hangs together as part of a greater whole.

I also agree that when ever possible a person should attend the mastering session because it is their project after all.

Paul
"I liken good ambient to good poetry ... enjoyable, often powerful, and usually unpopular" APK

Numina

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 454
    • View Profile
Re: Ambient music and Mastering
« Reply #28 on: February 11, 2009, 01:01:40 PM »
Personally I've found using compression as a whole on the final mix is detrimental to the "ambience".  The only time I recommend using compression is with rhythmic elements and before the reverb (or other effect) in the signal chain.

Also, avoid normalization or anything that would bring all the music to a common level.  Great for pop acts, not so for ambient.

As has been mentioned, EQ is a key element to mastering ambient.

J.
« Last Edit: February 12, 2009, 08:43:35 AM by Numina »

LNerell

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 662
    • View Profile
    • Personal website
Re: Ambient music and Mastering
« Reply #29 on: February 11, 2009, 05:18:01 PM »
The compressor consist of many different sound shaping elements, such as filters etc, all together makes an complete compressor.


Compressors use filters? Time to go back and relearn what actually is an audio compressor:

http://www.barryrudolph.com/mix/comp.html
Take care.

- Loren Nerell

Ekstasis

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 872
    • View Profile
Re: Ambient music and Mastering
« Reply #30 on: February 11, 2009, 05:34:38 PM »
The compressor consist of many different sound shaping elements, such as filters etc, all together makes an complete compressor.


Compressors use filters? Time to go back and relearn what actually is an audio compressor:

http://www.barryrudolph.com/mix/comp.html


Maybe I did not express myself clearly enough,mastering tools today do not consist only of an compressor... Sonalksis mastering tools which I use, use filters for an example.
And many digital compressors that try to reproduce analogue characteristics does that to color the sound. All this in combination gives and good compressed sound.
Anyway, thanks for the article, I might learn something new.
« Last Edit: February 11, 2009, 05:38:20 PM by Immersion »

Paul Vnuk (Ma Ja Le)

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 353
    • View Profile
    • Paul's Myspace
Re: Ambient music and Mastering
« Reply #31 on: March 05, 2009, 11:14:46 AM »
Here is an interesting thread started on this very topic on Gear Slutz FYI

http://www.gearslutz.com/board/mastering-forum/371075-mastering-ambient-music.html#post3972456

Paul
"I liken good ambient to good poetry ... enjoyable, often powerful, and usually unpopular" APK

Wayne Higgins

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 615
    • View Profile
    • Oenyaw
Re: Ambient music and Mastering
« Reply #32 on: March 05, 2009, 12:32:45 PM »
I really don't have much of a clue about some of the technical aspects of this thread, but I do agree with Paul that if I was going to release something on a wide scale, something that would actually cost money, I would seriously consider getting an outside mastering engineer.  The only problem is who, or where to find one, and then the obvious $?.  Also, from past experiences, hiring an engineer has put me in the position of stating "I could have done much better than that jerk and I don't know what to do!"

If anyone has actually listened to any of my tracks, words of encouragement or constructive criticism would be nice.

I have to say that my overall princible is to be subtle.  Not too heavy on the compression because it can kill the dynamics.  Not to extravagant on EQ because I don't really have on opinion. (I work on things, change them, and then wonder why.)  I love playing with reverb, but there are many places to add reverb.  While playing as an effect, and then at final draft as a way of controlling the atmosphere of the piece.

I always remember a David Lynch quote (which I doubt he created): "you can always add echo, but you can never take it out."

Then there was the one on Guitar Noise forum.  Someone was inquring the availability of a reverb pedal that didn't "click" when he changed the reverb during a song.  The good line was the reply:  "why the hell do you want to change the reverb setting in the middle of a song?"
So, I'm a "Sr Member", huh?  In June it's SENIOR DISCOUNT TIME!!!
http://oenyaw.net/
http://oenyaw.blogspot.com/

Paul Vnuk (Ma Ja Le)

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 353
    • View Profile
    • Paul's Myspace
Re: Ambient music and Mastering
« Reply #33 on: March 06, 2009, 10:55:54 AM »
Cool some real heavy weights of mastering such as Bob Ohlson and Bob Katts have weighed in on the discussion on Grearslutz.

Remember gang, "Home Mastering is like home brain surgery and do it your self chiropractic".  ;D Ok not really, but its something to consider.

Paul
"I liken good ambient to good poetry ... enjoyable, often powerful, and usually unpopular" APK

Ekstasis

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 872
    • View Profile
Re: Ambient music and Mastering
« Reply #34 on: March 11, 2009, 12:59:03 AM »
Here is an interesting thread started on this very topic on Gear Slutz FYI

http://www.gearslutz.com/board/mastering-forum/371075-mastering-ambient-music.html#post3972456

Paul


I have saved the link..I will try to read it some time.
I usually do this that is why I always have like 70 tabs in Firefox :)

However, I tried T-racks 3 today, probably the best mastering software I have heard.
the "transparency" compressor I really like for ambient music...

Paul Vnuk (Ma Ja Le)

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 353
    • View Profile
    • Paul's Myspace
Re: Ambient music and Mastering
« Reply #35 on: March 11, 2009, 06:24:34 AM »
I have heard that T-Racks 3 has been getting some good reviews.
"I liken good ambient to good poetry ... enjoyable, often powerful, and usually unpopular" APK

Exuviae

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 65
    • View Profile
Re: Ambient music and Mastering
« Reply #36 on: March 19, 2009, 03:32:46 PM »
I strongly dislike the process of mastering pure ambient/spacemusic myself. I'll do it in a pinch, but frankly, I'd rather not have to. Too stressful!

Compression is one of my favorite things in the world - specifically, OVERcompression...on certain sources - most of which never show up in ambient music. This makes it difficult for me personally, to properly "massage" a really spacey track into where it should be. EQ and 'sutbletly' with the tools does seem to harvest the best results to my ears, but it requires a good deal of patience, trial and error to get it just right.

I'm finding that I have quickly gotten much better skilled at final mix/mastering on heavy, punchy music...but ambient remains, and always will remain a difficult mistress to master...

LinearNorth

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 4
    • View Profile
    • Linear North
Re: Ambient music and Mastering
« Reply #37 on: August 31, 2010, 08:02:28 PM »
I like to put this dynamic range meter on the outputs to keep everything in check.  For me personally I feel like a heavy limited master is tiring on the ears.  I try to keep the dynamic range about 8-10 on this meter for ambient.  In my experience anything higher really takes the life out of it. But to each his own.   
http://www.dynamicrange.de/es/es/download

LNerell

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 662
    • View Profile
    • Personal website
Re: Ambient music and Mastering
« Reply #38 on: September 01, 2010, 11:29:56 AM »
Is there a mac version? The website says it will be out May 2009, seems to me that came and went awhile ago.  ;D
Take care.

- Loren Nerell

sraymar

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 175
    • View Profile
    • Steve Raymar
Re: Ambient music and Mastering
« Reply #39 on: September 01, 2010, 05:17:33 PM »
Way back in the early 90s I used to record with a Tascam Porta One using an seperate DBX compressor as a limiter so I could really saturate the tape with less hiss. Then I took the master cassette over to a place called Digital Brothers in Newport Beach and they would record the master onto their Mac but in between the cassette and Mac they also had a trick where they would use an Aphex Aural Exciter sparingly just to bring in some presence which sort of brought the tape into focus.
Ambient isn't just for technicians!

The artist isn't a special kind of man, but every man is a special kind of artist.

Don't be afraid to grow, give yourself a chance.