More than just learning Logic
April 7, 2009 4:47 PM   Subscribe

I'm recording an album in a studio, my first, and doing almost all of the recording / mixing / mastering myself. I want to get into this and do it right. Are there any blogs about this?

I love-love-love watching in-studio videos of bands and producers talking about how they did various things on various albums. I don't care about / have already seen the various "oh boy a shiny $500 fm synthesizer which makes buzzes" blogs. What can I read that will get me more familiar with the techniques/speak/culture of this whole mishmash?


(and, if it matters, the album is indie rock. two guitars, a synth, two vocals, bass, drums, that's pretty much it)
posted by tmcw to Media & Arts (15 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
The Musician's Guide to Home Recording. Old and a bit dated, but good for how you do things like EQ from a base level. Don't forget to subscribe to Tape Op, it's free! Hot damn!
posted by Mach5 at 4:50 PM on April 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

You can poke around at harmony central and gear slutz. The former might be a little dated, and the latter will probably make you rage at the elitism, but there's some good info on both.
posted by knowles at 5:04 PM on April 7, 2009

The "We are the music makers" subreddit might be up your alley.
posted by o0dano0o at 5:11 PM on April 7, 2009

Best answer: You may find the TapeOp Message Board useful. (also subscriptions to TapeOp magazine are free and each issue is's the only recording mag i read cover-to-cover and maintain a library of..fwiw)
posted by The_Auditor at 5:12 PM on April 7, 2009

Regarding mastering: the idea with mastering, as a historic thing, was that certain equalization was needed to optimally transfer an album onto vinyl. More recently, radio stations compress the dynamics of the songs they play quite a bit, because radio listeners prefer a constant loudness. If you compress your dynamics yourself, you can control and tweak things you obviously cannot if some DJ is doing it for you. Also, it allowed the record company a final engineering step to finalize the content of the album, where the artists and producers no longer had any say.

If you are not making music to play on the radio, your main concern is probably whether the loudness of the various tracks work together well. Dynamically compressed music that fills out a wide range of frequencies evenly will sound more professional, but also kind of commercial/bland to some people's taste.

I have found, and heard corroboration from others, that if you are producing an album yourself, you won't need to worry too much about a separate mastering stage. This is extremely genre-specific. A dance track won't sound right unless you compress it pretty extremely, and classical or experimental music is easily ruined with even a small amount of compression.
posted by idiopath at 5:14 PM on April 7, 2009

Seconding the TapeOp message board. It's a treasure trove of info.

idiopath's description of mastering is a little off. The conventional wisdom about mastering is that you shouldn't do it yourself, and for some good reasons.

Anyway, I did what you're doing two years ago. I didn't master myself though. You can email me if you have any specific questions.
posted by ludwig_van at 7:43 PM on April 7, 2009

Indeed, seconding don't master it yourself. You need an independent set of earballs to make you sound your best. Someone who hasn't been enmeshed in the material for years.
posted by emptyinside at 9:52 PM on April 7, 2009

Thirding don't master it yourself.
posted by molecicco at 5:38 AM on April 8, 2009

Study up on tracking (and practice) as you can decide to mix, remix or master elsewhere later (recommended). Just tracking yourself alone takes time to get right.
posted by Studiogeek at 9:40 AM on April 8, 2009

Best answer: I apologize for the derail, but hopefully this will clarify the responses above. The reason people are discouraging you from mastering it yourself is because people with experience know how it's going to sound on a variety of different speakers, and they can tell from the spectrograms and from the time FFTs if there's too much power in any given band. There's also the perceptual issues that a mastering engineer knows how to handle better than your average musician.

To that end, don't do anything beyond basic tweaking of the sound either. Give the engineer plenty of room to work with the signal (that is, don't boost the low end or the high end or, really, anything to the point where it saturates). Keep compression to a minimum, and only use it where its essential -- again, the person mastering will take care of this for you.
posted by spiderskull at 2:30 PM on April 8, 2009

Response by poster: - I'm going to have a good friend (not in the band, in another band, who has done recordings I like) do a lot of the mastering/mixing, but 'engineer' is a grand word for anyone involved in this project. We're all students and we have the advantage of a ridiculously nice studio in the library (large room, mac pro, 30 inch screen, six condenser mics and four dynamics to choose from, logic pro with good plugins, weighted keyboard, good monitors), for free, so the album (4 song ep) is going to be done on a shoestring (free) budget.
posted by tmcw at 9:12 PM on April 8, 2009

fourthing don't master it yourself, and don't even let your friend do it. pay an engineer, someone who does it for a living. memail me if you need recommendations.

what you should focus on is providing quality separated multitrack recordings (stems) for the mastering engineer to do his/her work optimally, and provide reference material that you'd like your tracks to sound like.
posted by Señor Pantalones at 12:34 AM on April 9, 2009

Response by poster: How much would mastering cost (for four songs, about 7 to 18 tracks each...)?
posted by tmcw at 6:58 AM on April 9, 2009

what you should focus on is providing quality separated multitrack recordings (stems) for the mastering engineer to do his/her work optimally

This is not how things are typically done. A mastering engineer is usually provided with stereo mixdowns only. Giving the mastering engineer stems means that something is wrong with your mix and it will cost you extra. You should get the mix as close to perfect as you can and let the mastering engineer work with your stereo mixes.

Cost for mastering is usually based on the length of your project in minutes. Since you're trying to learn, it might be best to call up local studios, tell them what you're up to, and discuss their mastering rates with them. That way you can sit in on the mastering session and observe/give feedback. That's what I did with my project.

Or you could check out Carl Saff, who participates on the TapeOp forum (or used to), has reasonable rates, and does lots of small indie stuff.
posted by ludwig_van at 8:01 AM on April 9, 2009

my experience indicates otherwise, which is why i recommended stems. i know plenty of engineers who hate getting shitty pre-mixed tracks from clients and then having to "polish a turd," as the expression goes. but the point is both of us are still recommending using an external engineer, and whoever the OP chooses will recommend a preferable method for interacting with him/her.
posted by Señor Pantalones at 11:14 PM on April 9, 2009

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