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Do I need CD mastering with only 1 song?

Marion 17 Mar 08 - 06:34 PM
johnadams 17 Mar 08 - 06:57 PM
Marion 18 Mar 08 - 01:10 AM
matt milton 18 Mar 08 - 04:26 AM
Marion 20 Mar 08 - 09:53 AM
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Subject: Do I need CD mastering with only 1 song?
From: Marion
Date: 17 Mar 08 - 06:34 PM

Hi folks. I'm soon going to be recording a single to circulate for airplay. My understanding of mastering is that it involves making sure volume levels are even among the different songs on a CD, and putting the right amount of space between songs.

So, can I skip the mastering step if there's only one song?

Thanks, Marion


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Subject: RE: Do I need CD mastering with only 1 song?
From: johnadams
Date: 17 Mar 08 - 06:57 PM

Mastering is the optimising of tracks for final processing/playout.

With only one track, the only consideration is how loud that track is when you put it in the machine and play it. You may notice that CDs vary in volume from one disc to another. The quieter ones are not using the full range of digits available to store the sound. Sometimes this caused by the track(s) having high but transient sounds which DO use the range briefly and cause the overall and average volume to be lower.

In this case, mastering might consist of compressing or limiting the one track so that the general volume can be higher. I think that most people on this list would advise that compression and limiting be approached with great care as it does affect the sound - sometimes adversely and sometimes to advantage. Your ears will be the judge.

There is also a process called 'normalising' where the computer recalculates the waveform so that the loudest sounds use 100% of the available volume range, making the track as loud as it can be without digital distortion.

Your engineer will advise you on all these things but it's mostly down to common sense - when you play the CD does it sound as loud as the last one you played? If you play it and it sounds ok, it IS ok.

Hope this helps.

J


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Subject: RE: Do I need CD mastering with only 1 song?
From: Marion
Date: 18 Mar 08 - 01:10 AM

That does help, John, thanks. I've just spoken to my recording engineer and he says that extra mastering probably won't be necessary after he's done the mixing, but I'll test it first to see if the overall volume seems normal.

Marion


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Subject: RE: Do I need CD mastering with only 1 song?
From: matt milton
Date: 18 Mar 08 - 04:26 AM

There's mastering and there's mastering though.

If you were to pay to have your track mastered at one of the big mastering studios, like The Exchange, or by someone like, say, Simon Heyworth, I'd be willing to bet you'd hear a big difference to the sound of the track. The mastering process will indeed bring your track(s) up to a standard volume level. You will notice they sound louder. But a good mastering engineer will tweak the overall sound where necessary – they are the conditioner after the shampoo. At the same time, a good mastering engineer won't alter anything that doesn't need altering. Quite apart from anything, it's another pair of ears.

I think in your case, going to a mastering engineer for your first recording is probably a luxury that doesn't justify the expense. I would say that if you had an EP or an album that had a likelihood of getting some reviews in national/international magazines, airplay on national/international radio, and your product was going to be distributed by a proper CD distributer, then mastering might be worth it.

Equally, in terms of long-term practice, I think the model of having a good home recording set-up and spending money you would have spent on a recording studio in getting tracks mastered is a good one.


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Subject: RE: Do I need CD mastering with only 1 song?
From: Marion
Date: 20 Mar 08 - 09:53 AM

Thanks Matt. I think, as you say, that I can probably wait till I do my full-length CD to get into mastering.

Marion


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