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Mastering audio is the final stage in music production, where the final set of mixed songs are turned into a cohesive album through a variety of processes that make the music sound the best it can, wherever it's played. Join author and producer Bobby Owsinski in this course, as he teaches essential mastering concepts and techniques used by experienced audio engineers. Follow along as he works at Oasis Mastering, a real-world mastering facility, and learn how to apply these techniques to your home or studio setup and make your projects sound better than ever.
First, discover how to configure your monitoring setup, optimize your listening environment, and prepare and print alternative mixes that will allow you to make quick fixes during mastering. Bobby then reviews a selection of dedicated mastering tools that give you precise control over select signal parameters, from compressors to de-essers. He'll discuss the differences between mastering for CD, online distribution, and specifically for iTunes, and how to achieve the best results for each medium. The course wraps with lessons on mastering for high-resolution formats like Blu-ray, as well as delivering and archiving the master recording once the project is complete.
While it's easy to think that all music must be mastered the same way, different genres of music have different dynamic ranges that require a different mastering approach. Dynamic Range is a term for the degree of dynamic variation in level within a piece of music. That is it's a difference between the loudest and softest parts of the song, and it's of main concern when mastering. In mastering, we often use Compressors and Limiters to decrease the Dynamic Range so that softer parts of the song are closer in volume to the louder parts. We'll discuss how to use Compressors and Limiters to do this in other movies in this course.
Very low values like a DR-3, which stands for Dynamic Range 3, means that there is only a 3 dB difference from the lowest to the highest peak in the song. This rating indicates that there's a lot of compression being used so there's not a lot of variation in level at all. Something that's more natural sounding might have a value of DR-12 or more, meaning that there's at least 12 dB difference from the lowest to the highest peak in the song. Here's an example of a Dynamic Range meter that shows how different the Dynamic Range is from the peak level.
Different genres of music sound different at different DR levels so. Most music will be considered unpleasant sounding at DR-6, but it might be perfectly acceptable for something like electronic music. With most pop, rock R&B, and hip-hop a DR of 8 might be quite comfortable, which will not work for jazz, folk, country, or classical music, which sounds a lot better with at least DR of 12. Let's look at some examples, thanks to musicmachinery.com. If we look at the famous Dave Brubeck's song Take Five, we can see that at its quietest it drops as low as -33 and at it's loudest it's at -15 which is the difference of 18 dB or DR-18.
On the other hand, if we look at Metallica Cyanide, we see that the range goes only from -3 to -6 dB for a DR-3, which is why so many people find it unpleasant to listen to. Led Zeppelin's venerable Stairway to Heaven goes from about -40 to about -5 dB, which is a Dynamic Range of 35. Now look at Muse's Supermassive Black Hole with a range of only 4 dB. Here is a list of different averages for different genres of music.
As you can see, some genres like jazz and classical have a large Dynamic Range, while others like hip-hop and rock have a very narrow one. Dynamic Range is one of the most important aspects of mastering, but it's all too often overlooked. As you go forward in the course, keep in mind that Dynamic Range is a major factor in the sound of your finished project.
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