Join Dave Darlington for an in-depth discussion in this video Mastering and printing, part of Mixing a Modern Jazz Track.
So we've got our mixed pretty balanced, and now it's time to smooth out the master fader, and pump up the level. If you going to be mastering your mix without sending it to a mastering engineer. So, a lot of times I will put the mastering stuff on as I'm working because it will affect how you hear the balances and stuff. Especially compression, you know compression is going to act on the loudest thing. So if your melodies are loud, and you don't have your compressor on, it will sound differently when you do add the compressor, so I'm going to go to the SSL comp.
Go to mastering bus because I grew up on SSL so this is very familiar territory to me, this is part of the center section of the actual SSL analog console. And most of us, we used to use this for our fade outs because it was automated and it was really smooth. You can control how hard it's working with all these different parameters will affect how hard it's working. And I don't want to really crush. The music but I want to to frame it. I want to kind of, stick it in a frame and keep it in a lane so to speak. So let's hear how this is working. So it's kind of doing exactly what I want.
It's holding up some of these trangents. So, I've got it on auto, which means the release characteristics are kind of following the source material, but you can have a manual release. In my opinion it should be rather quick for a master of this nature because we have a lot of punchy staccato rhythmic stuff. So, we want the compressor to recur in time. And not start to smear all those apps, so to speak. So we can leave it on auto. We don't really need any more level output, even though we're losing a DB or two, I don't feel that we need to make that up because we're kind of near the head and I want to be able to add an EQ.
Perhaps you want to, take out a little boomy area down in the low mids, or you might want to add a shelf. A little sizzle on your symbols or something, I don't feel that this is necessary in this mix, but I would experiment to see if I could improve it. And if it doesn't improve it, I'd get rid of it. This is sort of helping the ride symbols and stuff. I'm okay with that. And, in this case, we really want to make sure we're not clipping that EQ there. The last stage would be a limiter, which is what most mastering engineers primarily do these days, in the digital realm.
They're going to add, add level at the end. So I've got a little preset that I kind of always start with. I like the way it sounds, and I tweak it to fit the material. In this case, I don't think we'll need to add. Gain here in the upper or lower areas. Bring that down a little bit. Then this threshold will add level. So you can see how that 5 DB is more because I was not. Clipping my master with the mix, it's very benign to add this game. It's still clear and crisp and it's not clippy or crunchy.
We see only a DB of attenuation at this point. But I've got 6 DBs more gain. Hardly even working. But you can hear and see visually that it's when those Tom Phils go around, it's kind of just tucking them in the right way. Almost like a vinyl kind of mastering. I would always use a meter. There's a number of meters available but I like the waves one. Here, just to see where you're going. So what we're really measuring here is the short term, the RMS, the average. And you know, any thing above ten is pretty loud these days.
You kind of have to consult with your client. What are they looking for? Loud and punchy, or warm and rich and inviting? But I think, since we're not really attenuating too much, and we're mostly attenuating our Tom Phils, and aggressive strikes. We're not really attenuating the whole track, at, I think we're pretty safe here. That's a good example of what I mean by the compression changing your balances. We never heard that shaker pop out like that until just now. Hear how that's peaking. That's a really good example of why I put my, not necessarily my full amount of limiting, but I would put the compressor and some limiting on.
Towards the middle to end of my work so that I could get those balances really locked in. Because if you printed without the stuff or, I should say, monitor without the mastering stuff, you'd send it off to a great mastering engineer, he can't just dip the shaker down. He's working on the whole two mix already. So, you have to really assess your balances. How they going to react in the mastering environment. Now, we are monitoring out of our audio device one and two, and I'm going to show you my work flow for delivering a mastered and unmastered print.
So we've got all our plumbing going to the mix, which I then put the mastering on. What I'm going to do, is make an aux fader. Then I will route from the mix bus and I'm going to substitute that aux fader from my master fader. That's going to become my new mastered fader. We can then get rid of this. So now so far we haven't changed anything. I've just substituted for an aux for a summing fader. But I'm going to add two stereo audio tracks, and these will be my printing tracks. The unmastered mix will go to this one.
Mix unmastered, call it unmastered print. And you don't want to listen to that right now, you want to listen to your master. With add so, we'll make a rout, which we'll name mastering. And we'll rout that to our other audio fader. So all the mix is going through the mix bus. It's going here to some plugins. And it's going here, to a fader that I can record.
So I'm recording the mix without these plugins. This stuff is just going here, unadulterated. But it's also going through this aux, to this fader, which I can then record. And that'll be my print, mastered. It's a little tricky to get your head around this, but we're sending this through the pipe called mix. It's like a parallel free way. If we go this rout we're on the coast, and if we go this route, we're inland. Think of it that way. Remember, record both of those at the same time, and you'll be able to see the difference, I think, in the level and what not.
So now if we play those back, we're listening to the master. Here's the unmastered. And you can see we've got plenty of head room if we have to ship it off to one of the great mastering houses around the country or even the boutique guys who are really skillful. And have the tools, for the same investment of time and money you've given your client an option, which has a mix engineer, he's going to kiss your feet because wow, man you mean I've got mastered and unmastered prints and you didn't even charging me extra? It didn't cost me any extra time, why should I charge you extra? And the other great thing you can do let's say you deliver this wonderful mastered mix and the record company calls at the last minute and they say, you know what, by tomorrow we need a version without, I don't know.
Let's do a drum edit. Equip the drums. Let's say the record company doesn't like the drum fill at the top. Okay. So we just edit the drum fill. Now we don't have to reprint our entire mix. What I do, and you can tweak this, this is just a. Free hint. I go and destructive record. So I am going to actually, be replacing the file. I gave a pre role and a post role so that if I'm in the middle of the music the reverbs and delays and everything will be already reacting the right way.
And then I just print. Fall out. Now we have a final master. In less than 15 seconds with the record company's update or the producer or the artist, there's always reasons why you might want to come back to a mix and these days we can save everything in our digital work stations. So why not save yourself some time by printing your mixes back into your And they always live there, and also, it's easy to export multiple kinds. Even though you can send them the wave, you can send them the 24 bit, you can send them the MP3.
You don't have to print every time, or bounce every time, that way. That's my little jiggy work flow trick. So, I hope you've got some good tips and tricks, and this stuff can apply to other kinds of genres as well. And. I don't always think of this as just jazz, but on jazz you want to really pay attention to the the tones of the instruments because that's the player's life blood and the composer's life blood. It's their sound that they've been working on their whole life, so you really have to respect that and take care of them in the mix and they'll always come back.
This course features the song "Footprints" by Andy Galore. Find out more about Andy's music at andygalore.com.