By Eu Jin Chan
You’ve taken all the steps to
ensure your CD presentation package look professional,
attractive and irresistible enough for an A&R person
to give your music a listen. In most cases, you only
have one shot at this. Is there anything else that
you might be overlooking? What about the sonic quality
of your music or CD? Even if the songs were well written,
arranged and recorded, it may not sound its best if
they were not professionally mixed and mastered. Again,
pros will always judge your professionalism before
they take you seriously. If your package feels great,
SO SHOULD YOUR SOUND!
Is there a piercing hi-hat in the mix
that would make your hair on end? Some background noises
such as hiss or hum making your recording sound cheap
or amateur? Is the kick drum too heavy on the speakers
causing your song to sound muffled? Do your vocals
sound buried? Are there sonic inconsistencies from
song to song in your demo? These are few of the many
common problems found in most demos.
It is so vital to showcase your songs/music
recordings in its best possible light. If you look
professional, you should sound like it. This brings
me to introduce you to the urgency of getting your
music recordings professionally mixed and mastered.
Mastering is the final touch after the recording and
mixing process. This is a very technical stage that
will bring your recordings up to par with the commercial
industry-standard sound. The process of mastering will
ensure your music to sound its ultimate excellence
in all mediums, including all music systems ranging
from bigger systems to smaller stereo systems/speakers.
It will make your finished recordings sounds as loud
and sonically balanced as the major-label released
CDs you purchase from the store. The technical aspect
is very detailed and I will not want to bore the average
reader. Perhaps I will save this for another future
article to come for those of you who are interested.
A good mastering engineer is equipped with mainly experience,
ears and the ability to effectively solve problems
with the available tools at his disposal. His experience
and critical attention to the finest details is absolute
the low-down. Can any music recording achieve great
mastering results? The answer is no. There are no
short cuts to great mastering results. It will significantly
depend on the quality of your mix. A lot of people
expect miracles in mastering from a poorly mixed
A good mixing job is really the ultimate key that
will lead your music recordings to exceptionally great
mastering results. In other words, great professional
mixes equal better mastering results. Consider it a
sound investment to hire an experienced professional
to mix your music as it will save you a lot of headaches
and problems when it comes to the mastering phase.
Get it right the first time. Take my advice for it
and you can thank me later.
is only one of the many examples of a poor mix.
A mastering engineer may encounter a problematic
mix where the rock guitar is drowning the lead vocal.
This is commonly caused by the input signal of the
rock guitar relatively stronger or louder than the
vocals. Perhaps the EQ of the guitar contained too
much mid-low frequency.
the mastering engineer attempts to raise the
dominance of the vocal, it will also raise the
dominance of the rock guitar. So this is a dead
end solution for the mastering engineer. The vocal
remains buried. The only way to fix this problem
effectively is to return to the mix and make the
following adjustments such as lowering the volume
of the guitar coupled with proper EQ and panning
it slightly. This will yield the guitar more separation
from the vocals. After doing this, the mastering
engineer will have an easier task raising the highlight
of the vocals thus allowing the average listener
to grasp or hear the lyrics more clearly.
The Mixing Process
The mixing process is the most critical
phase that will lead to a good finished mastered product.
There are a lot more things to pay attention to in
the mixing process simply because there are very many
instruments to manage ranging from 16-24 tracks or
more. A good mixing engineer will monitor every signal
in his path and ensure that each instrument is carefully
attended to and fine tuned. A good mix can only be
delivered by someone with great experience and a good
ear. Equipment is important but only a fraction to
aware of many studio business owners who have the
ability to record their clients but cannot perform
a good mix. This is good for us because it leads
them to sending us all their projects for mixing
When you hire a good mixing engineer,
you are mostly paying for his ears and experience to
knock you out a great mix. Without this, even with
all the tools at his disposal, he or she can not deliver
a good quality mix. The tools and equipment do help
but they are secondary in my opinion. One of the most
important aspects of mixing is the equalizing and separation
of all instruments or audio tracks. You have to own
ears for this. This is not teachable but only comes
An experienced mixing engineer has
the magic ability to make your mix sound broader. Imagine
what a good mastering job can do to a great mix. Again,
great professional mix equals greater mastering results!
The wonders of the internet have changed
the world allowing us to share digital files regardless
of geographic location. We recently mixed and mastered
a band from Mexico called NIVEL3. This was done entirely
online through broadband or high-speed internet. They
uploaded or sent their entire mix project in the OMF
format (300 to 400 megabytes per song). Our uploading
interface was designed to effectively deliver or transfer
The OMF format can be created or exported
from newer Digital Audio Workstations including Pro
Tools. The OMF file rendered all their audio tracks
(Wave or AIFF) of their song including its detailed
clip positioning and tempo info. For clients who cannot
export to OMF, there is usually another option. They
may upload a zip file containing individual audio tracks.
If they use this method, all audio tracks must begin
at the very first measure of the song.
As for the band NIVEL3, we performed mixing and mastering
on their song and uploaded a sample for them to download.
They either approved or requested a few adjustments.
If there were adjustments made, we re-delivered another
reference for their second or final approval. The entire
album went on to be completely mixed and mastered. We
are proud to say that NIVEL3 is now being sought by Universal
Records of Mexico with a pending record deal.
Jin Chan is the founder and CEO of Pappa
E, a company
which is an independent label that also specializes
in providing world-class sound design and audio mastering
services. His most recent success includes mastering
Grammy Award artists, Earth Wind & Fire and Raphael
Saadiq. For more information about Eu Jin Chan and
the company Pappa
E, please visit: www.pappae.co