Mastering....the Dark Arts
The unknown soldier. The mysterious method behind the last glassy touch.
I had the pleasure of having 2 unique mastering experiences this week.
301 Sydney’s Oscar Gaona lectured at the SAE in Melbourne last week (where I now work), and shared some MASSIVE secrets with the group.
And like anything, the more light he shed, the more apparent it became that the rabbit hole was deeper than I ever imagined. A fan of MS processing (car of his desk from Abbey Road), and an avid tape fan, he had some great ideas, and was a man who knew his stuff….
Over the weekend just gone I had the enourmous pleasure of sitting in with Jack the Bear of Deluxe Mastering in Melbourne, during the Jimmy the Saint and the Sinners Sessions.
Jack had done a fair amount of ground work before I arrived, but there were tweaks we were making during the day to the songs. Overall we added more sparkle and grit, crunch and dirt, and tightened up the bottom end.
Using an array of ultra expensive gear set to do “Not Much” the sound was exploding from Jack’s enourmous Duntechs. These speakers hold nothing back, and every bit of beautiful engineering shone through, as well as every dud note and distorted subgroup! Ouch! A Fan of running the mix in stereo, Jack loves only one kind of music: Good Music.
As the day progressed I realised that the truth in Mastering is letting your mixes go to someone else’s ears and ideas. The technical aspects, fixing bottom end, sybillance - they are a given, and in the end the mastering engineer will change the mix to what they believe makes it better. The trick is to find the guy that works for you.
As Jack said, “there’s no law saying you need to master your stuff”… But for me, it’s necessary, the last glassy touch between the record and the listener.