Saturday, January 02, 2010

Mastering with Bob Macc

A great interview via Hyperblazing (UK)

Some questions:

What do you do? What on earth is a Mastering Engineer?

I take the audio cakes that people bake, and put the sonic icing on them.
My job is to ensure that the final sound is balanced, in every possible sense. It should be appropriate for the genre while still sonically balanced within itself, and in line with the artist’s intentions while still satisfying my quality standards. The song presents the idea, the mix presents the song, and the mastering presents the mix – each stage should do its thing to the best possible degree. Then you’re onto a winner.


How do you feel about sub-standard mastering? Does it make you cringe, or must there be bad mastering for people to appreciate the good mastering?

I dunno man, you have to be fair. Everyone wants their music out there. I mean, gawd knows I was keen enough to get stuff out when I was starting out. Thinking about giving out tapes where I’d overdubbed things by recording drums into a condensor mic, then putting one tape player next to the tape player’s condensor mic and the amp, same again for bass, more guitars etc… Then making ten copies of that and giving it to my mates at school. Haha, I mean, can you imagine how bad that sounded? I’m glad I cant remember! Point is, people always want to get their music out there, and now they can. That’s more important than mastering, just having it out there. I certainly wouldn’t say ‘you’re crazy to put out music without it being mastered’. Plus, the sound quality people are capable of compared to what I started with is ridiculous.

However, the easy availability of software does mean that there’s a huge amount of music being put out by people with very little experience. That – if someone is serious about their stuff – is where people can benefit from having more experienced, objective ears cast over it. Those are the key words – experience and objectivity. Anyone can ‘master’ a tune by adding bass and treble, compressing, limiting. Instantly it sounds ‘better’, it’s a glamour job, like a woman with too much makeup and fake boobs. You don’t need experience to do that.

So long as people are happy. That’s the most important thing. As their ears develop and they hear these masters out and about, they often start to be less happy. Then they start to look for more as they develop their listening skills. So (to answer the bloody question!) shoddy mastering is on the one hand a shame as some pefectly good tracks get spoiled; and a good thing on the other as the serious but inexperienced artist knows that there must be better out there and sets out to find it.

Read the full interview HERE

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