Music Connection Magazine Feature Story

DBy Andy Kaufmann

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Excerpt From Music Connection Magazine

Once an off-limits domain reserved strictly for world-class artists, mastering has become increasingly affordable. Today, only a foolhardy musician would release an album without the gentle touch of a knowledgeable mastering engineer. But how do artists find that special someone who can get the job done right? Just what aspects of a rough mix can mastering improve upon and what needs to be fixed up front? And, what techniques are recommended for getting something mastered properly? To answer these questions, Music Connection chatted up some of the top mixing and mastering talent in the business.

  Independent Recording Engineer/Producer   Here Are Some Of The Artists Records' He Has Engineered And Mixed:

Lynyrd Skynyrd, BB Mak, The Corrs, Pat Benatar, Daryl Hall & John Oates, Rod Stewart

Music Connection readers are familiar with Barry Rudolph from his "New Toys" column, but what they may not be aware of is that he's also a highly decorated engineer with many gold and platinum records on the wall. Having worked in the aerospace industry prior to his career in the music business, he understands both the technical and the artistic challenges of making, recording and mastering music projects.


For the producer and recording engineer/mixer, one of the most important concerns is creating a great-sounding final mix that's ready for the mastering engineer to take to the next level. In the mix, there's never even one time where the lead vocal disappears or gets overly loud and the bottom end remains solid throughout, not excessive and not weak.

Mixing is all about combining separate tracks into a cohesive and good-sounding whole, so all the instruments and vocals are "placed" and well balanced. A poor mix works against this goal, like a fuzzy photograph--out of focus. I try to give the mastering engineer the best possible mix so he can do his finest work. The mastering engineer can focus on what he does best and not be distracted with problems to fix.


My biggest challenge is coming up with something that's attractive sounding, when maybe it really isn't all that good. A lot of times, some performances or sounds are not as top notch as they could be. There are a lot of reasons for this, everything from just not knowing any better, laziness, budget or time constraints, or just a Hobson's Choice: "It's the best they could do." There are a million and one reasons why things don't come out as you hoped. So a mixer has to balance all this out--try to play down the negative and turn up the positive and good elements.

Sometimes when you're mixing songs one at a time, you can have a great mix on song one, but song two, for whatever reason, ends up a little light in the low end. Not to say that it's missing the bass instrument; it's just not as big and fat as in the song that preceded it, or the song that comes after it, in the running order. So the mastering engineer comes to the rescue here by going in and equalizing to bring up the low end. That way, the three songs in a row have more of an overall, unified sound. Through equalization, compression and peak limiting--things that mastering engineers do all day long--you can really improve a CD's overall sound.


Mastering engineers develop reputations for mastering certain styles of music well. I think it is connected to their personalities and musical tastes. Just as certain record producers are known for producing rock or hip-hop, some guys get a rep for making it really loud, cranky and rockin'. Other guys are more about a pristine and conservative high-fidelity sound. For example, Brian Gardner is known as "Big Bass Brian" because he gets a big, fat, low-end sound R&B producers love for their music.

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