Into The Gauntlet: Mastering Mark Woods’ Devil

by Nov 15, 2019Blog, Tutorials0 comments

In this episode of Into The Gauntlet I dive into Mark Woods’ Devil mastering session that was part of The Mastering Gauntlet Season 1: Electric Summer and walk through what I’m listening for, the questions I ask myself to reach a final master; compare Christian‘s master and mine, dive into mixing tips, and share lessons I learned during this challenge.

Follow Mark Woods:
soundcloud iconInstagram logo (camera icon)

Mastering Mark Woods’ Devil

Learning the fundamentals of audio and human hearing really are crucial.  If you’re struggling with your mixes and masters, chances are you could be implementing a system or a process into your workflow to overcome obstacles that could be holding you back.

 

What’s an obstacle in mastering?

Just like with mixing, and any critical listening we do in a “studio” environment (using the term as loosely as possible), there are always going to be imperfections in the process of going from the audio signal in the computer to end up travelling to our ears and being interpreted by our brain.

The first one is the most obvious: our speakers or headphones.  If you struggle to get your mixes and masters to translate to other playback systems – such as the age-old car stereo test, then you should be attempting to address that blind spot by looking at options to correct or overcome or work around the limitations of your room, or your speakers/headphones.

Another big stop along the way to our brains is our ears.  When sound travels through the air and into our ear canals, the vibrations can create both pressure and waves.  those changes in vibration and pressure to our ears affect how we perceive the various frequency ranges throughout the spectrum.

Our ears have evolved to be most atuned to the human voice, so the most sensitive range of our hearing sits between roughly 500 hz, and 5,000 hz. 

One look at this graph – keeping in mind that the lowest dip should be interpreted as where we have the most sensitive hearing, and becomes obvious that the lowest and highest frequencies are the ones that take a lot more for us to perceive.

As we raise the overall sound pressure level across the spectrum, the broad curve seems to even out a bit more – meaning that as we approach louder levels – imagine 90 dB SPL at 5 feet or less from the source, we can perceive the full spectrum of sound quite a bit more linearly than if we were listening to the same sound source at the same distance at just 24 dB SPL.

This can be one of the toughest things to understand without experiencing the effects for yourself.  Try this quick experiment in your studio:

  1. Play a commercially mastered song at close to the loudest setting your speakers, the room (and you) can comfortably handle.
  2. Give your ears a break for 60 seconds
  3. Lower the volume as low as you can without muting your playback system
  4. Play the same song again, listening from the same distance, and consciously focus on listening for what’s different between those two levels, from the lowest lows to the highest highs.

What’s different between those two will be quite telling.  This is why mixing and mastering engineers often work at lower volumes than loud volumes.

The elephant in the room

There was something off about the mix that impacted just how well the mix translated through mastering processes that both Christian and I did.

  • I mentioned that DC Offset could have been an issue somewhere in the production
  • I eluded to how using multiband tools (in linear phase) could be adding to or compounding the issue already present in the mix
  • I pointed out how phase alignment issues in the production could be resulting in what I was seeing and hearing with the mix.

DC offset, for the most part, will look like the zero-point of the waveform has shifted away from its true center.  If you’ve used iZotope’s Ozone mastering tools, you may have noticed their DC Filter option in the limiter stage.

There was no winning this battle of pushing this song for the loudness it was destined to hit without undesirable distortion.  The mix just wasn’t set up to do that without the kick and snare sounding weak.

The issue I pointed out in the video was that the kick seemed to have an asymetrical shape in the waveform – something that could be from either distortion or saturation tools adding intentional harmonics that could be inducing that effect.  It could also be from a phase issue between the sub and the kick, but also just a phase alignment issue.

Imagine this squared-wave is your kick, and you have a sub track in your mix as well.

If you can bring them into view together, and zoom in so that you can see the start point of each, look to see how they travel away from the zero-point (the center) of the waveform.

If they deviate from each other even a little, it’s enough to cause phasing issues.  In the video I described how this can present variations in the final mixdown where the kick has a variation in it’s power – even though it’s only a single sample being used and there are no volume automation changes or anything manipulating the kick in a way that would cause it too be that random.  This is the effect of what happens to the sound when they interact together.

Discover what’s holding you back

I hope you found this episode of Into The Gauntlet: Mastering Mark Woods’ Devil helpful.   Perhaps your productions are not what’s holding you back from the success you want.  I’m inviting you to join Adam and I in weekly Producer Roundtables where we dive deep into artists’ brands, listening and critiquing music submissions, marketing and overall brand strategies so that you can excel in your music career!

I’m now a Teknofonic mentor, and the producer roundtables are something we’re focusing on bringing to Teknofonic’s pro members, but you can get access, too!

What’s Teknofonic Pro?

Teknofonic is a diverse electronic music label with over 100 artists, driven to redefine the music industry by putting artists first!  The Pro membership is a development platform with interactive, video, and coaching resources to help you uncover your blind spots, & teach you the tools and strategies that work to build your dream career in the music industry!

Start a 7-day free trial so you can join us and producers of every level on Wednesdays via Zoom. 

I hope you found this episode of Into The Gauntlet: Mastering Mark Woods’ Devil helpful.   Perhaps your productions are not what’s holding you back from the success you want.  I’m inviting you to join Adam and I in weekly Producer Roundtables where we dive deep into artists’ brands, listening and critiquing music submissions, marketing and overall brand strategies so that you can excel in your music career!

I’m now a Teknofonic mentor, and the producer roundtables are something we’re focusing on bringing to Teknofonic’s pro members, but you can get access, too!

If you have questions on production, mixing, or mastering, please submit them to TheGauntlet@neologicstudios.com. If you haven’t already visited my Patreon, please consider becoming a member or making a custom pledge!

Need your song mastered?  I offer free mix critiques and mastering previews!  Reach out to me with a brief description of your project, and what your goals are with this release and your brand!  I’d love to hear from you.

5 + 15 =

%d bloggers like this: