EDITING & MIXING

Mastering

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Mastering

So you haved produced the final mix, and are very happy with it. That's it, right? Straight to iTunes and burn it to CD.

No!

Now comes the art of Mastering. A huge amount of hardware, software and engineering experience is dedicated to this subject alone.
  • There are great software tools available for mastering. Logic Express and Pro, for example, have a sophisticated suite of tools to help you.
  • You can certainly use GarageBand for producing a good master. It has the processing tools available to do the job well. Make sure you have exported your project to iTunes, and dragged it back into GB as a stereo track. Listen to the track as a whole - the sound of the track, not the individual parts and the balance between them.
  • Can it be made warmer, tighter, more punchy, more spacious, more edgy, brighter, richer, more bassy? Are you looking for an in-your-face radio ad (ultra-high compression, bright) or a rich movie soundtrack experience (high dynamic range = no compression, wide frequency spectrum including the lowest bass, warmth in the tenor range)?
  • Tweak compression, limiting, gating and EQ (last) until you are happy with the result. GarageBand does not have a Normalise effect, which engineers apply to raise the whole wave file to its optimum level, a fraction below the point at which clipping occurs. However, you can normalise in GarageBand by careful balancing of track levels and compression, and do a visual check to see if clipping has occurred.
  • the Mastering stage is also the time when you do a final tidy up of the start and finish of your song: fade in, fade out, noise or hiss, which are most noticeable at beginning and end of a song, and seconds of silence at the end - if any.
  • Check the overall level of your song against other songs on the same CD, against other CDs and on different systems. Aim for an average level so that listeners do not need to turn the volume knob (or if you get it badly wrong: to cover their ears....). Check the level in each format you are putting out: MP3, AAC, WAV, Apple Lossless and use the iTunes volume offset function if necessary, before saving. (see iTunes | File | Get Info | Options)
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Easy on the compressor         be rational It is general practice to stay below a 2:1 ratio when using compression for a final mix. Going much higher than that can make the dynamics of your music sound less convincing.
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Ending a song         it's a drag There is an end-of-song marker at the end of the song (where else?) You can drag this left or right to shorten or lengthen the song.

To fade out, use the purple volume line and drag the little balls down gradually over the last few bars. Don't be in a hurry when you look for the best fade for your song. It is quite an art to get the last notes to decay naturally. Rarely is the fade a straight line: there will usually be some acceleration or deceleration at some point.

If you have used live instruments, make sure that there is no hiss on any of the tracks, as this will be particularly noticeable at the end. Use "Gate" in the "Effects" to suppress any hiss or hum, after carefully checking the optimum level.
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Listen on different sound systems         burn and learn

After you think you have finished mastering, export the tune to iTunes and burn a CD. Now listen to it on several different stereo systems, through headphones, and in a car. Also have a listen through the Ipod if you have one.
All these different settings will give you an idea of how well you have mastered. If the disc has basically the same sound in all these environments, you have done a good job. If not, it is time to go back to GarageBand and hit the spacebar.
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Song order         flow

If you are putting together a whole CD, don't leave the decision about the song order until the very end of mastering.
It is important to have an order in mind before you begin. That way, you can make sure that the entire album maintains a nice flow throughout the whole process.
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Export to iTune problem         mix and match

If GarageBand does nothing when you try to export to iTunes, check in the GarageBand preferences: you should have a default playlist set for iTunes. You need to have a playlist named in iTunes with the same name, for example "MyGrooves".
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Adding your song to your Web page         embedded

If you have your own Web page, you probably know how to upload a song, using FTP, and placing a link to it like mytune.mp3.
Did you know that visitors can also see and play the song directly on your page if you embed the song with the tag
« embed src = "mytune.mp3"»

The Embed tag has several parameters, the most useful of which isautostart. When set to "true", your song start to play as soon as the paged has loaded. The html looks like this:
«embed src = "mytune.mp3" autostart=true»
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Finding your exported song in iTunes         iFind

You will find the song you just exported to iTunes under Artist: Fred (if your user name is Fred) and also under Album: Fred. You probably named the song in GB before export, so it may be simplest to look for it under Song Name ("Fred's Tune").

Control-clicking on the song in iTunes brings up a contextual menu where you can choose Show Song File which will show you the location on the hard drive. Beats browsing.......
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How Good Does Your Demo Have To Be?              GB chops

There is no need to strive for technical perfection when you make a demo. The agent or the record company is going to listen for the quality of the song (if you are selling a song) or the singer and musicians - not to the finer points of the mix.
Spend most of the time away from GarageBand, perfecting the song structure, the lyrics, the quality of the singing - whatever it is you are trying to show off. But avoid turning the exercise into a demo of your GarageBand chops - - they won't care. Technical flaws are easily forgiven if the music is hot. But do include a lyric sheet, a photo and a bio. And, if you have them, clippings from succesful live performances etc.

For lots of great ideas on promoting your band, I recommend:

    The Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook
Description:Your guide to independent music success secrets, featuring more than 175 ways to thrive and prosper with your own music. With this manual, you'll discover that music marketing doesn't have to be expensive to be effective. Whether you're promoting a fast-growing indie label or a one-man or one-woman act from your basement, the Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook gives you the creative tools you need to get the maximum bang for your buck!
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Monitors         room colours

Perhaps the single most important element in a mixdown setup is the monitors. The ideal is to have speakers, and speaker placement, that gives you an honest and accurate representation of how the music sounds. Your typical computer speakers will give a very distorted picture of the actual sound signal. So the first thing to do is to hook up your Mac to a decent sound system, if not a high quality system with "reference" monitors.
What happens is, the actual recorded sound is always more or less distorted by the characteristics of the monitors, or by the room acoustics. During editing and mix-down, you will be compensating for this and end up with a song somewhat coloured by your home set-up.
Near-field monitors are best - they are placed about three feet in front of you, in an equilateral triangle in front of you. Because they are so close, there is not a lot of acoustic colouring from the room. If you now double distance between the speakers and step back three feet from your seat, you will - presto - have a new set of monitors called mid-field monitors. The wider stereo separation and the reverberations from the room will give you another perspective on the music.
Take a reference CD, whose sound you like and want to copy, and listen to it on a friend's expensive audiophile stereo system. Keep that sound in mind and compare it to your monitors. Then make the necessary adjustments: for example, if you know your speakers are a little bright you need to bring back that frequency band during mixdown to accommodate.





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