Book Description

Major Label Mastering: Professional Mastering Process distills 25 years of mastering experience at Capitol Records into practical understandings and reliable systems. Containing unparalleled insights, this book reveals the mastering tricks and techniques used by Evren Göknar at one of the world’s most notable record labels.

Beginning with the requisite competencies every Mastering Engineer must develop, Major Label Mastering delves into the particulars of the mastering studio, as well as fundamental mastering tools. Included among these tools is The Five Step Mastering Process, a rigorously tested system that equips the practitioner to successfully and confidently master a project to exacting standards of audio fidelity. Covering all bases, the book discusses both macro and micro considerations: from mindset approach and connecting with clients down to detailed guidelines for processing audio, advanced methods, and audio restoration. Each chapter ends with exercises intended to deepen understanding and skill, or to supplement course study.

Suitable for all levels, this is a unique resource for students, artists, and recording and Mastering Engineers alike. Major Label Mastering is supplemented by digital resources including audio examples and video tutorials.

Table of Contents

  1. Cover
  2. Half Title
  3. Title
  4. Copyright
  5. Dedication
  6. Contents
  7. Preface
  8. Acknowledgments
  9. Credits/Gratitude/Disclaimer
  10. Introduction
    1. Mastering Defined
    2. Major Label Mastering: Professional Mastering Process
  11. Part I • The Key Competencies and Understandings of a Mastering Engineer
    1. Chapter 1 The Mastering Engineer
      1. Competencies
        1. Become an Audiophile
          1. A Note on Sampling Frequency (S) and Bit Depth (BD) in High-Resolution Audio
          2. Musical Genres
          3. Musicality
          4. Deliberate Listening and Subjective Assessment
        2. Become a Critical Listener
          1. The Image or Soundstage
          2. Playback System Considerations
        3. Become Aware of Recording Methods and Technologies
        4. Become Knowledgeable About Audio Mastering Tools
          1. The Primary Colors of Mastering
          2. Electronic Components and Circuit Design Topologies
          3. Know Audio Frequencies
          4. Understand Panning
          5. Know Loudness Metering/Level Measurements
        5. Become Knowledgeable About Acoustics and Listening Environments
          1. The Effect of Acoustics on Sound
        6. Become Proficient With Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs)
        7. Become Adept at Quality Control (QC) Methods
        8. Become Able to Generate the Audio Master
        9. Implement Recallable Workflow Approaches
          1. Mastering Notes and the Capitol EQ Rundown Card
          2. Notes on Recalling Settings
          3. Naming Conventions
        10. Become Personable and Entrepreneurial in Demeanor
      2. Key Understandings to Possess
        1. Sampling Theorem
        2. Analog Domain vs. Digital Domain Considerations
      3. Conclusion
      4. Exercises
    2. Chapter 2 Listening Experience: The Mastering Engineer’s Primary Concern
      1. The Eleven Qualities of Superb Audio Fidelity
        1. Level/Apparent Loudness
        2. Image
        3. Transient Response
        4. Depth
        5. Definition
        6. Clarity
        7. Detail
        8. Extension
        9. Correct Dynamics (Musicality)
        10. Vocal (or Featured Instrument) Halo
        11. Blossom
      2. Conclusion
      3. Exercises
  12. Part II • The Mastering Studio and Fundamental Mastering Tools
    1. Chapter 3 The Mastering Studio
      1. A Critical Listening Environment
        1. The Room
          1. Common Design and Treatment Approaches
          2. Acoustic Properties and Sound
          3. Common Acoustical Issues—Standing Waves, Flutter Echo, and Comb Filtering
          4. Acoustical Testing and Treatments
          5. Speaker Monitor Calibration
          6. Front/Back Treatment Approaches
          7. Power and Grounding
        2. Speakers and Power Amplifiers
          1. Soffit-Mounted
          2. Freestanding
          3. Near-Field Monitors
          4. Off-Axis Listening (OAL)
          5. Power Amplifiers
        3. Monitor Path/Monitor Control
        4. Signal (Channel) Path
        5. Mastering Console vs. Point-to-Point Considerations
        6. Cabling/Interconnects/AC Cords
        7. Digital Clocking and Dither
      2. The Anatomy of a Professional Mastering Studio
        1. The Three Zone Mastering System
      3. Conclusion
      4. Exercises
    2. Chapter 4 Fundamental Mastering Tools and The Primary Colors of Mastering
      1. Analog-to-Digital and Digital-to-Analog Converters (AD and DA)
        1. Mastering Reference Levels
      2. Equalizers (EQ)
        1. Equalizer Configurations
      3. Compressors/Limiters
        1. Varieties of Analog Compressors
      4. Expanders/Gates
      5. Brickwall Limiter (BWL)
        1. BWL Safety—User Tips
      6. Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs)
      7. Conclusion
      8. Exercises
  13. Part III • Professional Mastering Process: The Five Step Mastering Process
    1. Chapter 5 Step I: Objective Assessment
      1. Verify the Sampling Frequency (S), Bit Depth (BD), and File Type
      2. Measure the Decibels Full Scale (dBFS) RMS and Peak Levels of the Audio File
      3. VU Meter Reading
        1. Target Levels of Mastered Audio
      4. Waveform Inspection
      5. Conclusion
      6. Exercises
    2. Chapter 6 Step II: Subjective Assessment
      1. Deliberate Listening Revisited
      2. Three Questions That Frame Subjective Assessment
        1. Is the Listening Experience Pleasing, Effective, and Genre-Appropriate?
        2. Are There Mix Issues?
        3. How Present or Lacking Are the Eleven Qualities of Superb Audio Fidelity?
      3. Musical Genres
      4. Subjective Assessment Before Mastering
      5. Subjective Assessment After Mastering
      6. Conclusion
      7. Exercises
    3. Chapter 7 Step III: The Mastering Game Plan
      1. Setup—The Mastering Game Plan ‘Flight Check’
        1. Select Sampling Frequency (S) and Bit Depth (BD) of Mastered Audio
        2. Select Signal Path
      2. After You, Kind Sir: Compressor or Equalizer First in the Mastering Chain?
      3. Monitoring Positions in Signal Path
      4. Oscillator Sweep the Signal Path
      5. Verify L/R Integrity Through Mastering System
        1. Select the Critical First Mix to Master
          1. The Best Sounding Mix
          2. Organize the Mixes
      6. Execution of The Mastering Game Plan
        1. Gain Structure
      7. Gain Distribution in The Three Zone Mastering System
        1. Compression/Limiting (Dynamics)
        2. EQ
        3. Capture
      8. Conclusion
      9. Exercises
    4. Chapter 8 Step IV: Assembly—Links in a Chain
      1. Tops/Tails Editing and Song Spacing
      2. PQ Encoding/Indexing
      3. Metadata
      4. CD-Era Shenanigans: Hidden Tracks
      5. Conclusion
      6. Exercises
    5. Chapter 9 Step V: Delivery—Generate the Master
      1. Plant Master Compact Disc (PMCD)
      2. Disc Description Protocol (DDP) CD Master
      3. Digital Audio Files (.wav, .aiff, .dsd, .flac, .alac)
        1. High-Resolution Digital File Formats (.dsd, .flac, .alac) Overview
        2. Mastered for iTunes File (MFiT)/Apple Digital Masters (ADM) File
        3. Streaming Services
        4. Files for Vinyl Mastering
      4. Generating the Master
        1. Dither/Render/Burn
        2. Quality Control (QC)
        3. Check All Song Starts and Transitions
        4. Listen to the Entire Album
        5. Information to Verify
        6. Audio Integrity to Approve
        7. For Digital File Masters
        8. CD Master Designations
      5. Conclusion
      6. Exercises
  14. Part IV • Professional Mastering Process—Macro Considerations
    1. Chapter 10 Before the Mastering Session
      1. Preliminary Dialogue With the Client
      2. Genre-Specific Considerations
      3. Experiment Regularly
      4. The Mastering Shoot-Out
      5. Pricing
      6. Conclusion
    2. Chapter 11 The Inner Game: Mindset Approaches
      1. Mastering Is Either Effective or Not
      2. Psychoacoustics
      3. Lead the Listener by Embracing Macro-Dynamics
      4. Work Habits
      5. Be Meticulous
      6. Documentation (Notes)
      7. Listen Universally
      8. Manage Problems With Humility and Professionalism
      9. Conclusion
    3. Chapter 12 Session-Saving Mastering Tips
      1. Mix Evaluation—Reject a Subpar Mix or Project
      2. Oscillator Sweep the Signal Path Redux
      3. Spectrum Analyze the Mastered Audio
      4. When In-the-Box (ITB) Mastering Is Your Friend
      5. What If Your Client Is Difficult?
      6. Conclusion
  15. Part V • Professional Mastering Process—Micro Considerations
    1. Chapter 13 Detailed Guidelines for Processing Audio
      1. Select Converters and Signal Path
      2. Equipment Sequencing Considerations
      3. The Three Zone Mastering System (Detail Moves)
        1. Zone 1 Moves—PBDAW Adjustments
          1. Set Optimal Mix Playback Level
          2. Write Macro-Dynamic Automation
          3. Preserve Leading Edge Transients
          4. Advanced PBDAW Adjustments
        2. Zone 2 Moves—Analog Signal Path
          1. The Mastering Console (Gain and Other Features)
        3. Zone 3 Moves—After AD Conversion and in the RDAW
          1. Adjustment Sequence: Gain Structure, Dynamics, and EQ
          2. Match Mix and Master VU Metering
      4. Conclusion
    2. Chapter 14 Advanced Mastering Chain Tools and Techniques
      1. Side-Chain Compression (s.c.)
      2. Multiband Compression/Limiting (MBC/L)
      3. Serial Peak-Limiting
      4. Dynamic EQ
      5. Saturation
      6. Analog Tape Compression
      7. Clipping
      8. Parallel Processing (Compression and EQ)
      9. Mid-Side Processing (M/S)
      10. Hybrid Domain Mastering (Both Digital and Analog)
      11. Line Amps and Transformers
      12. Stem Mastering
      13. Intercuts (Mastering Moves by Song Section)
      14. Adding Reverberation
      15. Conclusion
      16. Exercises
    3. Chapter 15 Mid-Side (M/S): An Elixir of Mastering Hope
      1. M/S at Capitol Mastering
      2. M/S Stereo Recording Technique—History and Origins
        1. Microphone Signals
        2. At Console Input
        3. Signal Summing Matrix at Console
      3. In a Mastering Context
      4. Encoding From Stereo Into M/S
      5. Decoding Out of M/S Back Into Stereo
      6. Creating an M/S Matrix in Pro Tools
      7. Encoding (DAW Example)
      8. Decoding (DAW Example)
      9. Practical Applications of M/S in Mastering
      10. M/S Hardware Processors for Mastering
      11. M/S Plug-Ins for Mastering
      12. Conclusion
      13. Exercises
    4. Chapter 16 In-the-Box Considerations
      1. Drawbacks
      2. When to Use ITB Mastering
      3. Basic and Advanced Setups
      4. Digital Hardware Options
      5. Sampling Theorem and ITB
      6. Conclusion
      7. Exercises
    5. Chapter 17 De-Noising/Audio Restoration (Out, Damned Spot!)
      1. Sonic Solutions NoNoise
      2. Izotope RX7
      3. Cedar
      4. Options Onboard Your DAW
      5. Conclusion
      6. Exercises
    6. Chapter 18 Conclusion and Summary
  16. Appendix I: Common Mastering Acronyms and Terms
    1. Acronyms
    2. A–C
    3. D–F
    4. G–L
    5. M–R
    6. S–Z
  17. Appendix II: Awards and Notable Projects
    1. Awards and Notable Projects
  18. Appendix III: Mastering Biography
  19. Index