This is an interesting hypothesis, and it is consistent with the way the various activities (recording, mixing, and mastering) tend to be done, but I am not convinced that it is an indisputable fact or requirement in every scenario, especially in the scenario where one person is doing everything . . .
. . . you can't mix and master in the same room on the same setup (modes and such).
Historically, recording and mixing were done in the same studio but with the mixing or control room being separated from the recording room, while mastering was done in another studio, but this primarily was a matter of the physical equipment being different, since in the days of vinyl records the stamping plates were made using machines that literally cut grooves in metal platters, and there also were various steps that involved chemicals, in addition to requirements with respect to adjusting the frequency characteristics to account for the way phonograph cartridges and needles worked, none of which was practical to do in the mixing or control room of a recording studio . . .
Some of this continues to apply in the digital universe, where for example it is not unusual for consumer playback devices to have enhanced frequency response characteristics which in some ways are similar to the way phonographs handled lower frequencies, but my current perspective is that the folks who focus on mastering most likely took the general idea of doing everything separately and simply expanded it for their particular needs, which is fine with me . . .
You can do a bit of web searching on "mastering studio" and study some of the photographs of mastering studios, but I think that the mastering studio shown in the following image is at the extreme end of the spectrum . . .
[NOTE: I would not be surprised if the individual pieces of varying length wood attached to the walls and ceiling cost more than all the equipment, since no matter how it was constructed it had to require both a large quantity of wood and a lot of physical labor, although I suppose that if there are specific pattern to the diffusers, then it might be possible to do the work more efficiently in an assembly line style, except that having specific patterns for the different diffuser sections would tend to defeat the purpose . . .
[SOURCE: Misconception of "neutral / accurate" (Head-Fi FORUM)
Diffusion, in acoustics and architectural engineering, is the efficacy by which sound energy is spread evenly in a given environment.
[SOURCE: Acoustic Diffusion (wikipedia)
[SOURCE: United States Patent Number 5160816 (FreePatentsOnline.com) -- PDF (348KB, 12 pages)
Intuitively, it makes excellent sense for a sound isolation studio to have a high degree of diffusion, since this makes the location where one stands or sits essentially irrelevant with respect to what one hears, which provides a logical explanation for the strategy, although for doing stereo mixing and mastering it does not provide a remedy for the need to sit in a specific location with you head oriented very precisely, since the general ideas for stereo are that at least some of the information emerging from each studio monitor (left, right) is a bit different and that there is a midpoint, which tends to be a bit of a problem if you sit somewhere other than at the midpoint, because positioning sounds at any specific location by ear becomes highly dependent upon what each ear hears, where for example if you sit too far to the right, hence are closer to the right channel studio monitor, then positioning an instrument or voice at top-center likely causes it to be skewed arbitrarily to the left channel, which among other things is one fo the reasons that it is important at least some of the time to mix and master at the upper end of tolerable sound pressure levels (SPLs), which generally is in the range of 80dB to 85dB, since this tends to blur everything so that subtle listening position effects are reduced, and it also tends to map to an optimal equal loudness curve in some respects, which works nicely here in the sound isolation studio with The Fabulous Mixing and Mastering Platform™
, which is where the computer display, keyboard, and mouse now are located . . .
[NOTE: Currently there are no immediately obvious diffusers in the sound isolation studio, but the various pieces of framing lumber in the platforms, shelves, and workbenches form spaces with the plywood that have diffusing properties. And the walls are specially designed in diferent sized subsections to act as Helmholtz resonating panels, which maps to the sound isolation studio having some very nice and quite surprising acoustic behaviors, and the dimensions of the innermost room are a bit unusual because it is a fully floated room within a room within a room, where the innermost room is not physically attached to the outer rooms, hence it "floats" or "sits atop" the middle room, which among other things is stellar for working with subsonic bass, since it makes it easier to feel the subsonic bass, which is important, because being subsonic, it is not heard but instead is felt, where for example I can feel the kick drums when they are played at the rate of 1 beat every 100 milliseconds or 10 notes per second, which is not difficult to do with a double-kick drum setup when you ponder it from the perspective of acoustic physics and use a pair of Duallist Single-Foot Double Pedals . . .
]The Fabulous Mixing and Mastering Station Platform
My current strategy is to use music notation and IK Multimedia VSTi virtual instruments in NOTION 3 (Notion Music) for most of the instrumentation, and the sound samples for VSTi instruments typically are recorded in high-quality recording studios, which overall maps to the generated audio having strong signals, low background noise and hiss, generally good tone, and so forth and so on, which basically maps to the sound isolation studio not needing to be designed specifically for recording, as contrasted to mixing and mastering, although for a while I had the Really Bigger Drumkit
™ in the sound isolation studio, which was when I was recording real drums, cymbals, and Latin percussion instruments, except that with the new focus on mixing and mastering I moved the Really Bigger Drumkit
out of the sound isolation studio to make room available for the new mixing and mastering station . . .
I continue to do real rhythm guitar and lead guitar, but I run the output signals directly from the electric guitar or effects pedals to the MOTU 828mk3 Hybrid audio interface, so the acoustic behavior of the sound isolation studio does not matter for recording purposes . . .
However, I record the vocals in sound isolation studio, and for this purpose the acoustic behavior of the sound isolation studio matters, but I make an effort to minimize it by getting strong recording signals, since it is considerably easier to work with recorded vocals when most of the effects are done after the fact, which basically maps to having a single strong and dry recorded track for the lead vocal, since the first thing I do is a bit of pitch correction with the Melodyne Editor (Celemony), and it is much easier to base everything on a single vocal track, because this keeps all the custom effects synchronized, since everything is based on the same single source . . .
And I mix and master in the sound isolation studio using the same equipment, where at present I am not doing formal mastering as a completely separate activity, since I do it along with mixing, where the general strategy is to use one of the T-RackS 3.5 Deluxe mastering suites on the Master stereo output channel in Digital Performer 7,24 (MOTU), although I am pondering the idea of doing a separate mastering activity on the stereo audio file generated by Digital Performer 7.24, but mostly as an experiment to determine whether it accomplishes anything useful . . .
My current perspective on mastering is that the focus is on two things:
(1) Making the entire song sound good . . .
(2) Correcting problems with mixes . . .
But another key bit of information is that at present I do not
have the luxury of having separate rooms for each activity (recording, mixing, and mastering), which is the practical reality, although I am building a new room primarily for doing music videos and having a place with suffient space for the Really Bigger Drumkit
, which also will make it possible to have a bit of FUN with playing electric guitar through real amplifiers and loudspeaker cabinets, since with the additional space I can do the various things which are necessary to record electric guitar played through real amplifiers and loudspeaker cabinets, which mostly is a matter of being able to isolate the sound . . .
[NOTE: The sound isolation studio is approximately the size of a walk-in closet (6 feet wide by 7 feet tall by 12 feet long), which basically is similar in size to the back part of a FedEx or UPS delivery truck, so running a Marshall half stack at any audible volume which maps to good TONE inside the sound isolation studio is not a bright idea no matter how it is done, which is the reason that I do not do it, although I would like to be able to do it. Additionally, even though I can build an isolation box for the various guitar and bass amplfiers and loudspeaker cabinets, doing the construction work requires a large workshop, which at present I do not have, so everything is dependent on the new workshop, music video soundstage, and so forth, but so what . . .
When making sense of complex stuff, I like the strategy that focuses on facts, and for music stuff this maps to focusing on acoustic physics, where I think there are a few useful facts:
(1) An acoustically correct studio is acoustically correct independently of its use at any given time . . .
(2) A full-range studio monitor system correctly calibrated for an acoustically correct studio is highly accurate independently of its use at any given time . . .
(3) Having an elaborate drumkit, grand piano, or anything else that affects the way sound propagates in a room will change (1) and (2), hence for mixing and mastering purposes is best avoided, at least by having some way to separate the mixing and mastering room from wherever the drumkit, grand piano, or other stuff is located, which makes a bit of sense with respect to what happens when you record each specific acoustic instrument, because from the perspective of acoustic physics, the various parts of a drumkit literally behave as sound absorbers, sound reflectors, and so forth and so on, which also is the case with a grand piano, and everything else, including people, furniture, and lots of other stuff . . .
Hence, I agree that at least some of the recording stuff requires a separate studio area, but I do not
agree that mixing and mastering must be done in separate rooms, at least when a grand total of one person is doing everything . . .
However, since the overall perspective is vastly different when one is focused solely on mastering, I think that if having a separate mastering studio makes achieving and maintaining this unique perspective easier, then there is value to having a separate mastering studio, although I also think that one can develop the ability to be objective rather than subjective with respect to doing all the various activities, even though it is not such an easy thing to do, at least initially . . .
In essence, if you expect to be able to produce yourself, then you need to be able to determine objectively when something you are doing sounds bad and does not work, which using a vastly abstruse analogy, metaphor, or simile is one of the reasons that only a handful of people on this planet have been able to psychoanalyze themselves, because it is not easy to be entirely objective about oneself, although being objective is a fundamental requirement
, for sure . . .For sure!
As an example, I thought that my singing was fabulous for quite a few years, but once I realized the importance of arranging, producing, mixing, and mastering and started focusing on making sense of what folks like George Martin did, this eventually led to realizing that in a very literal sense George Martin was the choirmaster and the Beatles were the choirboys, so having been in a liturgical boys choir, it was not so difficult for me to pretend that I was the choirmaster, at which point it became painfully obvious that the sole choirboy in my choir was not
doing enough melody practicing and generally was not so focused on a lot of other very important singing stuff . . .
Specifically, this is where the Melodyne Editor (Celemony) paid for itself, because all it took for me to have the required epiphany was to look at the actual notes I sang once they were analyzed and displayed in the Melodyne Editor, where among other things it was painfully obvious that my singing was off in some instances by a whole step (two semitones, two half-steps, or two guitar frets) or a whole step and a half step, which is easy to correct in the Melodyne Editor but is better when it is sung correctly in the original vocal track, where for me this mostly is a matter of doing a bit of practicing in advance, since I know how to sing but tend to be a bit lazy, which in some respects is the consequence of having the curious idea that it should be possible to compose and to sing a melody on the fly in real-time all on the first take, with this particular idea being based on misunderstanding something that an audio engineer told me about Paul McCartney several decades ago, which I thought was the completely fascinating fact that Paul McCartney did everything in real-time on the fly on the first take (composing the melody and singing it) but as I learned several decades later is not a fact, at all, although it certainly led me to do a very useful multiyear series of experiments, which makes it vastly easier for me to compose and to sing melodies in real-time on the fly on the first take, except that once I have the melody composed, it tends to work better if I learn it and then practice it a few times before doing the official vocal track, really . . ."Feel Me" (The Surf Whammys) -- MP3 (8MB, 303-kbps [VBR], approximately 3 minutes and 38 seconds)Really!
Edited by surfwhammy, 19 February 2012 - 04:42 AM.