Mastering

Mastering is one of those strange activities where it becomes clear that everything you think you know is wrong.  It can be very disconcerting, and also liberating.

I worked for a little more than a year constructing and mixing tracks for our new record, The Way Out.  I did all of that work right here:

This is my studio, as of Jan 3.  It’s an old tractor garage that I sound-proofed and insulated.  To the left is our wood supply.  My wife and two boys and I live high up in the green mountains of southern Vermont on 16 acres.  We heat our house solely with wood, mostly from our land, and it’s a bit of an obsession but more on this later. 

This is the inside of my studio.  A bit chaotic, but that’s how I work, for better or worse.  Stuff everywhere.  I’ve worked here since 2006

When the doors are closed, it is dead quiet.  Almost uncomfortably quiet.  For all of our records, I’ve mixed on my old set of Event 20/20 monitors that I’ve had for about 12 years.  Since building this studio I never use headphones anymore, which I think has had a wonderful effect on the work.  I tend to work at loud volumes most of the time, and that’s why I soundproofed the place, more to keep the sound in than out.  My nearest neighbor is a few hundred yards away, so that’s not a problem, but when my studio used to be in our living space in North Adams MA, my wife would always complain about the incessant looping.  Thankfully all that is a thing of the past and I can work any hour of the day at any volume I please: a real luxury.

I’m really used to the sound of my old 20/20s.  They’re wonderfully mushy and easy to listen to.  I find the overly crisp sound of more expensive monitors to be a bit harsh for everyday work.  I need to listen to these things like 6-10 hours a day, and they don’t tire my ears. 

When it comes time to master though, I needed a different set of references to really make sure that what I was hearing in my studio would translate to an average system in the real world. 

Paul has a decent set of Genelec monitors that very quickly told us that the mixes I was making at my studio had a bump around 300 hz and a dip through the high end, so we were able to come up with a basic EQ correction that would rebalance most of the raw mixes for further mastering. 

We then needed to find a space where we could set up a bunch of different systems and toggle between them to really home in on the right mix and level of compression for each track.  We asked Mieke Kohl and Bruce Harley if we could use their movement studio, Soma,  in the Eclipse Mill in North Adams for that purpose and they graciously said yes.  It was a really great couple of days.  More on that in my next post. 

Thanks for reading,

Nick

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About zammuto

of the band 'The Books' and 'Zammuto' zammutosound.com
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One Response to Mastering

  1. Thomas says:

    Hello Nick! I was wondering if you could talk a little about the software and programs you use in order to sequence/arrange the samples in your music. The cuts in a lot of the books recordings seem to be done with such a careful attention to detail, that I’m sure the process must be fascinating. I apologize in advance if the technical aspect of this is not nearly as interesting for you to talk about, as it is for me.

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