How does this online Mixing, Mastering and Music Production thing work? What do I need to do to have my music mixed, mastered or produced by Badass Sound?
1. Browse the site and learn about the various services that we offer;
2. Upload your project to us and we will start working on it. Soon after we receive your order we will contact you with the expected completion date for your project, or for the first set of completed tracks if your project has several tracks in it;
3. After your song(s) are completed you will receive an email from us with a link to download a .zip file that contains .wav and .mp3 versions of your mixed and/or mastered tracks for you to check out. If we have returned all your tracks and everything meets with your approval you do not need to do anything else. If you have sent in several songs we will initially work on 2 or 3 songs and send them back to you for approval before continuing with the rest of your project, so that we can continue to work using those first few tracks as references to complete the rest of your tracks. If there is anything you would like changed or adjusted just let us know and we will take any notes and revisions you request and make the necessary changes to your mixes. If it is a Music Production order and we are using session players to complete your song(s) we will send you a rough mix of each part as they are added to the song for approval before continuing.
"How does mixing by correspondence compare to the artist physically being in the studio during a mixing session?"
The mix - listen - provide feedback method is the same process that occurs when you sit in on a mix session in person, but we simply do it by working over the internet using file transfers and email. The end result is the same - you get to listen to your tracks and give any feedback regarding the mix until you are happy with the results, just as you would if you were sitting in the studio. In our opinion this process is more effective as you have the option to listen to the mixes as long as you like and to hear them in several different listening environments ( eg. - in your car, on headphones, on your home stereo, etc.) before requesting any changes. There is no pressure to make decisions "on the spot" as there is when you are sitting in on a studio session and you are on the clock paying by the hour.
"How long will it take to complete a mix?"
Obviously every project has a lot of variables, such as the number of songs, complexity of each mix, if there is any additional work needed to be done to the individual tracks to prepare them for mixing such as noise removal, quantizing, etc., so we can’t give a definite deadline. But on average, for one song, you are looking at a 2 to 3 day turnaround time. We ask that you allow up to one week turnaround but usually it doesn't take nearly that long to complete the mix. If you need it quicker than that, we can most likely accommodate you, but please let us know up front.
"What mixes will I receive?"
The standard mix package consists of a Main Mix of your song as well as a Mastered version. You may request additional mixes such as an Acapella Mix, an Instrumental Mix or a Performance Track (mix minus lead vocals) if desired at no charge.
"What are Scratch Tracks?"
Scratch Tracks are rough tracks used as a reference when recording the good instrumental and vocal tracks for a song, and are generally deleted once all of the good tracks have been recorded. A rough song idea might consist of a scratch guitar track and a scratch vocal track for example. Once the main instrumentation and vocal lines have been recorded the scratch tracks are no longer necessary and are removed from the project.
"What are Revisions?"
Revisions are any changes that you would like made to your song's mix. Perhaps you want a certain delay on a guitar solo, or the backup vocals louder in the mix, or the drum kit EQ'd with more punch, a revision can be a change made to anything that doesn't sound quite the way you want it to sound.
"Do I have to worry about my music or information being shared or leaked?"
Absolutely not. Nobody hears your tracks while they are in our possesion except the engineer. We gain nothing by spreading your information over the internet or showing it to other individuals. Not only are we Audio Engineers and Producers, but we are Musicians as well. We respect how important it is to keep your music safe and unheard by the public until you decide it is finished and ready to be shown to the world.
"Why do I need to send a WAV file for mastering when everyone is always using MP3's and other small file types for easier and faster online use?"
Okay, fair question. Basically the bottom line here is that you should give your mastering engineer the best possible quality material so that he can have all the details available to his ear at the fullest resolution. This helps in making fine detail decisions in the mastering work which may not be heard if he only has an mp3 file to work with from the start instead of a wav file. If an mp3 version of the mastered track is created at the very end of the process, that mp3 version will contain as much of the final information as it can carry within its compressed format, which may potentially include hints of those adjustments made during mastering using the original WAV file. If the engineer only had an mp3 to start with he may not have made those same adjustments since he might not hear all those details in the sound due to the reduced quality format, and so you wouldn't be getting any of those fine details at all in the final master version - not even a hint of them. There's also the fact that you may find yourself in a position of wanting to have the high quality wav version to use at some future time and you can't back pedal to wav quality from an mp3 master made from an mp3 original, but you CAN back pedal to a wav quality master if you have an mp3 master made from a wav file original, because presumably somewhere you will have set aside the wav file mastered version that your mastering studio sent you and which was used to create the mp3 master you may be using currently.
"What are ISRC codes and do I need them?"
The best answer is direct from the usisrc.org web page:
The ISRC (International Standard Recording Code) is the international identification system for sound recordings and music video recordings. Each ISRC is a unique and permanent identifier for a specific recording, independent of the format on which it appears (CD, audio file, etc) or the rights holders involved. Only one ISRC should be issued to a track, and an ISRC can never represent more than one unique recording. ISRCs are widely used in digital commerce by download sites and collecting societies. An ISRC can also be permanently encoded into a product as its digital fingerprint. Encoded ISRC provide the means to automatically identify recordings for royalty payments.
If you plan to have your material distributed digitally (ITunes, Rhapsody, etc.) then an ISRC code is required. The good news is that many duplication services include digital distribution as part of their duplication and distribution packages and will provide you with ISRC codes for the digitally distributed tracks so you don't have to do anything.
If you plan to have your physical CDs distributed internationally we highly recommend also having ISRC codes written to the CD files as well as the digital file versions. This may mean purchasing your own ISRC codes from usisrc.org and providing those codes to your mastering facility to be added to your mastered tracks and Master CD.
If you're not in one of these categories then ISRC codes are not necessary for you.
"My Mastering Studio wants me to turn off my master compression and maximizing plugins and turn down the master levels, but won't that make my music sound too quiet?!?!"
Excellent question! This is probably the single most important question in regards to preparing your mixes to send in for final mastering. The simple and most clear answer is "LET YOUR MASTERING STUDIO SET YOUR FINAL VOLUME LEVELS FOR YOU". This is what mastering engineers are trained to do and what they do best. If you try to make the sound loud in the mix you are removing the ability of the mastering engineer to raise your levels in a way that sounds clean, clear, punchy, and professional. In your mix you should focus on getting a good blend of sounds, proper EQ and effects use, and make it the right overall flavor for your genre, but don't worry about cranking up the overall volume level. Give the mix to the mastering studio with plenty of dynamics and volume headroom in it. What you'll get back will be strong, loud, and clear, and professional sounding.
"Do I need to set my levels to -6dB or -3dB or 0dB for mastering? What is the rule for this?"
Many mastering facilities require that you provide your originals at -3dB or -6dB levels. This is to ensure that there is sufficient volume headroom for working with during mastering and to help avoid the possibility of clipped peaks in your tracks. The exact dB reduction is based on historical values for analog equipment, but it still holds true that for most mixes if you set the master levels at -6dB you usually avoid clipping in the mixdown. In reality this is just a guide to assist you with keeping your mixes clean and not overdriven. If you are confident that none of your individual component tracks have overdriven levels and you haven't overused compression/limiting/maximizing effects on your master bus then you can actually set your master levels as high as you want AS LONG AS YOU AVOID CLIPPING. In other words, set the master channel fader to whatever level keeps the master output volume level under "the red" throughout the full length of the track. Follow this general guideline and your mixdown levels will always be ready for mastering.
"What's the right amount of reverb to use in my mixes?"
There's actually two answers to this question. The first answer is that if you are mixing music that you wrote or produced then the right amount of reverb is the amount that you (the writer/producer/composer) decide is required for the song. After all music is an artform and so the interpretation of it is the right of the artist to determine for his or herself. Now having said that, the second answer is the technical answer which is that you should use enough to blend the parts together into your mix so that they create a coherent sense of space that matches the soundstage that you aim to create in the stereo field. Generally you do this by fine-tuning the various reverb settings (eq filters, decay time, reflective space size, etc.) and then dial up the percentage of application to each part in your mix until it feels like it's sitting together spatially with other similar parts in the mix. Another option is to utilize an old audio engineer adage, which is to turn it up until you just start to notice its effects and then turn it back down "one click" from that point. This way it's in there, but not something you notice as an "effect", but rather something that adds to the feeling of space.
"How do I know if I need mixing or mastering?"
You may find yourself in a situation where you've done your recording and some editing and mixing work, but you feel like it still doesn't sound as full or finished as you know it could. You're probably wondering whether there are additional mix adjustments that need to be made or if perhaps everything that needs to be done to finish it will be done in mastering. There's a few things you can check to help see whether you need more mixing or if you're ready for mastering. If you feel like the overall volume level isn't there or the song doesn't feel spacious enough or it's missing some punch and sparkle or it's just not quite crispy sounding overall then most likely your mix is good now and you're ready for mastering since all these aspects are attended to in the mastering process. If, on the other hand, you feel like there are parts in the track that are getting buried or lost in the sound or there's some clarity issues in particular voices or other elements or there are some effects you think need to be added to certain pieces of the song, these kinds of adjustments require you to do work in the mix since they involve changing individual elements in the song. Mastering is the work done on the master output channel, the full bounced-down/mixed-down song, so when we're thinking of mastering we're thinking of the overall feeling and volume level of the track as a whole, not the flavor and levels of individual parts within it. If you determine there are any individual parts within the track that may still need attention then you need some level of mixing work before mastering. If there are no particular individual elements that need attention, but it's the song as a whole that needs attention, then you can safely say that you're ready for mastering.
How to avoid getting clicks in your music tracks after editing:
Clicks occur after editing in your mixes most commonly due to edit points not being at zero amplitude. What this means is that you've selected a segment in your mix that has some degree of positive or negative waveform amplitude at the very first and/or last sample point of your selection. If the amplitudes of the first and last samples of your selection are not similar to the samples that occur just before or after it in the mix channel track then you will see a sudden jump in waveform amplitude going into and/or out of the edited selection. This is heard as a "pop" or "click" in your sound. There are two ways to avoid this:
1. Make sure your selections for editing are chosen at start and stop sample points ocurring at or near zero amplitude (some mix workstations include a "snap to zero amplitude" function to assist with this) or
2. Do a very fast fade-in/out (crossfade) at the leading and trailing edges of your edit region and the regions to either side of it in your mix track to smooth out transitions.
"What file types are the best for audio recordings?"
The best file types are WAV and AIFF. If you can do all your recording, mixing, and mastering using either of these file types you'll achieve the best results. DON'T assume that converting an MP3 or WMA file to WAV or AIFF format will give you the same results, though. The final quality level is only as good as the lowest quality step in the audio chain. So if you used MP3 audio tracks or converted your material to MP3 format at any point in the process you will achieve MP3 quality results regardless of whether or not you later convert to WAV or AIFF format. Bottom line - maintain WAV or AIFF format through every step of the digital audio process: recording, mixing, and mastering. Although both Wav and AIFF files are acceptable, Badass Sound prefers to work with WAV files, so please send us WAV files rather than AIFF files when possible.
"What sample rate and bit depth should I use for my recordings?"
Sample rate is the number of times the audio information is sampled from the incoming sound per second, listed in Hertz (1Hz = 1 time per second) or kiloHertz (1kHz = 1000 times per second). Bit depth is the digital segmentation of the signal level - the greater the bit depth the more detailed its segmentation, which means a more accurate representation of the original signal in digital form. So, from these definitions you may think that it's best to use the highest sample rate and bit depth possible on your system, which on most newer systems is either 24-bit/96kHz or even 32-bit/192kHz. However, there are two things to keep in mind:
1. Higher sample rates and bit depths mean larger file sizes which can potentially make some mixes unwieldy in size.
2. If your final goal is an Audio CD then your sample rates and bit depths will be reduced to 16-bit/44.1kHz during the mastering process per redbook audio standards, and if you're planning on releasing your tracks as digital downloads (mp3, m4a, etc.) then the final sample rates and bit depths will be even lower than this. With these things in mind it's easy to see there are diminishing returns for setting your sample rate and bit depth much higher than the redbook audio standard of 16-bit/44.1kHz. However, there is something to be said for capturing an accurate representation of your sound to assist with better mixing and mastering. At Badass Sound we prefer to receive WAV files for mixing and mastering purposes at 24-bit/48kHz. Doing your recording and mixing at 24-bit/48kHz and providing a 24-bit/48kHz stereo wav file for mastering will allow for higher than baseline level resolution, but not go overboard in file size for something that could ultimately need to be reduced to 16-bit/44.1kHz or lower as a final step (if you are pressing CD's or turning your Wav files into Mp3's). Recording, mixing, and mastering at 16-bit/44.1kHz is also quite acceptable if a higher resolution is not possible.