Monday, July 15, 2013

Review: Complete Audio Mastering by Gebre Waddell!

Back from my much needed hiatus, batteries recharged! I started prepping the third draft of The Dead Rise today. It's going to be a tough, tough project. A post for another day.

In the meantime, a review for Gebre Waddell's Complete Audio Mastering: Practical Techniques! Gebre is one of my oldest friends; we've known each other half our lives. He's a professional mastering engineer and runs his own studio, Stonebridge Mastering.

When Gebre first asked me to review his book on audio mastering, I was a little uncertain - I'm a novice to music production. I'd heard of mastering and mixing, but wasn't entirely sure of much more than that. I was delighted to find that Complete Audio Mastering is both an accessible introduction to audio mastering and a solid discussion of professional mastering techniques.

The book starts from scratch, introducing the key concepts behind mastering - why it's a necessary part of an album's creation, and what's involved from beginning to end. From there, he outlines equipment, techniques, and tips for avoiding common mistakes. No two mastering engineers will master the same track the same way, so trying to create a step-by-step from process beginning to end is like trying to describe how to paint a portrait. Instead, Gebre lays out the tools and techniques of his profession and describes what does and doesn't work.

My favorite thing about the book is how much I learned about just listening to music. Volume is key; Gebre mentions that increasing the volume just a fraction can completely change a listener's appraisal of a piece, which is why maintaining strict control of volume is important in mastering, and why the Loudness Wars resulted in poor mastering practices.

One word of warning: I wouldn't expect a novice to instantly know how to master. There are technical details that will likely go above the head of a beginner; I'd suggest reading this as a textbook alongside a course or an internship (Gebre discusses several possible 'next steps' in chapter 15.) But even if you don't plan a career in mastering, Complete Audio Mastering is a fantastic guide to what goes behind the scenes after an album is mixed. It's available on Amazon now through McGraw-Hill/TAB Electronics.

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