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Mastering Tool for Musicians that I made

Discussion in 'Random Discussion' started by Jayson, Sep 4, 2019.

  1. Jayson

    Jayson Rebel Official

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    Hello everyone,

    One of my bigger hobbies is making music.
    Specifically, I do electronic music (experimental, cinematic/orchestral, and dance and pop).

    I also help run a Netlabel over at the community IDMForums.com where we help curate releases for underground artists who help each other grow and learn (or just have fun).

    One of the big issues that comes up a lot is mastering. Now, there's lots involved in mastering, but one of the things you read a lot is the idea of using a reference track to model your song against during mastering - even if you're doing an album, it's generally a decent idea to have a song that's going to be on the album serve as a reference track for the other songs so that the album doesn't sound different song to song.

    Probably one of the bigger confusion points in this whole mastering bit, which relates to reference tracks, is how to go about "matching" that reference track, and the common refrain of "use your ears" (even for some professionals) isn't really a great solution in all cases - your ears, especially if you're learning mastering or still young in the years with it, can deceive you.

    For this, there are tools out there called EQ Matchers. You supply a reference track and they either give you a guidance for the equalizer settings, or they do the equalizer matching automatically for you.

    These are great, but they have two downsides. 1) They are expensive. 2) You can't supply more than one song as the reference track most of the time.

    The first is an obvious issue. These plug-ins run around $200 if you go about getting one that actually works and while a professional obviously can justify this, hobbyists and even many independent/underground artists can see that $200 as a rather large number considering how little they'll get paid for their work.

    The second one is a pretty sizable issue, actually, even if you have money.
    Most of these plug-ins don't allow you to build an "ideal" sound. You simply supply a single source and it returns a result.
    But if you happen to think, "Man, I really like the low end from that song, but the mid range from this one, and the high end from this other one", they can't help you. You can't mix and match like that and build your "ideal" sound to set as your goal.

    The calculator tool that I made, however, does.
    It's also rather easy to cart around and use because it relies on things which most have or are easy to get.
    Firstly, it's an excel workbook, so there's nothing to install (assuming you have excel - which most folks do).
    Secondly, by default, it assumes the use of Audacity for getting the data that's needed and for doing equalization.

    Really, any such reporting tool for frequency spectrum analysis can be used, as well as any equalizer.
    Adjustments, will need to be made in your workflow if you don't use Audacity, but it should work out fine as long as you have at least a 31 band equalizer to work from (or are really good with draw mode equalizers), and have your spectrum report spitting out 32,768 frequencies (or at least around there).

    So here it is.
    manual matcher logo.png
    Direct Download Link

    There are instructions on the opening sheet, but the basic concept can be summarized in 4 steps.
    1. You supply a frequency spectrum analysis report to the tool of a reference track (or up to three different tracks and then mix those together how you want into a final version) called the "seed".
    2. Then you supply the spectrum analysis for the song you want to adjust, then it spits out adjustment suggestions for you to make in the equalizer across 31 frequency bands. This is called the "original".
    3. You make those adjustments and then run another spectrum analysis report and supply that back to the tool as the "corrected" version.
    4. Then you compare your corrected version to your seed and see if you need to make any fine tune adjustments, as well as using your ears to see if it sounds good for your song. Sometimes your song may not quite be best presented matching the reference track that you selected, so you may have to deviate a bit - each song is always a tad unique, so it's not likely that you'll be matching exactly. Instead, you'll match mostly, but definitely better than you started in most cases.

    Here's a screenshot of the main page.
    manual matcher screenshot.PNG

    Here's what building a seed looks like (this is the charted form).
    manual matcher seed build capture.PNG
    In this seed build, the low end is being taken from a Gorgio Moroder song, the mid range is taken from a Nirvana song, and the high end is being taken from a Boston song. The final version (which isn't a real song in reality) is the red line.

    And finally, a more granular look at the solution worked out which shows the seed ( blue ), original version of the song ( green ), and the corrected version ( red ).

    manual matcher solution capture.PNG

    This solution brings up the point made above, how you don't match exactly in all cases.
    In this case, you can see that the final version deviates from the seed at the higher frequencies, and even matches the original around the 12.5kHz range, but then drops even lower than the original did.

    That's because the song had lots of bright instruments which, if you turned up the high end, would seem even louder than they come off on the reading.
    So the high frequencies were lowered until the high end now complimented the new low and mid ranges that had been matched to the seed (4.5kHz and lower).

    FINAL REMARKS
    So, if you know anyone who goes about making their own produced music, feel free to share this with them.
    If you yourself make music, give it a spin.

    If you have any questions, just let me know! :)

    NOTES:
    The file is big at 10.5 megabytes so it might lag at times, specifically when loading the Detail Chart tab.
    By default, the worksheets have been locked to remove the chance of accidentally deleting or entering something in the wrong area and causing issues. If you want to unlock the sheets to take a deeper dive into the calculation's engine and goings-on under the hood, just go to the Review section of excel, unprotect the sheets and the workbook using the password: admin

    Cheers,
    Jayson

    @Angelman
     
    #1 Jayson, Sep 4, 2019
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2019
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  2. Porco Azzurro

    Porco Azzurro Force Sensitive

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    I dabble a little bit in in making music myself (though I sometimes think I find reading about stuff like this as interesting as the music-making itself!). This seems like a great idea, I might give it a go at some point.
     
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  3. Jayson

    Jayson Rebel Official

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    Nice!
    If you do, I'd love to hear how it went. :)

    Cheers,
    Jayson
     
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