Browsing Tag

sound engineering

Learn Seven Ways to Make Better Masters

Mastering is often perceived as the murkiest and most impenetrable stage of the music production process. But our with these tips and techniques to make better masters, hopefully we can get you off on the right track. Mastering forms an integral part of our BA (Hons) in Music Production and Sound Engineering degree, with a dedicated module and more tips and instruction as part of our Art of Mixing and Advanced Mixing modules too. For a taster of what there is to learn, we bring you seven helpful tips to get you on the way to making better masters for your tracks.

  1. Quality in, quality out

The first step on the road to a great master is a great mix, so if you approach the mixdown half-heartedly, thinking you can make up for it at the mastering stage, you’re coming at the whole thing from entirely the wrong direction. The mix should sound essentially ‘finished’ before you render it as a stereo audio file for mastering, with all the dynamics wrangling, EQ shaping and stereo spatialising of every track and bus done and dusted. And when it is time to hit the Export button, remember to remove any mix bus limiting and leave yourself around 6dB of headroom (ie, have the master output peaking at -6dBFS), to give your mastering plugins room for digital manoeuvre.

  1. Reference, reference, reference!

The importance of A/Bing your in-progress project with carefully chosen reference tracks when mastering simply can’t be overstated. You might think your ears are as golden as they come, but even the most experienced mastering engineers will constantly compare the mix they’re working on to other tracks in the same genre, ensuring consistency with proven artistic and commercial standards. It’s good practise to maintain an up-to-date (ie, refreshed over time as the sound of your genre of choice evolves) collection of reference tracks that you both love and know inside out, sonically speaking; and plugins like Sample Magic’s Magic AB and Mastering The Mix’s Reference can make the process of comparing them to your own masters effortless.

Magic AB from Sample Magic will dramtically help you reference tracks

  1. Welcome to the future

There are some incredible mastering-orientated software processors on the market these days, some of them using artificial intelligence and other such sorcery to actively assist you in your engineering. iZotope’s industry-leading Ozone 8 mastering suite, for example, introduced the Mastering Assistant feature, employing machine learning to apply automated EQ and dynamics sculpting to your master, based on genre-specific profiles or an imported reference track. Then there are various ‘matching EQ’ plugins, including IK Multimedia’s Master Match (available singly or as part of the superb T-RackS 5), FabFilter Pro-Q 2 and the one built into Ozone 8. These extract a representative frequency curve from one or more reference tracks, then impose it on your master using spectral processing and EQ. As long as these powerful tools are used as guides rather than definitive ‘set and forget’ solutions, the results they deliver can be truly spectacular.

iZotope Ozone 8’s Mastering Assistant feature uses machine learning to apply automated effects

  1. Don’t overdo it

The most frequently made mistake on the part of the novice mastering engineer is the over-application of compression; the second most frequent is the over-application of EQ. Mastering is mostly about these two particular processes, of course, and approaching either of them without knowing what you’re doing is more likely to damage your mixes than improve them. We can’t teach you everything you need to know here, but if you find yourself cranking the ratio control on your mastering compressor higher than 2:1, you’re probably going too far – head back to the mix and sort whatever dynamic issues you think you’re hearing there instead. Similarly, the need for EQ boosts of more than about 1dB anywhere in the frequency spectrum imply that the mix is unbalanced, so load up that DAW project and take another pass.

  1. Analogue or digital?

Whether to build your mastering chain using analogue-style plugins (or hardware) or the super-transparent processors that only software makes possible will depend on the colouration of the source mix, the amount of corrective compression and/or EQ it needs, and, of course, the kind of sound you’re looking to achieve at the end of the road. For example, if the track has been recorded and mixed using analogue gear or tube-emulating plugins, you might want to keep your mastering effects as unobtrusive as possible, in which case, transparency is the way to go. If, on the other hand, you’re dealing with a sterile, fully in-the-box production, the warmth added by a real or virtual analogue chain can prove transformative. You can, of course, combine the two as well: follow your flawlessy transparent linear phase EQ cuts with an analogue-style limiter, say.

T-RackS Vintage Compressor is one of hundreds of analogue-emulating VSTs that can give you that warm glow

  1. Mastering reverb – handle with care

If you’re really confident in your aural judgment and a particular track feels like it might significantly benefit from it, a very light touch of reverb at the mastering stage can add effective depth, space and air. Obviously, you’ll want to use the highest quality reverb unit or plugin you can get your hands on for this, and extreme caution must be taken in terms of setting the length, dynamics and frequency shaping of the tail. If at any point you get even a fleeting sense that your reverb is incongruous or just too much, dial it back or take it out altogether, and consider going back to the mix instead. And to be absolutely clear, reverb at the mastering stage should only be used to work in a little bit of ambience, never as a frequency or level balancing tool.

  1. You don’t have to do it yourself

Mastering is an art unto itself, requiring not only in-depth technical knowledge of the gear and specific engineering techniques involved, but also – ideally – years of experience. Although mastering suites like Ozone and T-RackS put the tools required to produce amazing masters in the hands of anyone with a few hundred quid to spare, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with hiring an expert to do it for you, especially if the project is important and/or potentially money-making. Online mastering services from big-name studios such as Metropolis, Abbey Road and Real World are affordable, convenient and guaranteed to yield top notch results – and most even let you discuss the mastering process with your assigned engineer via Skype or phone, adding an invaluable educational element into the deal. Certainly worth considering while you’re learning the mastering ropes for yourself.

We hope you find this list helpful, but no article can compare to the proper instruction you will receive when studying the craft. As well as the aforementioned degree programmes (also available online), we teach two shorter courses that cover mastering in London, the Mixing and Mastering award, and Audio Mastering. If you have any questions about any of these courses, or would like to book in for a studio tour, please contact us on +44 20 7729 4884.

Register to Access Free Courses, Plugins, Projects, Samples & More

When you register with Point Blank, you access an array of free sounds, plugins, online course samples, access to our social network Plugged In and much more! Simply register below and visit our Free Stuff page to get your hands on a range of exclusive music-making tools and tutorials provided by the team. Fill your boots!

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Recording a Classic: Amy Winehouse – Love is a Losing Game

Every term, final year students on our BA (Hons) in Music Production and Sound Engineering Degree programme are tasked with re-recording a classic track as part of their assessment. A recent choice of song was the late, great, Amy Winehouse’s achingly gorgeous classic: ‘Love is a Losing Game’. To record the track, our degree students were given the musical talents of several Point Blank staffers, together with a string quartet from the Royal Academy of Music, professional singer Valerie Etienne and Advanced Composition instructor Claud Ruelle for the arrangement. We also captured much of the process on film – alongside interviews and insights from the students, players and instructors – to give you an in-depth insight into the study experience for this aspect of this degree programme, validated and accredited by Middlesex University.

PB’s Head of Curriculum Ski Oakenfull was one of the masterminds behind the task, and we grab some time with him to get an explanation of why this project is such a useful learning tool for the students. We meet Creative Content Developer Graham Silbiger, who found time between developing and updating content for our groundbreaking Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) to lay down the bass and guitar parts. Senior Studio Assistant Ricky Vianello, (one half of pulverising techno duo Tapefeed) also features in the video, working with the students to lay down the drums on the recording.

As part of the second studio session, we get an insight on the compositional aspects of the deconstruction, with PB’s Claude Ruelle arranging strings for the track. Of the quartet, Petru Cotarcea shares some of his experience, citing the value for students at the Royal Academy of Music to work in a studio environment. Plus we hear from Sound Engineering instructor and renowned record producer Justin Lindley on what role he plays as an instructor, taking something of a backseat and allowing the students to experiment.

The feedback from the students taking part was hugely positive and we hope this video captures that enthusiasm as much as coveys what a fantastic track the material is. For more information on any of our courses, including our other degrees in Music Production and DJ Practice and Music Industry Management, or to book a studio tour, please contact us on +44 20 7729 4884.

Register to Access Free Courses, Plugins, Projects, Samples & More

When you register with Point Blank, you access an array of free sounds, plugins, online course samples, access to our social network Plugged In and much more! Simply register below and visit our Free Stuff page to get your hands on a range of exclusive music-making tools and tutorials provided by the team. Fill your boots!

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DJ Ravine Studies at Point Blank – Week 10: Goodbye!

DJ Ravine is back with his final update on his progress with us here at Point Blank London. Over the past ten weeks, we’ve followed him as he studies Intro to Music Production, Music Composition and Sound Engineering. This week it’s time to say goodbye as everyone parties at the open decks night at The Stag’s Head opposite the school. It’s not all partying though, Ravine finds the time to catch up with Tom, his Ableton instructor and Anthony Chapman in Sound Engineering. On the production side, Ravine reckons the eleven-week course here is equivalent to a year and a half of teaching yourself – not a bad rate of learning! Finally, he checked in with Linton Bennett for his last composition 1-2-1, tying everything together with the revelation that, actually, everyone has the basis to learn composition already – just try singing the major scale.

These are all core modules in our BA Hons Music Production and Sound Engineering Degree. If you’ve only just discovered the series, we urge you to check out our YouTube playlist and catch up from the beginning.

One massive, final thank you to DJ Ravine, we’ve absolutely loved tagging along on his studies and we can’t wait to see where he goes from here. As always, you can check out our full list of production courses in London and Online at our website. For more info and to talk to a course advisor, call us on +44 20 7729 4884.

Register to Access Free Courses, Plugins, Projects, Samples & More

When you register with Point Blank, you access an array of free sounds, plugins, online course samples, access to our social network Plugged In and much more! Simply register below and visit our Free Stuff page to get your hands on a range of exclusive music-making tools and tutorials provided by the team. Fill your boots!

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DJ Ravine Studies at Point Blank – Week 8: International Women’s Day

DJ Ravine is back with his weekly update on his progress with us here at Point Blank London as he studies Intro to Music Production, as well as courses in Music Composition and Sound Engineering. We are now at week eight, and assignment deadlines are beginning to loom! Ravine still finds time to take us along with him as he checks out the PB International Women’s Day event, and to explore London when it was covered in snow. Plus, more tutorials and class insights are included in this jam-packed week. If you’re just joining us for this series, check out our YouTube playlist and get yourself caught up. Plus, get the lowdown on all of our London courses at ourLondon school’s webpage.

As always, thanks to DJ Ravine for taking the time to put this together. There’s one or two of us here at PB headquarters who didn’t have a clue how that shiny SSL mixing desk worked so Anthony Chapman’s quick run-through was much appreciated, and it’s great to see the final elements of the Sound Engineering class’ project coming together. Feeling inspired? Take a look at our full list of production courses in London and Online. For more info and to talk to a course advisor, call us on +44 20 7729 4884, and don’t forget to check back next week for the next instalment of Ravine’s vlog.

Register to Access Free Courses, Plugins, Projects, Samples & More

When you register with Point Blank, you access an array of free sounds, plugins, online course samples, access to our social network Plugged In and much more! Simply register below and visit our Free Stuff page to get your hands on a range of exclusive music-making tools and tutorials provided by the team. Fill your boots!

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DJ Ravine Studies at Point Blank in London! Watch Week Four of His Vlog

A few weeks ago we welcomed Australian DJ and vlogger DJ Ravine to study with us in London. Due to his excellent YouTube channel and series of demos and instructional videos we were delighted to collaborate with him last year on an introduction to Ableton video. We enjoyed it so much that we invited him back to study with us this year, and he kindly agreed to keep us in the updated on his progress on his educational journey. He’s never had any formal training, so he’s studying Intro to Music Production, as well as courses in Music Composition and Sound Engineering. Check out these modules, plus our other combinations of study topics at our London school’s webpage. Four weeks in, here’s his latest video.

This week Ravine takes us along to his Sound Engineering class to get a glimpse at what he and his group have been assigned. First Anthony Chapman gives us a quick lesson on the three most common types of microphone used in music: dynamic, condenser and ribbon mics. Later, we join Ravine at one of the PB-hosted Native Meetups, where producers come and share tips and pointers with instructors and Native Instruments experts. One of those experts, Doug McAvoy shares a brief lowdown on what goes on at these meetups. Finally, we return to Ravine’s studio where we see the end result of he and his group’s remix of Oasis’ ‘Wonderwall’, using a drum and bass break and some big bass drops.

Check back next week for another edition of DJ Ravine’s vlog with us. Meanwhile, why not take a look at our YouTube channel for more instructional videos, as well as demonstrations and previews. Or take a look at our full list of production courses in London and Online. For more info and to talk to a course advisor, call us on +44 20 7729 4884.

Register to Access Free Courses, Plugins, Projects, Samples & More

When you register with Point Blank, you access an array of free sounds, plugins, online course samples, access to our social network Plugged In and much more! Simply register below and visit our Free Stuff page to get your hands on a range of exclusive music-making tools and tutorials provided by the team. Fill your boots!

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Sample our Brand New BA (Hons) Online Degree Programme | Week 5: Creative Production & Mixing

If you’re looking to get a taste of what it’s like to learn on our innovative online platform, here’s your chance! We’ve now updated our sample courses to include a taster of our new Online BA (Hons) in Music Production and Sound Engineering degree course. The course consists of eight modules included in the full online degree programme, designed to give you a flavour of what you can expect when you study online with us. This is the fifth week of eight in which we’ll be giving you a peek at what each module entails, as well as showing you one of the videos from the corresponding module’s course materials. Don’t forget, we also have a host of online courses besides our BA (Hons) degree programme covering music production, sound design and much more – head here for our full range of online courses.

Week five is where things start to get really interesting, multiplying the creative possibilities available when producing and remixing. Take the full module and you’ll learn how key techniques in making edits and remixes, drum programming and sound design, working with vocals, building sections and hooks, and how to finish tracks. The sample course contains two pages, one looking at extracting acapellas (which the video above explains) and another explaining how what to do when adding extra layers of drums.

To take the sample course yourself, head here, and get a flavour of the quality, style and content you can expect when studying online with Point Blank. Remember though, this is only a taster – to get the full experience complete with live interaction with tutors, forum interaction with fellow students and assignment feedback, you’ll have to enrol on a live course!

Register to Access Free Courses, Plugins, Projects, Samples & More

If you register with Point Blank, you can access an array of free sounds, plugins, online course samples and much more! Simply register below and visit our Free Stuff page to get your hands on a range of exclusive music-making tools and tutorials provided by the team. Fill your boots!

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Watch Our Top 3 FFLs of 2017! How to Master a Dance Track, Create Classic Sounds + More

2017 has been a great year for Friday Forum Live, Point Blank’s live Friday broadcast. Keeping you updated with music production techniques, tips and tricks, we’ve been joined by our expert instructors to bring you tutorials, interviews and insight into composition, production and all things music-making. If you want to develop your own journey in music, check out our full range of courses in London, Los Angeles and online, and read on for our top 3 FFLs if 2017!

How to Create Classic Sounds With Your Synth

Emulating some of dance music’s classic sounds is something many of us try to do in our own productions. This video demonstrates how to reconstruct some of dance music’s most well-known synth sounds, including the huge reece bass from Renegade’s ‘Terrorist’ and the ever-popular organ stab from Robyn S’ ‘You’ve Got To Show Me Love’.

Using the Arturia Oberheim Sem V

In this FFL, Point Blank instructor, Paul Ressell, gives us the low-down on Arturia’s software emulation one of the world’s best-loved classic hardware synths, Tom Oberheim’s SEM. From basic patches to evolving pads, here we cover everything that makes this synth not just an emulation of a classic, but a fantastic synth in its own right.

How to Master a Dance Track – Tips and Techniques

Mastering a dance track can be one of the most difficult and humbling experiences in music production – so much so that producing and mastering are often treated as separate entities. In this video, Anthony Chapman takes us through some neat tips and techniques to provide people in the mastering process with some clarity.

If you’d like to learn more about any of the techniques shown above, Point Blank offer courses for those at any level. Our BA (Hons) Music Production & Sound Engineering Degree in London is one of the most comprehensive courses out there, with modules covering mixing, sound design, production and much more. We also offer an online alternative, in the form of our new online BA (Hons) Music Production & Sound Engineering Degree. We are currently offering a huge 25% off online courses and 30% off LA courses, plus a free copy of Ableton Suite until December 31st, so make sure you enrol soon! For more information, contact our course advisors on +44 20 7729 4884. If you are a resident of the USA, you can reach us on 323 282 7660.

Register to Access Free Courses, Plugins, Projects, Samples & More

When you register with Point Blank, you access an array of free sounds, plugins, online course samples, access to our social network Plugged In and much more! Simply register below and visit our Free Stuff page to get your hands on a range of exclusive music-making tools and tutorials provided by the team. Fill your boots!

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Live From Point Blank: Sound Engineering & Electronic Music Performance

At our brand new second London facility, we’ve provided our students with everything they need to craft great records. With two consoles – an SSL Duality and an Audient 8024 – our Sound Engineering students get to learn on world-class equipment. As part of their BA Hon Diploma, students learn to record a professional session musician playing the drums, guitars and singing, before putting it all together in their final project. We popped into a recent Sound Engineering class to see the students in action with their instructor Pierre Duplan, as well as checking in on instructor Nick Feldman’s Electronic Music Performance class, where students learn to perform live sets with various bits of hardware. Watch it above and if you want to come and see it for yourself, book a tour of our second facility here.

If you want to learn more mixing techniques, as well as come and see our amazing new London facility, our Diploma courses teach you everything you need to know to take your music to the next level, with the latest industry-standard equipment. Our 48-channel SSL Duality Delta is the centrepiece of our new facility, with a whole room dedicated to the latest Pioneer DJ equipment and another studio full of Push 2s! Plus, there’s practice rooms with Roland TR-8s, NI Maschine and more for when you’re not in class but need to work on your tracks. Find out more about our London school here and book yourself on our BA Diploma course.

Register to Access Free Courses, Plugins, Projects, Samples & More

When you register with Point Blank, you access an array of free sounds, plugins, online course samples, access to our social network Plugged In and much more! Simply register below and visit our Free Stuff page to get your hands on a range of exclusive music-making tools and tutorials provided by the team. Fill your boots!

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