I am having a hard time getting the fullness and punch I need from mastering my music. To me the sound is very flat and I\'ve tried adding bass, high end, adjusting the mids, etc., but it comes out having too much twang, or no definition, or synthetic. I\'ve also tried reducing the opposite end of the spectrum (for example, if I want more bass, perhaps reducing high range will help and retain detail). Eventually, I over-adjust the piece and have to restart the process over but I\'ve not been happy with any of the results. Any advice to me on where my problem lies in the post-mastering clip?
The good news is that you don\'t have a mastering problem.
What you\'re experiencing is the deferral of mixing processes to mastering. If this were a painting of a seascape, the analogy to what you\'re attempting to do would be to observe the ocean needs to be more blue, and putting a blue wash over the entire painting to make that happen. Now the ocean is bluer, but so is the sand. Now you notice the sand needs to be more yellow, so you put a yellow wash over the whole painting, and now the ocean is green. And everything else is beginning to lose its color and get blended into each other.
To fix a problem with the color of the ocean, you need to deal strictly with that element of the painting.
And to fix a problem with the way a mix sounds, you need to go back into the mix, and fix the problem with each aspect of the sound in the track where the problem is initially occurring.
Add depth to the individual instruments which need to be deeper. Add sparkle to the individual instruments which need more sparkle. Add spatial processing to things that sound too narrow, and reduce the width of elements which sound too wide for their role.
I\'m not sure what methodology you\'re using to arrive at your actual mix, but my recommendation is to get the tracks into the audio domain as soon as your parts are solidified and polished in the MIDI domain. You can always go back in, and render a little snip of a part if you need to make a change, and patch that in.
Your goal in a mix should always be to have a finished product. That\'s the key. Never defer anything to mastering. There are only two purposes in mastering. The primary purpose is to make an assembly of separate, finished mixes work **together** as a single production. The secondary purpose is to fix any problem which either could not, or did not get fixed in the mix. But that secondary function is NEVER a reason to actually leave a problem in a mix. It should be quite literally an emergency situation.
What I hear in your clip is not an orchestration problem, which is good. That is always the first thing to check. Moving on, I hear two really basic mix problems. First, the balance is off. The strings are playing loudly and heroically against the brass sustains up top, but they sound very distant in comparison. They should be brought out. The second thing I\'m hearing is a general lack of spaciousness. Probably that is solved with some EQ...the lower-mids seem a little clogged. Also, there\'s a lack of significant low end, and that may need to get boosted in your key low-end parts.
I hesitate to make too many specific recommendations, because I can\'t know what you\'ve actually got in the tracks, or how you arrived there. But those general comments may get you started. The overriding issue is that you are attempting to solve mix problems by \"mastering them away\" and that is why you\'re getting frustrating results. It\'s not the right way to fix the problems--which is why, as you\'ve noted yourself, it\'s not working for you.
Good luck. Try to proceed with an attitude that the mix IS the finished product, and that there is no such thing as mastering. I guarantee you will find that to be the answer to your difficulties.
Thank you for the suggestions. Bruce, I especially appreciated your excellent analogy - that made a lot of sense and definately described my problem.
So if I understand the tasks to fix my problem, I should record each midi instrument (or instrument group) to audio, and then adjust the elements individually. So if I have 12 or so separate tracks for violin I (you know: detache, tremolo, pizzicato, sordino, etc. etc) I can group them all together to audio then mix them. I would have one audio track per instrument but they would all be mixed correctly, so then I combine them, add some reverb, and there you have it - convincing symphonic realism.
It must be very challenging to synchronize all the aspects of the audio correctly. Is this a better approach than using the Gigastudio NFX EQ for the instrumental groups (so one NFX EQ for the flutes, a different one for the oboes, etc to compensate for each of the unique characteristics of the sampled instruments)? I know that tends to overload the CPU and might introduce drop outs, but I am trying to learn if this is the way my problem is generally solved.