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Do You Leave Your Fades for Mastering?

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Mastering Question:

Post by UnlikeKurt » Mon Sep 08, 2008 6:18 am

Hey all I'm prepping for mastering (not sure who the band is going with yet)
and I was looking over Chicago Mastering's site and found something on the Preparation FAQ:

"HEADS AND TAILS: The space before the beginning and after the end of each track often contains more than one would think. There is no penalty involved in waiting until mastering to chop off or clean up these spots and it is not uncommon to find that the end of a delicate fade out got cut short during a long mix day. We recommend leaving 2 to 3 seconds of silence, buzz, or whatever before and after each mix."

This made me curious as to how people approach starts / ends.
Do you leave your fades for mastering?

A few specifics: (forgive me if any are obvious or "foolish")

A) Various isntruments end song with sustaining note and it is preferred that they end at different times rather than all fading out together. You would then have put those fades in yourself, yes?

B) What about beginnings of songs? I know some folks like to put a tiny fade at the beginning and end of any region (audio). Would you do the same at the start of the song?

C) Lets say you put your own start and end fades in; do you still leave a few seconds of header and tail as recommended in the Chicago FAQ?

Thanks for any resposes!

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Post by MoreSpaceEcho » Mon Sep 08, 2008 6:47 am

A) yes
B) you could, but no real reason to
C) again, no real reason to, if you've already put in a fade

i try and pay really close attention to starts and ends when i'm mixing. so if like a song starts right in with a vocal on the downbeat, i probably would want to keep the breath beforehand, but not the amp/room/tape noise and whatever else, so i'd go through and mute everything except the breath. and then again at the end, at some point in the mix process i usually find myself spending 15 minutes fussing with the ending and getting that all nice and tidy.

basically the main issue as far as mastering is concerned is people chopping things too tight and the reverb gets cut off, so the ME has to resort to some trickery to make it sound natural. not the hugest deal but it's more work for the ME and likely more $$ you have to spend...

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Post by cgarges » Mon Sep 08, 2008 6:59 am

I usually leave fades until mastering these days. I've got three reasons for doing this. One, if you do the fades digitally at the mastering stage, it totally closes down the end of a song, including all noise from anything anywhere in the chain. Two, if a different type of fade works better transitioning from one song to the next, it's possible to make those adjustments while sequencing the album. Three, I always put a little bit of a noise sample a couple of seconds before the song starts (a bit of stuff recorded on all the tracks and all channels and effect returns open) in case there's any need to use noise reduction software on anything in the mastering stage. It's almost never, ever necessary, but it has come in handy once or twice.

I think this is a really good question. I submitted something for a compilation a while back where the ME didn't clean up the tops or tails and I didn't get a phone call or anything asking if that was supposed to happen. To me, it was fairly obvious that it did, but when the disc came out, it had a few seconds of the band goofing around, followed by the countoff, then the song. Then at the end, there was no "tailing the fade." I was really bummed out about it.

It's also interesting that this came up today because just yesterday, I mixed a song that's supposed to sound kind of "old Nashville" (a remake of "Tried So Hard" by Gene Clark). I did a manual fade on it, kind of quick and almost uneven, to simulate the fades on those old records.

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Post by thieves » Mon Sep 08, 2008 9:01 am

As for someone who recently employed Chicago Mastering Service to master my album, I gave them mixes with absolutely no fades. The thing is that none of our songs really had a fade out at the end except one, which bled into a little bit that became a 'hidden track' in the pregap. They did a really great job paying attention to detail, leaving in little bits of noise before/after some songs, and taking it out for others. We did our recording/mixing all at home on e really simple setup, so our "Heads and Tails" were all really quirky. I'd recommend just giving them tracks without any fades, but then give a song-by-song rundown of exactly how you want your fades to go. I know it's painful to let your babies go to the mastering house in a raw form like that, but you're paying them to make your mixes consistent with each other, and a fade you did in mixing might not have the best interest of the beginning of the next song in mind.

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Post by MASSIVE Mastering » Mon Sep 08, 2008 5:01 pm

A) There's no reason not to fade individual elements as they fall out of the mix. If there's a long cymbal decay that goes past the end of everything, everything else should be faded at the track level.

B) Same with the beginning, IMO. If there's a track that starts the song (guitar intro) then having a few seconds of the open guitar mic at the heads isn't a bad thing though. I always faded instruments is as they came in.

C) Leave at least 10 frames at the head. Just be sure that everything is gone at the tail so it doesn't chop off.

D) (?) If the song actually fades out, I'd leave that for the mastering guy. If you really have something in mind, fade "long" so it can be easily faded over (chances are, it will be). But keep in mind that as the level falls, the reaction to the dynamics controllers will be affected -- Personally, I think that's a pretty cool effect anyway (and very much reminds me of vinyl). But if "really freaking loud" is on the menu, it can come back to bite you.

DISCLAIMER: This is assuming that the tracks are very clean, without excess noise or hiss, etc., etc.
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Post by drumsound » Mon Sep 08, 2008 9:40 pm

I always leave fades for mastering. If I don't what's coming after a song or where it fits in the record it's hard to tell how to fade it. PLUS, you can revise the fades days or weeks after the mastering session if needed. I've been getting back into the long fade, and I can't wait to put a 90 second fade on a record I'm bringing to Carl Saff next week!

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Post by roscoenyc » Mon Sep 08, 2008 10:03 pm

mix the record.
If it is a fade then fade it out exactly how you want it.
Fade is part of the mix.

If you don't print your fade think about how badly the
BluRay Reissue is gonna be f*cked up!

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Post by JGriffin » Mon Sep 08, 2008 10:16 pm

cgarges wrote:just yesterday, I mixed a song that's supposed to sound kind of "old Nashville" (a remake of "Tried So Hard" by Gene Clark). I did a manual fade on it, kind of quick and almost uneven, to simulate the fades on those old records.
I love those fades. If I remember right, the old-timey CD I did earlier this year had a couple fades like that, almost as an homage.

I always clean up individual instrument tails (unless there's a reason not to) but I tend to leave fades for the ME.
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Post by themagicmanmdt » Tue Sep 09, 2008 12:40 am

Fade in - I don't touch.

Fade outs are, to me, absolutely critical to how the song leaves the listener, so it's a major part of the mix. I won't leave that to a ME unless I'm in the room with them (or the artist is).

I embrace hiss, so I leave some hiss at the beginning and the end. I like my intro hisses to 'pop', not creep (usually), and the outros to creep away, and not pop out. Usually.

In short, it's very important to know the track listing before mixing. I'm not a 'mix-as-you-go' person. I like to evaluate all the material when it's all done, get a coherent picture of the album, and get the songs feeling like they move into one another artfully.
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Post by Mark Alan Miller » Tue Sep 09, 2008 5:08 am

I generally commit the fade out (or even in, if it's that kinda thing) so I get the curve that I think is appropriate, leaving a little extra at the very tail for flexibility - better too long than too short. I do these in stems, so if the ME wants a non-faded version it's easy to accomodate. Committing without committing, in a way.

I generally clean up the tops and tails in on the tracks individually and on the stems these days, so the resulting track is as it should be - less busy work for the ME, too. (Most MEs I work with like this, or at least don't mind, too. One ME wants 2 seconds of absolute silence on either side, so I set it up that way if the record is going to him - he also wants to do fades himself, so in that case I'd send a non-faded version, and a faded one for reference.)

If there is a noise issue, I try to address it on the track level. Can't think of an instance where, if the overall mix had a little noise, that it was a problem... but if I thought it would be, I'd leave some at the head for NR purposes. Frankly, denoising at the mix level is more prone to audible artifacts then on the track level, so getting it at mix is last-ditch.
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Post by @?,*???&? » Tue Sep 09, 2008 8:11 am

Never. The fade is part of tidying up the package BEFORE it gets mastered. The big choice is what you want the gaps to entail.

Hiss between songs OR digital black?

If the mixes have been printed to tape, most mastering engineers would rather keep the hiss, but some choose to go for digital black between. If that's the case, the tails will be chased to make sense for that.

I'd consider the end fade of a song part of it's conception and I can't tell you how many times I've had to consider what instrument fades out at the end of a song as we're overdubbing. The conception for the ending begins then.

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Post by farview » Tue Sep 09, 2008 8:25 am

I faed the individual instruments if the song has an end. If the song fades out, I leave that for mastering. Only because I don't want the mix to fall out of the compression and limiting as it fades out. Depending how far into the compression the mastering engineer has it, the mix might not start getting quieter until part way into the fade. It will just start sounding different as it comes out of the compressors.

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Post by Mark Alan Miller » Tue Sep 09, 2008 9:36 pm

farview wrote:It will just start sounding different as it comes out of the compressors.
Sometimes, that sounds really cool, though. :D
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Post by heylow » Sat Sep 13, 2008 4:57 pm

On every record I have been a part of, individual instruments were faded as they fell off at mix time, but the overall fade was left for the ME.

I totally see some of the resons for doing so, but truth be told, I see myself possibly trying to at least do passes of both faded and non-faded (for ass-saving purposes) the next time around. Like, there was one song on my last record that I SWEAR wouldn't fade as well the "mock-up" fade we did in mixing.

It's weird, I least you'd know.

Thinking out loud.


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