Top Ten Pre-Mastering Pitfalls #3: Clipped Starts and Ends

 In Advice, Mixing

clipped-start-300x227This is a surprisingly frequent problem, usually resulting from mixes being created in-the-box by bouncing or exporting a mix-down between left and right locators, placed on the beat.

Let’s assume your song starts on the first beat of bar 5 in your sequencer. There’s nothing written before it, no drum-fill or swelling pad. So you put your left locator at the beginning of that first written bar, at 5.1.1. The trouble is, your exported mix now contains nothing that happened before that moment. And even if there was nothing written there – there’s a good chance that there was something happening which will have been lost, the sound of movement, an intake of breath, a plectrum connecting with a string before the pluck…  Whatever it is, the crucial initial attack of that first note will be missing from your exported mix if you don’t allow some air before the song starts. Even if all your instruments are sequenced/programmed and you’re sure there’s nothing played before that beat, a sudden transition into fully modulated audio from total and utter digital silence can sound pretty unnatural, as if something’s been missed off.

Similarly the end/right locator should be placed after the track has completely ended; this sounds so obvious I know but you’d be surprised how often the end of a track is spoiled because someone was just not careful about where that locator was placed, or just assumed that the last chord would have died away within a bar or two of being struck.

Solution: allow at least a bar or a couple of seconds of ‘silence’ at either end of your mixes and let your Mastering Engineer trim the starts and ends of the tracks. It’s known in the business as ‘topping and tailing’ and is done at the end of the session when the tracks are in their final running order. Hearing the transitions between tracks in context can have a significant bearing on how rapidly you want a track to fade out, or whether you want to hear (or feel) some ambiance before the first note.

Recent Posts

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.