Melisha Linnell in a DJ session.
With a bachelor’s degree in music production in her luggage, she teaches music production, mixing and mastering at the University of Stage and Music in Gothenburg and is also one of the project leaders for the organization EQLovesMusic.
In the Monday interview, Melisha talks about her love of mastering music, what tools she prefers to use, common mistakes in mixes that are sent away for mastering and about succeeding in emphasizing someone else’s vision but at the same time surprising.
Can you tell us a little bit about how it went when you started mastering music?
– In 2000, I was present when an album I produced was mastered in Studio Bohus. I felt it was an interesting process that I wanted to learn more from and started learning on my own. I started mastering for clients as early as 2005 and felt that I was constantly evolving. When I then studied a bachelor’s degree in music production, I did my internship in the mastering studio at the Swedish Gramophone Studio. I made my C-thesis into an investigative thesis on mastery in order to be able to dive even deeper into the subject.
– Since then, I have also read a lot of books by masters and gained an understanding of the process but still been able to do my own thing about it, which is fun. I have created my own tricks and feel that I really love working with it.
You get a song that is ready-mixed and ready to master, can you guide us how to proceed?
– The important thing is to have a dialogue with the creator, artist and producer to know what they have in mind with the sound. It is important to emphasize their vision as much as possible, but also to surprise them by emphasizing the sound in the best way.
– I then sit and think in silence to prepare my ears and then do a short session. I mix analog and digital tools in my signal chain then send the song away for feedback. That’s very important. Sometimes it is less fixed but many times they are happy after my first session.
Melisha Linnell in the studio at Brewhouse in Gothenburg.
Can you name some tools in the studio that you can not do without?
– My modified analog mixer, my TLA audio tube compressor / EQ and some other analog processors. Then I also have many nice microphones and instruments … UAD Apollo 8 is a fantastic sound card. And then Pro Tools.
Are there any common mistakes in the mixes you get sent to you that you often have to correct?
– Yes, a common mistake is that the lower parties are problematic. This is not always because there is more energy there, it is often mixed so that the frequencies become messy and the elements that are in that area do not become distinct and distinguishable. Another miss could be mixers that have too little headroom. I can still work with that, but of course it presupposes that the mix stays within 0DBFS and has a bit depth of at least 24 bits. Nowadays, the sound image can often be too centered, which is usually due to people focusing less on stereo recordings. This can lead to the instruments not placing themselves naturally in the mix and too many elements in the mix compete for focus.
– I have actually developed two different processes in mastering. I use one process if the producer himself has mixed and is not very used to it but still has a cruel vision. Then it is important for me to be able to control where there are usually problem areas and then I usually ask for downmixes, that is, stems. Then I can get control of the problem, which leads to less sent back and forth. If I do not do that process, it is only to send the mix back if there is something that needs to be corrected, but then it usually takes a little longer.
There are many artists and bands that release music on vinyl and cassette tapes, how does the mastering for physical releases differ from digital masters?
– The mastery is quite different. First of all, you really have to be careful not to put too much pressure on mastering. In the lower register, you must remember not to widen too much as the needle on the vinyl may be affected and start jumping. In general, mastering is about adapting to the medium you are to transfer the music to, which is why in the beginning, when it was called Pre Mastering, it was a simpler process that would not change the mix so much.
You also produce, mix, sing and DJ in addition to mastering, what are you up to in the future?
– Right now I am up to date with productions for SheTrance, a duo I have together with the fantastic Nadja Itäsaari. We have just released a song called Nordic mantra. The next step will be to release self-produced music. I work a lot with synthesis and creating my own sounds in my productions to really shape the feeling I am looking for.
Nordic Mantra Video and Visual (music video on Youtube) .
The Monday interview is a series where @Lotta Fahlen interviews interesting people about various topics in music creation, and is published every other Monday.