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India tunes in to mastery behind masterpiece

The art of fine-tuning music albums is rising in India, albeit with teething troubles, finds Nairrit Das.

india Updated: Feb 01, 2007 14:26 IST
Nairrit Das (HT City)
Nairrit Das (HT City)

Have you wondered what goes behind the making of a music album? A good one is more than an artistic centrefold — there’s a bulwark of critical behind-the-scenes help that few are aware of.

So for the uninitiated, here is the real deal:

Men behind the machine The invisible men networking the success of a musician are the sound and mastering engineers.

‘Mastering’ an album is like fine-tuning a musical instrument before a live performance. The mastering engineer, like a teataster, assesses the recording before the album hits the market.

The art is relatively new in India even among musicians. “It is a fabulous concept and musicians here are just beginning to understand its importance,” says Kem, keyboards player for Silk Route.

The ‘mastering art’ is at its infancy in the country. So Indian artistes still travel abroad to master their work. So how does mastering influence recording? It synchronises an album, so the listener does not have to re-tune the volume with each song. Tuned to the West Bob Ludwig’s Gateway Mastering in the US and The Metropolis studio in UK remain the most favoured destinations with Indian artistes.

“We lack mastering studios and experts who can understand the nuances and technicalities. The recording companies are also ignorant about this,” says Rahul Ram, bassist, Indian Ocean. As for the western mastering studios — they’re not complaining: “It’s great working with Indian rock artistes solo singers. The best thing is that the music transcends all boundaries. I feel privileged to work with such a range of musicians,” says Andy Baldwin of the Metropolis studio.

Tech trouble KJ Singh, sound engineer, Fast Forward Productions, Mumbai, says,“The demand grew as Indian artistes became acutely aware of a lacunae of essential elements compared to international products.” Today the concept is evincing keen interest as engineers are devel oping their own mastering studios. “But the expertise and hardware for the procedure require a whole new infrastructure which is very expensive,” says Gaurav Dayal, sound engineer of Sonic Trans studio.

Although a handful know this art, the technology is facing teething problems. Says KJ, “Technological advancements can’t replace the mastering hardware as every instrument has its own specifications.” So, till desi mastering engineers grow in strength, the motto is: Go West.

First Published: Feb 01, 2007 14:26 IST