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Session Notes - CD Business, Putting it all together

March 30, 2019

So far we have peeped at file preparation, mused over metadata and now we are going to put it all together to make a CD. One of the first questions I have for bands coming in to master their magnum opus is “Do you have a running order?” Mastering an album/EP is the last stage of production before mass duplication. So please have a track list sorted. I’ve had people ask me “well what do you think?” and my usual reply is “I think you should have thought about this earlier.” I have enough on my plate making the music sound great, getting a decent flow to the album in terms of relative volumes and EQ and of course the dreaded ‘gap’ between the songs. Most artists have a computer that they can mess around with running orders etc. Do this before mastering.

 

1.There are two main indices on a regular CD-DA. Index 1 denotes the trackindex from which play will start. There is one index 1 per track. There is alsoindex 0. Index 0 is defined as the “pre-gap”. On older CDs the pre-gap wouldshow the seconds counting down to the start of the track (index 1). There is ALWAYS a two second pre-gap at the start of the disc. So if you want to put the total time on your artwork, wait until the CD is authored or your timing willbe out by two seconds! Index 0 was generally used for the gap between songson a live album so you could skip the banter, so to speak.

 

2. The “secret” track on a CD is now almost a thing of the past. I used to putsecret tracks on nearly every CD a few years ago. This is obviously a band request and not something i do as a bit of fun. The trouble with secret tracks is that THEY ARE NOT A SECRET. You can clearly see that the CD is still playing and the ‘remain time’ on the counter is still turning. The big drawback is that iTunes and streaming platforms take no notice of them. Also they are a pain in the body part, particularly if there is a 20 minute gap between the “album” and the piece of nonsense that usually constitutes the (not so) secret track. It is also possible to put the secret track into the index 0 at the start of thealbum. This means you have to rewind back from the start to play it. Not fun.

 

3. The PQ sheet is a comprehensive list of the CD contents. Track names, index points, ISRC’s, and all text info is included along with track and total times. CD timings are expressed as Mins, Seconds and Frames. There are 75 frames per second on a CD so your total time will always read in this format. Eg 68:23:72. There are 8 channels of subcode on a CD labelledP through W. CD’s use P & Q for pause and control and R through W for CD Text data. I used to print off the PQ sheet for inclusion with the physical CD Production Master Disc. These days the PQ sheet is included in the DDP (Disc Description Protocol) folder. DDP is now the standard for sending material off to the duplicators.

 

4. Gaps between the tracks are also very important to the flow of the record. There is no standard gap. Play it by ear and feel. Sometimes (not often thesedays) there will be a crossfade. The trouble with crossfades is that for iTunes, download and streaming they are not accepted for single tracks. The start of one track will be contaminated with the end of the previous track and the end of the previous track will be contaminated with the start of the ensuing track.

 

5. Finally, the total time allowable on a CD is 79:59:00. There are a few CD’s out there that transcend these limits but you’ll need to sign a waiver for the duplication plant in case CD players refuse to play the disc. Also, there is a maximum of 99 tracks per disc. All CD-DA’s are 16 bit/44.1Khz. They DO

 

NOT contain files but a continuous stream of data.

 

Next month I will simplify the unbelievably complex issues regarding mastering for VINYL, not VINYLS.

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