10 Tips for Mastering Audio
In last article I have covered up some basic tips for getting that nice and clean mix. Now it is time to have a look at some mastering audio tips. Mastering is something like finalizing the track, making it sound good on all sound systems, speakers and headphones. It is also easier than mixing since you are only working with 1 track in you DAW, unlike mixing. Since we are living in digital age, it is also important to know you can master your track like a professional, but it takes alot of knowledge, altough it is definitely possible. Because earlier, lots of music producers didn’t have proper equipment to master their track. I have also read in some interview with label bosses that master of the demo has alot of effect on them. With that in mind, take time on mastering your demos for labels and learn from these tips.
1. Do not process your track to much
Mastering should be simple task that can be finished with few compressors and EQ’s. Try to tweak one compressor better, or try to do much better work with EQ. If it still doesn’t sound good, start over or have a look at your mix. Bad mix means bad master.
2. Monitoring is the most crucial part in mastering
Professional studios have very expensive set of speakers and headphones. They have also treated their room acoustics and have alot of monitoring equipment. I am not saying you should spend tons of money, but investing slightly better headphones and learning how to use spectrum analyzers effectively is a good head start. Also try to use meters for dynamics and loudness of your track. Voxengo Span is free plugin that is great spectrum analyzer and Blue Cats digital peak meter pro is good free meter that you can use to monitor loudness.
3. Learn to use compressors for punch in your mix
Compressor is a great tool to use for making your track full and rich. You can add a lot of punch in your mix and it can make your mix louder without overwhelming everything else. Learn it how to use it properly and you will profit alot.
4. Using EQ to boost frequencies
A lot of people think EQ’s are only for cutting frequencies, but that is not true. Boosting some highs and lows if needed will benefit your track in final stages.
5. Cut everything below 20 Hz and above 20 kHz
Since this part of frequency spectrum is unhearable we don’t need it. So simply cut it with EQ. By doing this you will get more space in your master for other, hearable frequencies. Altough you can experiment with frequencies below 20 Hz, since we can feel it, but on big sound systems. But you can try that stuff if you have monitors.
6. Don’t squash your mix
Many people today are fightning in loudness war. Putting limiter and squashing whole track will sacrifice your dynamics. Your goal in mastering is to get that balance between dynamics and loudness. RMS meters are great for monitoring that balance. Essentially, getting it closest to zero will result the best mix with nice dynamics and loud track. Sonalksis FreeG is also free RMS meter plugin that functions great.
7. Learn what part of spectrum is doing what
Try to train your ear and learn what will happen if you boost or cut too much some part frequency spectrum. It will help you to notice the problems in your master and you will work faster.
8. Analyze already mastered .wav tracks in your DAW from professionals
When I say this, I don’t mean that you should simply sit down and listen to the track. Take out those analyzers and meters, see what they are showing. Then you will know what you need to do to make your master sound better.
9. Put low part of spectrum in mono
Using mid/side EQ’ing you can mono all low frequencies. Bass needs to have weight and punch, if there is too much side frequencies it won’t have that.
10. Use A/B functions in plugins
A/B is great to compare few options while mastering quickly back and forth. Most of the plugins offer it and it is actually very useful.
That is pretty much it for mastering. It should be fast process, unlike mixing, few hours maximum. It is also best to take quick breaks to avoid ear fatigue. Also, you don’t need too much money to spend on pro equipment, nice pair of headphones and few free plugins can get you far enough. Learning how to use your tools and using them effectively will get you the final result you want.