Audio mastering tips
I want to help you understand more about the process of audio mastering. This process may be foreign to some of you. Others may understand it’s importance but don’t really “get” what mastering really is.
Mastering in basic terms is the process that makes your demo sound more professional and radio ready. Now when I say demo, I am not saying your recording and mixing process are not professional. What I am saying is that any song by any artist that is not mastered is essentially a demo and not “radio ready”.
Mastering will make a dramatic difference in the following:
*More Warmth without muddiness
*The ability to hear each instrument in it’s own space
*More loudness without distortion or over compression
*A more 3 dimensional sound
*A reduction in frequencies that make your speakers work harder than necessary or that areÂ too harsh on your ears.
Mastering uses the best in digital or analog equipment to bring your songs to life. In general the mastering process involves proper use of Compression/Limiting,Â NoiseÂ Reduction, Harmonic Exciters and EQ’s. The most important tool is a trained ear and this is something that takes some time.
Here are some tips about how to prepare your song for mastering:
*Do not compress or limit your final mix. You will be tempted to do this to make things sound louder, but this is counter productive for mastering. Remember, the mastering engineer can’t undo what you have done, so less is more. Of course it’s fine to compress and effect your individual tracks and instruments, but just don’t put one blanket compressor over the whole mix.. bad idea!
*Your final mix should peak at between -6db and -3db. You do not want it to even come close to clipping. Digital clipping is a nasty thing.
*Make sure your song is properly named on a data cd and that your email and phone number are written on both the CDR and the CD case. You would be surprised how easy it is to misplace an unlabeled CDR and not be sure which case it was supposed to go with.
*I typically like when a band or artist send me a song of a band they really like the production and mastering on (make sure that band sounds similar you your sound). This gives the engineer an idea of what results you are hoping for and takes away alot of guess work.
Although I highly recommend that you pay a professional to master your music, I will give you some tips that may help make your songs sound a bit more professional.
*Remove frequencies below 20-25 hz to keep your speakers from working too hard.
*You may want to lower 40hz a few db to see if it gives your mix a cleaner sound.
*There are a few programs that can steal the EQ curve of one song and apply it to yours. Free Filter, HarBal both do this pretty well. Waves and Izotope also have this feature on some of their effects.
*Use a multiband compressor to keep things under control, but make sure not toÂ overdo it. The bass frequencies can handle a 5:1 ratio and the other frequencies you can use between 2.5:1 or 3:1. Keep the threshold where there is only a few db of actually compression going on. There should be times in your song where the compression is not activated at all. Often times you can compress the lower mid frequencies a few db more which will also help to lower the volume in that area. This can make your mix sound less muddy and more clear in many (but certainly not all) cases.
*Try lowering frequencies around 500hz by a couple db’s to get rid of mud
*Use a multiband harmonic exciter to bring out the clarity and warmth of certain frequencies (once again, don’t over do this).
*Raise the overall volume of your mix using a limiter sparingly. 2-3db is usually good.
I hope this has been helpful and I would love your feedback.
Til next time,
Happy music making,