Mastering Tips #1-5

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#1 Audio Correction

Correction phase includes a control of files’ integrity, and you should make sure they have the right audio specifications (format, sample rate and bit depth). Then you should proceed to a corrective equalization in order to eliminate, or at least minimize, possible issues such as resonances and noises. This is a fundamental process, since you are defining the signal that you will treat in the remaining phases. Using an equalizer could be effective to correct the lower frequency range and to gain headroom. This can’t be done every time, since the lower range is often fundamental. It is important to pay attention to equalization processes in general, trying to tone down instead of emphasizing. 

Anyway, this process requires moderation, since there is the risk of boosting other frequencies, which will no longer be covered by the ones you have attenuated.

Check out this free plugin: TDR Nova

#2 Dynamic's Managing

Right after correction, you should manage dynamic, which is divided in two categories: microdynamic and macrodynamic. The first one is about dynamic’s managing, control and correction of different parts of a single tune, while the second one is about the dynamics of all the tunes which compose an album, in order to obtain coherence among all the elements and to make the listener understand they all belong to one project. Especially in EDM music, in Mastering phase the compressor is not used to increase the tune’s level, but to shape the peaks’ pattern slightly and to convey movement and vitality. To obtain this specific result, you must pay attention to the compressor’s setting, especially to attack and release times.

In this way, you can produce a tune which has and follows its own groove, thus resulting more entertaining for the audience of an eventual club. The intervention you should make is really small, often 0,5-1 dB of compression: enough to obtain a more dynamic groove.

Don’t miss this plugin: TDR Kotelnikov (free)

#3 Multiband Compression

In some cases, it is possible to use a multiband compression, which allows you to control the dynamic of more than one zone of the spectrum separately, thanks to separated parameters, which can be regulated in different ways. Some of these processors allow you to change the width of the single bands, basing on the intervention you need to apply. Others offer fixed bands instead. Various ranges contain different frequencies, instruments and sounds (or part of them), which might need separated treatments.

For instance, in the high frequencies zone, you will find very quick attack and release times. This allows you to manage uncontrolled peaks (attack) and to keep the tune’s brilliance (release).

#4 Harmonic Emphazising

The easiest and most efficient way to boost a frequency range is using an equalizer with large bells or only shelvings. We should not aim to narrow frequency bands, but to actual portions of the audio spectrum, which can be divided into three zones: low, medium and high frequencies (LF-MF-HF).

There are also new devices to characterize the track’s tone (the whole spectrum or only some parts), as for instance “Line Preamplifiers” (hardware), useful for the sound’s ‘’coloring’’, more or less consistent basing on the processor. It is possible to use saturation as tonal control, taking advantage of the artifices introduced on the signal by electronic components, as converters and valves, but also tapes, respectively useful on low, medium and high spectrum zones. High-level hardware is often used only to make the signal flow inside their circuits, without actually processing it, conveying the characterizing sound of this device.

Other than OTB saturation, you can also find its ITB counterpart, which guarantees some advantages, but also disadvantages. Among the positive aspects, we surely find the possibility of having multiple types of saturation inside a single instance of a plugin. Saturations can be entirely digital, or they imitate the behavior of generic electronic components (converters, valves…) but also actual hardware processors. ITB guarantees control over a greater number of parameters and allows you to use multiband saturators.

Check out this plugin: SlickEQ (free)

#5 Stereo Field

The managing of the stereo field is a widely used process and it consists in controlling the balance between Mid (C) and Side (L-R), with the aim of managing the track’s width in terms of stereophony. The balance between the two parts can be modified by cutting or boosting one of them; this is the easiest hypothesis. In other situations, there can be the necessity of specific and different equalizations for Mid and Side, and also of a compression on the Mid to make the central part more solid, leaving the Side natural and dynamic.

In addition, there’s the possibility of making the lower range mono and of intervening more easily on the central instruments if necessary, making the intervention even more ‘’transparent’’ in case you are only working on the Mid. Usually the four main elements of a track are put in the center of the stereo field: kick, bass, snare drum and voice. If the Mix has been created by using the mid-side function of the processors, then the Mastering engineer will be able to handle these elements and the overall tune more easily.

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