Mastering Tips #6-10

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#6 Mid-Side: mind the phase

It is important to understand mono matching. It means that a track is efficient even if listened mono: L and R channels are summed into one signal. It is a relevant topic, since it is about the way a tune will be played, for instance on TV, on the radio, at a festival or simply on mono sound systems and small single speakers. We are talking about the ratio between the left signal and right signal phases, to which we should pay attention especially in the mixing phase: it often happens that a tune that sounds good in mono also does in stereo, but rarely the opposite.

That doesn’t mean that Mastering engineers has no way to control a tune’s stereophony, but they can’t even solve the phase issues on the signal completely. The Low frequency range must be put into mono in order to avoid phase issues when your track is played. A processor such as stereo imager, although useful to boost stereophony in the chosen spectrum zone, will never be used on low frequencies, but only on medium and high ones, and still slightly.

Also in this case is easy to exaggerate, since our ear easily adapts to an amplified stereophony. An expert, knowing about these psychoacoustic effects, will focus on the signal phases and on the perceived acoustic result, switching multiple times between mono and stereo listening during the whole process.

Check out this free plugin: Voxengo MSED (free) – BX_Solo (free)

#7 Automations

Automating specific intervention parameters in the Mastering phase is quite common, because this allows you to use some processes only when it is necessary and useful. An efficient automation can involve the volume, a parameter that is measured in terms of peak level and average level. This last value is important for the Mastering Engineer, who can automatize it to increase the average level of drops, in order to highlight them in comparison to the previous and next parts. 

Especially for EDM, this intervention can help making the main section of the track (drop) more powerful, efficient and rousing. The interventions should be really contained, especially at low levels of dynamic. 

In some cases a reversed process can be useful: you can decrease the level of intro, verses and/or bridge and let the drop unchanged. Obviously, avoid to intervene on the faders of your DAW and try automating the threshold parameter of the compressor, in a range between 0,5 and 2 dB, with a low compression ratio to avoid excessive interventions.

#8 Limiting

Limiters are dynamic processors, which prevent the signal from overcoming a given threshold. There are two main categories: peak limiter and brickwall limiter, both in analog and digital form.

The software versions can avoid the distortions that are due to the extremely quick intervention times. They can do that thanks to their ability to create look-ahead times, which allow the limiter to know the input signal in advance. This guarantees a more transparent and clean result.

If aiming to levels that fit EDM music, the limiter is not the engineer’s first choice, since a limiting that is so evident can deteriorate transients and the lower frequencies. By setting the right release time (if the limiter has this parameter), you can increase the dynamic perception of the tune, even with strong compressions.

Check out this plugins: Limiter N°6 (free) – A.O.M Invisible Limiter (free demo)

#9 Something about Loudness

There is a proper unit of measure to quantify how loud a tune sounds, in terms of Loudness or LU (Loudness Unit), on a specific scale of values, the LUFS (Loudness Unit Full Scale). 1LU=1dB is the equivalence between the two units of measure. In the standard EBU R128, 0 LU are equal to -23 LUFS.

The idea of Integrated Loudness extends the dynamic measure to the whole file duration, while in terms of RMS, the time interval on which this measure takes place is not specified.

The volumes normalization does not only affect broadcast, but also music streaming, with different algorithms, basing on the platform. In case some tunes are uploaded with an excessive Loudness value, they are normalized to the right value.

Although Loudness is one of EDM’s main features, it is not hard to find wider dynamic ranges in tunes from the past. Even an EDM tune could be more pleasant if it’s more dynamic than the average, but that is not always true, since listeners expect specific levels, effects and sounds.

Here some useful plugins: MLoudnessAnalyzer (free) – MAAT DR Meter (free trial) – Ozone 8 Advanced (free trial)

#10 Your Mix is important!

In EDM, you should pay attention to many factors, especially to the plugins’ quality and to the algorithms used to process the signal. In Mixing and production phase of an EDM track, the amount of used plugins is considerable and it is variable on every type of processor. Consequently, a well-done Mixing will be the basis of a well-done Mastering, where the engineer will intervene with a few processors and limit additional artifacts.

For example, the Mastering Engineer could work on tunes that are too compressed and don’t allow further interventions.

This happens due to an excessive limiting in the production and Mixing phase, used not only on the main sounds, but also on every element of the tune. Even before Mastering, the result will not be satisfying, being too compressed and characterized by distortions and artifices due to the over-processing.

A good strategy (but not the only one) could be to bring the lead sounds to their peak in the production/mixing phase. They should be balanced by all the other elements, correctly compressed but not limited.


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Mastering Tips #1-5

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Thousands of users are waiting for your music. Learn how to get well-mastered music!

Reaching the right Loudness levels is
not easy. You can now learn how to do
that without loosing quality.
Reach a larger audience thanks to
high-quality music: it will be easier
to get heard by many users.
Improve your Mastering technique
and aim for high quality tracks. 
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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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Mastering Tips: Introduction

DON'T MISS OUR MASTERING TIPS
Thousands of users are waiting for your music. Learn how to get well-mastered music!

Reaching the right Loudness levels is
not easy. You can now learn how to do
that without loosing quality.
Reach a larger audience thanks to
high-quality music: it will be easier
to get heard by many users.
Improve your Mastering technique
and aim for high quality tracks. 
Read our 10 free tips now!

What about Mastering?

In the last decades, musical industry progressively moved its attention towards the economic aspect, in spite of focusing on quality. This lead to the so-called Loudness War, a run towards higher and higher volumes, against less dynamic tracks. As time passed, the phenomenon lead to a lack of interest in the average users towards music listening, to disinterest in repeating the listening experience and to a generation which is used to excessively compressed tracks.

The digital world is continuously evolving, and, although it often returns a less characterized and immersive sound compared to its analog counterpart, its use is largely increasing in the most modern recording studios, Mixing and Mastering. Instrumental music was with no doubt the most affected by Loudness War’s consequences, because of the reduced dynamic. In fact, the single instruments in the mix are often evidently compressed, with a sound that results at the edge of naturalness of instruments.

These factors have brought up various debates and discussions, as continuously wondering what is better among digital, analog and hybrid. Other typical considerations may be “It doesn’t make sense to spend money on hardware if there are so many less expensive plug-ins”, or “plug-ins will never be able to reach analog hardware level”. In addition to this, there are some discussions about the reduced dynamic, which worsens music’s quality, and some people are convinced that everything was different when the digital world was not so developed or did not exist yet.

Sometimes, we should also consider that everything goes forward. Change brings new negative aspects, but also positive ones, and we can do nothing but accept that and use its strong spots.

EDM was born and developed thanks to the great changings we have just described, using extremely reduced dynamic levels and new ways of generating sounds, bringing to the consequent progress in new sonorities’ research and techniques to obtain the maximum sound quality, even at extreme dynamic levels. We will analyze and argument various aspects of Mastering, bringing particular attention to saturation, clipping and limiting processes, fundamental to reach dynamic levels in line with the EDM world, reducing to the bone the collateral effects related to the excessive compression we want to obtain.

By Mastering we mean the final phases of the production process of a musical album or single, to which you get after completing all the previous steps: production, recording and mixing.

It is a variable series of interventions on the audio signal: equalization, compression and limiting, for instance. Its aim is to optimize the signal’s out-turn. Thus, Mastering’s purpose is to solve possible issues in the audio signal, such as resonances, imbalances among different areas of the spectrum (Low-Mid-High), or phase issues. The aim is to make a track reach its full potential and to make it coherent to the other ones, if we are talking about an album. The Mastering Engineer is a total different figure from the Mixing Engineer and he works, especially at high levels, in a Mastering dedicated Studio, with specific hardware and precise and linear listening devices.


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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH LUCA REZZA

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH LUCA REZZA

"Golden Boy EP" and "King Without a Crown"

You’ve recently released your first EP “Golden Boy”, tell us about it.
“Yes, in december I released the “Golden Boy EP”.  The name came from a funny story: When I signed with Armada/Klash, Dirtcaps’ label, after I released my first track “Bongo” with them, I had the opportunity to play a gig with them in Netherland and then we went in Germany to this amazing club called Bootshaus. Before their show the guys posted the first pic with me calling me “The Golden Boy” and a lot of people started using that hashtag talking about me lol. Then we starting, just for joke at the beginning, to talk about releasing an EP of mine with that name. The funny thing is that 2 years later, when the EP was really existing, setted and signed, I had the opportunity to play in the same club in Germany where i supported the Guys 2 years before for Bongo, so the Bootshaus. I loved that club and the german crowd were crazy, there I played all the track from the EP ad IDs. Was a big goal being the first italian who played in that club, now one of the best in the world. After that I flied back to Italy & Then back to Amsterdam for ADE, where I still played the GOLDEN BOY EP tracks as ID and where I had meeting regarding the push of the EP.”



So the EP has been released 2 months after ADE. Has it been successful?
“After 2 months, yes, the EP dropped out, a lot of people were waiting for that so the love and the support from all the community who follow me was in incredible.  The tracks of the EP were really well supported by other big Djs and for the first time I had so many big blogs talking about me such as We Rave You, EDM Tunes and Run The Trap, that define my work “massive” and insert me in the artist “too keep an eye on” for the future. I was Blessed.”

We understand that you signed a booking contract with Run The Trap, right?
“I met the Run The Trap events guys when I was playing at Nameless Music Festival in Italy, in their stage. I was one of the Italians bass scene artists to being included in their stage, I met these amazing team and after one year, with my management, we decided to came on board of the Run The Trap family. I’m so happy that the guys showed interest in me and I’m super excited for the work with them.”

You’ve recently released “King Without a Crown”, could you tell us something about it?
“King Without a Crown” is my collab with the female dj/producer Da Candy and the Singer Lil Eddie. I met Da Candy more than one year ago in Amsterdam, then we kept in contact and we met again in Venice where we decide to work together. Then we met a lot of times around Italy for Gigs & chill & studio time. That’s how “King Without a Crown” was born. Lil Eddie is an amazing singer, I loved his voice since he made “We Made It” and other hits with Yellow Claw. Now he is vocal coach at X-Factor US. Big things for him all deserved.”




Are you working on new projects?
“After they big support on my music, including Tomorrowland MainStage, i finally met mim & liv aka NERVO in Bologna (IT). They invited me on stage performing my songs together and after that they gave me the opportunity to remix their single “Emotional”. So yes, one of my upcoming release is an official remix for NERVO. I have another big Remix coming very soon. Is a collab with Eva Shaw, and it’s coming on Showtek’s imprint Skink. The guys tested our song in their live set and the crowd reaction was crazy!. And of course I’m working on a lot of originals. I’ve some singles and some collabs.”


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