The Complete Noob's Guide to Mastering

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Hello! Mayo Staccato here. I've never posted a tutorial before, but I thought I'd give a breakdown of the mastering process, as well as some tips. Before I begin, I'd just like to make a few points.

1) there is no perfect way to master. Every instance is going to be different, but the basic structure is the same

2) You could use Maximus or Ozone. If you're willing to shell out lots of moola, or haveImage Line own your tracks Neither for me. So I used a plug-in chain. The theory is the same

3) YOU NEED HEADROOM! Headroom being, the space between the loudest spot in your track, and the 0dB mark. You can do this by turning down each fader by 10 or 20 cents after your initial mix, or the volume knobs on each instrument. Or both Remember to keep it proportionate and leave the master fader at 100%.

4) Fix your stereo imaging. Kick drums, and subbasses should be narrowed (use the c* narrower), leads and highs are widened to taste (also c* narrower, just with the Wet/dry turned to -%100, thanks NoizeTactics)

5)Your first mastering attempt isn't going to make you instantly better. It took me some 8 hours of mastering before i got TiC VIP where it is now. (then again, I didn't have this guide)

6) Your track will be super quiet before the master. That's good. Before mastering, find a pro-produced track. While listening, adjust your volume to comfortable listening level. That's your point of reference for the master.

Now. Mastering. The chain goes on the master channel

1. EQ. Cut out the lows after 30khz. You don't need 'em and most aren't audible. You'll see why. You can also boost the mids around 4000khz, but that's optional. EQ gurus might bawl you out, but hey.

2.Multiband compressor. I used reaxcomp (sorry backpackers, the Calf one is crap IMO), which is offered for a free download on Cockos' site (they are the fellows who make Reaper). There isn't a set way to multiband compress. You kinda just have to adjust the levels until it sounds good. Make sure to have lower attack time on the lowest band. GIve yourself some breaks between mastering sessions and use a pro-mastered track as a reference point

3. Limiter. What? A limiter? Yup. What this does is makes the track louder. Which is a reason pro tracks sound better. I used the Calf Limiter, turned down the input some and adjusted the output to where it was loud, but not overly clipped. I also turned the release down some, but I don't know if that did squat.

Did I make any egregious mistakes? Does this help you at all? Please, let me know.
Important notes: Get reaxcomp and other ReaPlugs here http://www.reaper.fm/reaplugs/
I wouldn't turn down the volume of any sidechain controllers.
Also, this style of mastering is derived from tutorials I found on mastering EDM. Different methods apply for other genres maybe.
Can you sort out your frequencies ? Human hearing is from about 20Hz to 20kHz if you're really lucky. It's all below 30kHz so I guess you mean cut the bass below 30Hz. Not sure about the 4000kHz (not even bats can hear that). Did you mean 4kHz (aka 4000Hz) ? That's a bit high for what most people think of as midrange but for your music it may work.

BTW if you use too much limiter what it does is destroy all the dynamic range that you carefully created in your mix. So you need to be careful with it unless all you want is a super-loud headbanger. It's main purpose is to make sure you don't run into distortion.

Steve
slipstick wrote:Can you sort out your frequencies ? Human hearing is from about 20Hz to 20kHz if you're really lucky. It's all below 30kHz so I guess you mean cut the bass below 30Hz. Not sure about the 4000kHz (not even bats can hear that). Did you mean 4kHz (aka 4000Hz) ? That's a bit high for what most people think of as midrange but for your music it may work.

Steve
Right you are. I mucked up my frequencies... You want to low cut 30[*]hz and below, and some might boost 4khz
Thanks for keeping me honest.
Thank you for that tips, I think they will improve my mastering :)
Good guide overall. EDM producers using mostly synths will likely find mastering easier. Metal bands for example can face additonal challenges during the mastering stage, as they (or their mastering engineer) work with recordings of real physical instruments.
My master is in the red now, but it doesn't clip somehow?
ACYDE Music wrote:My master is in the red now, but it doesn't clip somehow?
Ah, I forgot to mention that. Clipping is inevitable. (in the instance of EDM and such). However not all clipping is bad. If you can't hear it. than you're fine. Keep in mind what I said about headroom though. :geek:
Peace
Would you use the Declipper effect? Why do you say keep the master at 100? And also I use the stereoenhancer effect for widening leads.
Jogden139 wrote:Would you use the Declipper effect? Why do you say keep the master at 100? And also I use the stereoenhancer effect for widening leads.
Where you mentioned headroom you suggest leaving the master at 100%, is it wrong to turn it down a little to prevent redlining/clipping?

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