10 mastering tips for home mastering

MASTERING IS ONE OF THE FINAL FINISHES WITHIN SONG PRODUCTION. HERE WE WANT THE SONG TO GAIN IN LOUDNESS, SOUND AS BALANCED AS POSSIBLE AND NOT TO CHANGE THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE ACTUAL MIX TOO MUCH. DOING ALL THIS IS NOT SO EASY!

1. FADES IN MASTERING

You should always use fades when mastering. Always at the beginning and end of the song in order to avoid any cracks, which are perceived as extremely annoying. As a guideline, you can assume 4 - 6ms here and set fade-ins & fade-outs.

 

2. WORK IN AT LEAST 24 BIT

The mastering should be at least 24-bit or higher in the DAW session. 24 bit has a dynamic range of 144dB - 1 bit is 6dB dynamics away. It is important here that the recordings and the mix were of course also created with at least 24 bits - this way we achieve more detailed results and achieve more loudness overall.

 

3. MASTER IN LOW MONITORING VOLUME

Quiet listening not only protects your ears, but also doesn't stimulate your room so much, which is why you have to struggle less with parts of the room when listening. In this way you can better assess the density but also the transparency within the material at hand.

As soon as you are done with the master, you should also turn up your monitors loudly. Here you can then notice outstanding frequencies that are not so effective when listening quietly. As soon as we turn the master up loud, you quickly notice whether the volume changes significantly.

 

4. TURN THE MOTOWN TRICK OR PARALLEL COMPRESSION ON!

With the help of parallel compression, you can mix a highly compressed version with the original. This way you will not lose the transparency and dynamics of your mix.

The main track is copied, for example, and then with the help of a audio compressor very heavily compressed. You then slowly turn up the copied track until it produces a great sound together with the main track. The entire sum sounds more present, fuller and fatter! An emulation of the 1176, for example, is suitable as a plug-in

 

5. DON'T USE TOO MUCH COMPRESSION IN MASTERING

You should use the Master Compressor with caution! As a rule, we only pick up signal peaks here. With too much compression, the dynamic range suffers enormously and the song loses its liveliness.

So make sure that the gain reduction does not fall below -3db, use longer attack times, but shorter release times. In addition, a sidechain filter up to 250 Hz is suitable in order not to additionally stimulate the compressor with a kick drum or a sub-bass.

 

6. WORK WITH AUTOMATION IN MASTERING

Use automations for intros, outros or bridges, for example. As a rule, we often have quiet passages that we have to adjust via automation, since these are not tackled by the compressor. That's a good thing, because if we set the compressor so that it also picks up the quiet passages, the loud passages would be undynamic and compressed too much.

So it's best to use automation to adjust the quiet parts before you readjust the compressor!

 

7. USE DIFFERENT LISTENING OPTIONS

To assess the master, it is always good to use a wide variety of monitoring options and to put the master through its paces. You do this first and foremost with your studio monitors! Don't forget, however, that normal music listeners use conventional systems such as a kitchen radio, in the car or on a Bluetooth box. Accordingly, you should also check on such systems whether the master prevails here.

 

8. AVOID OVERRATED PLUGINS!

Due to the 24-bit architecture that is now available to us, we basically have all sorts of options for maintaining our dynamic range and still getting a song very loud. Avoid any clipping in plug-ins - there are enough ways to get a song loud without it distorting. If plugins clip - i.e. flash red - this can lead to unwanted artefacts in the audio material.

 

9. FORWARD THE BOUNCE PROCESS!

When using plug-ins for mastering, your computer needs a lot of computing power, especially when you are in the bounce process. Set your start marker a little bit before the actual song, this way you avoid any problems caused by your computer calculating the plug-ins too late.

 

10. A/B COMPARISON USING REFERENCES!

Surely you have a sound role model in front of you, which shines with a great mix and a great master. Take advantage of this and compare your master to other productions and look for inherent characteristics such as presence, bass range, etc.

An A / B comparison lets you work more objectively and you don't lose sight of your goal so quickly. Tone to change this text. Important here: Measure the loudness of both titles and match them to each other in order to be able to compare them objectively.

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