Pro Audio Files

Tips for Mastering Your Music at Home

Transcript
Hi, it’s Warren Huart here. Hope you’re doing marvelously well.

Today, I’d like to talk about mastering, and — or as American’s would say, “mastering.” Two things. The importance of it, and I’ll show you a couple of different ways that I master my own stuff when I’m not using a mastering engineer.

Now, for many of us, when we don’t have a huge budget to play with, then we will master our stuff on our own. Now, you can master by putting — you know, plugins across the buss and do it that way. I do a little bit of that anyway on my buss. I might put a little bit of compression, a little bit of EQ, etcetera, but I don’t get too carried away with that, because I like to be able to look at the final product as a stereo mix and treat it separately. Preferably, on a separate day with nice, freshly tuned ears.

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So anyway, let’s look at a track that I’ve mixed recently, and let’s master it. Once again, I think mastering is a sort of overlooked art form, because most people these days when they’re mixing will put a lot of plugins on their master buss, and by the time they finish their mix, it’s mastered as well.

Now, that is a process that, you know, you can do, unfortunately, it might tie you into a little bit of knots. Sometimes good to not get too carried away with stuff on your master buss, because you’ll squash it so heavily, limit it so much, that sometimes, you know, the mix may sound really loud, like this, like a big blob of loudness, but it loses all the width. You know, because you’ve folded every frequency back into itself, and quite often, you know, what’s one of the biggest problems I hear with people’s mixes that they send me is it sounds really loud, but it only sounds this wide coming out of the speakers, where if you’ve left some room, you know, on your buss, and then you master afterwards, you can maybe get it as loud, but keep it wide sounding.

So anyway, let’s go to a track. This is by a very young artist we’re working with called Lyric, and it’s a track called Linger. I’m going to work in Audio Suite. So here is my Audio Suite up here. I’ve got a whole bunch of plugins, as you can see, and one of the ones that I’ve loved for years is T-Racks. And I’ve had this since it first came out.

It’s a pretty inexpensive mastering plugin, but it’s really good. Now, if you go here, you can select what you want to use. Now, I use the classic ones, because these are the ones I’ve used from their inception. So if we go to classic compressor here… Now what I can do is I can take a little piece of the song — so what I would probably do — this is a relatively linear song. There’s some pretty strong transients in the kick etcetera that’s playing on the way through.

Let’s have a listen.

[mix]

Acoustic guitar, kick drum, some programming, and a vocal. Let’s go to the end.

[full mix]

So listening to that, it’s still got — you know, it hasn’t got super super loud, it’s just a little fuller sounding, the dynamics are still there, the kick is definitely sticking its head up. Let’s go to that section and treat it, you know, because it’s the fullest sounding.

So we can — we’ve highlighted the section and we can preview. So here.

[song]

I mean, that’s pretty crushed. We’re getting three, probably about four dBs worth of compression often times. So let’s bring our input drive down a little bit.

[music]

I’m getting between two to three dBs worth of reduction. What I do like about it…

[full mix]

Really making it fuller. It’s catching some of that kick there. I’m not changing — what I like here on the sidechain here is it’s around the kick level, which is like 60, 70Hz, traditionally. What I love about it is it’s letting everything breath below there, so it keeps it really fat sounding.

This is one of my favorite mastering in-the-box, as it were, mastering software, because it does tend to sound a little fatter. There’s a couple of other manufacturer’s that have programs out there, but this one… Trust me, I bought this, so they aren’t giving it to me for free. I’ve had it for years, and I’ve always found that for quick, easy mastering solution, this works really well because of that.

So if I go up now, let’s go to EQ afterwards. So what we can do here, and this is a nice function, is we can do some low cut. So I’ve enabled the low cut. Especially everything around 16Hz was cut. This can come up a little higher. Come up to like, 20. So that’s rolling off the super, super lows. If you’ve ever been to like, a club, or something and heard like, a not very good mix playing through a really loud PA, sometimes you can hear, like, just this low rumble. You know, not just on the kick, but on other instruments between the kick hits, and that’s probably just because they haven’t gotten, you know, taken off some of that super, super lows.

Okay, so now let’s go to where our kick drum would be. So we’ll go around about 65Hz, and we’ll do — turn on the EQ here, and we’ll do a slight bump. You know, you can just — 0.4. Let’s have a listen.

[mix]

That’s nice. Nice little softening there. Now, I always find that 350 can be a little bit of a pain. Let’s have a look. It’s actually set to 350 at the moment. Let’s do the tiniest little cut of the low mids. Just a little bit here.

[music]

350 can just kind of be your enemy a little bit. I personally find sometimes, just because it gets a bit of a buildup with the bass, a bit of the guitars, the low end on the lower-ish end on guitars, low mids, it’s just a little bit of an evil frequency, and it can take up a lot of room.

I’m not going to dip out that much, I’m going to dip out the tiniest amount. 0.2dB. The high, I’m not going to do a high cut, I’m happy with that. Let’s do, like, a little — let’s go up here to about 7. And just do a little boost. We’re going to do — eh, let’s do a dB’s worth of boost.

[song]

Just a tiny little lift there. You can see everything we’re doing here is very, very subtle. But it’s nice. It’s pretty nice.

Okay, so now, let’s go to our limiter. Now there’s a brick wall limiter and a clipper. I”m just going to use — in this instance, I’m just going to use the limiter. Now, it’s probably set a little aggressively. Let’s take a listen.

[full mix]

That was interesting. I can hear a little distortion on the buss there. I’m not sure if that’s coming out. Let’s have a look.

[mix]

Cool. So we just brought down the output a little bit so it wasn’t clipping digitally. Let’s do this. So what I’m going to do is I’m going to take the whole track like this, I’m going to duplicate it here, so let’s just go to Duplicate. So I’m going to have one that is unprocessed, and one that is processed. So let’s just call this — what do we call this. SFM. Spit Fire Master. We’ll put today’s date on. It was good to find when you’re going back. As you can see, this is actually going back a bit.

Me and my American/English way of doing things. Okay. Alright, so we’re going to process the whole thing. We’re getting like, two to three, ocassionally more dBs worth of limiting there. This is not — it’s an art, so if you don’t like the sound of it, you can go back. And obviously I’ve got a clean one there, but also, I can obviously undo as well.

We’re going to do it like this and see what we’ve got. The limiting is pretty effective across that.

[song]

Cool. Let’s go back to the original for a second.

[mix]

What I do like is it’s pushed the kick a little bit in there. You know, it’s meant — so now, we can hear a little bit more of the rest of it.

[full mix]

Let’s go to the end here

[song]

Cool. I mean, we could play around with some more stuff, but that’s a very, very quick one. I think it does a lot of what we want it to do. Now what I would do here, if you’re going to get to like, super print level, the way that people hear things, is duplicate it again. So we’re duplicating this, and we’re going to call this “L2.” I’m going to use the Waves L2 plugin.

So let’s go to the Audio Suite here. Go back to Dynamics. Now, there’s a lot of different limiters out there. I think the L2 is pretty clean. Again, let’s go to like, a real dense part of the program material here in preview.

[mix]

Cool. So there, we’ve got — that’s the densest it’s going to be. We’ve got around about 2dB worth of reduction. So I’ve got about 0.31 there. What I tend to do honestly is I just take this output ceiling and bring it down one tenth of a dB. That’s just me. Some CD players, you know, will play it back sounding really distorted if it’s right at zero and some won’t. Older ones have a tendency to not sound that great, so here we go.

So we’re going to highlight the whole thing. We will process it. Great. So yeah, I mean, you can see there that visually, the kick has been put in. Let’s have a listen.

[song]

Now, that is the quick do it yourself master there. I do like the T-Racks plugin. You could use the Clipper as well instead of the brick wall limiter on it. You could also, you know, do — you could also use separate compression and separate EQ. You know, this is stuff that I’ve mixed myself, so I pretty much know where I want stuff to sound.

Next thing I would do by the way, quickly, is I would just copy this name here, highlight my track, and copy the name over so it doesn’t have like — I’m really into making sure everything is labelled properly so you can find it. There’s a quick do it yourself master. Please feel free to leave me some questions and suggestions. I would love to see how you do your stuff as well. Like I was saying earlier, you could use independent compression and EQ and limiting on it. You know, afterwards.

I like to work in Audio Suite, but you can also buss it, but traditionally, we didn’t used to like to buss things through it, it was another step, but that is also a way to play it. So you would — another way to do it. You could take the output from an auxiliary and then have that bussed to a stereo track, and put different EQ and compression on them.

There is a couple of other, you know, mastering softwares out there, and I’d love to hear what you use, and let’s have a discussion about it. Thank you ever so much for watching and I really appreciate it! I’ll talk to you soon, thank you.

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Warren Huart

Warren Huart

Warren Huart is an English record producer/musician/composer and recording engineer based in Los Angeles, California. Learn more at producelikeapro.com.

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