Mastering is the absolutely essential process of making your tracks sound their best.
This is the macro part of music production, where you zoom out, look at the big picture and review your track as a whole!
If you are totally uncertain of how to do it and want a decent sounding master you can use a mastering plug-in that applies a set of parameters and presets according to your particular music style.
But there is nothing better than taking control of your track from start to bottom and that means mastering your tracks from scratch. You can master your own tracks and still achieve a professional sound!
Here are 10 important tips to consider when mastering your track:
Export your mix to a stereo .wav or .aiff file with at least 24 bit/44.1kHz or 96kHz ideally. Remember to leave at least 6dB of headroom.
As reference, select a professionally produced track in a similar genre than yours. It is not about your track sounding the same, it is about keeping focus of the tweaks you need to make and what your ultimate mastering goal is.
Analyze and fix any problems with the overall sound of your track: you can use a spectrum analyzer to get instant visual feedback on what is happening with the frequency spectrum of your tracks! Quickly identify any problems and go from there.
Even out louder and quieter parts of your track.. It makes it easier to bring the overall volume up without clipping.
If your track feels too flat and needs a boost you can season it using EQ.
Play with the stereo width to widen your track if the sound feels too narrow.
Define a specific threshold for the "peaks" of your track. This allows you to increase their overall volume without losing quality. This is the last step in the mastering process.
SMOOTH & SUBTLE
Do not be afraid to play with all the features of the mastering process but do not overdo it. There is a sweet spot on all of these steps: too much compression means you lose dynamic range and over limiting a track means you lose punch and attack.
If you are still not happy with the result, go back all the way to the mixing phase and go through all the processes step by step.
TEST, TEST, TEST!
Your master is ready. Listen to your track in as many sound systems as possible ( bluetooth speaker, headphones, Hi-fi, car, etc..). This allows you to identify what is working or not and make the necessary adjustments!
Have fun and remember ..keep making great music! :)
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