Posted in : Forum : Mixing , Mastering And Production Techniques
Youve created a track but how do you give it that polished edge ? Discuss the art of mixing and mastering and swap production techniques.
I just wanted to talk about mastering. Ive been doing mastering for a number of years now and I thought Id share one very important thing Ive learned. Its simply that listening to good music is one of the best ways to improve on mastering. When I first started out mastering my own music, I didnt know what I was aiming for. But I learned to use and still use reference tracks (just another song that I want mine to sound like) as a way to calibrate my ears when Im mastering a song. As long as Im listening to my own track and my reference track at the same volume level, I can compare them to each other and tell if something in my song needs to change or not. Its a really simple idea, but a very important one. Mastering audio is actually quite simple, but on the other hand takes a lot of practice to get better at.
Im curious to hear if people here have some experience to share or maybe just questions or comments.
Hi,For sure i do agree as the "reference" - from what i learned in terms of mastering (but also for mixing), is a crucial key to success and a lot of mastering engeeners ask for this "reference" to their client before doing the job.
Most of the mastering i made were on tracks coming from mid-class studios. My main goal was to get the sound clearer (as it often wasn't clear enough at all) and of course to get proper level and frequency balance for the sound to be more punchy, keeping the most dynamics.
I did learn-by-doing in mastering. In my opinion - in France, except some really big mastering studios, the mastering skills are quite rare, & even some big french productions may have some awful mastering.
I also agree with you about this : "Mastering audio is actually quite simple, but on the other hand takes a lot of practice to get better at."
And i'll even add that you have to understand the music you're mastering, i mean the intention of the mix and what it's meant to sound like. The "reference" is helpful for that, but a good mastering in my opinion should exactly fit the mix direction with a "reference" - but not for being a pure "copy".
And a last thing, and not the least, i think mastering requires very a good monitor pair, and it's better with 2 pairs (or 3). It's always better to control your "sound" on different monitors (whether they're yours or not, i mean you can go & listen to it anywhere) to have a good master.
Excuse me for the long answer ! Thanx for sharing your experience.
I have a question regarding mastering. I want to make my track loud, as loud as my favorite EDM artists (I can afford to lose some sound quality because of it) but I can never get my tracks there. What plugins would you recommend? I currently use the limiter and multiband compressor that comes with FL Studio.
I agree, its not a good idea to "match" a reference track when mastering. It's better to use it just as that--a reference. Ive tried to match two tracks many times and only ended up frustrated because I didnt realize all the factors that make two pieces of music different. Timbre and pitch to name a couple. I think the real skill is in recognizing how to master a song in its own personal way instead of trying to copy another.
I hear where you're coming from, and it's hard for me to know how to answer that unless I can hear your track first. I can say this though: The EQ has to be right to begin with, and then multiband compression can be used after that, followed by limiting. Also one thing that needs to be addressed is the stereo field for your song. Generally, it should be full rather than too narrow, but not overly wide. You can use a multimeter to measure just how wide it is. If you want to send me a PM with your email or a link to your song, I would be glad to check out your song for you and see what we're working with.
I don't have a specific song that I am working on right now, I just wanted to know some places to start in terms of mastering plugins. I currently use LANDR Mastering (which is not the best thing ever in the world) for all my tracks while I work on mastering myself.
One thing to keep in mind is that to get to a certain level of loudness, it's not always achievable in mastering. It often has to be done during the mixing process where you set the levels, compression, and any other effects for your individual tracks. But if you've done that as good as you can, here is what I would use for mastering, and it's pretty simple:
GainEQMultiband compression (not always needed)Stereo width tool (not always needed)Limiter...in that order, and you can use the plugins that come with FL studio.
Gain - set the gain right for your track. You'll need a VU meter to help you aim for a certain loudness goal. EQ - your eq for the track must be right. Listen to one of your favorite EDM tracks set to the same loudness as your track. This is where you can hear whether your track has as much bass as the EDM track, enough high end, etc.Multiband compression - There is a lot to know about this. But for starters, I would say make sure there is not too much compression happening. You don't always need this tool.A stereo widener - this is to make sure your stereo field is wide enough.Limiter - to be sure the signal doesn't peak over 0 db.
I wrote more than I thought I would there. Try that and see if it works for you.
I shouldn't say it's pretty simple. It honestly does take quite a lot of practice. I've heard of LANDR and it doesn't sound great to me either.
@Corruption : I think mastering with the tools you already have may make you learn more, and then if you feel to invest into a mastering plugin (that are quite expansive by the way) you will be able to know exactly what plug you need to change (compressor, limiter, eq..) because you may not need a whole new set of plugsin, some may do the job.
As EDM suits hard compression and limiting. The tools you have may fullfill the task, but i can't tell about the FL plugsin as i never used FL.A lot of other EQ plugsin do a great job. The thing is you can get great sound from every plugin if you exactly know how to use it (like a hardware...).
Very good point. I believe the less options you have for tools makes it easier to get used to how they work. And they generally work the same. I have used my daw's plugins and they work great for me. I've needed to get a few others but only because I needed specific functions, like multiband stereo widening.
One tip I'd like to add is to try to keep your audio at the same level when applying plugins. It's easy to think you are making good decisions when everything's getting louder after each step. You are better able to make a fair A-B comparison to audio at the same level (just like with reference tracks).
With reference tracks, I used to match my song to the reference (and still do for genres I have less experience working with). It's a great way to learn, but it also fosters dependence on what other engineers have done and their style. As I get more experience, I mix or master in isolation to put my own style on a track. Then, I'll play the reference when I'm almost done to compare and make adjustments.
This is very true. It's easy to think something is sounding better because it is louder. It's also easy to avoid this by using a VU meter so you can tell if there are any loudness changes happening, and then adjusting the gain accordingly. Good point about reference tracks, too. And matching your song to another can be a problem since no two tracks are truly alike to begin with. Why try to force them to be the same during mastering? But like you said, it's a good way to learn.
I have personally never used a reference track for mixing or mastering throughout the 16 or so years I've been mastering for myself and others. That is to say, not consciously, but only as a result of my regular listening of music which I like... and this is not usually done on the same system which I do my mastering.
I am a very big proponent of leaving mastering alone until you have a mix that you are completely happy with. Some important considerations in this decision - Is your mix completely without digital clipping? Does your mix use most of the available headroom? Would you enjoy listening to your mix on your usual listening devices, *without* mastering? Can you hear all elements in the mix when played at a reasonable volume? Is the stereo placement of all elements precisely where you want it? Is there an instrument in the mix which is recorded poorly, and needs to be redone?
I consider all of those before doing any mastering. I do this because mastering will not fix any of those things. They can only be done before a rendered mix. If you are not happy with your mix for any of those reasons, then it is not ready to master yet. Things such as digital clipping in the rendered mix or recorded instruments, panning of individual elements, independent levels of instruments, and any independent processing or adjustments will not be possible after the mix is rendered.
All to often, people think that mastering can fix problems with their song. In general, mastering a poor mix, or a mix with poorly recorded instruments, will only make things worse.
Well said. Everything should sound as good as possible before mastering. And if we have time, we can just about perfect our songs to such an extent that mastering is not necessary. In other words, you can be mastering while you're mixing. I've found it's still crucial to listen to how your music sounds against the other stuff out there, mostly compared to music with a similar genre. Especially if your intent is to sell music. If no adjustments are needed during the mastering stage, you've clearly made an excellent mix.
@Spivkurl : My dear, i dream about a world where clients bring me only perfectly mixed, or at least correctly mixed tracks. But i unfortunately had to deal with infamous mixs from time to time - and indeed i was not to deliver a good master, but to fix the most mix issues i could. So for sure, i absolutely agree with you.And to be honest, i prefer to master without a "reference" as i feel more free to do the job as i intend to, but i sometimes had some clients requirements.
@Joshuamaybe - "Good as possible" is a bit of a stretch aesthetically, as possibilities are endless, and each persons ears are different.
"And if we have time, we can just about perfect our songs to such an extent that mastering is not necessary. In other words, you can be mastering while you're mixing."
This is definitely not what I was saying at all. If you read what I wrote again, you will see this - "I am a very big proponent of leaving mastering alone until you have a mix that you are completely happy with." Mixing while you are mastering is an exercise in futility for sure. And I did not say that mastering would not be necessary either. I stated that it could be destructive if you don't pay attention to the considerations I listed during mixing. Those considerations apply regardless of genre.
"If no adjustments are needed during the mastering stage, you've clearly made an excellent mix." --- Possibly. Unless the mastering engineer is so frustrated that they don't do anything. Mastering, at least to me, is not about adjustments. It's about preparing music for distribution and translation to different listening devices.
@deopi - From the point of view of someone working on mastering for clients, I agree with you as well. Maybe I am wrong in my assumption that the OP's reasons for starting the thread were regarding mastering their own music. It is very different from mastering for various artists, as when mastering your own music, you know your vision for the song or album and do not need to translate someones instructions into audio results. If you are doing everything yourself, you will have all elements on hand. In that case, there is no reason to rush into mastering before you have taken care of any problems in the mix.
Deopi, you mentioned something earlier about mastering clients' music in such a way that it retains its punch and dynamics. I agree that music needs a certain level of dynamics. Anyone have any thoughts about that? There is so much music out there that is supposed to be loud, but it ends up sounding mushy because the dynamics are squeezed out of it. I often use a dynamic range measuring plugin to analyze the dynamics of a track I'm working on. Anyone have any methods they use to ensure the dynamics don't get lost, and how do you go about monitoring it? I know many times this can be a mixing case, but for the sake of this thread, I'm referring to the mastering stage.
@Spivkurl : I totally agree that when it's to make a mastering of your own music, there's no reason to rush at all, and the more work is done on the mix, the better it will be for sure !
@Joshuamaybe : Except some analyzing tools you mentioned, i admit i mostly work "by hear" - as somtimes looking too much at the screen loose me into useless treatments. I agree with you that nowadays overcompression had become a standard, but i always liked to keep a dynamic range. The most work - for me - in mastering is on EQ, as i often try not to overcompress neither to overboost (by the basic gain + limiter process). When the dynamics are lost at the mix stage, indeed, it's hopeless.
I agree, Deopi. I think getting the EQ right is the most important thing to do in mastering. Even if it were the only thing you focus on, it can still make the track stand out more than if the EQ were not appropriate.
On the note of EQ, I think I have a hearing preference for less high end, unfortunately, and I end up having to compensate for it during mastering. I just tend to produce music with a low level of high end, just because of how my ears hear things. So when I'm mastering, I end up either adding more high end EQ or going back to my mix and fixing it there. But I'm training my ears to want to hear more high end. I guess it's like an acquired taste for me.Anyone else have an issue like this?
@Joshuamaybe - Are you sure that your bias about frequency is not due to either a certain listening setup, or an inexperience with your listening setup? I've found that over time, any listening device can allow you to have the same results, as long as you have learned how to compensate for any reproduction irregularities in the device. I can get pretty much the same results from any of my monitoring setups any more, and it is mainly because I know their strengths and faults pretty well. Any frequency related changes done during mastering are more important to the listener than to the engineer, so keen listening experience is key.
Hi everyone Gregs here :)
If you want loud audio, do your mixing at a extremely low volume. Note: Do not touch any of the volume faders inside your DAW, either turn down the volume very low on your audio interface or computer.
The problem i have with referencing was the feeling of something is missing in my music, so i go back and change the music entire atmosphere :(
I think you should learn everything you need know about mixing and how compression works, and study music from the early 60's to late 90's.
When you finally get it, make and shape your own kind of music :)
GregVincey - Regarding this ... "Note: Do not touch any of the volume faders inside your DAW, either turn down the volume very low on your audio interface or computer." It is probably best to clarify that you mean the master fader. Mixing pretty much requires you to adjust faders in the mixer of the DAW.
Yes man, i mean the master volume channel. Thanks for correcting me :)
Mostly just didn't want any one else to get confused! I assumed you knew what you meant.
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