How to Master a Song: A Guide for Beginners

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While specialized mastering engineers often nutrient nan champion results, anyone tin nutrient a decent maestro if they cognize nan basal concepts and goals of mastering. We'll spell done nan foundational steps and devices progressive successful mastering a way for release, removing nan enigma from nan process and its associated method terms.

What Is Audio Mastering?

man sitting successful beforehand of speakers and mixing desk

Mastering is nan last post-production measurement successful a way aliases album's life cycle, and nan measurement aft mixing a track successful nan music accumulation process. It tin beryllium described arsenic nan shape wherever nan last touches to tonal and measurement levels, sonic inconsistencies, and wide musicality are applied.

Out of each nan stages of euphony production, mastering is nan astir subtle. Through nan usage of specialized tools, specified arsenic EQs, stereo enhancers, and compressors, mastering engineers effort to tie retired nan qualities of a operation while rounding retired immoderate jarring features.

The main, in-your-face, constituent of nan mastering process is its accommodation to nan wide loudness of a track. The loudness level of a operation is pushed up until it reaches a level that is competitory pinch nan manufacture standard—tracks you perceive connected streaming platforms.

The First Step of Mastering

Two euphony producers moving

Mastering originates erstwhile you've bounced nan entirety of your operation into 1 audio record and placed it into a caller convention successful your DAW of choice. Mastering is simplified if you've made a high-quality mixdown. Errors that tin beryllium fixed successful your operation should beryllium fixed there; not successful your master.

Your life will beryllium made easier if you've near immoderate headroom successful your mixdown convention (when your Stereo Output Channel doesn't publication supra -4 to -6 dB). Not only does this debar clipping issues, but it allows you to use additive EQ edits and different changes that whitethorn bring up nan wide level.

Before you unreserved into placing a bunch of plugins, perceive done nan entirety of your track. If you person reference tracks to comparison it to, perceive to them too. This will thief you make informed decisions connected what mastering plugins to usage and how.

Ensure a Clean Beginning and End of Your Track

Volume automation connected nan maestro way successful Logic Pro

After your first playthroughs, a bully first task is to make a clear commencement and extremity to your track. While nan opening and extremity of your audio record whitethorn already beryllium comparatively obvious, mastering requires nonstop precision.

To do so, create a way from your Master transmission strip, and alteration automation. Then, automate nan measurement of nan opening and extremity of your track. If you're unsure really to do so, look into how to usage automation successful your DAW. Try and travel nan tempo and style of your way truthful you don't origin immoderate off-putting sonic interruptions.

This will thief you debar immoderate excessive hissing and different sounds that tin look erstwhile you raise nan loudness astatine nan extremity of your mastering process. Beginnings and endings are memorable, truthful effort to get these areas conscionable right.

Improve Your Track With Additive and Subtractive EQ

Two EQ plugins use additive and subtractive EQ successful Logic Pro

Now, it's clip to get into nan assemblage of nan way and spot if you tin amended it via subtle EQ boosts aliases cuts. Look into how to usage EQs and filters if you want to brushwood up connected this area.

It helps to analyse nan ocular researcher astir EQs show arsenic it tin uncover excessively small aliases excessively overmuch successful definite wave ranges. Similarly, you whitethorn spot that your reference way has much beingness successful nan sub-bass and bass frequencies; thus, you tin effort immoderate EQ boosts there.

Different EQ plugins specialize successful boosting/cutting different wave ranges erstwhile mastering. For example, you whitethorn find that PuigTec EQs activity champion for boosting debased frequencies, and different EQ devices are champion for precocious frequencies. The cardinal is experimentation.

Try a 0.5-2.5 dB boost astir 30-40 Hz to adhd much beingness to your footwear drums. Experiment pinch a boost of astir 15 kHz for immoderate added aerial and brightness to your vocals and wide mix.

Conversely, you whitethorn find excessively overmuch booming/harsh beingness successful a definite wave range. Try an exaggerated trim earlier trying to find nan mediate crushed betwixt excessively overmuch and excessively small subtractive EQ.

Use Multiband Compressors

Two multiband compressors shown arsenic an illustration successful Logic Pro

Multiband compressors let you to use different rates of compression to different wave bands. Generally, multiband compressors are a bully thought if you're proceeding excessively overmuch successful a circumstantial wave range; e.g. nan low- aliases high-end.

Be observant erstwhile applying compression arsenic excessively overmuch tin suck nan life retired of a dynamic, philharmonic mix. For a refresher connected compressors, look into how to usage compression plugins.

Apply a Stereo Enhancer

Stereo enhancer plugins are a awesome measurement to adhd immoderate polish to a way which, particularly, headphone listeners will appreciate.

They activity by expanding nan quality betwixt nan near and correct channels, which, successful turn, enhances nan stereo effect. Try retired a banal stereo imager plugin to widen your mix. Extreme usage will messiness up nan full master, truthful spell for subtle applications to find nan saccharine spot.

Utilize Limiting and Metering

Limiters and metering plugins are what let you to precisely meet nan loudness level of nan modern euphony industry. Let's look astatine really they activity and what this level is.

Metering Plugins

Waves loudness metre successful a Logic Pro session

Metering devices springiness you nonstop readings for things for illustration LUFS, RMS, Peak, and True Peak. True Peak and Peak correspond nan maximum level astatine a circumstantial constituent successful clip (True Peak is much accurate).

LUFS represents nan mean (also called integrated) loudness complete clip based connected nan quality cognition of loudness. RMS represents nan aforesaid but based connected nan mean powerfulness signal. The manufacture modular for measuring levels is LUFS.

Nowadays, streaming platforms for illustration Spotify group -14 LUFS arsenic nan maximum level. You tin still make a maestro that reaches -11 LUFS, but Spotify will automatically trim it to -14 LUFS; thus, each their euphony is standardized level-wise.

Choose a full integer target betwixt -10 to -14 LUFS for your master, and usage your limiter to execute it. Remember to reset your metering plugin each clip you restart your track.


Limiter plugin and metering plugin broadside by side

Limiters are, essentially, utmost compressors. They are besides called brickwall compressors arsenic they wholly extremity nan level from exceeding a specified measurement (e.g. 0 dB), thereby avoiding clipping. Paired pinch this usability is their expertise to raise nan summation of your track.

Use your limiter successful tandem pinch your metering plugin until a playthrough of your way produces your desired LUFS (e.g. -10 LUFS). Drive your limiter excessively hard, and you tin ruin nan musicality of your track. Find nan saccharine spot wherever sonic value is maintained while nan wide level reaches your desired LUFS.

Listen to nan End Result connected Multiple Devices

The last measurement successful mastering is to perceive to your consequence connected aggregate physics devices; e.g. your speakers, your computer, and your phone. A bully maestro produces a way that sounds awesome connected immoderate and each sound systems.

While AI tin lead to damaging shortcuts, AI mixing and mastering tools tin supply useful references to study from.

Create a Release-Ready Track

Once you've made judge you've done each you tin successful your mix, bounce it, and load up a caller convention for mastering. Design a precise commencement and end, and use subtle additive and subtractive EQ edits. Use multiband compression if needed, and stereo enhancement devices for a touch of further width.

Then, usage your limiter and metering plugins to scope competitory loudness levels without sacrificing sonic quality. Add successful immoderate last checks connected different sound systems, and your way is now fresh for distribution.

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