You have been enjoying the sound of music since your childhood age. But do you know what sound engineers go through to give you that danceable music you always love? One of the critical stages that music goes through during production is mastering. And it is usually the last stage in the audio production process. Generally, mastering engineering enhances the overall mix’s sound, thus taking the track to a whole new level. However, learning music mastering can be tricky, especially new. Or novice engineers. But don’t worry. Below are the crucial tips for mastering music to make a mastering engineer’s job that much easier.
Tips For Mastering Music
Mastering engineers need to think like sound engineers. They go through tons of mixes and understand how they can enhance the tracks. Of course, this does not mean that you will be making changes on an already perfect track. Instead, you should study and know what went into producing the track. Here are some helpful tips to get you started becoming a mastering engineer and producing—a great-sounding master.
Factor in your destination
If you want to be a sound mastering engineer, you should always know where the track will land before you even start mastering. Nowadays, streaming services like YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music, and Tidal are increasingly embracing loudness normalization to various degrees in the music industry. So, if your final product has a higher level master than a streaming service’s target, the streaming service will have to lower its level to match other tunes on the platform. So, mastering at around -12 to -16 LU is ideal because it is within the range of most streaming services targets.
Consider checking the loudness standards.
Check your meters which are often in a plug-in like ‘Insight,’ to determine the loudness of your master. Make sure you observe your integrated and short-term loudness readings to know whether your master falls in the ballpark. Additionally, it would help to keep your genre’s context in mind, bringing us to the next tip. A master track must not exceed the maximum average level of -3 dBTP (dB True Peak) and must never spike over 0 dBFS.
People often confuse these – but they are very different: loudness is a reference value, whereas short-term or integrated loudness refers to how loud your track sounds over time.
Pick suitable genres for reference tracks.
When securing a reference track, think of it this way; will the song fit in a similar playlist with your references? From there, you can identify one or more tunes with the same genre, tempo, and arrangement to use as a standard reference. If possible, try obtaining a lossless file like .WAV. You can also use your mixes as references since the materials are already recognizable. One benefit of using a reference track is that it gives the new song a competitive commercial advantage. So, their overall level, dynamic heft, and frequency content must gel.
Find a meter
To confirm what your ears are hearing, you need a meter to give your visual context of the track. Producers often use meters in conjunction with reference music, as discussed above.
The following are essential meters you may need for your mastering engineering career.
- LUFS Meters – These meters are helpful when measuring your track’s integrated average and short-term (momentary) levels. Note that measuring integrated loudness is essential in ensuring your music complies with broadcast standards. Equally, short-term loudness comes in when checking the dynamic range between your mix’s quietest and the loudest sections.
- Frequency Spectrum analyzers (FSA) – To establish the precise points that you need to include low ends or scrape off some upper mids, you will need an FSA. These meters usually display your new mix’s frequency content.
- Loudness history graph – Your dynamic range’s excellent readout needs these meters in addition to meters that can offer you a pictorial view of the track’s loudness. Again, insight is one of the best metering systems with a customizable interface.
At first, limit yourself to three tools only.
Focusing on compression, EQ, and peak limiting is among the most critical tips for mastering music. Start with these three tools to avoid complicating and messing things up at the beginner level. The three tools are all you will most likely need. It is upon you to decide whether to incorporate the EQ after the compression or before. The recommendation is to put EQ before, but it’s all up to you. have you ever thought about why Ozone’s Master Assistant doesn’t slap spectral shaping and stereo-width tools automatically on your master? Generally, it is because they are not staples but garnishes. With the above three tools, you can accomplish much fancy trickery.
Tips For Picking Reference Tracks
As a new mastering engineer, it is essential to have the right reference tracks. Reference tracks help you learn by listening to other people’s work. What you do next with the mastering process determines what results will come from the mastering process. To avoid complicating things for yourself, use recordings well recorded to your tastes. Everyone has their preferences when it comes to genre. Some people prefer metal music while others prefer commercial dance music. Keeping things consistent will save a lot of time and effort later. In addition, this consistency helps maintain audio quality.
The best mastering engineers know what sounds good, what sounds balanced, and what they are trying to accomplish in the very end.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself about your reference. track selection:
- Does the track sound balanced?
- Is the final mix in the same ballpark or dynamic range as the reference track?
Top Skills Needed For A New Mastering Engineer
Mastering engineers are the best-kept secret of the recording industry. Yet, they are sought after and incredibly knowledgeable and can make or break a project even with just a simple EQ move. A mastering engineer needs to have skills in all areas of audio engineering and have certain key traits that separate them from being an engineer, producer, or musician. If you aspire to be a mastering engineer, the top skills are needed.
- Basic Skills
Compressors, limiters, noise gates are all your friends. Make sure you understand how to use them before anything else! And by the way, it’s not enough to just know what each tool does in technical terms. You should know when and where to use them to work almost without thinking.
- Know The Rules – And When To Break Them
There are several things that mastering engineers do that we never talk about because it’s something you need to learn for yourself after years of experience. Sometimes the rule is not always suitable for every song, and sometimes rules are meant to be broken. There is a reason why we call them “rules” and not “laws.”
- Destroy Your Ego – Be Humble, Be Open To Critiques, And Listen!
It’s absolutely essential to be open, humble, receptive, and ask for help. The mastering process is the very last chance to fix any mistakes made in the recording or mixing stages, and as a mastering engineer, it’s an engineer’s job to fix those problems if possible.
Final Words On The Mastering Stage
If you want your music to sound perfect, mastering is a must. An individual or company can do mastering with the right equipment and expertise. However, it’s best not to tackle this process on your own because many nuances affect how a song sounds in the end. Bay Eight Recording Studios has mastered thousands of songs over the years, and we would love to take care of yours too! We have all the tools necessary for recording, mixing, editing, and mastering audio files so that they will sound their absolute best when it comes time to share them online or release them globally through other channels. Contact us today if you need any help getting started working on your next track.