Today I’m bringing up a subject that can be haunting to every producer – Mastering. Now I’m not an expert on the subject. I’m still in the process of learning the ropes of it. But I have noticed a HUGE difference when I started using these next few tips I’m going to share with you. Let’s get to it!
Now, of course a lot of work comes in the mixing phase, including EQ. This might not be enough though. There’s something I started noticing about my older beats: they sounded to “boxy”. Come up with whatever term you prefer, but that’s exactly how my beats sounded – like they were in a box. This was solved mostly with EQ’ing in the mastering phase. If you mix the track well enough and cut all the low levels that aren’t necessary, that will reduce the chance of the beat sounding “boxy”, but it also helps to use a Mid / Side EQ on the mastering phase. This is ideal if you center the low levels and widen the mids and highs to the sides. It’ll make your track sound wider and clearer. A great EQ I use for this is the BlueCat’s Triple EQ, for example.
Though it’s not essential in the mastering phase, it can come in handy to use a small reverb effect on the overall master track. Attention – don’t overdo it. You just want to give a sniff of it, enough to make the whole beat feel more “glued” together. Play around with the Dry / Wet knobs and the Size to make it sit right with the beat. I’d suggest trying the TAL-Reverb 2.
Whereas a normal compressor will have effect on the whole sound you’re using it on, the multiband compressor will hit different frequencies in different ways. It’s great to get a louder sound in a more natural way – don’t just boost that dB level up, come on – while making the track sound tighter. The way I usually use it is by giving a faster attack and release on the mid and high frequencies and the opposite for lower frequencies. For this I use Ableton’s Multiband Compressor, but I’m sure that you’ll find a variety of great plugins online, that’ll do the exact same thing.
This is where experiencing with different plugins might be the trick. Each exciter gives a different type of sound, but the general idea is to add harmonics to the track. I myself go with La Petite Excite and I personally use it to give a certain extra clarity to the highs as well as boost the lows. Let me just say one thing though, if you decide to use this plugin. It gives a very noticeable effect. I rarely go past 0.70 with its levels, so play around with it, but keep it low.
Last step. Well, maybe not the last one. A lot of people will use a stereo widener before adding the Limiter to the equation. I myself have used it before. However, if you mix / master the track well enough, even though it won’t hurt to add a little widener, you probably won’t feel the need to use it. As for the Limiter, in case you don’t already know, it’s a way to get your track to sound louder, without clipping. When you mixed the track in mind, you should’ve left room (decibels in this case) for the beat to grow louder, in the mastering phase. By doing all I mentioned before, the track will indeed and inevitably sound louder, but you want it to hit around 0 dB. Add a Limiter. If you start boosting everything, you’ll ruin the mix as well as clip your track, so when you finish everything, add a Limiter, make the ceiling hit around 0.30 to 0.20 dB, and just play around with the Output Gain. What I usually do is listen to a commercial track and compare its loudness to the track I’m working on, and use it as a guideline. Even though it boosts your volume, you don’t want to overdo it. All in moderation.
Long text, yea, I know. But hope it helps someone out. These little tricks helped me out a lot, so I think it might do the same for you. Either way, leave any feedback or suggestions on the comments below.