In Part 1 of this short series, I shared the first half of what I think are the essential things you need to be aware of to get a better perspective on how to deal with mastering.
Monitoring levels, why level matching your stuff is crucial during mastering, where to set the ceiling of your limiter…It’s all in the first post.
Now, in this second and last segment, we’ll go a bit deeper with 5 more advices.
As for the first part, they’re not necessarily in order of importance; they’re all crucial basically and definitely shouldn’t be skipped.
#6) Be Conform To Standards
-1dBFS as the higher value your peaks can hit, no more. If you want your tracks to have that “Mastered for iTunes” label, for instance, make sure to follow that rule, or they’ll be rejected by the system. And if you don’t care about iTunes, other worldwide broadcasting standards are following the same rules!
Be professional. If another mastering guy (or broadcast agency) on the other side of the world will eventually check your work, for him you’ll be a leg up others who didn’t care about standard rules. He’ll appreciate your accuracy. It’s not difficult. Just lower the ceiling and check your peaks.
#7) Always Use Some Kind of Metering Systems
From spectrum analyzers to loudness meters, they give you some clues on how to manage the job. Always trust your ears first, but let them help you getting the best. Presonus StudioOne comes with all the different metering systems already built-in and ready to help you do a good professional mastering.
Note: To discover more about Studio One, make sure to check out this post.
#8) Don’t Go Below 8dB of Dynamic Range
As a rule of thumb, going for DR8 will put you in the right ballpark level-wise. Your song will sound loud, while keeping some good dynamics.
DR8, to me, is the point of no return. Cross that value and you’ll likely start harming and squashing your track.
#9) Reference Tracks Are Your Friends
Use them to compare your work and get some clues about the direction you should go with your song.
Don’t try to mimic or match another song eq wise. Look for overall balance. And always level match the reference track with your project!
#10) Don’t Forget To Dither
Dither is a complex and underrated topic. In a nutshell, it is a very (and I mean very, barely audible) low level noise added to your track to “compensate” for bit truncation when you’re going from 24bit to 16bit during the final export. It will mask any quantization distortion that is caused by that. Again, it’s a bit complex…
Now, even if you don’t really know what dither is about, just trust me and don’t skip it! At the final stage, when you’re ready to bounce it down to 16bits, don’t forget to apply some kind of dither.
11) Use Your Ears
Whops! I said 10 things but this is the 11th…
Yes, I can still count till 10, but this advice deserves a special spot.
Feel free to read all the articles, watch all the videos you can find, read all the books or whatever but, in the end, just use those 2 nice tools you have sticked to your head.
Whichever technique or plugin you may be advised of (even the ones you’re reading of around here at R64), don’t take them for granted! There is no magic do-it-all plugin you can buy that will do the work for you. You already got the most awesome tool, and it came free. Your ears will tell you whichever way to go and, as said in Part 1, a good trained pair of ears is what will set you apart from others who spent time trying every possible exhoteric something out there in a passive way, thinking that would’ve been their Holy Grail, but without listening that much.
Follow some guidelines and have a plan but, at the same time, really listen to what your speakers are firing out and then decide, develop your unique taste.
Knowledge Is Key To Develop
Hopefully those advices helped you get a better understanding that mastering is not a secret topic only a few “illuminated” people are told of. Even if you don’t have a 1-million-dollar studio, you can have the knowledge to develop your skills! So be humble and ready to learn from others, experiment, be creative, let the music dictate the rule and, most important, have fun and enjoy!
If you have a minute, leave a comment below and tell me what have been (or are) your biggest misconceptions, doubts or legends you heard of about mastering.
Would be cool to hear how far that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is!