A couple of mastering questions from a rookie

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A couple of mastering questions from a rookie

Post by Christian_R » Fri Sep 13, 2019 12:34 pm


I just have to ask since I'm a complete rookie when it comes to mastering: But to master a track, I must first export the song to one wav file, right? Or can I just put various mastering effects on my master channel? I have seen some tutorials where they do both, so I'm not sure what's best.

Since I don't know much about mastering, I'm thinking about trying an online mastering service like eMastered. Has anyone tried it? I tried to upload one of mye songs for free and it definitely got a little better, but I'm sure you can get a better result if you do it yourself. The problem is I have a full time job, and I don't know when to find the time to really learn mastering. The few hours I have I want to spend on the creative stuff.

If there are any other good online services, I'm happy to get some tips :)


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Re: A couple of mastering questions from a rookie

Post by [jur] » Fri Sep 13, 2019 7:18 pm

Christian_R wrote:
Fri Sep 13, 2019 12:34 pm
Since I don't know much about mastering,
but I'm sure you can get a better result if you do it yourself.
I don't know when to find the time to really learn mastering. :)
Ask yourself why do you need your track to be mastered? Do you really need it?
Why not "simply" do a "perfect" mix instead?

The first point of mastering is to "shape" the overall colors and dynamics of different songs to make them sit well next to each others in an album.

Mastering a single track just because this is a trendy topic on the internet doesn't make sense... Just try to make you mix as best as possible.
And when you'll be good enough at mixing, mastering will start to make more sense in your mind.
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Re: A couple of mastering questions from a rookie

Post by TLW » Fri Sep 13, 2019 8:04 pm

If a mix sounds good on its own and the track won’t be on an album the only mastering of digital that’s often required is to raise the peak volume to a suitable point, dither it down if necessary and maybe manage the dynamic range some. Audio intended for different formats - MP3, wave etc. - can sometimes benefit from slightly different processing but generally if the maximum peak volume is around -0.3dB and the RMS/LUFS level isn’t so high all the life’s been squashed out of the track that’s often enough.

Even if you don’t use their plugin, Waves videos on using their L2 limiter are worth watching for some ideas of how to set about things.

If the audio is intended for vinyl release that’s an entirely different matter because it has to be processed to work within the technically limited frequency and dynamic range of vinyl. Which is a very specialised skill.

I tend to be a bit sceptical about automated on-line mastering services, or any service that doesn’t have a human who will listen to all of the music, discuss things with the producer/musicians and make judgement calls based on that. If possible I’d suggest letting the service process one or two tracks then comparing what they’ve done to your mix and also to what you can achieve yourself.
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Re: A couple of mastering questions from a rookie

Post by Tarekith » Fri Sep 13, 2019 10:00 pm

You can master either by bouncing down to a stereo file and importing to a new session, or just adding mastering processors to your master track. For the most part it really doesn't matter and is just a matter of preference. The first method is nice because you free up some CPU for your heavy hitting mastering plug ins (if you have any) as well as removing the option of tweaking the mix endlessly and getting distracted. The second method is nice because then you have everything that is affecting how the finished song sounds all in one project and easy to recall.

Like I said, pros and cons to each method, so don't be afraid to try each a couple times and see which you prefer.

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Re: A couple of mastering questions from a rookie

Post by jonljacobi » Fri Sep 13, 2019 11:08 pm

Yeah, originally, mastering was really about limiting frequencies to fit the music on the record and not damage the playback equipment record when being played back. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/RIAA_equalization. These days, it's just generally a term that's been hijacked to mean final mix.

Some like to get the balances and individual track FX right, then save that to a single stereo file, then apply whatever overall EQ or compression/limiting, etc. I think it's generally just out of habit. I personally do it all at the same time, but I've really invested in getting the tracks recorded as nice-sounding raw as I can. Trying to fix lousy sounding tracks is the worst. If I'm using too much CPU I just freeze tracks which is like a track mixdown/bounce anyway.

Just choose your poison. As long as it sounds good at the end, who cares?

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