Mastering Tips For Do-It-Yourselfers

dacalion

Hands Of FIRE!
*** ill o.g. ***
Battle Points: 220
Since I converted over to 'more' composing and less sampling, I've had to change my Mastering sidechain a bit. I used to be a 'by the book' die hard 'Har-Bal Mastering Process' kind of guy until lately. I also stopped relying on Waves as much.

As with any conversation dealing with Mastering...let me say that this is what 'I' am doing at the present time. It has nothing to do with 'Proper Mastering', it's been said a million times...take your music to a professional Master to have it done properly...the Tips that I'm about to provide are commonly used by professional Masters but I'm not trying to teach a course. I'm just giving tips...so if any of you cats want to add tips, that will be great! For all general purposes, this isn't even necessary for what we do on ill.

That said, here we go...

I set up my new Mastering chain as follows...

1. After I've got my mix as solid and good sounding as I possibly can get it, I start by loading my chain in the Mixer Effects Slots on the Master Channel (I use FL Studio 10).

2. I load up 2 or 3 EQ's. I don't intend on using them all but I put them in place just in case. I usually load 2 broadband EQ's(SPL's Full Ranger and SPL's Bass Ranger), 1 full range eq and 1 bass eq. I also load 1 precise EQ so that I can tune in on any problem frqs. with precision (Oxford EQ Native).

3. Next, I load a Stereo Widener (Brainworx bx controller). This is a great tool for adjusting your Stereo and Mono Imaging. It also has a Correlation Meter which is very handy for checking your Phase.

4. Next, I load a couple of Multi-Channel Compressors (Waves C4 and LinComp). These are good for setting compression on individual bands - highs/mids/bass/sub bass or however you configure them. I only use one but I'll try both and use whichever sounds better to me.

5. Next, I load a Limiter, I have several good ones but my favorite by far is Brainworx XL. There are better ones out there but this one works very well for me.

6. Last I load NuGens Audio Visualizer for FFT Analysis. The main thing is using your ears but I prefer to have a visual aid for finding problem freqs. in my music. Plus this meter has just about everything in one spot.

7. It's also common practice of the pros to load a couple of 'other' similar songs for comparing on your analyzer. Just as a reference but monitoring the wave patterns of other songs can help you shape and get the best out of your track.

Thats about it...I start testing and tuning until I get the sound and feel that I'm looking for. Ofc, I put everything on bypass and work each plug one at a time until I'm happy and then I go to the next.

Once again, this is what "I" do, I'm not saying it's perfect, I'm saying it works for me and my goals. Use this as a reference or ignore it.

I'd really like to hear from you guys that DO attempt to master your music and if you have any good tips. I know a few of you work in Studio's so it would be great to hear from you all as well.

The floor is yours... =)
 

dacalion

Hands Of FIRE!
*** ill o.g. ***
Battle Points: 220
Sooo Im taking it that you would put your eq's behind your compressors?

EDIT: I know what you're getting at, but the truth is (quoted from Mike Senoir @ S.O.S) "There are no hard and fast rules here. A lot of it has to do with the way you work, and for subtle EQ settings I don't think it's particularly important which way around you plumb the two processors. However, in principle there's one straightforward reason why it makes sense to compress before you EQ, especially when you're first learning about processing".

Why I EQ first...I been compressing forever, I know what I'm doing, even in HarBals Process, they eq first. But anyway, I don't eq after compression because you're changing the sound after compression which kinda defeats the purpose of compressing. If you have a good mix, you're only using eq for presence, not for eq'ing the whole track. If you have to make major changes in your mastering process then you didn't have a good mix.
 

UNORTHODOX

Father Timeless
Battle Points: 44
I dont technically master, I just try to push the mix as much as I can. But corrective (Should be subtractive aka minute cuts when mastering) Eq should come before your Compression, then everything else. You take away freqs you dont need compress, then eq, comp, or what ever else you want to do after.

Dac you goin hard on the Eq types haha. I wish my main comp had the processing power. Its almost 5 yrs old so I have to be light with the plugs.
 

Formant024

Digital Smokerings
*** ill o.g. ***
Also note that you dont want stereo enhancement in your mastering chain, just figure out which channel could use stereo enhancement instead(if any).
 

thedreampolice

blue is greener than purple for sure...
*** ill o.g. ***
Battle Points: 21
The problem with EQ then compressor is that you can cause the compressor to over react very easily, causing your compressor you over cut the frequency your are trying to boost! Also you should Eq after your compressor because a compressor will change the tone and you will need some extra eq on it. NOW having a single chain like this makes sense [EQ-Compressor-EQ-mastering limiter] makes more sense, if you do VERY subtle eq for the first eq. I usually set up a slightly different chain for each song, but for most of the hip-hop I have been mastering I use [Oxford EQ-PSP vintage warmer-Waves SSL eq-Voxengo Elephant] Having a really hard limiter can sound bad at the end, I HATE the waves L2 or whatever its called these days.

This video does a fantastic job of explaining it.

http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/MPPTMaster
 

JustRipe

Analog Architect
Battle Points: 75
This is where i lack, i dont know nothing about mixing or mastering, i just tweak stuff till it sounds as good as i can get it im just now starting to get into actually using the right techniques to get the right sound and feel, thanks for the tips dac
 

dacalion

Hands Of FIRE!
*** ill o.g. ***
Battle Points: 220
Also note that you dont want stereo enhancement in your mastering chain, just figure out which channel could use stereo enhancement instead(if any).
OK Formant, help me out on this...

1. I keep running into different Mastering Techniques that say it's OK to use Stereo Widening (if needed) in your Mastering process. Ofc, we're talking about minute adjustments and not 'repairing' a bad mix but just adding a touch of seasoning so to speak.

2. I understand why one should keep the mono aspects in check but are there really that many clubs or venues that run mono systems nowadays in your experiences and is it a certain reason that they prefer mono over stereo? I could understand if they did a lot of 'live' performances with bands and then switched to a DJ but to play a stereo CD or vinyl in mono would seem less adequate as far as the sound, effects and the whole experience of stereo imaging.
 

God

Creator of the Universe
*** ill o.g. ***
Where's a sound "exciter" in the chain? LOL.

Real mastering is such a difficult and technical process, I really recommend hiring a pro if you have any type of budget to work with.

If you're constrained, do what works for you, but test the final mix on big speakers, computer speakers, car speakers, ear buds-- every imaginable sonic output device.

You'll know very quickly what's working and what isn't.
 

Formant024

Digital Smokerings
*** ill o.g. ***
OK Formant, help me out on this...

1. I keep running into different Mastering Techniques that say it's OK to use Stereo Widening (if needed) in your Mastering process. Ofc, we're talking about minute adjustments and not 'repairing' a bad mix but just adding a touch of seasoning so to speak.
You have to decide where to fix the issue and from that point you apply the proper processing technique you find is neccesary.
That's the only answer;) experience tells you if the master chain needs much processing or not. By default, the masterchain shouldnt do anything if possible besides limiting. If the mix is done properly, you preserve transients and win headroom which gaurantees the loudest master possible.

but...

You can could play around with an M/S processor. It can be your best friend but its mostly abused to much because the room is untreated or not properly AND/OR the nearfields you have dont translate the stereo field well enough. If these are the conditions than you're only compensating for these issues... on the master. That's the danger of "mastering" at home, im not saying it cant be done (ITB) but at least qualify you room and speakers for mastering.


2. I understand why one should keep the mono aspects in check but are there really that many clubs or venues that run mono systems nowadays in your experiences and is it a certain reason that they prefer mono over stereo? I could understand if they did a lot of 'live' performances with bands and then switched to a DJ but to play a stereo CD or vinyl in mono would seem less adequate as far as the sound, effects and the whole experience of stereo imaging.
You're right, the common reference to "club pa systems being mono" is merely additional info (as food for thought). Its really not relevant but its one of those facts you sometimes have to keep in mind :) Keeping mono aspects in check just means (imo) that (sources) signals in the mix keep the same dimensional properties.

-An acoustic kick drum by definition is mono, there are no kickdrums on the left and right side of the kit. This is from the perspective of the listening position, as if you were in front of the drumkit.

-An acoustic kick drum can be mic'd in stereo. I cant give any reason why one do this but i assume you would attempt to position the mics so to capture the differences L/R when a kick is triggered.

-A sampled kick is stereo but consider it mono + (mostly)overheads which are mixed stereo. This assuming that you sample in stereo.

-A synthesized kick drum can be stereo. Personaly that means more to me when mixing or mastering but in a liveset i'd keep it mono.

These facts illustrate that a kickdrum can get processed very differently on its dimensional properties and this accounts for all sources in the mix. Its common that people dont check if a source is stereo or mono. Imagine a mono kick drum sample with a compressor plugin on insert but set to stereo. You might perceive it as a positive effect but youre basicaly adding the same compressed kick into the mix. This ofc eats headroom and transcients which might cause the kick drum and bassline to end up in a fucked up tango instead.

So you have take these facts in account for whatever material you're working on and act accordingly. M/S (mid/side) processing can really destroy a mastering because it tempers with the stereo image. If a source goes through a signal chain that changes from mono to stereo or even switches l/r than M/S will change it again but differently. M/S is like the technique some people refer to when trying extract or remove the vocals from a piece of music.

Mid = L minus R = difference
Side = L plus R = sum

When you subtract Left from Right, you end up with the material that isnt shared with either left or right (which is now refered to as Side). Like trying to isolate the vocals from a piece of music.

Mid is opposite, it has all the material that L and R share just not the difference(Side).

Both mid and side will have a fader/pot so you can balance them and possibly add some widening by accentuating the Side with eq, comp or verb.


Last but not least, maybe you just meant monitoring in mono and why its usefull to do so. A broadband speaker as direct as it comes to sound, its not ideal since they typicaly lack bottom and top freq bands.. just like radios. This is used as a real world reference since it takes away all the excitement of the material and confronts you how the sounds are balanced in the mix. You'll immediately hear when a channel is to loud or needs to be pushed up.

So switching from your nearfields to a single avantone speaker can make you realise you need to re-balance your mix so that all instruments also appear evidently (to your liking) on the avantones. The simple reason for this is that when it sounds good in mono, it will neverrrr fail in stereo...at least for that part of the job hehe
 

dacalion

Hands Of FIRE!
*** ill o.g. ***
Battle Points: 220
Joe Gilder is a professional recording engineer and I like his philosophy a lot...it just makes sense to me...

Joe Gilder said:
Here’s the basic idea behind how I mix. While a compressor technically decreases the volume of the audio, in reality, our ears hear it as also INCREASING the quieter frequencies. If you have a guitar that has some soft rumble down around 60 Hz, compressing the guitar will make that 60 Hz rumble LOUDER. Once the signal has been compressed and made louder, it can become hard to EQ it out.

In that scenario, I would use an EQ before the compressor to get rid of that rumble. That way the rumble is gone BEFORE it has a chance to be turned up by the compressor.

Compressors are kind of like glue. You should only send things to the compressor that you WANT to be glued together. Otherwise, it’s really hard to “unglue” something once it’s glued together.

On the other hand, compression DOES still turn things down…it essentially turns loud things down and soft things up. So, if you’re trying to do an EQ BOOST, you probably want to do it AFTER the compressor. Let’s say you want to do a high-frequency boost on a vocal track, to make it sound more “airy.” If you boost 10k before the compressor, the compressor will essentially turn that boost back down. So, if you want to boost something, it’s a good idea to boost it AFTER the compressor. That way your boost won’t get turned down by a compressor.

It’s not uncommon to have one EQ before the compressor (for cuts), then another EQ after the compressor (for boosts).

I don’t do this very much because I rarely boost anything. I like to use EQ to cut certain frequencies, so I usually EQ before the compressor.
What dp said is also true, if you eq before you compress and change your eq...you've also changed how your compressor will react...BUT thats only if you don't go back and make corrections to your compressor. So my thing is eq first and if you need to make corrections to your eq, do it before you start compressing or alternate between bypassing and arming your compressor until you get the sound that you desire with the compressor active.

If that's too complicated then do whatever works for you. Nothing wrong with that either.
 

Iron Keys

Deadly Melody Kung Fu-ist
The problem with EQ then compressor is that you can cause the compressor to over react very easily, causing your compressor you over cut the frequency your are trying to boost! Also you should Eq after your compressor because a compressor will change the tone and you will need some extra eq on it. NOW having a single chain like this makes sense [EQ-Compressor-EQ-mastering limiter] makes more sense, if you do VERY subtle eq for the first eq. I usually set up a slightly different chain for each song, but for most of the hip-hop I have been mastering I use [Oxford EQ-PSP vintage warmer-Waves SSL eq-Voxengo Elephant] Having a really hard limiter can sound bad at the end, I HATE the waves L2 or whatever its called these days.

This video does a fantastic job of explaining it.

http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/MPPTMaster
Yeah personally if I EQ before compression (whatever sense) it's usually for this reason... To control what parts of the signal are triggering the compression (more of a creative use so to speak) but also, if you have a hefty bass that is really smashing hard, this could trigger your compressor too much, so you may want to tame your bass before it hits the compressor.

Also, you may then want to add another eq after the compressor, to help spice a little if any of the freq's have fallen a bit flatter. And perhaps to attenuate any that have became overly beefed.

Personally when I home-master, I try to get the master processing working as a compliment to the mix style.



For compression / Limiting, I tend not to go for more than any more than 3db of gain reduction. You can drive it as hard without damaging the sound, but I find any more can start to really become damaging. Still all depends.
 

dacalion

Hands Of FIRE!
*** ill o.g. ***
Battle Points: 220
For compression / Limiting, I tend not to go for more than any more than 3db of gain reduction. You can drive it as hard without damaging the sound, but I find any more can start to really become damaging. Still all depends.
I do the same thing...brainworx recommends up to 4db of gain reduction when using their bx_XL Limiter but 3 sounds better to me in most cases.

As for compressing, I luv this puppy right here...adjustable frequency/multiband compression...hit what you want to hit and leave the rest untouched, all with one vst.

 
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