Mastering tips and tricks...

That post about mastering just got me going. I have an almost finished
cd that will obviously need mastering, but thats a problem for me.

The cd uses material made in various formats, from fast tracker to
(dare I mention it? Skaletracker) To renoise to even acid (with loops
generated from various soft synths)

Anyone who knows me trusts I have incredible ears, but still I am hesitant
to do the mastering myself, for alot of reasons. Because I’m so poor, I’m
sure I will have to do the mastering myself.

I’m asking everyone in the forum for their mastering tips. This much I know
from previous projects :

  1. Normalize each track to the same general volume.

  2. Apply a small amount of the same reverb to each track to acheive a
    “sameness of accustic space”

  3. Equalize each track, but equalize how? For a broad range of
    playback systems? to my own ear what sounds best? AARRGH!

  4. Apply a sonic maximizer to bring out lost frequencies (like bbe sonic
    maximizer plug in) to add some sparkle to the finished tracks.

  5. compress each track lightly to maximize playable volume, but some please give me specifics (2:1? 3:1?, 4:1?)

  6. Dithering, I know I need this, I have dithering on several .wav editors,
    BUT I really need some help and guidance on this point.

The compression part puzzles me also , I don’t want to kill all the dynamic and volume shifts in the finished mixes.

Any help from all you “hack” musicians would be greatly appreciated.

I’m sure I can benefit tremendously from the combined experience of
all the members of this forum. I can not afford to mastering engineer for
this project, so I’d like any help and advice you guys can offer from your
previous and present projects.

Thanks in advance for your help…

Cquencer :yeah:

When you do the final mastering you do it on the final mixdown, not on ech track individual (that is a part of the mixing procedure)
An easy way to learn the grounds about mastering is to get the program T-Racks and read the manual, there you can find the basic about mastering + a tool that you can use to master you tracks and lot of presets that you can look at… This is a good way to start but maybe not something that you want to use for professional recordings…

Hmmm… Sorry to say so, but most of the points you mention seem rather cheap to me…

  1. why should you normalize each track? That just brings the volume of each track to the dynamic maximum. You do not gain anything with this. I would recommend normalizing the final result, but that’s it. You certainly do not want every track as loud as the other (the background singers as loud as the forground singer f.e.).

  2. You don’t want the same amount of reverb on each tracks by default. If you want a small reverb on the complete song, put a reverb in the master track, not on each seperate track. DON’T just for creating ‘sameness’. Sameness is created by finding the right combination of sounds, maby enhanced by effects and loudness of/on each seperate track. Some tracks don’t need reverbs, others do. [I]Usualy[I] you don’t want reverbs on drums and basses, but you might want reverbs on vocals and synths.

  3. Equalize each track… Nonsense… You might want to ajust the some tracks if they don’t go together that well. e.g. you’ve got a nice baseline going, but the chords seem to push it down, because they got a lot of low frequencies, then you might want to lower those frequencies some with an equalizer. You can also use it for enhancing certain tracks, give the snare’s an extra snappy sound by increasing the highs f.e… You should just listen and decide which track needs adjustment to fit better in it’s place… BTW, equalizing is better for creating ‘sameness’ than a reverb.

  4. Sonic maximizer… well… you could try it… But you should use those things only if the song needs it. Just like a ‘finalizer’. I think the perception of mastering is completely wrong with a lot of people. Mastering is, simply put, about getting the song to sound perfect. About trying to emphasize the energy or the emotion or whatever you, as musician, want to express with your song. It’s hard to explain, but basically very simple. There is no such thing as a few standard tricks to master something. You just need to know what you want you’re song to be, and tuning everything so, that you get that.

  5. Compression is overrated. Only compress if it’s necessary. Some tracks might need compression as an effect to give it more punch, or give it a more equal output loudness. Some tracks don’t need compression at all. Compression is about removing dynamics. Dynamicly equalising the loudness of tracks (compressing) brings out the small background noises making a track sound very full. It also makes it easier to mix tracks. But sometimes it does more harm than good. E.G. compressing a breakbeat usualy gives it more ‘power’… If that’s what you want… You probably don’t want to use it (much) in a ballad or something…

  6. Dithering?? Nonsense, forget about it… Dithering is a way of trying to get just a tad more dynamics out of the bitrange of a track… This is the cheapest mastering advice i’ve ever heard… It’s more about how you should store the result than master it… And I personaly believe dithering does more harm than good, but ok…

When mastering, just remember, know what you want you’re song to sound like. When in doubt, listen to other songs that resemble yours and that do sound right. Try to listen to all the different aspects of the song, and try to figure out what you should do to your tracks to make it sound that way. Also: NEVER work to long at a time on you’re song, always stop after an hour of work, and do something else for a while (also an hour or so). This might be hard to do when you’re realy busy, but do it. If you listen to the same thing for too long, you get a blurred perception or might get bored and change things that should not be changed… And sometimes even false notes can get to sound right if you listen to them for too long :)

I hope this helps some… Although I might just have made it all more complicated :)

Anyway, there is a lot of stuff on the internet about mastering, you might want to do a search on google about the subject! I recently read an article from a guy named bobkatz, it was a realy good article. Try to find that one.

yiNXs :guitar:

… or you may try us :)

Greets :)

I think it is a good idea to put EQ on each track. Or rather try to equlize it, if it doesn’t sound better just remove the EQ again. But it is very unlikely that a track is perfect without adjusting the frequencies imo. I think EQ is underestimated by old school trackers.

i think he probably didnt mean the single tracks of a song, but rather the several tracks that should come onto the cd…
well i have no clue about mastering, but an eq to make all fit is probably a good idea :)
there are eqs which can learn the frequency curve of one input and apply it on an other song… steinberg’s freefilter, and i read Voxengo’s CurveEQ also can do this.
dunno, maybe this helps :)

Well, true, you’re right about that. I wasn’t trying to say you should NOT use it. I wasn’t even saying you should use it as little as possible… I use equalizers quite often… Using it by default just seems unnecessary… If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it… Every added effect usualy also adds some decrease of quality, even though the 32bit processing helps decreasing this a lot…

Also… when equalizing you should be aware (unless you’re using parametric equalizers) that you tend to get peaks or dips at certain frequencies, because the equalizers (like the ones in renoise f.e.) control the frequencies at fixed points…

Anyway, I’m not trying to sound like a ‘know it all’, I’m no mastering expert (trying though;)). I just know some things and try to help…

ehm… :huh:

I can’t speak for the others ofcourse, but in the Amiga days I would have loved an equalizer! :)

I even bought a hardware equalizer, which I used before my sampler to get perfect equalized samples. Those were the days :rolleyes:

yiNXs B)

I heard about those… Anyone tried them yet? It seems a bit odd, but that also makes it interesting :)