I’ve gotta say – there’s nothing in audio that causes as much confusion and anxiety as Mastering does.
Mastering feels like such a black art that only folks in white lab coats know something about.
So more often than not we hire a mastering engineer to give our tracks that final shine. Or we upload our mixes to an automated service like Landr, and let R2D2 take care of the rest.
Even the brave few who do decide to master their own tracks can’t help but sweat a little!
You’ve spent months putting your record together. Wouldn’t it be heartbreaking to ruin it all in the final stretch?
There’s a lot of fear and anxiety flying around the internet around that final stretch:
- The Loudness Wars
- Over-Processing Your Tracks
- Streaming Services “Penalizing” Your Tracks
So I wanted to break down this elusive process in a 2 part series:
1) This Week – How to Prep Your Logic Pro Projects For a Flawless Mastering Experience
2) Next Week – The Key Processors and Good Habits For Delivering a Great Master
A great master boils down to a great mix. Once you have the mix down, then it all boils down to how you prep your mix for the mastering process.
Maybe you’ve downloaded my Free Mastering Template to help you master your own tracks.
But it doesn’t do a lick of good if you aren’t exporting the best version of your track!
This week’s video is a doozy, as it covers a lot of ground:
- When processors to include (and remove) from your Stereo Output
- The best way to optimize the volume of your track for mastering
- A full walkthrough of the Bounce dialogue, plus the options you should be using
- Bonus: how to export stems for Stem Mixing and Mastering
I think its funny that we always export files from LPX in a WAV format, but whenever recording to the drive, the default is AIFF.
Although all the audio recording Ive ever done has been Mac based, and in an AIFF format, it makes me wonder if I should be recording in a WAV format instead.
Most of my Mix Bus processing is just a little compression (to add some glue to the overall mix) and some eq, Im rarely peaking over -6db. So I usually need to add some gain when bouncing mp3’s for people to listen to.
Besides a fantastic tip that Chris shared with me a while ago to pseudo master mp3’s using a gain plug before an adaptive limiter (with no gain added), and driving the gain plug into the limiter, lately Ive been using UA’s brainworx masterdesk classic plugin (the cheaper one) which sounds absolutely incredible.
This is now my go-to plugin to pseudo master an mp3 for listening. I just cant say enough about how big, warm and analog sounding the masterdesk classic is for this purpose.
That is sort of funny Jimmy. I always track using WAV files (you can change the file format in the Logic Recording Preferences).
I don’t think you need to change your workflow if it’s working for you though! For a final export though to a mastering engineer, I stick to WAV. Just seems to be more universally accepted.
Colin Davis says
Thank you for this blog! As a mastering engineer, I can recognize why folks think mastering is a black art, because it kind of is. It took me ten years to feel like I was actually professional. And there’s two huge reasons why mix engineers really can’t master their own albums very well. One is they don’t have the right speakers and room. The other is objectivity. They are so involved in the mix that its hard to get out of it and work objectively. I understand the budgetary limitations on musicians, but now professional mastering can be had relatively inexpensively. With EDM music, engineers may want to release a single regularly and so they just want to go for it, but we do a lot of singles now and its 100 bucks a pop so I have to say, hiring an outside mastering engineer is still your best bet. 🙂 That said, you may have to do a bit of testing with different folks to find your guy, but its worth it. 🙂