1) LEARN THE POWER OF M/S EQ

 

An M/S (mid/sides) EQ basically splits a stereo signal into ‘Mid’ and ‘Side’ channels.
By using one on your master bus, you can address specific problematic frequencies in either the mono or sides channel

You can, for example:

  • Cut the low-end rumble from the sides, so that all frequencies under 100-120 Hz stay in mono
  • Widen your mix by boosting from 10-12 Khz of the Sides
  • Fix the boominess of the snare or the vocals (in the mid channel), and get a cleaner master as a result

 

2) USE REFERENCE TRACKS

 

You probably have already heard me talking about the importance of reference tracks, but here’s the low-down…

By listening to tracks in the style or genre you are trying to mix & master, not only you’ll become accustomed to how a GREAT record should sound on your system and room, but you’ll also begin to understand what’s missing in your track.

This way you’ll have the knowledge to make it sound even better!

 

3) MASTER MULTI-BAND COMPRESSION

 

Have you ever wondered how the hell your favorite artists’ tracks sound so full and tight?
Part of this magical result has been achieved by the mastering engineer thanks to clever use of multi-band compression.

You can imagine it as having 4-5 compressors on your master track, with each one only working on a specific frequency range.

With a moderate amount of multi-band mojo you can, for example, tighten your low end, make your highs spark or your leads stand out more.

Or you could just compress some flabby frequencies so that your track sounds as professional as possible.

 

4) TEST ON MULTIPLE SYSTEMS

 

I can guarantee you that almost no one is gonna listen to your track with a good pair of speakers or headphones.

99% of the people who listen to music either use a pair of earbuds, a cheap Bluetooth speaker, or other usual suspects like a car stereo or built-in smartphone speakers.

These systems will inevitably and drastically color the sound of your mix, and that’s why you need to reference your master on as many of them as possible.

5) USE SUBTLE AUTOMATIONS

 

One of the most used tricks in the production world is slightly reducing the volume in the build-ups (pre-choruses), just to return it to full in the drop (chorus).

Then, another technique is to put a stereo widener on the master and automate it so that it makes the less energetic sections of your track more mono, than the main sections (chorus/drop).

These tricks simply help to make the main section of your tracks hit just that bit harder!

 

6) TAKE PLATFORMS INTO CONSIDERATION

 

Just like you need to keep in mind what device the consumer will use to listen to music, you have to consider what PLATFORM (aka. streaming service) they are gonna use!

Some of you may already know this, but every streaming service has a different threshold at which they compress your tracks.

Spotify, for example, streams audio at around -14 LUFS.

This means that if your track has a loudness level of -8 LUFS, Spotify will decrease its volume to -14 LUFS.

Get to know these values and your master will translate as punchy, instead of a squashed and lifeless mess.

 

7) ACHIEVE MONO-COMPATIBILITY

 

You’d be surprised to know how most modern sound systems are mono. Just think about PA systems at festivals and clubs.

Or again, have you ever noticed the speakers at the grocery store and in big malls? These are all mono systems!

Phase cancellation occurs when conflicting sound frequencies cancel each other out, and this can happen when the stereo file is played back by a mono system.

What can happen?

Best case scenario, your track will lack a bit of punch. Worst case scenario, people won’t be able to hear some instruments in your mix.

So, if you plan to play your music at these venues, you really need to take this into consideration and start referencing your masters in mono!

 

8) TAKE BREAKS

 

When working for long hours on the same track, your ears will tire quickly and hinder your capability to address issues in your master. Take at least a small break every hour. I personally find the ideal is a ten-minute break every hour.

 

9) MASTERING CAN’T SAVE A CRAPPY MIX

 

Just like mixing can’t make a sub-par production sound professional, mastering can’t save a crappy mix.

Each phase of music-making has its purpose, so you shouldn’t confuse mixing with mastering.

Want an example?

Do you think you’d be able to change what instruments are present in your mix when you only have the audio stems?

Nope, right?

Then, don’t expect to fix a crappy mix when mastering it!