If you’ve ever tried to master your own mixes, you’ve likely made mistakes like this.
“Oo…I like the way that compression sounds, let me add a little more.”
“Wowzers…that limiter makes this track so loud and awesome! I bet a little more limiting will make it even better!”
“Hmm…cutting 200 Hz by 3 dB really cleaned up the mix. I’m gonna cut it another 3 dB just to make sure my mix isn’t muddy at all.”
See, the problem with mastering is that you’re making adjustments to an entire MIX.
Sure, a 6 dB cut on a bass guitar track might be perfect. Aggressive compression on a lead vocal? Sure, why not.
Processing an entire mix is a completely different animal.
A good rule of thumb when trying to master a song is to chill the heck out.
To see what I mean, open up a new session in your DAW and import a stereo mix…any stereo mix will do.
Now take an EQ plugin and boost 100 Hz by 1 dB.
Or 500 Hz, or 8 kHz. You pick one.
Now, I don’t have golden ears. I generally can’t hear a 1 dB boost very well when I’m EQ-ing a single track. But when you do a 1 dB boost across an entire mix, suddenly it becomes much more noticeable.
I’ve mastered songs before where I can hear a half dB change.
Again, I do NOT have really great ears. This just demonstrates how much more “sensitive” a mix is to processing.
Keep it subtle. Make small adjustments. And do a lot of listening.
I’m no Ian Shepherd, but I’ve learned a lot from him over the last few years that have made me a much bettering mastering engineer.
You can, too.
Sign up for his Home Mastering Masterclass, and you’ll get some straight-up awesome training that will help YOU get better at mastering songs in your home studio:
Plus, I’ll throw in a copy of Understanding EQ or Understanding Compression, both of which apply nicely to mastering.
Class starts today, so sign up now, and forward your receipt to me for your freebie.
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