You know what they say, there’s more than one way to skin a cat…whatever that means.

But when it comes to mastering your music, sometimes it seems as painful as skinning something. 🙂

One common question has to do with volume.

How loud should your mastered mixes be? Are there any rules?

Hillel, one of my subscribers, asked it this way:

“Normally when doing a basic mastering of my tracks, I put my speakers and interface volume knobs halfway up and then try to bring up the volume so its at a nice normal listening level. Would you consider this a good practice? Or should I be attempting to get the volume up to a specific level?”

As you might have guessed, there are lots of ways to “standardize” the volume of your mastering sessions.

Some options include:

  • Use an actual VU meter, calibrated to a specific volume.
  • Use special meters combined with an RTA, choosing what SPL you want your masters to be in the mix position and mastering accordingly.
  • Use the TT Dynamic Range Meter, which gives you both the dynamic range AND the overall volume of your song. (And aim for a DR of no more than 8-12 dB.)
  • Use a metering plugin that shows average AND peak level, and decide what average (RMS) level you want your masters to be at.
  • Audibly compare your song to a professionally mastered song, and simply match the levels by ear.

There are lots of other ways, but these are some techniques that either I or people I know have used to get a consistent volume when mastering.

When it comes to mastering, every answer brings up three more questions. That’s why I pay attention to anything and everything Ian Shepherd does.

He’s a 15+ year veteran mastering engineer.

And he’s reopening his Home Mastering Masterclass. Here’s the link to check it out:

PLUS — Ian’s offering a special 20% discount to Home Studio Corner subscribers. But you’ve gotta sign up soon. Class starts this Friday (September 14th).

To get your discount, go here:

and click the orange “Add to Cart” button. Then enter discount code “hsc” in the box and click “Update Cart.”

Happy mastering!

And just so we’re clear, yes, that’s an affiliate link for Ian’s course, but I’ve seen the videos myself, and they’re fan-freaking-tastic.

  • Mark

    From mastering legend Bob Katz – great companion reading to this post, especially for those looking for “loudness” reference standards,

  • I took Ian’s Home Mastering course this summer and it was excellent. Great learning opp and great value for the price. … Just in case any of you are sitting on the fence.

  • chrisw92

    “And aim for a DR of no more than 8-12 dB.”
    Shouldn’t that be no less?

    I’m currently reading through the book ‘Mixing Audio, concepts, practices and tools – by Roey Izhaki’ (good book by the way, I recommend it… Really thick) and on the topic of mastering it says “if the mixes are good, [mastering] can make diamonds out of gold.” Very true, Ian’s great as well if you haven’t heard of him before.

    • Jon

      any DR greater than 12db just gets TOO quiet and TOO loud, so the original post is right.