People tend to get a little “weirded out” by mastering.

They assume that since it’s such an important stage in a song’s life that it must be really complex.

It’s really not.

I used to think the same way, but the more mastering jobs I did, the more I realized how simple the process can be.

Let me make an important distinction here. There’s a big difference between “simple” and “easy.” Mastering (like anything else you do in the studio) isn’t easy.

It is, however, fairly simple.

You don’t need a dozen high-end, super-expensive plugins to get the job done. You can probably get a decent-sounding master with the plugins you already own.

When I master a song, I’m usually using no more than 4 or 5 plugins…TOPS.

Here are the plug-ins I use and the order I like to use them:

  • Gain
  • EQ
  • Multi-Band Compressor
  • Limiter

(I “borrowed” that order from Ian Shepherd, FYI.)

So…if you have access to those 4 plugins, you should be able to master your own mixes…

IF (and this is a big if) you know HOW to properly set up those plugins.

Just slapping ’em on your track won’t cut it. You need to know what to listen for, what settings to adjust, etc.

That’s where it can get tricky.

But luckily, Ian Shepherd’s gonna walk you all the way through it.

Make sure you sign up for his class if you want to get serious about mastering your mixes.

Here’s the linky link:

Joe Gilder

10 Responses to “My Plug-in Chain for Mastering”

  1. Tony S.

    what “gain” and “multi-band compressor” plug-in would u recommend?? Any by Waves…?

    • Joe Gilder

      Waves has their C4. I don’t like it because I like to only have 3 bands. Gain is gain. I just use the stock gain plugin in my DAW.

  2. Xan Angelfvkk

    I was gonna go blah, blah, old story ov how I discovered mastering etc. (maybe I still will) but actually what I would really like to do is ask a question..

    Your plug-in chain Joe, it makes sense. But isn’t there something missing?

    In my experience I have found that even once one does a chain like that after the final limiting there is still a slight variance in track to track volume. So what do you do? Do you adjust the limiter to deal with this, or does this not happen to you? heh


    • Joe Gilder

      You can just adjust the fader level of the tracks that aren’t balanced. Generally, though, when I master, after I’ve done all the processing, they’re pretty close in volume.

  3. CameronN

     Reference mixes (masters?) are really great for figuring out what to listen for.

    • Joe Gilder

      Absolutely. I’m really bad at remembering to do it, but EVERY time I do, it helps me get some perspective on the direction of the mix/master.

  4. Sambatesmusic

    I’m using Slate Digital’s FG-X. It’s incredible! Cannot recommend highly enough. Before that usually Logic’s linear EQ, then a Pultec emulation for sweetening the highs. I’ve never liked the results from a multiband comp, should really put more work in!

  5. Jaime

    It has always baffled me that pro tools has no stock muti-band compressor, and I’ve set up a session that splits audio on to 4aux tracks, each with an EQ and digital compressor on to achieve the same thing…

    Btw I wouldn’t consider 200 bucks too much for izotope ozone as an option 😉

    • Joe Gilder

      Yeah, PT definitely holds back on giving you good stock plugins sometimes. I use Studio One for mastering, and it has all of these plugins included. The Multi-Band Comp is actually pretty sweet.


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