In a perfect world, you’d have the budget to hire a mastering engineer for every project you’d mix.

Down here in the real world, budgets are slim, and our clients need a finished, mastered mix, so the burden falls on us to come through for them.

While I’m no mastering guru, I’ve done quite a bit over the last few years, and I’ve put together a rapid-fire list of the things I’ve learned.

I hope these help.

  1. Focus on dynamic range, not compression or gain reduction.
  2. Have a reason for every plugin you use. If you don’t know why you’re using a plugin, ditch it.
  3. Use reference material, even though it can be really boring and time-consuming.
  4. Go for punchy bass, but be careful not to overdo it. Too much bass is a bad thing.
  5. When mastering an album, an easy way to make sure the overall volume is consistent from song to song is to match the volume of the lead vocal.
  6. When using EQ, boosts and cuts as little as 1 dB are actually fairly audible and effective.
  7. Don’t expect miracles from mastering. It will still sound like your mix at the end.
  8. Multi-band compression is an amazing tool. Don’t overuse it.
  9. Don’t be afraid to let the limiter work a little bit. It can be more transparent than a heavily-worked compressor.
  10. Start with EQ, and work from there.

There ya go.

And speaking of EQ, today’s the last day to get the 30% discount on my buddy Ian Shepherd’s Home Mastering EQ video tutorial.

Here’s my affiliate link:

And remember, I’ll be doing a special free webinar for everyone who buys using my affiliate link. During that webinar (which will be available afterwards as an mp3 recording), I will be sharing with you the biggest things I learned from this video series, and how I’m applying it to MY mastering sessions.

Just forward your receipt to and I’ll let you know when the webinar is scheduled.

(It will be sometime next month most likely, after we’ve all had a chance to watch the videos.)


Joe Gilder
Home Studio Corner