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.

Joe Gilder
Home Studio Corner