Mastering Tutorial | Secret Mastering Tips | Audio Mastering
Mastering Tutorial written by David S Eley - TGM Audio (can be applied in any audio editing software)
I'm sure most would agree that techniques are substantially more important than the tools you choose to use. If you don't know how to get the best from what you have, there's no point in upgrading until you do. Expensive gear won't give you that commercial sounding finish. Skill and knowledge will.
I started out with fairly modest mastering tools and spent years perfecting my techniques before I upgraded to what some might consider 'high end' mastering equipment. I set about running my own audio mastering business and made a living using standard plugins and low-end hardware. I did this by using clever techniques to get a pro sound. Customers liked what I did and stuck with me.
Mastering is a massive subject with many sub groups, from arranging and levelling tracks for an mp3 album, preparing a mix to be pressed to vinyl, to restoring an old recording. It seems though that the masses are mostly interested in one area of mastering - what I specialise in - getting a commercial sounding record. The good news is this can be done with relatively primitive tools if you know what you're doing.
There are many plugins nowadays that offer an all-in-one solution to mastering, Ozone and T-RackS are two common ones. I've used both and I can tell you they're very impressive. The thing is, with all-in-one solutions, you get a whole bunch of pre-sets. Most will not sound too great. Sometimes you may find a pre-set which sounds quite nice, only to find that it only sounds nice on your monitors. The question is, why do certain pre-sets benefit your music but others don't? And why does one pre-set sound good on your monitors but sounds bad on others? These pre-sets have a negative effect on your learning as they encourage you to just take a stab in the dark and see what happens, never really learning anything as you go.
I can't begin to tell you how useful it is to have a deep understanding of what mastering techniques are needed to get a pro sound. Apart from allowing you to achieve a commercial sound in your own studio, this deep understanding goes much further. For instance, your mixing and recording will improve too. You'll understand what it is about your favourite commercial tracks that makes them sound so good, and why they always sound as good no matter what sound system you hear them on, even laptop speakers.
There is a set of techniques, or even rules if you will, which I follow and they always return great results. I call this 'The Audio Mastering Blueprint'.
MasteringTuition.com is completely free to use and can teach anyone these powerful techniques so they too can get a pro sound. This website will take you on a journey of discovery through the audio mastering process.
Here's an overview of the mastering techniques covered:
1. The first area covered gets straight into what you're dying to know - how the end result should sound. Knowing this provides you with a goal, and having a goal keeps you on the path. Instantly knowing exactly what you want to achieve before you start mastering is a fantastic skill to have. This understanding is constantly reinforced throughout the whole mastering tutorial website.
2. Next we look at the listening environment. This is covered early because of it's importance. The shape and nature of your room, the response of your speakers and where you are positioned can all affect the way you perceive the sound. Your awareness and understanding of this is crucial in getting a commercial sounding record. In this section is a list of really useful tips on getting the best out of your own environment.
3. Then we get straight into some fantastic mastering techniques using EQ. These techniques alone can really start to bring out that polished finish. The EQ chapter is broken down into sub categories to help you make sense of why these techniques return such good results, all the time strengthening your understanding of the end result.
4. Having become a master of your EQ, we then move on to dynamics processing. The techniques in this section, coupled with your new found possibilities in spectral shaping, is where it all comes together. By the end of this section you'll have your own masters sounding pro. Like the EQ chapter, dynamics processing is split into sub categories which focus on the different ways dynamics processors (compression/limiting etc) can be used to achieve professional results.
5. The next section is made up entirely of videos. A whole mastering session is captured using all the techniques discussed, proving that standard plugins can be used to get a pro sound. Just before this section, I provide you with some tips to ensure the suitability of your mix for mastering.
6. After the live mastering session you will arrive at the advanced section. By this point you will have gained a deep understanding of the very purpose of audio mastering - an understanding similar to that possessed by top engineers. This is the time to share with you all the secrets that mastering engineers don't want you to know. This section will really blow your socks off - you'll be amazed at what you didn't know the top mastering engineers are doing.
Written by David S Eley - TGM Audio Mastering MasteringTuition.com