10 Tips for Audio Mastering if You’re Not a Mastering Engineer

10 Tips for Audio Mastering if You’re Not a Mastering Engineer

Audio mastering is the final step before you release your track to the world. This is the stage where all minor flaws are corrected, the track is leveled up for commercial release standards and ensures that all the tracks play at the same volume.

It’s a process with a lot of history. 3M introduced the first mastering tape in 1962.

But can you master songs if you’re not a qualified engineer? Is audio mastering something you can do yourself?

The answer is yes! You can do your own mastering even if you’re not a mastering engineer. Read on to learn more.

1. Don’t Mix and Master at the Same Time

You want your final mix to sound like you’ve mastered it. But don’t try to mix and master at the same time.

Finish your mix and wait a day before you try to do your audio mastering. That way, you’ll hear things you need to fix that you might otherwise miss.

2. Create an Optimized Listening Space

You need an optimized space to listen to your track while mastering it. If you can, install acoustic panels to balance the sound in your room. If space is a concern, you can check your mix with a quality set of headphones, although speakers will always be better.

Or just choose a good pair of headphones. This means you can easily master your audio at home.

3. Check Where Your Track Will Be Used

Many platforms like YouTube and Spotify use loudness normalization. This means they raise or lower the volume on uploaded tracks. That means the tracks all match.

Check your meters while you’re mastering to make sure you’re in the right range for your chosen platform.

4. Use Meters

Meters give a more professional result to your sound quality.

At the very least, use a LUF meter (LUFS – Loudness units relative to Full Scale. This is a loudness standard designed to enable normalization of audio levels. Loudness Units (or LU) is an additional unit. It describes loudness without direct absolute reference and therefore describes loudness level differences. (i.e., the maximum level a system can handle) This will tell you how loud your track is. You’ll need to know this to check its volume across the mix.

Using the right loudness lets you hit the requirements of streaming platforms.

5. Avoid Any Clipping

You may not notice digital distortion when you’re mixing. But it becomes apparent when you’re mastering.

Before you export your mix, check nothing is clipping in any of the faders. Before exporting the mix, make sure that you are leaving around 6db’s of headroom and that at no point the signal is going over 0 on the meters.

6. Always Use Reference Tracks

It may sound odd to say reference tracks can make or break your final product.

But they give you something great to compare your mix to. Listen to other professionally mastered music while you’re working on yours.

That way, your track can hold its own alongside these other mixes.

7. Make Notes the First Time You Listen

We recommended you take at least a day between finishing your mix and starting your master.

When you finally get to listen to your track, make notes. Write down anything that stands out as being off or annoying.

You’ll pick up most of the problems during this first listen. That makes them easier to iron out.

8. Listen in Different Spaces

We advised you to optimize your listening space. But it’s also important to ‘test’ your track in a range of spaces.

That’s because people will listen on their phone, in their car, or through speakers.

Listen to your mix in these spaces too. Remember to listen to your reference tracks in the same spaces for better insights into how yours should sound.

9. Keep Audio Mastering Simple

You’ll find plenty of tools in your software. But keeping things simple results in cleaner tracks.

Restrict yourself to three tools: Compressor, EQ, LimiterStart with your EQ and try to find out if anything needs boosting or cutting. If the mix is already compressed, adding more compression might be a bad idea. After you have everything leveled out, pay attention to how loud the material is and if it needs some limiting.

10. Use the Right Export Settings

Before you start mastering, export your mix at the same sample rate and bit as the session. Use lossless formats like .wav or .aiff. Never use a compressed file format like mp3 at this stage.

When you export your master, export at 16 bits and 44.1 kHz. These are standard rates in the industry. Use both a lossless format and something like mp3.

Learn to Master like a Pro

There’s a lot to remember when you start audio mastering yourself.

It’s fulfilling but there’s also a learning curve while you get used to the terminology. At the end of the day, and to always achieve professional results, you will always want to hire a seasoned engineer, since he/ she will bring years of experience and judgement to the table. If you’re serious about your music (and I know you are) you will learn a lot more by going this route.

Why not submit a track and get a free mastering sample? We would love to help you out!

How to Master Your Audio at Home

How to Master Your Audio at Home

You love music so much that you’ve set up a home studio. You’re enjoying the benefits of music in your life as a stress reliever or a creative outlet. But maybe you want to take your journey to the next level by learning how to master audio.

Of course, becoming an expert in anything requires a lot of time and dedication. Sound engineering technicians typically spend at least a year in a certificate or degree program.

But, you don’t have to dedicate yourself to schooling to gain sound engineering skills. Use these tips as a launching pad toward becoming more proficient and comfortable with mastering audio at home.

Understand Mastering

To master audio the right way, you should understand what it is exactly. Mastering is the final stage in mixing a song.

What’s the difference between mixing versus mastering?

Mixing is all about blending several tracks into one single track. Mastering, on the other hand, revolves around adding precision to the audio track. The mastering stage is the last step of refining a song so that it’s officially ready for listeners.

How to Master a Song: Six Important Steps

Learning how to master music can be a layered and complex process. But here are a few high-level tips you can keep in mind as you get started mastering tracks.

Prepare an Ideal Listening Environment

To mix and master music, you need a quiet listening space. Set yourself up for success by installing acoustic panels in your home studio.

Other important investments include a good pair of open-back headphones and studio monitors to help you accurately hear and listen to your work.

Even if you just have some of these basics, this will help you mix and master audio more successfully.

Create Your Final Mix

Mixing involves transforming multiple tracks into a single track. Balance is hugely important during this phase. You want to address imbalances or issues with synchronization and consistency when it comes to the right volume for your particular song.

Put the time in to get your mix in great shape before you start perfecting it. This will help lay a good foundation for those final tune-ups in the mastering phase.

Start Making Revisions

Once you have your single track, you can get to work with refining what it.

Remove sound harshness, imbalances, and inconsistencies.

You’ll also want to iron out issues with compression. Compression is important to add to your track so that you can create an ideal dynamic range. This refers to the highest and lowest volume of the track.

Compression done the right way helps your track sound put together and cohesive.

Be mindful of any signs of clipping—which can register as distortion or audio breaking up.

Enhance Your Track

To ready your song for release, you’ll want to add finishing touches. These might include:

  • Adding extra effects for more dynamics
  • Adding saturation to create more body
  • Stereo widening to help add more room if sounds are too close together

Reference Your Final Product

Once you’ve reached a good point with your mastered track, listen to your work. Make sure to compare it to other songs that are in the same genre and have been successful. You might also do this during the mixing stage too.

This can be a helpful tool to reset your ears or provide perspective when you’re deep into a project.

Continue Learning How to Master Audio or Hire a Pro

While this is just a crash course on how to master audio, you can find plenty of other helpful tips on our site. Or submit your track and get a FREE MASTERING SAMPLE!