How well do you understand mastering? For something that’s needed on every track, there’s still a lot of mystery surrounding it.
The last step before releasing a track, mastering takes place after all the production and post-production has wrapped-up. Once all the levels are properly mixed and balanced, mastering adds that final polish and brings things up to the proper volume.
But what is the right volume for a hip hop mastered song? How do you get the right amount of low-end without things sounding too cluttered?
Keep reading for all you need to know before mastering a hip hop track.
Know the Genre
Every genre of music has its own characteristics that need to come through. For hip hop, it’s a thumping low-end with a crisp high end. Think of the combination of an 808 kick and the chainsaw hi-hats found in modern hip hop and trap.
The challenge here is getting the right amount of bass without losing energy to compression and limiters. Luckily, you can balance that out by boosting the highs.
Get a Reference
Use reference tracks to help guide you through the mastering process. Having professionally produced tracks to compare your track against will reveal what areas you need to focus on to get the right sound.
There are different plugins that will allow you to easily A/B between your track and your reference tracks. These tools make it really convenient for you to compare and contrast your work.
Know Your Targets
Once upon a time, all mastered tracks were targeted toward radio broadcast levels. In today’s marketplace, you need to consider the target levels of all the different platforms the track will be released on.
Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, and the other streaming platforms provide their target LUFS (Loudness Levels relative to Full-Scale.) Produce a master at the target level for each platform.
Use Your Tools
By the time the track is ready for mastering, the tonality and shape of the track should be set. What’s left for you is to make sure that things are balanced and set to the proper level.
Remember to dither the track if you’re working at a lower rate than the session was recorded in. This will eliminate unwanted noise.
There are three primary tools to set your master. They are as follows.
EQ – Use an equalizer tool to boost the right frequencies for the genre. In hip hop, you’ll want to make sure that the low-end and high-end come through the strongest. This should leave plenty of room to boost the vocals in the mids if needed.
Compression – A compressor keeps the loud parts from getting too loud and the quiet parts from being too quiet. A multi-band compressor lets you compress specific frequencies without affecting the overall track. This way you can tame wild frequencies without squashing the entire track.
Limiting – A limiter does exactly what it says. It limits the volume of the track. Putting a limiter at the end of your signal chain helps you control the loudness of the track, ensuring that it doesn’t peak higher than your target level.
Hip Hop Mastered Song
Mastering hip hop isn’t that different than mastering any other genre of music. The difference is that a hip hop mastered song is going to feature fewer mids than guitar-oriented music.
Instead, you’ll want to boost your low-end and set a nice and crisp high-end, using compression to keep things from getting out of control.
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