How To Master Your Own Music: The Complete Guide For Beginners
If you are thinking about mastering your own music, you might be wondering where to start.
What type of file do you need?
When do you use EQ?
Should you use a limiter in the middle or at the end?
We’ve created a basic step by step guide to help you work through mastering your music. As with anything in music, rules are made to be broken, but we hope this will give you a starting point to deviate from!
Let’s get started…
1. Prepare Your Track
As you mix your track, be sure to leave plenty of headroom. You’ll want to export your mix to a stereo file with a bit depth of at least 24 and a sample rate of 44.1 kHz or more. Next, you will need to import your file into a brand new session in your DAW.
2.Look For Weaknesses In The Mix
This step is all about defining what it is that you want to fix or enhance. The best way to figure this out is to listen to professionally mastered songs that are similar to your track. Compare your song to the samples and listen for anything that sounds strange in your track. You can also use a spectrum analyzer to check for too much, or not enough energy across the song.
Here are some common problems to look for:
- Loud vocal esses
- Muddy low end
- Inconsistent frequencies
- Stereo image being too narrow or wide
- Jarring volume variations
- General unwanted noise
3.Clean It Up
Now that you have a general idea of what you are going to fix, it’s time to enhance the sound of your track. I cannot emphasize enough that this should be done GENTLY. Experiment with some tools like EQ, stereo wideners and harmonic exciters. Here are some suggestions:
- A low cut filter around 30 Hz can help with muddiness
- Boosting high frequencies can add some air to your song
- Slight cuts to the low/upper-mids can help polish the track.
To avoid over-compressing, start with a ration of 1.5:1 or 2:1. If compression doesn’t improve the overall quality of your track, skip it altogether! Do not go over 4 dB of gain reduction. You can try chaining different compressors in series to add loudness in small steps, or use a multi band compressor to hone in on one frequency range.
5.Clipping And Limiting
The goal in this step is to increase the overall level of the song without losing quality. For more energetic songs, soft clipping allows you to cut off the tops of the frequency clips. Applying a limiter (limited to -0.1) will bring your track up to commercial quality without digital clipping. The limiter should be the final step you take before exporting your mastered track.
6.Reference Your Track
Now that you have done all you can to improve the overall quality of your track, it’s time to export it and check how it sounds on different systems! Export your final master into an uncompressed .wav or .aiff file at 44.1 kHz 16 bit. Use this as a master file to covert your song into whatever format you prefer. Next, check how your song sounds on as many different systems as possible (headphones, car stereo, boombox, entertainment system…). If anything sounds off, consistently, across multiple systems, go back and make changes as needed.
We hope you find this useful as a basic guide to mastering. Remember, when it comes to mastering, it’s all about what you hear. If something makes your song sound better, it is better! Be creative and trust your judgement.
If you’d like these steps in an easy-to-follow, printable, graphic, check out the file linked below!
DOWNLOAD ->: beginners-guide-to-mastering