DMH’s Personal Mastering Techniques
I’ve had a few requests to pass along my mastering tips & tricks. Let’s start off with the fact that these are MY approaches to mastering for my music … Nothing more.
So, should you do your own mastering? That’s a big question … And depends upon your skill level. As far as I’m concerned, you can do your own mastering, if you’re willing to put in the time to check the mixes, step back from your work and listen critically … It’s all about skill, artistry and a willingness to get burned when you screw up (and you will at first). So, with that lets get started with what “I” do to master my stuff.
First off, I mix in the box … using Nuendo.
Secondly (and this is the important part), I include ALL of my mastering functions within the mix of each song. That’s right, I don’t use an outside editor or even a separate session to do my mastering … It’s all done within the song. So, what does that mean? It means that …
- the most recent song mix is contained in the session (obviously … with previous mixes being saved to a “mix back” directory).
- the session master EQ settings are saved within each song mix. You could use an EQ plugin or mastering plugin … I actually use the standard Nuendo main buss out EQ, as it sounds great and works the same for stereo or surround mixes.
- the session track timings are also contained within each song mix. This will take a lot of learning and trial & error to get the hang of. An easy way to get started doing this is to start the song at 00:00:00:00 … Then listen to the ending and imagine when the next song would start (it’s all about intuition) and place the session export end marker at that point.
- An LA mastering engineer from Ireland taught me another EQ trick that seems to work. Being a long-time UAD user … I’ll place the Precision Multiband Limiter in circuit with only the upper-mid and hi bands selected. This has the effect of lightly adding to the highs, without sounding sharp or piercing.
- if it’s a stereo mix, i’ll always put the UA Precision Limiter into the circuit, just to trim the peaks (with a max -3dB limit)
- it’s usually a good idea to put a frquency analyser into the main output bus chain, just to check the overall spectral nature of the mix.
- the next is to check the mix for level overloads and general mix level consistency within the overall album mix (again, it’s an artistic call).
- finally, I’ll export each song and then put it together into the final album and listen through for consistency.
The sweet part of all of this is that once you’re done, you can make changes at any point and the timings, overall EQs and any other settings won’t be effected. Simply – remix, export and place it into the final project … No muss, no need to remaster … the final mix is ready!
Sounds easy … But if you’re a perfectionist like me, this can go on and on until you’re happy. But … you can always go back and make changes easily at any time. Put simply, it takes a bit more time to setup initially (although not that much) … But, once you’re done, changes are a breeze.