jrmasteringsmall

My blog articles and vlogs cover 100's of the best advanced mixing techniques and advanced mastering tips.  These are the same mixing and mastering techniques and tips I've used with over 8,000 clients since 1999 in my online studio JR mastering.  

Only $5.98 On AMAZON



Updated in 2021, this is one of the best song mixing books on the market!  John gets straight to the point on how to professionally FIX YOUR MIX!



Whether you need to know how mix songs in fl studio, pro tools, audacity, garageband, cubase, logic or abeleton the information provided applies to all of these programs.    

If you're into audio engineering, this is a great music production book to add to your home recording studio collection. Packed with step-by-step proven methods.
 

Since 1999, I've worked with over 8,000 clients (that's 6-8 per week) in every genre imaginable. Working with this many clients gave me the rare opportunity to discover what areas most sound engineers are having problems with.
 

Most of the mixes clients submit are pretty good. The sound engineer definitely does not need to read a 400 page book on basic mixing techniques, or take a six week mixing course. They're way beyond that.
 

What they do need is a book that points out the most common mixing errors that most sound engineers make, so they can check their mixes for them. Problems they don't even realize their mixes suffer from. That's what "Song Mixing Secrets" is all about!
 

I Show You How To Quickly Fix These Common Problems -

  • Mix is too crowded, no space or clarity
  • Vocals can't cut through the mix
  • Inconsistent levels from section to section
  • Mix is too bassy, muddy
  • Mix is too bright, tinny, thin
  • Stereo field is weak (your song is really mono)
  • And More!!


This book is for someone who has a good understanding of basic mixing procedures.
Sometimes as a solution to a problem, I might suggest compressing the lead vocal a bit. But, I don't get into detailed threshold and ratio settings. I assume you already know how to compress a vocal track.

 

I wrote this entire book in simple plain English (layman's terms). I eliminated all the words you never heard of and hi-tech jargon, so anyone at any level can understand and learn from this book.
 

You've invested hundreds, if not thousands, of hours into your music.
If you're serious about it, now's the time to make a very small financial investment in this book so your music will sound the very best it can!

 


I wrote this book so you can quickly learn (in a matter of days) the techniques, tips, and secrets that took me over 20 years to learn!




Only $5.98 On AMAZON


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Song Mixing Secrets....................................................1

Table Of Contents........................................................2

Who This Book Is For..................................................4

What You Will Learn From This Book.........................5

About The Author........................................................7

Testimonials................................................................8

Song Mixing FAQs.....................................................10

Protecting Your Hearing.............................................24

Setting Up Your Listening Environment............. .......30

How To Fix Common Mixing Mistakes......37

#14 Noisy Tracks Making The Mix Muddy (5%).......38

#13 Poorly Partially Mastered Or Over-level (10%)..40

#12 Rhythm Of The Song is Dragging (10%)...........42

#11 Kick/Bass Relationship Is Poor (10%)...............44

#10 Bass Is Too Loud Or Boomy (10%)............. .....45

#9 Overall Mix Is Muddy Or Too Bassy (15%).........47

#8 Overall Mix Is Too Thin Or Tinny (15%)..............48

#7 Too Much Ssss Sound In The Vocals (15%).......49

#6 Bright Instrument Or Vocal Sticks Out (15%)......50

#5 Lead Vocal Bassy Or Too Thin (20%).................52

#4 Narrow Mix, Sounds Bad In A Car (30%)............53

#3 Lead Vocal Not Loud Or Inconsistent (30%).......58

#2 Inconsistent Tracks And Sections (60%).............59

#1 Not Enough Space In The Mix (70%)..................70

My Main Resources..................................................89

Thank You!..... ..........................................................90
Contact Info...............................................................91

 


Now Only $8.98 On AMAZON!



The #1 Best Selling Audio Mastering Book for 2021 and 2020!

Audio Mastering Secrets is the first audio mastering books that focuses entirely on how to master audio to radio quality standards, all from the comfort of your home recording studio. No expensive gear required to get amazing results!

Written by John Rogers of JR Mastering, this guide outlines (step-by-step) the techniques John has used to professionally master songs for over 8,000 clients, since 1999 (that’s 6-8 per week).

Whether you need to know how master songs in fl studio, pro tools, audacity, garageband, cubase, logic or abeleton the information provided applies to all of these programs.    

My book covers the following:


This Book Is An 7 x 9 Learning Guide (192 pages)

It focuses on how to master audio, how to become a great audio mastering engineer, and how not to be a bad one.

I do not get into the specific brands of gear you should buy, the history of sound engineering, or 1,000's of compressor settings (of which maybe 40 you'll ever use). In this book I focus on mastering audio!


Common Mastering Problems And Their Solutions

In audio mastering, you will face common problems like a mix being too thin, tinny, distorted, over-saturated, muddy, or not bright enough. Sometimes you can't get the song loud enough, boomy enough, no separation, too much bass, no sparkle, and many other problems. I explain in detail which effects processors to use and their exact settings to solve these common problems. This is a great tool to refer back to when needed.


My Step-By-Step Audio Mastering Session

You will learn the 18 steps I take in the audio mastering process. From importing your file, down to loudness maximization and finally exporting a perfectly mastered song!


This Entire Book Is Based On Real-World Experiences

Not on theory, what I learned in school, or what I heard from some other engineer. I teach from real world experiences with satisfied clients.


Mastering Different Genres

Here s where I break down the sonic qualities of sixteen different genres. How much brightness, bass, boominess, compression, etc., you re trying to achieve for each genre. And several tips on what clients are looking for.


My Audio Mastering Laws

In this section, I cover a series of dos, do nots, and facts that basically apply to all audio mastering jobs regardless of genre. I also cover several pitfalls you will experience (just like I did) as an audio mastering engineer, and how to get through them.


Setting Up You're Listening Environment

In this section I cover calibrating your speakers, learning your speakers, speaker placement and room size. And, the myth about soundproofing your room.


The Effects Processors Used In Audio Mastering

The basics of what they all do, how to use them, when to use them, and my initial settings templates.


This Book Is A Very Easy Read

I left out all the high-tech jargon and rarely used words that slow down sentence flow.


And Much More!

In a matters of weeks, you can learn all of the audio mastering secrets, tips, and techniques that took me over 20 years to learn!




Now Only $8.98 On AMAZON!


TABLE OF CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION (PAGE #)

  • Audio Mastering Secrets (1)
  • Table Of Contents (2)
  • Who This Book Is For (8)
  • What You Will Learn From This Book (9)
  • About The Author (11)
  • Testimonials (12)
AUDIO MASTERING FAQS
  • What Is Audio Mastering? (13)
  • How Does Audio Mastering Compare To Mixing? (14)
  • What's The Main Goal In Audio Mastering? (15)
  • Why Do Songs Need To Be Mastered? (17)
  • Can Anyone Become A Great Mastering Engineer? (18)
  • How Long Does It Take to Master A Song? (19)
  • Should Your Mix Sound Close To A Mastered Song? (20)
  • Does A Radio Ready Mastering Standard Exist? (22)
AUDIO MASTERING DEFINITIONS AND CONCEPTS
  • Some Of The Terms I Use In This Book (23)
  • What Is Headroom And Dynamic Range? (25)
  • Why Does A Mix Need Headroom And Dynamic Range? (26)
  • How To Create Proper Headroom In Your Mixes (27)
  • What Is A/B Comparison Listening? (28)
  • What Are Mid-Side Effects Processors? (29)

MASTERING EQUIPMENT FAQ

  • What Hardware Do You Need For Mastering? (30)
  • What Software Do You Need For Mastering? (30)
  • Which Mastering Software Plugins Do I Recommend? (31)
  • Analog Mastering Equipment vs. Digital Software (32)

THE 8 EFFECTS PROCESSORS USED IN MASTERING

  • Standard 5-Band Equalizer (34)
  • Mid-Side 5-Band Equalizer (35)
  • Multi-Band Compressor (36)
  • Multi-Band Spectral Enhancer (Harmonic Exciter) (36)
  • Multi-Band Stereo Widener (37)
  • Multi-Band Mastering Reverb (38)
  • Loudness Maximizer (39)
  • De-esser (40)
  • Volume Meter Software (40)
  • What Signal Path Should You Use? (42)

SETTING UP YOUR LISTENING ENVIRONMENT

  • Room Size (44)
  • Speaker Choices (44)
  • Speaker Placement (45)
  • My Personal Speaker Placement (46)
  • Learning And Calibrating Your Speakers (47)
  • Sound Proofing Your Room (48)

PROTECTING YOUR HEARING

  • What Is Tinnitus? (50)
  • How Is Tinnitus Caused? (50)
  • How Did I Get My Tinnitus And How Did It Sound? (50)
  • Is There A Cure For Tinnitus? (51)
  • Can You Mix And Master With Tinnitus? (51)
  • How To Prevent Tinnitus In Everyday Life (52)
  • How Loud Is Too Loud When Mixing And Mastering? (52)
  • How To Protect Your Hearing As A Sound Engineer (52)
  • The Rules I Follow During Mixing And Mastering (53)

THE 18 LAWS OF AUDIO MASTERING

  • Audio Facts Are Facts, Not Just Opinions (54)
  • Know The Genre Of Music You're Working On (55)
  • Don't Do Counter Productive Processes (56)
  • Always Think Natural Sound First (57)
  • Don't Get Stuck In Familiarity (58)
  • Don't Be Afraid To Make Drastic Changes (60)
  • Don't Underestimate Your Capabilities (61)
  • If You're Going To Miss, Go Slightly Over Not Under (62)
  • Certain Actions Have Exponential Affects (63)
  • When Using EQ Always Think Cut First (64)
  • The Lead Vocal Is Your Main Focus (65)
  • Listen To Your Feedback (67)
  • Learning Decibel Amounts By Ear (68)
  • Working In Decibels And Percentages, Not Fader Slides (69)
  • You Have To Make Everything Sound Good (71)
  • Let Your EARS Be The Final Judge, Not Your EYES (73)
  • Always Finalize On Fresh Ears (74)
  • Mastering Is An Art Form, Treat It Like One! (76)

The 4-Band Frequency Ranges In Multi-Band Processing

  • LOW (20hz-130hz) (79)
  • LOWER-MIDS (130hz-1.5k) (80)
  • UPPER-MIDS (1.5k-9k) (81)
  • HIGH (9k-20k) (82)
  • Closing Thoughts On 4-Band Frequency Ranges (83)

WORKING WITH SONIC QUALITIES

  • The Sonic Qualities In Audio Mastering (84)
  • Adjusting Your Sonic Qualities With A/B Comparison (87)
  • How To Handle A Song That Has Erratic Sonic Qualities (89)
  • What's The Difference Between EQ And Spectral Enhancement? (92)

SOLUTIONS TO COMMON MASTERING PROBLEMS

  • Brightness, Tone, Sparkle (UPPER-MIDS & HIGH Band) (93)
  • Clarity And Separation (Any BAND) (103)
  • Bass Volume, Boominess, Kick Punch (LOW Band or LOWER-MIDS) (108)
  • Warmth, Thickness, Presence (LOWER-MIDS And/Or UPPER-MIDS) (111)
  • De-essing (On Song's Effects Bus) (113)
  • Stereo Width (HIGH Band & UPPER-MIDS w/ Mid-Side EQ) (114)
  • Overall Volume (116)

COMPRESSION MADE EASY

  • Which Compressors Are Used In Audio Mastering? (120)
  • What Can Compressors Do In Audio Mastering? (121)
  • Working With A Compressor's Threshold And Ratio Settings (124)
  • What Are Your Compression Goals By Band? (135)
  • The Power Of Thinning Out A Band (139)
  • Why Would You Want Less Dynamic Range? (141)
  • Compression Mostly Affects The Loudest Parts Of A Song (141)
  • Why Do I Never Remove Compression As A Remedy? (143)

AUDIO MASTERING PROCEDURES

  • Should You Export Your Mix Or Mix And Master At The Same Time? (144)
  • But What If The Mix Is Terrible, Shouldn't You Fix It? (145)
  • The Importance of Good A/B Comparison And Mix Evaluation (146)
  • Getting Your Songs To Translate Well on Different Mediums (147)
  • How To Create A Cohesive CD (148)

AUDIO MASTERING STEP-BY-STEP

  • Initial Mastering Template Setup (151)
  • 1. Let's Start The Audio Mastering Session! (153)
  • 2. What File Types Are Used In Audio Mastering? (153)
  • 3. Import Files (154)
  • 4. Visually Evaluate The Song Mix File (155)
  • 5. Use Your Ears To Evaluate The Song Mix (159)
  • 6. Slightly Compress Each Of The 4 Bands (160)
  • 7. Loudness Maximize The Song (160)
  • 8. Adjust Anything Moderately Sonically Off (161)
  • 9. Initial Master (Speaker Monitor Volume) (162)
  • 10. Setting The UPPER-MIDS (1k - 9k) (163)
  • 11. Setting The LOW Band (20hz - 150hz) (165)
  • 12. Setting The LOWER-MIDS (150hz - 1.5k) (165)
  • 13. Setting The HIGH Band (9k - 20k) (166)
  • 14. Check Volume And Adjust (166)
  • 15. Listen To The Song As A Whole And Adjust (167)
  • 16. Break Time! (168)
  • 17. 2nd Master And Tweak On Fresh Ears (169)
  • 18. The Final Export - Loudness Maximization (171)

MASTERING DIFFERENT GENRES

  • How Do I Know The Sonic Qualities For Each Genre? (172)
  • Vocals And Instrumentation May Change Your Sonic Approach (173)
  • How To Master Different Genres (176)
  • How To Master Metal And Hard Rock (176)
  • How To Master Classic Rock (178)
  • How To Master Pop-Rock, Punk, Alternative, And Country (179)
  • How To Master Hip-Hop And Rap (180)
  • How To Master R&B (181)
  • How To Master Pop-Dance, EDM, And Synth (182)
  • How To Master Movie Soundtrack, Classical, And Jazz (183)

WORKING WITH CLIENTS

  • Should I Ask Clients For A Reference Song? (185)
  • Using The Initial Preview As A Reference (185)
  • Go With The Client's Mix Or With What You Know? (187)

MY MAIN RESOURCES

  • My Main Resources (188)
  • Thank You (190)
  • Contact Info (192)

 

Whether you're working with fl studio, pro tools, audacity, garageband, cubase, logic or abeleton the information provided applies to all of these programs.    

 

VIDEO - Setting Your Mixing Levels Before Mastering

  song mixing secrets        subscribe youtube

 


VIDEO - ANALYZING A .WAV FILE BEFORE MASTERING

  audio mastering secrets        subscribe youtube


 

VIDEO - MAKING DRASTIC CHANGES IN AUDIO MASTERING

  audio mastering secrets        subscribe youtube




VIDEO - The Effects Processors Used In Audio Mastering

  audio mastering secrets        subscribe youtube

mixing levels

Correctly setting your mixing levels before mastering is essential for great mastering results.  Having the best DB levels for mixing is critical.  Here's how to properly do it! 



This section covers how to master a song, step-by-step. I use the techniques outlined in earlier sections of the book, Audio Mastering Secrets, and explain the logic behind my actions.

Whether you need to know how master songs in fl studio, pro tools, audacity, garageband, cubase, logic or abeleton the step by step information provided applies to all of these programs.    

The details in this article were kept somewhat vague.  If I included all details it would be over 180 pages.  For example, I might say, "check the UPPER-MIDS, compress them properly, and then make sure brightness and clarity are correct."  Now you might ask, "Where are the UPPER-MIDS? How do you compress them properly, etc?   These questions, and hundreds more, are answered in previous sections of the book.
 

Initial Mastering Template

I start off with the initial mastering template I use.  Many of the processors are started at either OFF or NEUTRAL settings.

A lot of people are looking for the "magic mastering presets." Just open the magic preset template and your entire CD is mastered in an hour. Well, magic mastering presets are to audio, what six-minute abs, the thigh master, and the ab roller are to weight loss. They don't exist!

Now, I can say roughly 25% of the songs I work on greatly benefit from my preset template "as is."

But, many of the songs I get in need a lot of work. The preset template settings are drastically changed.

My initial mastering template is just that. An initial starting point. You have to start somewhere.
 

Let's Start The Audio Mastering Session
 

1. It's Time To Get Started!

mastering studio

Along with these step-by-step instructions, use what you've already learned in this book, good A/B comparison, and a solid work ethic to create great audio masters!

2. What File Types Are Used In Audio Mastering?

This has to be mentioned first.

File Types Used In Audio Mastering - .WAV or .AIFF (a single stereo interleaved file).

You can master an MP3 but that's like working with 720 STANDARD video instead of 1080 HD video.

Sample Rate And Bit Depth - 44.1kHz and (16 or 24 bits) is adequate.

A CD is 44.1kHz and 16 bits. MP3 is the new industry standard and is at a far lower sample rate than 44.1kHz.

There's really no reason to master a file any higher than 44.1kHz, since it's eventually going to get converted down for the consumer. Unless of course the client demands it, which happens about 1% of the time for me.

Note - Now, there is mastering for iTunes which requires a huge 96khz file. If you're mastering for this format, obviously you will need to work at a 96khz sample rate.
 

3. Import File

mastering with fl studio

A. First off, open the INITIAL TEMPLATE we created.

B. Set your file TYPE (.Wav, .Aiff, etc.), and remove BPM TEMPO CODE (if your DAW software allows it).

C. Import the SONG MIX FILE and convert it to 44.1khz / 16 bit.

The reason I always convert all files is because sometimes a client uses a couple different sample rates for their CD, or they send me remixes in a different sample rate. If I convert everything to 44.1khz / 16 bit right off the bat, it makes my audio mastering life a bit easier.

D. I always insert (start) the song file at 0:05 (instead of 0:00). This is so I have room to set the front locator at 0.25-0.5 seconds before the start of the song file.

E. Cut the front of the file about 0.25 seconds before the song starts. There's usually silence there.

Even if you don't see anything, be sure to listen from the very beginning of the file before cutting. Sometimes a song fades in slowly and the audio content is not visible.

Note - 0.5 second TOTAL silent time before the song starts is the absolute minimum. Sometimes if you go under 0.5 seconds, eventually when you make a CD, the first note of the song will be cut off. You might not even notice it until a client makes a CD on their own, gets it duplicated, and then notifies you about a few songs being cutoff. Which is a disaster! It's not worth taking the risk.

F. Import your A/B comparison industry standard reference track.

Make sure it's the same genre with comparable instrumentation. Don't use a reference track with 6 vocal/instrument tracks if the song you're mastering has 30!
 

4. Visually Evaluate The Mix Files
 

  audio mastering secrets       subscribe youtube


A. The next step is to visually evaluate the song mix. This might tell you a few things about how to tackle the project. In this section I will show a few typical file types.



 


GOOD – This file is good (provided it wasn't recorded distorted). It has +6dbs of headroom in the verses and +3dbs in the choruses. A lot of headroom to do whatever you need. This is considered, by many, the perfect amount of headroom.


logic mastering wav file

VERY LOW - This song's overall levels are very low (roughly +12dbs of headroom). In this scenario, I just gain the entire song up +12dbs and master it. This will not negatively affect audio quality. It's not worth sending it back to the client for a louder remix.




fl studio mastering wav file
DISTORTED - This file is over-level and more than likely distorted, with no dynamic range. There's an 80% chance you won't be able to master it, and the client will need to reduce their levels and upload a new mix.

Once in a while (20% of the time) I see a hip-hop song that looks just like this and it's not distorted. It barely makes it. This is why listening is a must before rejecting a song mix.

 


DISTORTED AND GAINED DOWN - This file is the exact same file as the "distorted" one above, but it's gained down -3dbs. I get this once in a while.

During mixing, the song track levels were originally over 0 level and distorted. The client gained the .wav file down (or lowered the master fader) to achieve +6dbs of headroom. It doesn't work that way. All they did was make a distorted song lower in overall volume. It's still distorted, and the mastering results will be poor.


garage band mastering wave file
MONO - Yes, there is a left and right channel (which technically means stereo), but notice how the top and bottom waves are 100% identical. This means mono. This is one time where seeing is better than hearing.

Roughly 15% of the mixes I get (especially hip hop) look close to this, because the mixer pans most of the instruments centrally, then uses stereo reverb thinking it will make the song stereo. That doesn't work.

To check for true stereo, use a Mid-Side EQ and solo the sides. If you did this with the song in the photo above, all you would hear is very light reverb on the outsides of the stereo spectrum.

Unfortunately, a remix request isn't worth it. Most sound engineers that do this to begin with don't have the mixing skills to fix the problem. Especially in hip hop where many times the problem lies in a weak arrangement. You can't get a good stereo mix when all you have is a lead vocal, kick, snare and hi hat. There isn't much to pan to the outsides!

 

abelton mastering wav file
TOO MUCH DYNAMIC RANGE (ERRATIC) BETWEEN SECTIONS - The problem with this song is the chorus is +10db louder than the verses. There's way too much dynamic range here and the volume of your verses will always be too low (even after Loudness Maximization).

The solution is to highlight the verses and gain them all up about +5dbs. It works every time! And no, I wouldn't send it back to the client for a remix when I can fix it myself in a minute.

I cover this in detail in the section, "How To Handle A Song That Has Erratic Sonic Qualities."


audacity mastering wav file
ENTIRE SONG COMPRESSED - This song is compressed from beginning to end. I'm not saying this is necessarily a bad thing. My point is, you won't have to compress this song very much during mastering, if any. A lot of rock songs look like this.

 

MASTERING FOR CLIENTS TIP - Anything you can fix with editing or in audio mastering, fix it. Don't request a remix unless absolutely necessary. You might lose a client if they can't make the adjustments.
 

B. NOW I TAKE ACTION - If there's anything mentioned above that needs to be addressed, I address it now. Like gaining the entire song or certain sections, or a must needed remix request, etc.
 

5. Use Your Ears To Evaluate The Song Mix

Next I use my cursor and quickly jump around the song, listening section by section (opening, verses, pre-chorus, chorus, chorus ending, etc.).

What am I listening for?

A. Is the mix completely distorted, super bright in any sections, or are there any other problems that will give me a very poor mastering result? If the answer is yes, I reject it and tell the client what the problems are. And, how to fix them.

In previous sections I tell you to do the very best you can with every mix, you might be surprised with what you can achieve. Yes, this is true. But here I'm talking about rejecting GRADE "F" mixes (horrendous) that will yield a poor master. If the mix is a GRADE "D," by all means give it your best shot!

B. I check if the sonic qualities in each section are erratic. If they are, I know getting a great audio master is going to be tough.

I cover this in detail in the section, "How To Handle A Song That Has Erratic Sonic Qualities."

C. I do a very quick overall initial assessment of the main sonic qualities (bass, boominess, thickness, brightness, clarity).

D. I give a quick SOLO listen to each BAND, as part of the evaluation process.

You won't know what corrective actions to take unless you fully evaluate the song you're working on.


6. Slightly Compress Each Band

Each BAND already has a compression THRESHOLD and RATIO setting from the initial mastering template. But since the overall volume of every song will vary, the current THRESHOLD settings are worthless, and need to be adjusted.

A. Using the Multi-Band Compressor, adjust the THRESHOLDS to 60% on ALL 4 BANDS. Note – During the LOUDEST part of the song.

IMPORTANT - Keep ALL The Other Initial Compressor Settings (Ratio, Attack, Release, etc) AS IS.

I want each BAND to have a slight amount of compression to start with.

If you don't understand my THRESHOLD percentages, please read the section "Working With A Compressor's Threshold And Ratio Settings.


7. Loudness Maximize The Song

The next step is to Loudness Maximize the song.

A. Set the THRESHOLD a little below the very peak of the song meter. If you're using the Ozone loudness maximizer, take the THRESHOLD down to where the meter starts getting thick. You're trying to get the song within 1-2dbs of the final volume.

This is VERY important to do early in the mastering process, because when a song is made louder, it changes sonically. It definitely gets harsher overall and hotter in the UPPER-MIDS.

If you spend a lot of time mastering a song at a very low volume output level, and then make a big boost (+8dbs or more) with the loudness maximizer, the song's sonic qualities will change so dramatically you're basically starting from scratch in the mastering process.

Get your output volume levels close to the final output level ASAP so you know what you're working with!

Note- I'm referring to the output level of the song, NOT the volume level coming out of your speakers. The speaker volume level does make a difference, but I am not referring to that here.


8. Adjust Anything Moderately Sonically Off


adjust your mix

A. I quickly listen to the song mix and adjust any sonic qualities that are moderately off. I already have in my mind what I would like to do from my initial visual and audio evaluations.

I'm not doing an exact A/B comparison to a reference track at this time. I'm just trying to get the audio master closer to industry standard by quickly fixing obvious sonic problems.

For example, I immediately recognize the bass is way too loud (+5dbs) so I cut it. The cymbals and hi hats are a big scratchy hiss, so I lower their volume, etc.

I guess you could call this prep work. Kind of like an auto body repair guy. Right now we're banging out the major dents and maybe adding some Bondo. Later, we'll sand everything down, spray paint and clear coat (the final master).


9. Initial Master (Speaker Monitor Volume)

I always do two masters.

A. On the first pass, I master at a lower speaker volume level of around 85dbs.
B. The second master and tweak ends with loud playback (100-105dbs) over a very short period of time (maybe a minute a song max).

Another Mastering Law -

You CANNOT correctly master a song for loud playback unless you master it while it's being played loud.

Another no-brainer, but 80% of the songs I get back from other studios for remasters are horrendous when played back loud. They obviously never turned up the volume and checked their work. Probably because so many sound engineers have their monitor speakers on the desk a foot from their faces. They can't turn the music up loud!

Yes, I always do two masters on each song with an extended break in-between. For example, after initially mastering a 12 song CD, I will not listen to any music for at least 4-6 hours. After this period, I revisit the songs and do a final second master and tweak. Or, I'll do the second master and tweak the next day on completely fresh ears.

Using this fresh ear approach, when I revisit the songs its like a lightbulb goes off in my head! Any tiny sonic details that I'm slightly off on become 100% apparent and I quickly adjust them.

 

Initially Setting Up Your Bands

NOTE - Steps 10, 11, 12, 13 have been greatly reduced for internet quick read.  If you would like more details, please check out the book.

audio mastering bands

In the upcoming pages, I'm going to discuss initially setting up your BANDS.

This process is kind of like putting on a car tire. You first "loosely" screw on all the bolts, getting them close to where they need to be. You then straighten out the tire and tighten the bolts a bit more (one by one), before locking them all down real tight. You don't put the tire on and then lock down ONE bolt! If you did, the tire could be crooked and all the other bolts would be off.

The same goes for mastering. You try to get the sonic qualities in each BAND "close" to where they need to be. Then listen to what you have as a whole before tweaking and adjusting everything (maybe a few times). Finally at the end, you tighten everything up, just like the tire.


10. Set The UPPER-MIDS (1k - 9k)

When it comes to the equalization of a song, there are two main components that everyone knows. Bass and treble. The UPPER-MIDS is where a song's treble resides.

If you are familiar with mixing (I think most of you are) you know you have to have a starting point, and then you build around it.

In mixing, I start with the kick and bass relationship, and then add the snare and my metal percussion rhythms. Once this is all set in relation to each other, I then begin adding other elements that work around this starting point.

Many sound engineers mix this exact same way. If they don't, they still have to start with some sonic element of choice and build around it. And whatever they choose, they usually start the same way every time.

Well, in audio mastering I start with the UPPER-MIDS. At least half of the vocal frequencies reside here, along with most of the lead guitar and main music melodies. These are all main focal points of the listener. This is also where a song's brightness and clarity comes from.

A. Working in the UPPER-MIDS, now's the time to A/B compare between the song you're mastering and your industry standard reference track.
 

11. Set The LOW Band (20hz - 150hz)

When it comes to the equalization of a song, there are two main components that everyone knows. Bass and treble. The LOW Band is your bass.

A. Next, I set the bass volume and boominess (using the techniques I've outlined in this book).


12. Set The LOWER-MIDS (150hz - 1.5k)

Ok, the treble (UPPER-MIDS) and bass (LOW Band) are initially set. The LOWER-MIDS are a bridge between the LOW Band and UPPER-MIDS.

A. I adjust the LOWER-MIDS so they complement both BANDS.


13. Set The HIGH Band (9k - 20k)

The other three BANDS are set.

A. Now we set the HIGH Band.

My main focus in this BAND is volume control. I make sure the hi hat & cymbal combination isn't too bright/thick or isn't too low in volume. I don't want the hi hat rhythm to disappear.
 

14. Check Volume And Adjust

We've done several mastering steps, and the overall volume level of the song has changed. I need to get it close to the final output level again, since any volume change will alter the song's sonic qualities.

A. Next step, I export the song.

B. After checking the volume level I adjust it using the Loudness Maximizer. Everything is fairly relative. Not exact, but close.


15. Listen To The Song As A Whole And Adjust


listening to your mix

Its time to start tightening up the bolts!

A. Now's the time I listen to the song as a whole and do a good overall A/B comparison to my reference track, making adjustments as needed.

I preview at around 85-90dbs but will jump up to 105dbs periodically for 3-5 seconds to loosely adjust for loud playback. In this step, I work more in the 85-90db range. In step #17, I focus more on loud playback.

Note - As mentioned in the previous section "How To Handle Songs With Erratic Sonic Qualities," be sure to compensate if needed.

Here are 15 things I'm listening for:

First I focus on the UPPER-MIDS. I need correct brightness, with a nice tone. I want clarity and compression to sound good. Can I hear the vocals well? Do the lead guitars have a nice tone?


16. Break Time!


mixing break

Ok, the initial master is done! Time for a break.

I might work on another initial master or an entire CD, but I will not revisit this song for at least 4-6 hours, if not the next day.


17. 2nd Master And Tweak On Fresh Ears

Its time to lock down the bolts!

Here's where I start the final master and tweak. The break and fresh ears allows me to quickly notice any mistakes I've made on the first mastering pass.

Usually at this point in the audio mastering process, major changes are not needed. Just a few minor tweaks to take an audio master from very good to great!

But, if you're new at this, you might have to give your masters a few fresh listens (coming back to it several times) and make bigger changes. That's ok, just get it right.

Also, if I do have a problem, it's usually in the UPPER-MIDS. On fresh ears I can quickly tell if they're too bright or not bright enough, and then I dial in a nice tone.

A. While doing the second master and tweak, I start out at around 90dbs and repeat the mastering process (going through my sonic qualities checklist again). Most of them will already be right on.

B. Once the master sounds good at this volume, I then move up to 100-105dbs (for 3-5 seconds at a time) to make sure the loudest part of the song doesn't break up at a loud volume and still sounds good overall.

At this time I pretty much ALWAYS need to adjust the compressor THRESHOLD on the UPPER-MIDS. If even a slight amount.


18. The Final Export - Loudness Maximization


final mastering

This is the final step in the mastering process.

A. I check the song's volume and set it to industry standard.



Like I mentioned several times in this article, this is an overview of the correct steps in the song audio mastering process, to get you going in the right direction.  If you need 180+ more pages of details, please check out my book only $8.98 for over 20 years of valuable information Thanks, and I wish you the very best with your music!

Note -
Whether you need to know how master songs in fl studio, pro tools, audacity, garageband, cubase, logic or abeleton the information provided applies to all of these programs.    


TABLE OF CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION (PAGE #)

  • Audio Mastering Secrets (1)
  • Table Of Contents (2)
  • Who This Book Is For (8)
  • What You Will Learn From This Book (9)
  • About The Author (11)
  • Testimonials (12)
AUDIO MASTERING FAQS
  • What Is Audio Mastering? (13)
  • How Does Audio Mastering Compare To Mixing? (14)
  • What's The Main Goal In Audio Mastering? (15)
  • Why Do Songs Need To Be Mastered? (17)
  • Can Anyone Become A Great Mastering Engineer? (18)
  • How Long Does It Take to Master A Song? (19)
  • Should Your Mix Sound Close To A Mastered Song? (20)
  • Does A Radio Ready Mastering Standard Exist? (22)
AUDIO MASTERING DEFINITIONS AND CONCEPTS
  • Some Of The Terms I Use In This Book (23)
  • What Is Headroom And Dynamic Range? (25)
  • Why Does A Mix Need Headroom And Dynamic Range? (26)
  • How To Create Proper Headroom In Your Mixes (27)
  • What Is A/B Comparison Listening? (28)
  • What Are Mid-Side Effects Processors? (29)

MASTERING EQUIPMENT FAQ

  • What Hardware Do You Need For Mastering? (30)
  • What Software Do You Need For Mastering? (30)
  • Which Mastering Software Plugins Do I Recommend? (31)
  • Analog Mastering Equipment vs. Digital Software (32)

THE 8 EFFECTS PROCESSORS USED IN MASTERING

  • Standard 5-Band Equalizer (34)
  • Mid-Side 5-Band Equalizer (35)
  • Multi-Band Compressor (36)
  • Multi-Band Spectral Enhancer (Harmonic Exciter) (36)
  • Multi-Band Stereo Widener (37)
  • Multi-Band Mastering Reverb (38)
  • Loudness Maximizer (39)
  • De-esser (40)
  • Volume Meter Software (40)
  • What Signal Path Should You Use? (42)

SETTING UP YOUR LISTENING ENVIRONMENT

  • Room Size (44)
  • Speaker Choices (44)
  • Speaker Placement (45)
  • My Personal Speaker Placement (46)
  • Learning And Calibrating Your Speakers (47)
  • Sound Proofing Your Room (48)

PROTECTING YOUR HEARING

  • What Is Tinnitus? (50)
  • How Is Tinnitus Caused? (50)
  • How Did I Get My Tinnitus And How Did It Sound? (50)
  • Is There A Cure For Tinnitus? (51)
  • Can You Mix And Master With Tinnitus? (51)
  • How To Prevent Tinnitus In Everyday Life (52)
  • How Loud Is Too Loud When Mixing And Mastering? (52)
  • How To Protect Your Hearing As A Sound Engineer (52)
  • The Rules I Follow During Mixing And Mastering (53)

THE 18 LAWS OF AUDIO MASTERING

  • Audio Facts Are Facts, Not Just Opinions (54)
  • Know The Genre Of Music You're Working On (55)
  • Don't Do Counter Productive Processes (56)
  • Always Think Natural Sound First (57)
  • Don't Get Stuck In Familiarity (58)
  • Don't Be Afraid To Make Drastic Changes (60)
  • Don't Underestimate Your Capabilities (61)
  • If You're Going To Miss, Go Slightly Over Not Under (62)
  • Certain Actions Have Exponential Affects (63)
  • When Using EQ Always Think Cut First (64)
  • The Lead Vocal Is Your Main Focus (65)
  • Listen To Your Feedback (67)
  • Learning Decibel Amounts By Ear (68)
  • Working In Decibels And Percentages, Not Fader Slides (69)
  • You Have To Make Everything Sound Good (71)
  • Let Your EARS Be The Final Judge, Not Your EYES (73)
  • Always Finalize On Fresh Ears (74)
  • Mastering Is An Art Form, Treat It Like One! (76)

The 4-Band Frequency Ranges In Multi-Band Processing

  • LOW (20hz-130hz) (79)
  • LOWER-MIDS (130hz-1.5k) (80)
  • UPPER-MIDS (1.5k-9k) (81)
  • HIGH (9k-20k) (82)
  • Closing Thoughts On 4-Band Frequency Ranges (83)

WORKING WITH SONIC QUALITIES

  • The Sonic Qualities In Audio Mastering (84)
  • Adjusting Your Sonic Qualities With A/B Comparison (87)
  • How To Handle A Song That Has Erratic Sonic Qualities (89)
  • What's The Difference Between EQ And Spectral Enhancement? (92)

SOLUTIONS TO COMMON MASTERING PROBLEMS

  • Brightness, Tone, Sparkle (UPPER-MIDS & HIGH Band) (93)
  • Clarity And Separation (Any BAND) (103)
  • Bass Volume, Boominess, Kick Punch (LOW Band or LOWER-MIDS) (108)
  • Warmth, Thickness, Presence (LOWER-MIDS And/Or UPPER-MIDS) (111)
  • De-essing (On Song's Effects Bus) (113)
  • Stereo Width (HIGH Band & UPPER-MIDS w/ Mid-Side EQ) (114)
  • Overall Volume (116)

COMPRESSION MADE EASY

  • Which Compressors Are Used In Audio Mastering? (120)
  • What Can Compressors Do In Audio Mastering? (121)
  • Working With A Compressor's Threshold And Ratio Settings (124)
  • What Are Your Compression Goals By Band? (135)
  • The Power Of Thinning Out A Band (139)
  • Why Would You Want Less Dynamic Range? (141)
  • Compression Mostly Affects The Loudest Parts Of A Song (141)
  • Why Do I Never Remove Compression As A Remedy? (143)

AUDIO MASTERING PROCEDURES

  • Should You Export Your Mix Or Mix And Master At The Same Time? (144)
  • But What If The Mix Is Terrible, Shouldn't You Fix It? (145)
  • The Importance of Good A/B Comparison And Mix Evaluation (146)
  • Getting Your Songs To Translate Well on Different Mediums (147)
  • How To Create A Cohesive CD (148)

AUDIO MASTERING STEP-BY-STEP

  • Initial Mastering Template Setup (151)
  • 1. Let's Start The Audio Mastering Session! (153)
  • 2. What File Types Are Used In Audio Mastering? (153)
  • 3. Import Files (154)
  • 4. Visually Evaluate The Song Mix File (155)
  • 5. Use Your Ears To Evaluate The Song Mix (159)
  • 6. Slightly Compress Each Of The 4 Bands (160)
  • 7. Loudness Maximize The Song (160)
  • 8. Adjust Anything Moderately Sonically Off (161)
  • 9. Initial Master (Speaker Monitor Volume) (162)
  • 10. Setting The UPPER-MIDS (1k - 9k) (163)
  • 11. Setting The LOW Band (20hz - 150hz) (165)
  • 12. Setting The LOWER-MIDS (150hz - 1.5k) (165)
  • 13. Setting The HIGH Band (9k - 20k) (166)
  • 14. Check Volume And Adjust (166)
  • 15. Listen To The Song As A Whole And Adjust (167)
  • 16. Break Time! (168)
  • 17. 2nd Master And Tweak On Fresh Ears (169)
  • 18. The Final Export - Loudness Maximization (171)

MASTERING DIFFERENT GENRES

  • How Do I Know The Sonic Qualities For Each Genre? (172)
  • Vocals And Instrumentation May Change Your Sonic Approach (173)
  • How To Master Different Genres (176)
  • How To Master Metal And Hard Rock (176)
  • How To Master Classic Rock (178)
  • How To Master Pop-Rock, Punk, Alternative, And Country (179)
  • How To Master Hip-Hop And Rap (180)
  • How To Master R&B (181)
  • How To Master Pop-Dance, EDM, And Synth (182)
  • How To Master Movie Soundtrack, Classical, And Jazz (183)

WORKING WITH CLIENTS

  • Should I Ask Clients For A Reference Song? (185)
  • Using The Initial Preview As A Reference (185)
  • Go With The Client's Mix Or With What You Know? (187)

MY MAIN RESOURCES

  • My Main Resources (188)
  • Thank You (190)
  • Contact Info (192)


 
 
These are the top 17 most common mixing mistakes to avoid.  Correcting them will greatly improve your audio mastering results, and make your music sound professional and radio ready.
 
 
preparing mixes for mastering

In this article, we'll show you how to prepare your mixes for mastering.

 

prepare songs for mixing

In this article, I'll show you how to prepare your songs for mixing.

 

I've mastered over 40,000 songs since 1999.  I've charged $10 a song, $20, $30, $50 even $100!  Some prices worked better than others.  Here are a few facts to consider when deciding on what prices to charge. 

Since the begining of his solo career in 2008, I mastered over 80 songs with the top French recording artist NYLS.  Great pop dance music with a lot of remixes.  During his entire career (as of now), I mastered most of if not all the song he released.  It was a great pleasure working with NYLS and Nico at Icon Records!

Here's the first music video I directed, Mahalin Muli by JAI, released on July 10th, 2018.  I also wrote more than half of the script. 

Here are the series of audio mastering software processors I've used on the over 30,000 songs I've mastered since 1999.  In this video, I use mostly izotope ozone plugins because it's easier to explain using them.  In real-life, I do mix in a few hardware pieces, and a waves plugin.

 

In this video I do a quick A/B comparison of a few songs.  In my audio mastering secrets video series, I get a lot more in-depth into exactly what you are trying to achieve sonically for your genre/style of music.
 

This is a quick video on how a mid-side processor works, and how to check the stereo field of your mix using a mid-side processor equalizer.

 

A lot of mastering engineers are afraid to make drastic changes to a mix they are working on.  That, or they're stuck in the familiarity of always making only small changes. 

In this video I show how you can turn a weak mix (definitely wouldn't call it bad) into a great sounding master, simply by pushing your levels a little more than you might be used to.

 

This video shows one of the more imptotant compression techniques I use in audio mastering.  In my audio Mastering Secrets Video Series, I explain everything you need to know about audio mastering.

 

mastering headroom

How much headroom before mastering should you leave in your mix?  Here's the correct amount of headroom you should leave, using detailed graphic examples.

7 mastering hardware equipment daw recording studio

Here's the basic hardware you need to master music:

 

6 best room size for audio mastering

So, what is the best room size for audio mastering in your DAW home recording studio?  Technically, you can properly mix or master in any room size.  But, I believe a smaller room is better than a very large one for someone who's just starting out. And when I say smaller I mean closer to 12'x15' than to 20'x30'.  I've mixed and mastered songs for a number of years in a 20'x30' room.  It took me a few days to get used to it, but after that I could do it.

 

5 sound engineer prevent tinnitus

Millions of people suffer from tinnitus.  A new study shows around 10% of the U.S. population suffers from it in some form, but many have never even heard of it until they get it!  Unfortunately, I was one of those people.  It can happen quickly and it lasts a lifetime... 

 

4 speaker placemnt daw home recording studio

Here's the monitor speaker setup I use for my DAW, and the setup I recommend for your home recording studio.

 

3 calibrate speakers audio mastering daw

Learning and calibrating your speakers for your DAW in audio mastering is a very important step in the audio mastering process.  When I first start out with NEW speakers (though I never change them now), I listen to my favorite hit songs in every genre and style.  Songs that I know from my years of experience have X amount of bass, X amount of brightness, etc.  I know how these songs are "supposed" to sound.

 

2 software for audio mastering

If you've mixed songs in the past, you more than likely can use that same software for audio mastering. As long as you can add effects to the stereo/main out bus, you're good to go.  Read more....

 

1 cheaply soundproofing room studio

I had to write a quick note on this, as I was reminded about it while thumbing through a popular mixing book that had a 15 page section on speaker resonance and room sound proofing.  I must say, a very exciting 15 pages!  Ha!

 

18 analog digital equipment

I started my career using the old analog stuff, since that was the only option.  I incorporated digital software plugins as soon as they became available, but it took many years before computers were fast enough to run them in realtime.  And also before they started making very high quality plugins. 

 

17 how create headroom in mix

To create a mix for mastering with proper headroom is pretty simple. 

 

16 why do songs need mastering

Why does a mix need headroom and dynamic range?  In one sentence, it gives the mastering engineer more room to work with.
 

15 what is headroom in mastering

In order to produce a good master, a mix needs proper headroom and dynamic range.

 

14 song ready for radio

Here's another popular question I see online, always with the wrong answer! "There's no such thing as radio ready mastering!"  REALLY?

 

13 mix sound like master

Note - This section is basically a tip for those of you working with clients or if you plan on submitting your mixes to a mastering engineer.

 

12 why need audio mastering

Why do songs need to be mastered?  I've seen this question on the Internet many times.  The answer I always see is "Because all songs on the radio have been professionally mastered, yours should be too."  This is a true fact, but not an answer.

 

11 become great sound engineer

I would say YES, most people can become a great mastering engineer. I say this because most of the mixes I receive from clients are pretty good and I know the audio engineer (the band member with a computer) has only minimal training.  He could easily be great if he put a little more study and practice time into it.  And if he had this book to teach him what took me over 17 years to learn!  Ha!

 

10 what is audio mastering

What does mastering do to a song?  Your main goal in audio mastering is to replicate the sonic qualities of a well professionally mastered commercial song, in the same genre and style as the song mix you are working on.

 

9 what is audio mastering

What is audio mastering?  I've seen a lot of different answers on the Internet to this simple question.  Some were pretty technical and confusing.

 

8 difference between mixing mastering

What's the difference between mixing and mastering?  A lot of people new to music don't know the answer to this.

 

If you're into "do it yourself projects" my mastering book will show you EXACTLY how I mastered every style of music on this website.  Get it here Audio Mastering Secrets!

Yes, burning your own redbook master CDs is very easy!  Here's how to make your own redbook CD masters for free! 
 

How to set mixing levels for each instrument is a question I see all over the Internet.  I'm going to explain exactly how to set mixing levels in this article.

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

Here are the top 20 audio mastering tips, questions, and answers that I've been asked over the years.

 

 

It's the most basic of all questions, but someone asks it at least once a week.  In this article, I will explain what channel means in music and mixing

 

How long does is take to master a song?  There are several extra song mastering procedures I offer that other mastering engineers will not do. 

 


The sound engineer scam, the online recording studio ripoff, whatever you want to call it.  I hear about it 3-4 times a month from my clients, since 1999.  It never changes!

 

Would you like to know how to master a song or how to master your own music?  So many people think just making the volumes the same level for every song is "mastering" their CD.  Well, mastering is a lot more than just that! 

 

Can I master a song that's already been mastered?  Yes!  Every month I master songs that have already been mastered. 
 

This article discusses what is the chorus effect in music and how to use it?  The chorus effect makes a single audio track sound like a group. It achieves this by taking a single instrument or vocal track, multiplying it, and then slightly detunes each newly created track. The result is a fuller lush sounding audio track.

 

This article discusses what is the reverb effect in music and how to use it?  The reverb effect is used to simulate space. When reverb is applied to a dry vocal or instrument track, it will sound like it was recorded live in the space size that was selected on the processor. Common space size options include a small room, vocal plate, large hall, etc.

 

Here are a few great stereo widening techniques and how to use them in music.  When you listen to music on a car radio, you want that wide stereo sound that extends from the left door to the right. Not just two feet wide right above the stereo!

 

The vibrato and tremolo effects both have their differences.  But the vibrato and tremolo effects also sound very similar; both slightly wave and pulsate the pitch of an audio track. You have to hear it for yourself to understand the sound.

 

Website Search

Go to top