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Mastering for ultimate newbie. (first post) Dynamics Plugins
Old 13th September 2011
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Mastering for ultimate newbie. (first post)

I'm really new to the audio world and I'm having trouble with mastering my tracks. I started with ableton live and switched to FL studio after 4 months and am liking the layout better. I use only the DAW and a midi keyboard to make progressive/ some electro house. Again, I'm still really new to this stuff. The problem I'm having is that my tracks waveforms are really small looking and just weak sounding overall. I tried using Maximus or other mastering plugins but it just makes it sound like I turned it up really loud. (no dynamic range). I really have no idea where to start with mastering and would like to make my tracks sound professional. I really like the sound of pryda, alesso, avicii and especially deadmau5. Any help in lamans terms would be greatly appreciated
Old 13th September 2011
Here for the gear
PaperDoll117's Avatar

Hi Hyaler.

Like yourself, I'm a newbie. No doubt some more experienced people will be able to help you out with actual specifics, but I thought I would mention a book which I'm finding really helpful. It's called "Guerrilla Home Recording: How To Get Great Sound From Any Studio" by Karl Coryat. It's a nice introductory/beginner book, and he talks you through recording and mastering basics, no matter what setup you're using. x

Guerilla Home Recording: How to Get Great Sound from Any Studio - No Matter How Weird or Cheap Your Gear Is Hal Leonard Music Pro Guides: Karl Coryat: Books
Old 13th September 2011
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ears2thesky's Avatar
First of all: you are talking about mixing your tracks not mastering.
Mastering is done once the mix is finished and puts the finishing touches on a project making it ready for duplication.
Mixing is what you do after recording your tracks. It is the process by which you edit and balance the various tracks into a cohesive blend (a "mix").
If your tracks are recorded too low they will be difficult to work with requiring extra level which may increase background noise. You should re-record your tracks at a higher level rather than trying to fix a flawed recording.
Old 13th September 2011
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Thank you for your response guys. Ears2thesky- when I turn up the volume of the instruments in my track, it just starts clipping and gets distorted. I don't know what to do
Old 13th September 2011
Originally Posted by Hyaler View Post
Thank you for your response guys. Ear 2 The Sky- when I turn up the volume of the instruments in my track, it just starts clipping and gets distorted. I don't know what to do
You need to learn and respect your gain stages.

The more tracks you have in a song, the lower each fader needs to be. this is due to the sum of 10 tracks at equal volume is greater than the sum of 1 track at the same volume.
So if you have 10 tracks at -5dB, your master bus will clip and be over 0dB.
You also need to read up and learn about dynamic controlled processing and EQ. Yuo need to cut unwanted low end out of each track so you can get a higher volume level when mixing. Its a long road and you have not even started your car up to go down that road. Learn things in little steps so it doesn't overwhelm you and in a year or 2, you will be on your way.
Old 13th September 2011
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Dr. Mordo's Avatar

Until you have a good idea what you are doing, focus on eq and levels.

In general, remove frequencies that aren't helping. So, for example on a guitar, I might cut everything below 200hz and everything above 10k. I'm not saying eliminate them completely, but a healthy cut will help the instruments that live below 200hz to be more audible, and above 10k the guitar produces mostly noise. On bass guitar, I cut heavily below 80hz to make space for the bass drum, and I also cut heavily above 3khz because it isn't essential and gets in the way of the guitars and the attack of the drums.

Cutting frequencies is how you create space in a mix.

Setting levels is the other thing you need to focus on. This is simply the process of making things as loud or quiet as they should be. Drums and bass will need to be loud, but that cowbell part may be quieter. Setting levels is an art and there is a delicate balance to making it just right. Panning also comes into play here. When you pan things out to the left or right it changes how present they are in the mix and requires a level adjustment.

You should be able to craft a pretty solid mix using only eq if you get the levels right.

The only other fx you need to worry about right now are reverb/echo and compression.

At the very early stage you are at, I'd put a reverb across the main bus and set it to be almost inaudible. It'll just help smear things together a bit. You could do a similar thing with echo, but it will be a bit trickier to set up.

Compression is used to flatten levels. If you compress a track that has loud and quiet parts, you are automatically making the louder parts quieter. How much quieter depends on the settings of the compressor. A limiter is a very agressive compressor that completely flattens the signal above a certain level. Since you are a beginner, I'd go very easy on compression. If you are mostly using midi to make your music, you just don't need to compress a whole lot. You can make the levels unifirm by editing the midi part.

Now, on the main bus, you may want a bit of compression to make it louder, but this is where mastering comes into play. The best thing you can do is pay for a pro to master your work. It won't be that expensive (probly $300-600 depending on the guy and the amount of music), and they will make you sound much better. They'll eq and compress the mix, and set the mixes' volumes up where they should be.


If you insist on trying to master them yourself - finish all the mixes, import the finished mixes into a new project in your DAW. Set the levels of every song where it sounds just as loud as all the other songs. If it's a ballad it may be a bit quieter, but the goal here is consistency. Once you have them all set, you can put a compressor across the master buss. There's a couple of different ways I'd set it up.

#1. Compress with a slowish attack (30ms maybe), fastest release, ratio 2:1 or so, and only compress for a 2-3db reduction. The effect should be subtle. It should gently glue everything together.

#2. Limit with a faster attack (I'd have to play with values here, but I think 1ms might be a good place to start), fastest release, 20:1 or greater ratio, and limit for only 2-3db of reduction. The effect should still be subtle. This one will suck the drums up a bit, but will create a more consistent sound level.

NOTE: These last tips about mastering are just to get you started. They aren't a substitute for a pro doing his thing. Also, you simply aren't going to get your levels as loud as many tracks are today until you have a better understanding of the craft. But a good mastering engineer might be able to get you close.
Old 15th September 2011
remember, a mix is about balance. I'm often amazed at how low I find myself mixing tracks, rhythm distorted guitar for example. Sometimes I pull the fader way down, but the guitar just sounds massive!

remember context, dynamics, and arrangement. These make a good mix.

newbies often think "more is more" and have 6 rhythm guitars going. less is more in mixing. always.
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