Welcome to the final installment of how to mix and master a demo recording. Today is Part 4: Mastering.
If you missed any of the previous lessons you can find them here.
I am sorry about this lesson being a day late. I agonized over the content for a while because I felt like this was going to be the hardest lesson to explain.
After I though about it for a while, I realized that this will actually be the simplest lesson.
Mastering isn’t about some fancy plugin or technique that is kept as a dark secret by the music producers Illuminati.
It is simply using your ears to make the track sound as good as you possibly can with the tools available to you.
Many top industry producers use expensive outboard equipment to master their tracks because they feel it adds something that no software can. Unfortunately, us bedroom producers have no such luxury.
Instead, we have to rely on the cheapest of the cheap built in plugins from our DAW of choice. These are usually sufficient to get the job done if you follow a logical approach and use your ears.
That being said, let’s have a look at my standard chain of plugins for my master channel in FL studio.
You probably recognize most of these plugins from the first three lessons. Like I said before, mastering is not about some secret plugin but rather what you do to the sound.
In this image, I’ve given you the two most important things for you to get a well mastered demo recording right now. The plugins I use on my master channel and the order of those plugins.
The order of your plugin chain is very important because how your signal is routed will make a drastic change to the sound.
There is not much else to say about the specific choices I made in this mix with regards to the settings on the dials. The only way to figure out what setting you need for your mix is to listen and play with the dials
Rather I am going to go over each plugin and mention why it is there.
1.) Parametric EQ 2: This allows me to shape the sound as it hits the master bus.
If your mixing phase went smoothly, very minimal adjustment should be needed here.
2.) Multiband compressor: This is your shaping and dynamics tool.
With it you can get the feel of the song just right. Be sure to use your attack and release times to good effect and don’t compress too hard.
3.) Reverb: Light optional reverb.
Depending on the musical genre, a little bit of light reverb on the master track can fill empty space and make things sound more pleasant.
4.) Soundgoodizer: Another optional plugin.
Soundgoodizer generally does what it’s name implies. It is a fixed parameter compressor with a heavily colored sound. A single knob adjusts the intensity. I noticed my mix was lacking warmth and I noticed B added what I was looking for. Subtlety is key, so experiment and find what you like.
5.) Stereo Enhancer: No instance beating of the stereo image here.
Just a little push on the stereo separation knob is all we need to give the track a little extra width.
6.) Parametric EQ 2: The second parametric EQ is also optional.
In this case, I am using it to control the color that the soundgoodizer plugin added.
7.) Limiter: The final step
The limiter is used to push the volume of the track as high as it can go while still retaining punchyness and avoiding over compression.
And that’s it, that is all you need to make a good sounding mix.
A good rule of thumb is to have all your mix tracks peaking at lower than -6db so you can use your master channel to the greatest effect.
Remember to exercise your ears as often as possible. Keep the volume low and rest your ears in between sessions. You need to take care of your most valuable tool because you only get one set.
I really hope these lessons serve as a valuable kick start to get more bedroom musicians creating pleasant sounding recordings of their songs.
Thank you to everyone that supported the creation of this lesson series. Be on the look out for follow- ups in the near future.
If you have any questions about my programs, plugins or methods feel free to leave a comment below or message me on social media.
Thank you again and have a wonderful day. Peace!
Photo: Screenshot of FL Studio