Music mastering, also known as the final stage of music production, is a process that balances levels and eliminates distortion. The goal of mastering is to create a clean sound with good dynamics for listening through different playback devices. It’s important not to confuse this with the mixing stage of production, where tracks are combined. Mixing is done to achieve a good balance of all the elements in a song, while mastering focuses on getting each part to sound its best.
An engineer can do Mastering in a professional studio, or you can do it yourself using software like iZotope Ozone. The key is to make sure your mixdown is as good as it can be before you start mastering. I’ll show you how to do that using standard mixing techniques in the following steps.
11 Steps to Mastering Music:
01. Check your levels and make sure there is enough headroom. You don’t want any clipping or distortion in the final mixdown.
02. Apply the industry-standard technique of gating and compression to create a more uniform sound with consistent dynamics. This helps avoid masking sounds that should stand out, such as vocals or lead instruments.
03. Use EQ to remove any frequencies that might be distracting from other elements in your track. For example, if there’s noise or hum in the background, you can use EQ to remove those frequencies often found in hip hop.
04. Apply subtle stereo enhancement to give your track a more expansive soundscape. This is especially helpful for tracks played on speakers with limited stereo separation.
05. Use harmonic excitation to add presence and punch to your mixdown or (online mastering services). This can help instruments cut through a mix or add some extra excitement to a vocal performance.
06. Use transient shaping to control the attack and decay of sounds in your track. This can make drums sound more aggressive or give guitars more sustain.
07. add reverb and delay effects to create a sense of space and depth in your mix. This is especially important for acoustic instruments or vocals.
08. Use maximization to make the overall sound louder without introducing any clipping or distortion.
09. Make minor adjustments to the stereo image as needed. This can be done with panning, width controls, and other spatial effects.
11. Listen to your mixdown on several different playback devices and make any necessary adjustments based on the sound of each instrument. This is important because high-end speakers tend to playback mixes that are harsher than low-end ones, while earbuds often exaggerate treble frequencies. It’s best to listen for this on multiple systems so you can make the necessary adjustments.
Once you’ve completed these steps, your mixdown should be ready for mastering. I recommend using a professional engineer if you have the budget, but if not, there are plenty of great software options that can help you achieve similar results. Just take your time and experiment until you get the sound you’re looking for.