Okay, so let’s get into some talk on mastering, which I think, is often looked at as this mysterious process. It can really be a step that makes the differece between a demo and a release. I’m here to guide you on what mastering is and how you can do it yourself.
In today’s world, mastering is pretty much the last step of treatment before the song gets wrapped up. It’s the part of the entire process that is meant to make the song stand out in the best light possible. It’s like the last line of defense where mostly just touch ups are done.
The Difference Between Mixing and Mastering
If we want to really know what mastering is all about, we should probably define what mixing is. When it comes to mixing, your job as an engineer is to make sure that all the elements place nice together. Once you have completed the mix, the mastering is just the final step in the mixing process.
The only real difference is that in mastering you process the entire mix where in minxg you process the each individual element. So the secret to an amazing master is to have a really good mix to start but there is always an exception to the rule.
Don’t think of adding EQ to the entire mix as a bad thing because it really isn’t. If you are going to do the mastering yourself, try and do broad strokes when you are adding or cutting. If you have to use a narrow band EQ than there is something that probably needs to be corrected in the mix.
To get a good understanding of what you are trying to do, take your favorite mastered record and turn it all the way down – as low as yours is – now play yours against the pro master. Try and listen for general discrepancies like how much brighter or darker the track is. Don’t try to make your record exactly the same, just try to get it in the ball park.
Compression continues to be a sought after topic. We think that we need it to get a great sounding master but in reality we don’t.
We can use compression to add a certain flavor to the record but we don’t really need it. When I’m mixing a hip hop song, I only ever use master buss compression a small percentage of the time. I might use it to make the track punchier but I usually try to accomplish that in the mix.
But still, you should grab a compressor and try it out for yourself. Go through all the settings and push the threshold down aggressively. How has the mix changed? Is it softer? Punchier? More aggressive? Less aggressive? Whatever it is, take a note of it and then determine if it’s really necessary. More often than not, I think you will find that it’s not.
Limiting is pretty much the process of just making things louder and is often the biggest compromise when it comes to mastering.
A limiter is going to limit the transients on drums and other instruments and removes a lot of the punch. By removing the punch, you are effectively increasing the apparent volume to make the playback level much louder.
Anyways, that’s my introduction to mastering hip hop songs. If you have any questions then leave them below in the comments or send me a message in the contact section.