Thursday, 1 May 2014

Mastering Time - Part 1

As I work for myself I sometimes get quiet times in the day and this I find is an ideal time to work on my music. The house is empty and I can make some noise MWah!!
This week I've been mastering my third album (which is close to completion) in a program called "Wavelab" by Steinberg. This is a great program as it simply allows you to drag and drop music files into the work space and use up to 8 plugins simultaneously, to affect the sound.
I tend to use a similar sequence of plugins usually (but not always) in this order.
1. EQ - firstly to get rid of low end rumble
2. Another EQ  with more options just to give me more to play with.
3. A Multi-Band Compressor, split into 3 to 5 bands across the frequency range. So I can just compress the bass/mids/top or wherever I think is needed
4. A Limiter - to allow me to bring up and maximise the volume if needed.
5. A Leveler - in case I am comparing 2 or more files (usually a reference track) so I can hear the tracks at the same volume for comparison. As its easy to misjudge sound if the volumes are even slightly different.
6. A Stereo Expander - I don't always use this but it widens the stereo field and can excite the sound (make it brighter and bigger) but this can sometimes be too harsh I find, but is a useful tool to have.
7. and 8. Then one or two Analyzers to help visually look at the sound frequencies and dynamic range of the track. Although these can be great at times they can also mislead and its always best to use your ears rather than your eyes when mixing and mastering.
I would always add into the work-space a reference track that you know well, so you can compare your own music to an industry standard piece of work. I tend to use tracks by Peter Gabriel - usually "Red Rain" from the "So" album.
An excellent resource if you do master your own music is a great website run by top mastering engineer Ian Shepherd called "Production Advice". You should check this out as it is full of great articles, videos and advice to help the home studio musician. I've certainly learned a lot from Ian

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