In addition to our huge feature covering mastering here are three step-by-step guides to specific areas of the process…
A Beginner’s Guide to Critical Thinking
1: Load your reference track into a new channel in the mix, or use the reference track trick from last month’s issue, then add an instance of a clean EQ, such as FabFilter Pro-Q 2.
2: In the EQ, engage the low-pass filter, and set it to play back only the sub-region.
3: Copy the EQ and its settings onto the track you want to master, and switch back and forth using the X-OR Solo mode, listening to the impact of the sub-frequencies in your track compared to the reference.
4: Move the filter in both channels up, to allow more of the bass end, and add a high-pass filter to remove the sub-frequencies. Again, compare the two tracks.
5: Continue moving the two filters up in tandem, or use a wide band-pass filter, to compare each of the important sections in each mix.
6: Finally, remove the low-pass filter, and leave only the high-pass filter to listen to the high-end only. This is the hardest bit to get right, as you may struggle to hear some of these frequencies entirely.
1: With the pre-compression EQ already in place, add the first compressor you want to try; here, we’re using the FabFilter Pro-C.
2: Set the parameters of the first compressor to provide the best-sounding compression you can achieve for the track you are working on. Let the compressor guide you, and experiment with any built-in interesting features. Pro-C, for instance, can model three different compression types.
3: Duplicate the track onto another channel, and copy the pre-compression EQ, then add the next compressor. If you’re using outboard hardware before the compressor, or DSP processing using a processor, such as a UAD, and running out of processing, you can buss one track to multiple auxes with EQ on the original and compression on the aux channels.
4: Now add your next compressor. Don’t be tempted to listen back, or to try to replicate the first compressor sound – let the new compressor guide your sound towards what that compressor is best at.
5: Repeat steps 3 and 4 for as many compressors as you want to try. Don’t go overboard here, though, more than three or four options will take quite a while to set up, and you may find it difficult to decide between them.
6: Finally, level match each of the newly compressed channels, and using X-OR solo mode, switch between each to decide on your favourite. If you have a friend close to hand, get them to do the switching while you keep your eyes closed, so as not to bias yourself in favour of any one unit.