I've always mastered my own tracks, and I think they sound fairly decent. However, now that I'm making a compilation album of some of my new tracks, I've noticed a problem. Some sound better and louder than others. Now I'm thinking I might have to get these tracks professionally mastered if I want to put out this album.
Here's my general method for mixing/mastering:
1. EQ my tracks so that similar elements don't compete.
2. EQ out the low end in all tracks save for the kick, the bassline, and sometimes the snare.
3. Render my mix so it doesn't go above -6db.
4. Try my best at mastering it in ozone. In ozone I EQ out anything below 20hz, excite the highs a bit, expand stereo a bit too, and limit it. I think where I fail is in the multiband compression part.
So, do you master your own stuff, and what are your methods?
Last edited by astronaut cult; 10-12-2011 at 09:32 PM..
When I want to release something I will def. send to a mastering engineer with the proper tools and acoustics to get the job done accurately!
If I am just showing it out to people (like forum posting), I will do a light mastering job myself and even less than a light mastering job recently...lately I have just slapped a limiter on it to bring some of the percieved volume back.
Here's my view on mastering. If you're not planning on releasing it, don't worry about it, but when it comes time for the release, even if it's not a professional mastering engineer, I would get a competent producer with some history of training to master it for you. You are going to know the track better than others and are also going to hear things differently than others. A fresh ear is always important.
If you do master things yourself, don't over do it, and don't fall for the whole loudness wars things. Louder isn't always better. If something doesn't sound great both loud and quiet, and isn't pleasurable to listen to on any system, there is a flaw in your system. Most over mastered tracks lose their punch and clarity when turned down. I would try to stay away from EQing too much as well on the master and do it in the your mixing because it will tend to make things sound hollow or be too over resonate. I generally do no more than 1.5dB boosts and reductions with my EQing when mastering. Sorting out the level on the spectrum is something I like for light multiband dynamics, and then I only limit it to where the kick/snare/clap are getting reduction; nothing else.
Mastering is an art in itself. There are people who specialize in it for a reason. It's worth spending the money if you plan to make money.
I'd say have fun mastering it yourself if you want. just always make it easy to have the original track/tracks unmastered on the good fortune that someone chooses to release one of your songs. They're gonna want to get the unmastered version.
As far as mastering tunes and making a CD/release of your own, getting the tracks to go together really is one of the key reasons you might have for mastering your tunes in the first place. When a label releases a compilation, they do a mastering session for the comp for this purpose (Though this is usually very minimal as their tracks have already been professionally mastered, they atleast have to get the levels working together). I'd go back to unmastered versions of all your tracks, then master them all in succession. Treat it as a completely different step to master those tracks, and get them to sound like they go together.
Not saying use the same settings for all of them, but make the key focus of mastering the tracks- getting the loudness, and eqs similar to each other. Do em all in a row, and compare and go back. They should be mastered in the same time period if they are going together on a CD/Release.
If you don't consider yourself a mastering master, skip the multiband compression. Mastering studios generally dont use something like this unless its to correct a specific problem/defect. It may make a track or two sound better to you, but it wont sound right on everything. Keep it simple with EQ and A single band limiter.
Currently running 2.66 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo MBP / Logic Studio 8 / Ableton Live 8 / Apple IIe / Marble Madness
I think the prevelance of do-it-yourself mastering tools has steered thinking toward the idea that mastering is done on a per-track basis, which isn't really true. an actual mastering engineer also has the job of making an entire album sound cohensive together. so when you talk about how your songs sound different in terms of quality and EQ, etc, it just suggest that in your DIY approach to mastering, you're not actually accounting for everything mastering really should be accounting for.
so, if you want to get into doing those things, do it....if it doesn't interest you, time for a 'pro.'
personally I like to do it all myself. simple matter of being cheaper + total control. hard to beat, but it's differnet for everyone I guess.
Yeah I haven't found a way to use multi-band comps effectively. I think that, unless you need to fix a problem, there is no need for it. I would really like to be proved wrong, tho
I think the issue most people have with it is over doing it. I don't use it obviously. I use it as subtle glue, where in the end you don't think it's compressed, it is simple bringing up the dropped highs and allowing things like reverb to fill in the deadness, which is the main reason I use it instead of a regular compressor. That way I only need to do compression on the highs, and an EXTREMELY light amount of compression on the mids. I never get more than 1 to 2dB reduction for the highs with it, and even less with the mids. When most people think compression they think conventional compression leading people to overdo it. It's more like a de-esser for me to get rid of the shit that hurts your ears, but not flatten out the track.
I master my own material now, from my experience, the cheap guys (~$300 an album) aren't usually worth it. I'm sure there are a few good ones out there, but for every 1 there's probably 100 not so good. Also, I only put a limiter on in the mastering stage if I can help it, everything else I go back and fix it in the mix. I had a couple blog posts on my [Only registered and activated users can see links. Click here to register] site about this.