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Hey, guys. Matthew Weiss here — www.weiss-sound.com, www.theproaudiofiles.com, and now, www.mixingwitheq.com.
Really cool new video that I just put together. It’s super informative, super in-depth, and it’s definitely something you’re going to want to get.
But anyway, we’re going to be talking about mastering. Mastering is something that comes up a lot, I get a lot of questions about it. You know.
Disclaimer, I’m not really a mastering engineer, however, as a mixing engineer, it’s very important that I understand it, because a lot of times, the final master that I print, the reference master, will be the final master that gets released.
Sometimes, I’m even hired by other people to master their records. Okay, so what does that all mean?Well, mastering essentially, is the finalization of the overall record. Now, there’s the QC side of it where it’s simply preparing something for a medium, but then there’s also the artistic side of it, which is making sure that everything sounds the best that it can sound, and it involves treating the overall mix.
So, for example, here I have my final mix to the master buss.
And it sounds good, but I feel like it could use overall, just a very subtle amount of maybe a little bit of character, and a little extra body and fullness to it. So I’m using a very subtle amount of distortion. And I mean super subtle, like, the wet-to-dry thing is almost all the way dry here, and it sounds like this.
So, just brings a little bit of extra life into it, and then a little bit of compression, which now sounds like this.
[music, distortion added]
I’ve made the mix a little bit better without really changing things, which is sort of the subtlety and the magic of mastering.
We’re gonna focus on is the actual EQ’ing, and that’s the very last thing I do, generally speaking, before I hit the final limiter, is an overall tonal shape. I might do some EQ on the master buss in the process, but last thing is just making sure that the overall tonal quality sounds the best that it can sound.
First thing I’m hearing is that the overall presence of the record could come forward. The upper mid-range is a little bit receded, and I tend to mix that way in general, so no surprise here.
First thing is a presence boost.
[music, presence boost added]
When I do that, there’s an edginess that shows up in the record that I don’t like, so as a reaction to that, right above that presence boost, down at around 5.5kHz where the upper-mid and treble sort of intersects, I’m actually doing a cut.
[music, 5.5 kHz cut]
I’m going to bypass those, and then bring them in.
[song plays, before and after EQ]
I’m essentially making the overall record more forward and brighter, but I’m also using a slight attenuation to make sure that it stays smooth and doesn’t get harsh and annoying.
In the mid-range, I found it to be around maybe 330Hz, I found it to be just a little bit muddy. Like, there’s a little extra tone there. I don’t know if it’s specifically from any one element or if it’s more likely from the combination of elements, plus the compression and the distortion that I applied, but a little bit of funk sort of showed up there, so I’m going to cut a little bit out.
[song, 330 Hz cut]
The vocal does get a bit thin, but again, these are all exaggerated EQ moves. My very last one is actually a mid-channel only based boost. I felt like the low end could be just a little bit more assertive. It sounds very nicely balanced, but it just doesn’t have that hip-hop aggression that I love.
I’m doing a 60Hz boost, and it sounds like this, before and after.
[song, 60 Hz boosted]
One of the things that I know is a definitive marker of an improved EQ curve is that I can hear everything more clearly, and the energy and groove of everything comes to life.
That is what’s happening when I apply this curve. The actual final curve that I used was basically the same thing, but much subtler. So instead of using these 2dB bumps, I’m only doing about a dB in the low end, doing a very subtle cut, about half a dB around 330, the presence boost… Everything is basically a dB or less.
Not to say that it has to be that subtle, but you know, generally speaking, if you’re doing significant changes on your master buss, then you probably need to go back and reassess the mix.
[song, before and after EQ]
I might make some quick little subtle changes, you know, just a little bit of extra in the presence and just a little bit of extra in the bass…
It’s walking that fine line between what sounds good versus what sounds a little bit over-hyped, or a little telephonic, or something like that. You know, is it too much, is it too little, etc. How’s my headroom doing? All these kinds of things.