How to Master A Song (My Current Mastering Technique)

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Song in video: Avril – Another Step

In this video I show you how I approach mastering my mixes these days. Though I am not a mastering engineer, it’s not uncommon to send my mixing clients a version of the song that has some mastering done to it.

The idea is to give the client an idea as to what the mix would sound like once it has gone through the mastering process.

The goal is not perfection but rather, just to get it as close as possible. It’s hard to compete against someone who has spent a lifetime devoted to the art.

Now I realize that this is not the cheapest alternative to mastering a song but keep in mind, there are a lot of low cost or free alternatives that will get similar, if not better results.  I even have a video where I show you how to master a track using only free plugins.

What Are My Goals?

But before we get into the actual process, let’s talk about the goals I am trying to achieve with the sound.

  • Punch – I want to try and get a little more punch from the record or at least a perceived amount of punch.
  • Clean and Clear – I want to bring out some more clarity in the midrange so the vocals can cut through a little better. I’m also trying to get rid of any frequencies that I feel might be adding any boxy or muddy tones.
  • Color – I like to add some layer of color to the mix, maybe some grit.
  • Limiting – I want to shave off some of the peaks so that I can bring up the apparent volume and get a louder sound.

I want to do all of these things to the mix while trying not to introduce any artifacts, distortion or noticeable clipping. I want to do as much as I can while doing the least amount of damage to the song.

Results and A/B’s

Watch the video for a step by step on how I used the API A2D, Fabfilter Pro-Q 2 as well as Ozone 6 to achieve all of these results.

YouTube Video Source: How to Master A Song (My Current Technique)

  • Rafael Santiago

    Hi Miles What do you think about for example api a2d and avalon 747 to eq and a little comp.

  • Miles

    Hi Justin thanks for the videos and info great help! I was wondering… in your mastering video you set the output level on the ozone al -6 db… do you turn that back up or do you leave it like that? I really like the end result you get with the apis.

    I was thinking of getting the neve portico masterbuss processor for mastering. Do you think it is a good idea or will i also need a DA converter? I use a motu ultralite.

    Thanks again, will definetley follow on youtube ande will be coming back!

    • Hey Miles, Thanks!!

      Yes, I was just leaving it at -6 to compare it to the original in terms of volume so you could see how the sound changed.

      Yeah the Neve stuff is great, I’m not sure how it would sound because I would have to test it but it would be WAYYYY better then a stock interface preamp. I don’t think you would be unhappy.

      The D/A would be extremely valuable but don’t let it stop you. The conversion going back into the box is more important then coming out. If you have stock convertors right now just use the Neve to tweak the sound, and then you go back into the box with that. You can always upgrade. Another option is to go for something a little less expensive thats just as high quality. I have a Dangerous BAX and API A2D combo, that cost me less then the Portico and those 2 pieces are still considered studio staples.

      So just look around and try and find a good combo for the money I think.

      • Miles

        Thanks a lot Justin, great help, greetings from Costa Rica!

  • Alfayeth

    hi.. you use the mic pre for input
    ? best regards al

  • Mike Rinehart

    Howdy. I just stumbled upon this video recently. Maybe this is a ProTools vs Sonar question but what interface are you using as a sound card? I have a Focusrite Saffire 24 pro right now and I was trying to figure out how I could do a similar setup by adding a good A/D converter but take advantage of my Focusrite Preamps for now. Any thoughts on that kind of setup?

  • I really enjoy this video. Thanks for the tips.

    • Justin Smith

      Thanks Johnny!

  • Great video, I like that you explained your methodology. First visit to this site, I will definitely be coming back.

    • Justin Smith

      Glad to Hear Smigs! All the best

  • Electrocuted

    You’re voiceover is popping dood, master your videos.

  • Great video I enjoyed how you show your pre amp process, it was very helpful. I’ve been really inspired watching your tutorials, so much I mentioned you on my site in a blog post. Appreciate what your doing, Thanks!

    • ModernMixing

      Thanks Charles. You nailed it right on the head. I was hoping that this video would inspire people to try different things to their mixes. All the best.

      • Robbie Billups

        what pre amp could you do this with if you didnt have your api . love the video

        • Any one you want really. I would love to have more variations of pre’s so that I could test out different colors. The benefit of the API’s is that they have built in convertors which really helps as well. This way you can avoid using some low end convertors in some of the audio interfaces.

          • Robbie Billups

            i have art pro tp2 2 that i got and modded with another tube. they do another model called tps 2 which had digital outs..i can buy more tubes and plac in there .. is this somthing you mean? thanks for the reply

          • I’ll be honest, ART isn’t a sought after brand for it’s “color” of high quality so I’m not sure I would use it on my mixes. That said anything is possible so I would try it and if you like it than use it. If not then try something different. Cheers

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