I recently got a request to do a blog post about Mastering your own beats. Well first of all, and probably even more important is that your mix needs to be on point first. Cause if your mix is crappy then even the best mastering engineer in the world can’t make your shit sound dope.
Mastering suite at Wisseloord Studios (www.wisseloord.nl)
Professionally mastering is an entire job on his own and requires years of experience, specialism, trained ears and very expensive gear. Also the acoustics of a mastering studio need to be (close to) perfect. So if your want your tracks properly mastered then the best thing you can do is hire a professional mastering engineer.
Then of course there is always the case of wanting to showcase our beats to artists, A&R’s and other potential clients. Some of us make beats every day and don’t have the resources or money to hire professional engineers to mix and master each beat we make. And even if we do have the money it might not be the wisest thing to do since we don’t know how many of our beats will get picked up. So in this case we just want our beats to sound as good as possible without hiring professional engineers. So we’ll have to do it ourself. I already did an article on presenting your beats the right way but in this article I will focus a little more on the mastering part of this.
Like a lot of us I work straight in the box in my home studio so I will cover 3 things you can do digitally to your master bus or bounced 2track. I rather work on the master bus before bouncing a 2track so I can always make changes in the mix during this mastering process.
Note: always keep enough headroom on the master bus
1. Parametric EQ
Parametric EQ’s give the most control over the frequency spectrum. You can cut or boost any particular frequency and make the “Q” (bandwidth) as narrow as you want. I like to use the FabFilter EQ cause there is an option you can turn on where you can meter the entire frequency spectrum of your track. So you can see exactly how much high, mid and low frequencies are in your track in real time if that makes any sense. So for example if you see/hear that there’s a lot more “bass” (low frequencies) than “treble” (high frequencies) in you track then either you can go back to the mix and boost the higher frequency instruments, like the hihats etc, or you can boost the high frequencies with the parametric EQ on the master bus. I think it’s always better to get it right in the mix rather than to “fix” it at mastering.
Parametric EQ’s are also very good to cut certain frequencies that are annoying in the track. To find these specific frequencies I always make the Q as narrow as possible then boost that as much as possible so I can really hear what I’m doing. Then I slowly move the selected frequency range around till you hear the frequency that really annoys your ear, then turn that frequency down till it doesn’t annoy you anymore. I hope this makes any sense for you cause I didn’t know any better way to describe it.
2. Multiband compression
I like to put a multiband compressor on the master bus cause you can adjust the compression on each frequency band separately. Most of the time I use the C4 from Waves for this. The C4 got 4 frequency bands you can move around and adjust how you want. So let’s say you want to compress the lowest frequency band a little more than the other frequency bands then you move down the threshold till you got it compressing as heavy as you want. You can also adjust the range, attack and release.
Until now we kept enough headroom on our master bus to make sure the master bus doesn’t come anywhere close to distorting. Now we need to boost our overall level cause we want our track to be as loud as possible without distorting. We DON’T do this by turning the master bus up but we will us a limiter/maximizer for this. I personally like the L2 by Waves for this. It’s really easy to use and it sounds good. Set it up so it knocks off around 3db cause we don’t want our balance to really change that much, we just want to bring up the overall level and “glue” the mix together a bit.