Audio mastering is the final step before you release your track to the world. This is the stage where all minor flaws are corrected, the track is leveled up for commercial release standards and ensures that all the tracks play at the same volume. I fully suggest learning from professionals, this is How much a session package could cost.
It’s a process with a lot of history. 3M introduced the first mastering tape in 1962.
But can you master songs if you’re not a qualified engineer? Is audio mastering something you can do yourself?
The answer is yes! You can do your own mastering even if you’re not a mastering engineer. Read on to learn more.
1. Don’t Mix and Master at the Same Time
You want your final mix to sound like you’ve mastered it. But don’t try to mix and master at the same time.
Finish your mix and wait a day before you try to do your audio mastering. That way, you’ll hear things you need to fix that you might otherwise miss.
2. Create an Optimized Listening Space
You need an optimized space to listen to your track while mastering it. If you can, install acoustic panels to balance the sound in your room. If space is a concern, you can check your mix with a quality set of headphones, although speakers will always be better.
Or just choose a good pair of headphones. This means you can easily master your audio at home.
3. Check Where Your Track Will Be Used
Many platforms like YouTube and Spotify use loudness normalization. This means they raise or lower the volume on uploaded tracks. That means the tracks all match.
Check your meters while you’re mastering to make sure you’re in the right range for your chosen platform.
4. Use Meters
Meters give a more professional result to your sound quality.
At the very least, use a LUF meter (LUFS – Loudness units relative to Full Scale. This is a loudness standard designed to enable normalization of audio levels. Loudness Units (or LU) is an additional unit. It describes loudness without direct absolute reference and therefore describes loudness level differences. (i.e., the maximum level a system can handle) This will tell you how loud your track is. You’ll need to know this to check its volume across the mix.
Using the right loudness lets you hit the requirements of streaming platforms.
5. Avoid Any Clipping
You may not notice digital distortion when you’re mixing. But it becomes apparent when you’re mastering.
Before you export your mix, check nothing is clipping in any of the faders. Before exporting the mix, make sure that you are leaving around 6db’s of headroom and that at no point the signal is going over 0 on the meters.
6. Always Use Reference Tracks
It may sound odd to say reference tracks can make or break your final product.
But they give you something great to compare your mix to. Listen to other professionally mastered music while you’re working on yours.
That way, your track can hold its own alongside these other mixes.