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The 4 most important mastering tools

If you’re a musician, music producer, or audio engineer, you know that mastering is an essential part of the production process. Mastering is the last step in the production cycle before releasing a song to the public. It involves making adjustments to ensure that an artist’s song sounds perfect on any platform. Today we will give you an overview of the most common mastering terms and explain them as simple and understandable as possible!

Table of Contents:


1 - Balancing your frequencies

The first step in mastering your track is making sure that all frequencies are properly balanced. This means ensuring that bass and treble frequencies don’t overpower each other, as well as making sure that different parts of your mix don’t conflict with one another. To do this, you can use an equalizer plugin on your DAW to carefully boost or lower different frequencies until they sound balanced together. It is super important to do only slight adjustments. If you ever notice that you need to do more than just small changes, make sure you go back to the mixing process and fix all those problems there. Remember that mastering should just be about adding loudness and the icing on the cake. It's not about making huge changes.

Equalization adjustments are also key when mastering a track. EQ adjustments involve tweaking certain frequencies within the mix to give it more clarity and definition. Do this by boosting or cutting frequency bands slightly until your mix sounds sonically pleasing and balanced across all speakers. Be sure not to boost too much as this can cause distortion and muddiness in your mixdown.

2 - Compression

Another important tool in mastering is compression. Compression allows you to adjust the dynamic range of a track so that it has more consistent volume levels throughout. This helps prevent sudden spikes or drops in volume that could otherwise disrupt the mix as a whole. Additionally, compression also helps make certain elements stand out more in the mix, allowing them to be heard over other parts without increasing their overall volume too much.

3 - Multiband compression

Multiband compression allows you to compress each frequency band a little differently. This gives you more control over what you compress. When done righ, it can create a fuller-sounding track with more energy and punchy transients, without having to increase the overall volume of the track. Be careful not to overcompress as this could lead to an unnatural sound that might turn off listeners rather than draw them in. A good way to keep that from happening is to turn down the mix knob, that controls the amount of compression that is applied.

4 - Stereo imaging

Stereo imaging is another key component of mastering. This can be done in multiple ways:

The first way is to use a mid-side EQ. A mid-side EQ is just like a normal EQ, but you can make changes to the mid frequencies and side frequencies individually. Say you want the track to feel a bit more open and wide: add a high shelf from 2KHz and up on the side frequencies. Does it sound a bit muddy? Dip some of the side frequencies between 250-500Hz. Does the vocal need to stand out more? Boost some of the mid frequencies between 500-2KHz. Of course these values are just estimates, so also use your ears to find out what sounds best for your particular track.

The second way is to use an imaging plugin like the Ozone Imager. With an imager you can control the width of different frequency bands. You can't work as precise as you can with a mid-side EQ, but it is more simple to use and gives you a different effect. As you can see below you can create your own bands. There also is a "Stereoize" button that will make things more stereo.

Try these out for yourself and hear the magic happen!

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