Mastering help - basics!

Hi, I’m trying to master a project in Cubase 7 for the first time. I always previously just exported to audio file without any final mastering. I’m a bit lost.

So far I have exported to audio file, then imported into the Stereo Mastering project template. What next??? I can see StereoEnhancer and VSTDynamics tools are open but they don’t have any presets?

I’ve been looking for an “idiot’s guide to mastering” for ages and have not found much in the way of guidance.

Happy to do my homework but not sure where to start!

Forget books and DVD’s, the best way to learn how to master is to start by having a pro master your stuff and watching what he does. I promise you that a couple of hours of that would be an infinitely greater learning experience than any online tutorial, DVD, book etc.

Mastering is not something that can be taught in a forum.

papi’s comments are spot on.

That being said, what you and most people really mean when they say “mastering my songs” is: “make them louder”. This is generally accomplished in the scenario you describe mainly by way of compression. Use the compressor in the VST Dynamics plug you see (you may have to turn it on) to basically compress the signal as much as possible without inducing “pumping” or “breathing” – you will hear this if it begins to occur, this means TOO MUCH compression (unless it’s an effect you’re going for). I think there is a “Light Master” preset on the compressor that serves as a good starting point for this. Then add make-up gain and use the limiter to keep it from clipping (peaking over 0 dbFS), and that’s pretty much it. You can try some presets on the “Stereo Enhancer” to see if you like the effect(s), it’s of dubious value but use your ears.

There is other stuff you can do in the mastering process, but like papi said - that’s way too much to get into here. No one “really” masters in their home/bedroom studio - professionals do that. We just approximate the process.

i believe & other professionals… that you can mix & master in any room as long as you are used to that room :wink:

I dont find Cubase factory project templates ex Mastering very useful at all …99% of sound engineers use all channels common board setup: Aux - FX - Compression - Pre Master - Master … “in that order”

So what does “master” mean to you? What result are you after? Making a collection of songs sound like a coherent album? Squeezing maximum perceived volume from each thack (why?)?

I guess by mastering I mean applying EQ, compression, limiting & anything else to improve the finished product. I could probably get there with just my ears (which is what I usually rely on) but just not sure where to start doing tweaks.

I may consider investing in a professional mastering engineer at some stage but not until I’ve figured how how the process works and what I can expect.

Isn’t that just called “delivering a decent mix”?

If the mix is good, the mastering engineer doesn’t have a lot to do.

I guess! I’m looking to distribute digitally ie via WAV or MP3 files, not via CD - do I still need a mastering engineer for this? Do I need to master at all then?

That´s how it was earlier. Today you are now longer allowed to put anything on the master bus. You must hope the mastering enigineer knows how you´d have your mix wanted, if you still were allowed to put anything on the master bus… :wink:

Basically if u have several songs u need to balance them to sound the same, regarding frequency(EQ) and volume wise and atmosphere , so when u play them in sequence they don’t sound as if its from different recording album ,(apply some degree of fixes if needed ).apply compression and limiter to “standard” loudness if u need too (depending of music genre)without ruin the song dynamically (pumping distortion etc…), also cutting and fading the intro and ending of each song.
insert metadata if u need so… composer ,track name ,genre etc…

basically thats the goal of mastering. good luck ! :sunglasses:

Now that’s a bunch of crap.
If a master engineer has that much infuence on the endresult, then either your mix sucks or the master engineer you are using sucks.
A master engineer has got fuck all to do with how the mix sounds…

Of course it’ s a bunch of crap - that was meant to be ironic…

If you want to master your tracks, first step is to mix them all down individual keeping careful check on levels with a brick wall plug in across the master buss to ensure the levels are consitent across all tracks.

Then load the tracks up into either wavelab (elements is fine) or maybe a stand alone T-Racks mastering suite, named in the correct order of play 01,02 03 etc along with relative track names, load in the relevant plugins (in T-Racks that pretty simple, just choose a preset you like the sound of, tweak away and do a batch convert and they’ll all come out with a pretty good consistency and continuity of sound and voila! Of course you can experiment with the plug ins until you find what works best for you (and your pocket)

There also the rather superb Sonnox Oxford Codec Toolbox at £35 GBP for converting to iTunes and loads of others formats complete with metadata and album cover art work! Well worth the small outlay for automating the whole process off line

Mastering can be kind of a dark art that takes. years to understand and tune your ears to…same goes with mixing.

Absolutely true, it’s good to experiment with all the options available, a good set of separate plugins is preferable and far more flexible to all the instant ready made mixes available today.

You can start here…:

Oops, my apologies. I’m usually quite good in getting irony. Must have had an off day :wink:.

Unless “mastering” just means “compressing the crap out of it for maximum loudness” there’s a good argument that it means “letting a second pair of ears have a go”.

Thanks for this - I watched this a while ago when I first started getting into mixing etc and it confused me loads - the narrator talks about lowering the pre-gain (if that’s what it calls) to reduce clipping whereas other tutorials refer to either the master volume or the input volume to reduce clipping - I realise now that they all have a part to play, hopefully I have a bit more mixing under my belt so will re-visit this and it should make more sense.

These are all really helpful posts, I think I just need to absorb as much info as possible and work out my own method via trial and error

i’m applying only to one track at the moment but will incorporate others shortly so all really useful stuff!