Mastering Process Frustration.

I am looking for techniques to improve my sound during the mastering process but I am extremely troubled by some of these tutorials because they make it look so easy and the sound sounds so nice. I bought some Waves Plugins, in regards to this tutorial I followed for Wavelab just to get my hands on mastering but I am still having a lot of trouble trying to create a more “snappier” and “louder” sound without having a Clipping massacre.

Everytime I hear a db mistake, I tried to modify my plugins without too much luck. I even tried to modify my midi tracks by bringing down the velocities to see if it helped. It did but then it messed it up in other parts. According to this tutorial the RMS is suppose to be between 7- and 8 for competitive midi tracks, but I can’t even get it down to 11 without a db problem.

I have Ozone, and now Waves Plugins for mastering but I find it incredibly difficult to make it sound clean. I moved to Waves cause Ozone couldn’t seem to do what I wanted to do in regards to cleanliness of a track, and I thought I would be able to improve the track.

I looked up this “how to make drums snappier” and I got information oh use decay. But for some reason I look through cubase, I look for some waves plugins, but I can’t find a decay plugin. I thought that it would make it more snappier and sound fuller, without db overload. Can anyone direct me to a Cubase plugin that might help me. I thought Compressor contained decay cause in a nother search they talked about Attack, Decay Susstained Release Envelop but I see no decay just sustained and release.

I spent all day trying to figure out this mastering process out and I am not too happy with the results. I originally went to Ozone cause I followed a tutorial that made the sound reasonably well. Its pretty extensive cause some reason I can’t hear videos on youtube regarding mastering when I am in a file.

I can’t even bee in my Notation program Finale when I am in cubase and vice versa if anyone could help me with this issue too that would be great.

Note these are the plugins I used in this order:

  1. The Waves Q10 Paragraphic EQ
  2. Waves Linear Phase Multiband
  3. Stereo Imager S1
  4. Waves L2 Maximiser Limiter

    This is the process I followed for a video I will attach the message below:

WaveLab Mastering Tutorial

  1. ☒ Statistics
    a. ☒ Global Analysis > Loudness
    b. ☒ Click Analyze
    c. ☒ RMS Power Average Output > Adjust to type of music
    i. ☒ GET RMS Level to -7 or -8
    ii. ☒ Subtract RMS (-15 –(-10)=5) / RMS –(- 10) = Absolute Value
    iii. ☒ Use this number to feed the limiter
    iv. ☒ REMEMBER. RMS LEVELS THE LOWER THE NUMBER. The Louder the Sound.

  2. ☒ Export the file as a wav and load into Har-Bal (Didn’t download)
    a. ☒ NOTE: Reason why there is a huge cut from to 10 is because our ears are more sensitive in this area. There for a fletcher –munson curve has been applied over the spectrum to make the listener of the song not suffer from harsh sounds. Wis mix and mastering engineers monitor at levels 85- 90 db SPL range, where our hearing is particularily flat.
    b. ☒ Unselect average powerpoint, playback, and reference (lower right hand corner)
    c. ☒ Click the Paragraphic EQ Cursor (upper right hand side)
    d. ☒ Examine Peaks and Holes > Remove peaks and valleys
    e. ☒ NOTE: DAW = (Digital Audio Workstation) Software running on a Mac or Windows computer that is used by professional sound engineers to record and mix digital audio tracks
    f. ☒ Export as Wav and Save Harbol File

  3. ☒ Place Plugins into the channel in this order and save as a preset.
    a. ☒ The Waves Q10 Paragraphic EQ
    i. ☒ Change layer 1 to High Pass
    ii. ☒ Adjust your high pass filter between 40 and 60 hz to get rid of low rumble (Left Side of the wave line)
    iii. ☒ (Waves plugins, fabfilter, crysonic, wavearts and iK multimedia when i work with mixing and mastering here)
    b. ☒ Waves Linear Phase Multiband – Use Present for too much limiting
    i. ☒ Turn on monitoring point (Upper left hand corner square box)
    ii. ☒ Use any preset: Common one is: Adaptive Multi Electro Mastering
    iii. ☒ Allow Song To Play To The End. Observe number at the bottom of each end. These are the peaks.
    iv. ☒ Now after the song has played to the end, you should get numbers for each band to make the new peak numbers… So change the threshold for each.

  4. Set Range of Yellow Numbers as the Threshold numbers
    v. ☒ Click the Makeup Button on the right and change it to manual. This will keep the volume the same while you are pulling down the master threshold.
    vi. ☒ Grab the master threshold button and pull it downwards until the orange dynamics line is in the middle of the blue range.
    vii. ☒ Grab the master attack button and slowly move it upward until there is some stability in the first two bands of the orange dynamics LINE. ATTK Arrow 4th.
    viii. ☒ Grab the master release button and slowly move it upward until the first to bands are almost horizontal in movement.
    ix. ☒ Click the TRIM button to set your faders to 0.0 decibels.
    c. ☒ Insert a Stereo Imager S1 into the mastering chain.
    i. ☒ Open up VU Meter & Spectrascoe in Cubase (Meters? “Meter Name”
    ii. ☒ Correct any phase issues and RMS mismatches if you have two different
    iii. ☒ Note: If you have 2 different volumes for each track. Do not normalize to correct it. Just use the rotation button while paying attention to the RMS LEVELS IN THE VU METER (Meters > VU Meter)

  5. ☒ These are the RMS Levels: The two in the center of the meter.

  6. ☒ The other meters are LEFT and RIGHT channel Meters

  7. ☒ The RMS Meters should be balanced (Change the Assymetry)
    d. ☒ Insert a Waves L2 Maximiser Limiter
    i. ☒ Set the OUT –Ceiling for -0.2 to prevent digital clipping, even on faulty speaker systemes.
    ii. ☒ As you pull down the threshold fader, slowly look at the RMS level in your meter.
    iii. ☒ If you no longer see activity in your Out Ceiling your song is too squashed.
    iv. ☒ Remember this rule. Always listen to your song at 85 Decibel while mastering. This is not loud and it enables you to hear your music almost flat. You can pick up a level meter from any radio shack. If your song is too bassy and trebly you will know it!
    v. ☒ Use the Threshold Slider to Adjust the Limiter to the desired RMS LEVEL OUTPUT
    vi. ☒ Aim for -7.8 DB RMS(continuous power = The higher the RMS figure, the louder and cleaner your music sounds)
    e. Check out the Phase Scope in Cubase.
    i. ☒ Should be mostly vertical. Upright activity with a little body to the east and west
    ii. ☒ Check the peak and RMS levels constantly. Keep your listening levels at 85 decibels.
    iii. ☒ NOTE: 1. RMS between -10 and -12 RMS is great for most commercial music. RMS between -16 and -12 in level meter for softer compositions
    f. Spectrum Meter in Cubase Analyzer
    i. ☒ Use it to check for sudden spikes and overall patterns and adjust with your EQ
    ii. ☒ Tonal Balance Colors – Bass in Red, Snares in Yellow, Leads and Vocals from green to light blue, Crash and other percussion is in purple color
    g. Fix DB problems in Cubase.(Make Sure Velocities in Cubase are not above 75)
    h. Insert a Linear Phase Multiband [Alternative]
    i. ☒ Find a Music Frequency Chart
    ii. ☒ Find the note that is Clipping
    iii. ☒ Hear the note, and determine its frequency
    iv. ☒ Set Scale to 30db
    v. ☒ Set Method to Accurate
    vi. ☒ Adjust the frequency to the closest dot to the Specific Note on the LPM
    vii. ☒ Adjust the Q to 6.50
    viii. ☒ Adjust gain down to appropriate number.


  1. Open Master Project> Right Click > Master Project
  2. Save File
  3. To Save Master Section Preset go to Edit > Store Master Preset Along with Audio File

Red Yellow Green Light Blue Purple
Bass Snares Leads / Vocals Vocals Crash & Other Percussion Instruments.

Manhopark, I’m going to upset you- but all the stuff in your post is almost useless. At best, it teaches you various methods and practises that are good, but they can’t applied by rote directly to any song in the expectation it will master the tune.

Mastering is process of EQ to iron out or enhance any troublesome frequencies, then compression to get an overall continuity of sound not just for the song, but for all the songs on a CD, and that continuity can often come at the cost of dynamics depending on how hard you drive things. A Multi-band compressor provides a little of both.

Things like “snappy” drums are achieved during the mix stage and the sound you’re probably after is done by putting a compressor on the snare, maybe a compressor on the kick, and adding some brightness to the snare and hi-hats.

But most of all you have to forget instructions and learn how to listen- not being a smart-arse here. Listen to what a compressor does, a multi-band compressor does, a parametric EQ, etc… try some extreme settings to hear what they’re doing. Mastering is an art and that’s why there are dedicated studios to mastering. That doesn’t mean you can’t get a good result using the plug-ins you have, I’m only saying that it takes heaps of time and experimenting and learning.

And that’s all assuming your mix is good in the first place. You can’t “master out” bad parts of a mix.

There’s no rules or formulas. Good luck with it.

not only what the above poster said… I do know the tutorials you are speaking of and from my experience the linear multi band is no good, atgleast in my ears. If you need to use multiband compression go back to the mix and fix it. My understand of multiband is to tame each band due to some sort of error. If you fix it in the mix you wont need it. I am assuming you are mastering your own material.

I’m afraid these two posters are right.

Many of your problems sound like they are in the mix, and so can’t really be adequately fixed at mastering - EVEN IF the mastering engineer is really very good. I think you are compounding your mix problems by inexperienced mastering.

Sorry, but there is no quick way to learn this stuff. I would forget all about mastering until you are happy with your mixes.

(small disagreement about the Platinum Multiband - it has its place but it’s a powerful tool that can do a lot of damage if used insensitively)

Good luck with it.

Agree wtih all of the above… unfortunately you just cannot boil the creative process down to a rote process…

Well lets simplify things.

This is what i want I composed this piano piece in Finale and Expressed it in Cubase.

I am quite happy with the mix, but I am not happy with the master. I know that it could use a little reverb, and louder. Would I just ad a reverb and a maximiser and then thats it?

People say I am overanalyzing things, and that it takes years of practice to master this.

Although I have scored a few compositions with ost instruments, I am mostly expertised at piano composing so I want ot make a piano CD, and touch things up. Any suggestions. You can hear the problems I am having. I followed tutorials and stuff, maybe I Followed the wrong ones.

La Madre De Amor Unmastered Version

La Madre De Amor Mastered Like Crap! Version (Ringiness, and Ting Tangy)

manhopark - My skills don’t allow me to help you with your problem, sorry, but I was wondering if you might post a link to the tutorial you have referred to a few times - thanks!

Folks were wondering about the tutorials I was following. It was the wavelab tutorial that seem to have the most views, was consistent in ratings, ect. If anyone can provide any other information let me know thank you.

I took a listen, can only comment on the tune itself (listening through cr*ppy little 3 inch computer speakers with a sub) - VERY nice tune!!

As far as “mastering” it … the gent who posted this thread does mastering for classical instruments - maybe his thread, or PM’ng him might help.

Good luck!

Maybe it’s not about having seen the good tutorials… sometimes, the source material is the problem. Compressor can unhappily put some details upfront. I suppose you work with piano samples ? Maybe try some other soundbanks and compare.

Hi, i’ve heard both your unmastered and mastered versions.

According to this tutorial the RMS is suppose to be between 7- and 8 for competitive midi tracks, but I can’t even get it down to 11 without a db problem.

First of all, the music used in the tutorial is completely different from what you made.
Try to lower it down. Target at for example -12dB RMS or 14dB RMS Average.

Secondly: not all compressors and limiters out there are capable of doing this kind of ‘violence processing’ without screwing up the sound. -7dB RMS Average output is generally very hard and more likely an electronic dance/house target level.



Some great info about mastering on this forum -->

My opinion FWIW…
as i think someone else said… try a ‘better’ piano sound for starters… it’s far too compressed too mate…
remember the full name of a piano is ‘piano forte’ literally ‘soft strong’ so for a solo piano piece dynamics are massively important… particularly on a piece like yours…
also i notice there is pretty much nothing over 8KHz and IMHO your track would benefit from some ‘air’… it would give it more of a sense of position in space and it would sound less claustrophobic.
I think the main problem to my ears at least is your original sound though, what did you use out of interest?
Also with a piece like this… less is more!
i would: replace the piano sound, back the compression waaaaaaaaaaay off… look at what’s happening EQ wise from about 4KHz and up and depending on what kind of acoustic space you want it positioned in, dial in some reverence also… one of the concert hall impulses would sound quite nice IMHO.

BEFORE you master though spend a bit of time listening to a commercial release which is along the lines of what you are after to attune your ears as a reference point too and try to do as little as possible… over processing a solo piano is kinda like getting a 20 year old single malt and putting orangeade in it i always think.

and yeah nice tune! :smiley:

Well spoken by Matjones…

A great and famous mixing book is: The Art Of Mixing by David Gibson.
Also available on youtube:

And regarding Mastering, this is probably one of the best books available: Mastering Audio - The Art and the Science SECOND EDITION by Bob Katz


Which is of course sacrilege…

IN terms of a better piano sound, I invested in Synthogy Piano Ivories and Synthogy Piano Ivories Italian grand.

I did not see a steinberg available, and it seems to be the best samples I have at the moment though bosendorfs, was a nother sample i used once but stuck with the italian grand.

There are setings in the Synothogy program that I tried to implement at one time. Currently the reverb settings in that piece is set for a an italiand grand concert hall.

pretty much nothing over 8KHz and IMHO? Are you suggesting that I should rearange the music for higher pitched notes? Like cut back on the left hand harmony if thats what you mean?

I am no sure what to achieve even if its over 8khz. Please let me know asap, I would love to get a start on this. I will try to replace the italian grand with something else and get a post of it up. I will also look at a commercial track. I would love to get this piece more air, what I did ot help with that is extend some of the notes since this piece is actaully sythesized.

Please do not miss me when I am gone is actaully a piano improv that wasn’t sequenced in a notator, unlike this piece, this was played on the piano and recorded from me actaully playing it. So if you can also compare that one and list specificlaly it is the italliand grand than I will make adjustments. I used OZONE to enhance the sound of this though I wasn’t to happy cause I thought I could get it louder, what I will try to do is aim fir 12 to 14 but I even think 14 is too much.

Thanks for the insights, it is greatly appreciated.

From my personal views and rule of thought from reading other forums, other peoples and personal experience.

Best to let a professional master your finished track…they have an understanding of polishing your sound dont let it be a turd :slight_smile:

In other words…focus on your track, the mixing and the sound. This leaves the mastering stage to be a simple polish.

If doing it yourself train your ear to commercial releases that are similar in genre and sound of your work.

Also it’s more likely a pro mastering engineer will have a room that makes everything sound neutral and easy to master. If your environment, kit and speakers and not emitting a neutral sound your mix will sound different on whatever you listen to it. Have several sets of speaker to listen to your tracks on before mastering this will help you on the mix. Do you listen to your mixes and stems in mono…this helps identify weak spots in your eq’ing and panning. If it sounds good in mono it will sound better in stereo…

Goodluck and there’s loads of web content.

have a lurk around gearslutz…there’s a lot of good and well seasoned individuals there. Dig around the mastering forums and extract what info you can…

Totally agree what a criminal way to waste quality orangeade…

~duplicate post~


A few of my thoughts:

  1. First off, nice piece of music.

  2. Most libraries would have already fixed up and processed each sample to standardise levels, etc, so the initial dynamics are going to depend largely upon your playing and your MIDI keyboard’s velocity transfer curve.

If something really bothers you about the quality of your unprocessed sound, then change one or more of:
–a. Your library - there has to be enough samples per note for dynamics to work, but until there is a sample per MIDI level, rendering will always be quantised crudely in the level domain. Note that different libraries process the sounds for particular target genres, with particular EQ and other processing. Samples targeting film scores sound quite ‘in your face’ compared to classical. Choose what suits the music best.
Your piece sounds like it wants some intimacy, which means it has to sound closer than perhaps your samples were recorded at. EWQL Pianos has three microphone positions which allows you to choose one or even mix them. Trying to get them closer by compression, exciters, etc, will only make it worse.
–b. Keyboard transfer curve - to change how the MIDI level is generated from your finger movements. Some keyboards have several.
–c. Play slightly differently to to bring the feel closer to what you want. This is NOT a criticism of your playing in any way, but the reality of working with a MIDI keyboard and samples that may not perfectly match the finger pressure-sound level dynamics of a real piano. Basically, learn to compensate for the non-ideal samples and transfer curves.

Play so that it sounds how you want it. You need it to have the subleties of the required dynamics right at recording the MIDI. MAke sure you can hear what you are performing clearly.

If necessary, manually play each note at different velocities to learn where the different samples for each note kicks in.

You CANNOT really improve on these by later processing.

2. You may have to make adjustments as the piece favours your right hand, level-wise. This could be one or more of, in order of preference:
–1 A little more emphasis on the left when playing
–2 Move the balance slightly right
–3 EQ to balance the frequencies more, bringing lower ones up slightly.

3. Intimacy also depends upon how much your instrument fills the room it’s in. Typical concerts have a huge hall. This is not a really intimate space. Try using reverb more suited to chamber music. Do not have your piano panned fully across the sound stage, but give it a width appropriate for the intended ‘room’ (reverb) in which you will place it. Let the reverb occupy the rest of the sound stage. This means that you cannot use the reverb provided with the library, but use a separate one. REVerence also has some warmth, which may suit the piece well.

4. If, after doing the above, you want more level, try:
–1 Normalising the end track. That is, using Cubase to make the loudest sound 0dB, then back it off 0.5dB.
–2 If that doesn’t quite do it, then apply a compressor at a low ratio, say 1.2 to 1.5, just to linearly reduce the dynamic range, but not really introduce artifacts. Heavy compression may work in dense mixes, but not in more sparse pieces where the ambient sounds will be pumped by the compressor. Then do the normalise afterwards.
–3 Apply a LITTLE maximisation.

The last too need to be subtle so as to not disturb the delicateness of the piece.

5. Bob Katz states in his ‘Mastering Audio’ that the only home mastered stuff he like was satified with was one where the person had auditioned it in multiple listening environments (not just different speakers). If you can:
–1 Make a candidate mix.
–2 Listen in:
----a. A large, reverberent hall (which can rip apart unstable mixes, even some commercial ones).
----b. A room like where you would prefer to play the piece on a real piano.
----c. Home stereo (even a couple of different quality levels).
----d. Your car’s stereo.
–3 Repeat steps 1 and 2 until the mix is just right. Don’t be afraid to do this several times.

By this time, if you have a reasonable mixing setup, you will have TRAINED your ears to know how your mixes WILL sound in each room without having to go there. In future, make your mixes sound how you know they will sound good elsewhere, and you will have automatically ‘mastered’ them.

You have a very simple piece, so keep everything else simple as well!

Mastering for CD involves a whole lot of optimisations about relative track levels, inter-track spacings, embedding CD text, etc, according to the Red Book standard. Most CD writer software will allow doing all these things, though there are some arcane gotchas (like calculating inter-track spacing) to the process.

For single downloads, which is the way most will distribute their stuff these days, a lot of these are irrelevent. CD Baby can help there.

Don’t forget iZotope’s mastering PDF. It has a lot of useful info on the technical side.

Hello folks, so in regards to yesterday I gathered alot of information and reflected a bit on some mastering techniques that I acquired through the threads. I haven’t read these thread since 1:00 PM Central Time so I will read them later.

I spent about 4 hours reading up on a few things, and then another 8 hours just experimenting with the mix, piano samples, and mastering plugings.

Synopsis: I disliked the harsh sounding tonality of Ivory’s Italian Grand Studio Effect. So I finally found a softer sample called Germany Steinway D Jarett Hall Effect, and a Soft Keyset sample.

I had a reference piece that I wanted,, and tried very hard to get more resonnance, until I gave up and just called it quits, its getting late but I thought I share it.

Also, here are the plugins I used.

  1. MaxxBass Stereo - helped give it fullness
  2. FabFilter Pro C - helped give it richness
  3. Ozone 4 Maximizer - helped make it louder
  4. S1 Imager Stereo - helped center the RMS levels.

Below are the settings

I focused more on what I heard, still had problems at this level, weird murmers but its the best I can do for now. Some reason the Waves Ultra Maximizer didn’t sound to good so I used the Ozone one instead. I lost alot of the dynamic quality. Its likely from the Fabfilter Pro C, if I didn’t increase the threshold, it was causing murmurs, and course a soft keys decreased it a lot. It is likely I am going to redo this. But it does sound more realistic.

Oh yeah here are the samples:

Unmastered Version 1

unmastered version 2

Mastered Version 1

Mastered Version 2

If anyone wants to give me any suggestions to improve it, feel free to post what you think and I can experiment with it later. This is extremely helpful, I am going to be releasing a Self title piano cd, so the better it sounds, I can master them in a simlar fashion.