Mastering A Single (In The Morning)

In yet another episode of teaching producers how to do something they really shouldn’t do (at least not for their own music), Kim Lajoie takes us through a session of mastering a single in two and a half hours…

Mastering The Quick Fix

keys and AKGs at middle 2s studio
Creative Commons License photo credit: dbtelford

Although there are a number of tools out there that provide decent in-the-box mastering facilities – such as Ozone and T-Racks – it does take quite a bit of skill to create a truly high-quality master using plugins in a home studio.

Although many mastering engineers might cringe at this approach, it is interesting to see how Kim Lajoie takes us through his process of mastering a single for Mark Greyson.

Mastering a single is easier than mastering an entire album, insofar as you don’t need to decide on a running order for a bunch of disparate tracks, and you don’t need to worry about matching levels from one track to the next.

Frequency Matching

However, as Lajoie points out, it’s very useful to have some reference tracks to compare your mix to – that is, identify commercially released songs that have a similar sonic quality to what you want to achieve, and regularly refer back to them as a benchmark.

Many mastering/EQ plugins have a feature which analyses the frequency curves of a given recording (such as a commercial reference track), and then can suggest EQ settings to impose a similar curve on another recording (your track). I wouldn’t rely on such technology to provide solid results by itself, but it’s certainly an interesting way to learn about frequency modifications.

Katz is Back

Other useful mastering guidelines include: keep the bass frequencies in mono, get rid of super-low frequencies entirely (say, below 40Hz – unless you really need them), master in the morning with fresh ears, normalise to no more than -0.3 dBFS, try and retain as much dynamic range as possible.

ProRec also have an interview with mastering guru Bob Katz, which is well worth a read…


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