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Setting up – Mastering Effects – Home Recording Tips and Advice

If you are trying to Master your own tunes you will be wanting to know which effects to use and what order to use them in.

Truth is there is no set way to set up your mastering effects.

It’s all about your ears, does it sound right?

2 previous articles on this site.

Mastering for fun – Primer(link)

Mastering How?(link)

——-Mastering Setup——

Let’s look at mastering for the beginner.

Add a Limiter to your fx chain, typically the limiter will go at the end of you mastering fx chain.

Why?

Well it’s not a set in stone rule but if you’re trying to get your track to level out and increase the overall volume of your track a limiter or limiting effect will with a little care and good ears get this for you.

Some setups will include placing a compressor set at a low rate at the beginning of your fx chain.

Free Limiter Plugins(link)

More about the Limiter – Setting Up(link)

What you place inbetween is down to choice, typically this is usually an EQ effect.

So a simple setup could be,

Compressor – EQ – Limiter.

That said removing the Compressor at the beginning is not out of the question.

If your track is well mixed and your eq is spot on then the EQ can be removed as well.

It’s about what suits.

Usually an EQ is added to lift a track in some parts(boost) or to remove problems(cut).

Free EQ Vst Plugins(link)

If you do boost – be gentle – if you find yourself having to correct too much then you need to look at your mix.

Using EQ a roll off around 40hz(link) can usually give you a bit more room for volume as the lower frequencies tend to take up much more room in your overall levels.

What does ‘Rolling Off’ mean?(link)

Other than that messing around with eq is again up to taste, but be careful with your boosts – whatever you boost has an effect elsewhere in the track – gentle boosts are a safer way of massaging your sound. If you find yourself doing more then you may have a problem in the mix.

Learning more about bandpass filters and types of eq is necessary – get your ears used to what happens to instruments and mixes when you apply eq – drastic and dramatic settings can be helpful to tune your ears but they will be often be damaging to your master – if in doubt leave it out.

Use eq for gentle lifts and cuts only.

—Adding Other FX—

There are many other Effects that can come into play when mastering,

Multiband Compressors

Distortion/Tube/Tape Saturation

Maximisers

Exciters

Reverb

Each of these effects have their own uses, the order in which you use them again is down to taste.

For example a Reverb before an EQ will be affected by the EQ so decide wether that is what you want.

Remember It’s all dependent on sound not so-called rules.

Imagine a big reverb going through a limiter – what will happen?

If you compress a high pass eq what happens?

Adding distortion into your mastering FX chain does exactly that – think about it.

Sometimes it can have a warming effect – too much and it will distort.

Be gentle but at the same time keep in mind what you want to achieve.

A good mix can be killed by bad mastering.

Start off simple, listen and learn.

1. Decide on the sound you want – will it be part of an album of songs?

2. If so that has a bearing on your mastering – eq’s have to match – your volumes will depend on the order/playlist of your music.

3. Take your time – bounce your mixes first – find the order of your songs – then listen on as many different types of stereo listening equipment as you can.

4. Were all the songs recorded around the same time/studio/equipment? Look at point no.2

5. Get a few commercial songs to A/B and Compare against – take notes – use analysis plugins – LISTEN!.

6. Take a few weeks off – don’t master straight away – yeah I know me neither but run a basic master off if you must – just to listen to – but then take a few weeks away – do something else and go back to it – if you have a few songs to record finish those off before you master any more.

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