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The 5 Plug-in Mastering Chain For Engineers Who Don’t Really Master Their Mixes

The mastering process can be a little intimidating.

The whole process, understanding the meters and what plug-ins to use.

Presets can go a long way, especially if you’re working with powerful plug-ins, but it’s also great to actually know the “tricks of the trade” and what’s actually happening to your audio.

I’ve gone into this before but my mastering chain is pretty simple:

  • Gain
  • EQ
  • Multiband Compression
  • Limiting
  • Perception

Those are the basics.

With those processors you can usually get 80% of the way there. Even if you’re just in your home studio and don’t have $200,000 monitors to work on you can still get decent results by mastering on your own.

Let’s run through the mastering chain:

Gain – For when you need to add or subtract a little volume to the original master. Better to have it at a healthy level before you start.

EQ – Mastering EQ is all about balance. EQ can be quite daunting but you want to put it right there at the beginning of the chain so you can get a nice balanced EQ before you move on to any other processors.

If you want more help with your EQ, sign up for my free EQ course here.

Multiband Compression – Multiband compression is preferable to normal compression because you want to treat frequency ranges differently. If you want to get a juicy and compressed drum sound and low-end you don’t want to take the vocals and high-end with you. You want to keep the lows tight while making the highs breathe. That’s what multiband compression lets you do.

Limiting – It’s scary how many people are afraid of limiting. If I’ve done everything well it shouldn’t be limiting that much and it should just be catching the stray peaks to glue everything together.

Perception – Adding all these processors will inevitably raise the overall volume of the song. And when it sounds louder it’s gonna sound great! Louder is better so we’re all good there. Ehm…no. That’s why I have the Perception Plug-in from Ian Shepherd. It lets me quickly A/B the mix and master so I can hear if I’m making things better…or just louder.

So those are the basics. Of course, every session is different so there are more “tricks of the trade” to learn.

Like using M/S EQ instead of linear phase EQ, or parallel compression for the whole mix.

You might have used parallel compression to add some thickness to your drums so just imagine what it can do to your mix. And don’t get me started on saturation, stereo imaging and knowing what all those meters are telling you.

No, that’s somebody else’s job.

Ian Shepherd from Production Advice is on a mission to teach you to master in your home studio. You CAN get great results by mastering on your own.

You can get loud and dynamic mixes without worrying about whether you’re squashing your music.

home-mastering-masterclassHis Home Mastering Masterclass is opening up for the last time this year and I highly recommend jumping in.

If you want to take the jump into mastering your own mixes, in the comfort of YOUR home studio, with YOUR equipment that you know how to use, this is the course for you.

You’ll learn the best approach to mastering at home, using all the processors we talked about above plus some voodoo Jedi superpowers like I mentioned as well.

I went through the course the first time through and let me tell you, it really opened up my eyes to new ways of mastering my materials. My favorite insights were his use of stereo imaging to widen up an electronic house tune and when he used distortion on a metal band because he thought it was too clean!

But of course, like everything in mastering, it’s all about subtlety. If you didn’t know these effects were there you couldn’t point them out. All you hear is how much better the music becomes.

If you want to discover how to professionally finish your home recordings the Home Mastering Masterclass is definitely something for you.

Jump on board here:

I’ll see you in the Facebook group 🙂

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About me

About Björgvin Benediktsson

I’m Björgvin Benediktsson. I’m a musician, audio engineer and best-selling author. I help musicians and producers make a greater impact with their music by teaching them how to produce and engineer themselves. I’ve taught thousands of up and coming home studio producers such as yourself how to make an impact with their music through Audio Issues since 2011.

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