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Mastering audio is the final stage in music production, where the final set of mixed songs are turned into a cohesive album through a variety of processes that make the music sound the best it can, wherever it's played. Join author and producer Bobby Owsinski in this course, as he teaches essential mastering concepts and techniques used by experienced audio engineers. Follow along as he works at Oasis Mastering, a real-world mastering facility, and learn how to apply these techniques to your home or studio setup and make your projects sound better than ever.
First, discover how to configure your monitoring setup, optimize your listening environment, and prepare and print alternative mixes that will allow you to make quick fixes during mastering. Bobby then reviews a selection of dedicated mastering tools that give you precise control over select signal parameters, from compressors to de-essers. He'll discuss the differences between mastering for CD, online distribution, and specifically for iTunes, and how to achieve the best results for each medium. The course wraps with lessons on mastering for high-resolution formats like Blu-ray, as well as delivering and archiving the master recording once the project is complete.
It's surprising what a little bit of EQ can do to emphasize certain instruments during mastering. For instance, if we want to pull the kick drum out a little bit, usually most kick drums are centered around 80 Hz. So if we were to increase 80 a little bit, all of a sudden you will hear the kick jump out a little bit. Now I am going to actually add a lot more EQ than you normally would during mastering just so this is emphasized, but you will hear the kick increase pretty clearly. (music playing) Now you can hear the kick jump up a little bit, but so did the bass, and that's what will happen.
One will affect the other because their frequencies are crossing over somewhat. The other thing that we will usually do it is with queue, if you are using a parametric equalizer, will narrow the queue, and that allows you to actually center in on the frequencies a little bit more. As a matter of fact, let's try that again, and we will narrow it even more and see if we can just zero in on the kick alone. (music playing) You can hear it pretty well there, and again, usually when we are mixing, we are usually using a very wide queue, and that means something around 1 or 2 or even less than 1, which means the bandwidth is very wide, like you can see here.
And usually the sound is good if we are using big chunks of boost when we go to a very narrow queue, which is something around here, around 5.5, but for mastering what we are going to do is zero in on just these certain frequencies so it actually works okay, and we are not going to add a huge amount. Again, I am emphasizing it here, but normally it might be 1 dB or 2 at the very, very most, and here we are boosting it by 6, but you are able to hear very clearly what happens with the kick. One of the interesting things with EQing during mastering is--and this is what everybody kind of wants--it's Girth to the Mix. Where this comes from is from 40 to 60 Hz.
Now you might not hear this unless you have really good headphones, or you're listing on fairly large speakers, but this is where you get a lot of the power of the mix, and again it's Girth, it's not necessarily bass. It's bottom, and you don't want to add too much of this, because in fact, you can make it very muddy, but I am going emphasize it a little bit here, a little bit more than normal anyway. (music playing) Now that's far more than I'd usually add, but it gives you an idea of girth to a mix or the largeness to a mix that everybody wants.
Now if we go back to trying to emphasize certain instruments, let's try to emphasize the bass, this is the bass guitar. So usually it's somewhere around 100 to 120, maybe even as high as 150. Let's have a listen. Let's go up to 120 or so and go from there. (music playing) Now you can hear that what we are doing is we are pulling that out just a little bit.
The bass guitar frequencies, if it's mixed well, don't normally center on one frequency, around 120. They go fairly low, and it may go as low as 60, and it may go as high on the low end anyway is 200 or so, and then it'll pick it up again at about 1K, and 1K will do a couple of things that will bring out the snap in the bass, and it will give you a little bit of definition. It will also bring out the definition of the kick by allowing you to hear the beater.
This is the actual beater against the head. Let's have a listen. (music playing) Now you can hear the beater of the kick a lot better than the bass.
The bass is recorded very well, so it already has a lot of high-end. But if you don't have high-end on a bass, this is kind of where you get it, and it's somewhere around 1K, maybe a little higher, maybe a little lower, sometimes 800 works on the bass, sometimes 1200 works. It just depends on the instrument and the mix. The next place we are going to go is the snare, and the snare is usually between 2K and maybe 3K. Maybe a little higher on certain higher-pitched snare drums, but we can bring it out of the mix pretty well.
Have a listen. (music playing) Now you can hear just a little bit more of the snap than you heard before. One of the problems here is if you add too much, you are also affecting the vocal, and you may be adding more of the guitars than you'd like as well.
So you have to be careful on this, and once again, the best thing is to fine tune your queue and see if you can zero in exactly on that snare hit. It takes a little bit of time, but that's the way to do. The next thing we usually want to do is bring up the vocal a little bit more, and the vocal resides somewhere between 4 and 6K, at least the parts that we want to bring it out in front of the mix a little bit. Now instead of having a shelving EQ, which is going to affect everything in this case from 6K to about 20K, what we want to do is have a peaking EQ so we can use the fine tuning of the queue setting.
Let's have a listen. (music playing) Have a listen again. (music playing) Now we brought them out a little bit more in front of the mix than it was before.
Again, what happens here is not only do you affect the vocal, but you affect everything else that's around it frequency-wise, so one of the things that happens here is the tambourine--which is also centered in those vocal frequencies--the tambourine jumps out a little as well. If you can handle it that's going to work, but sometimes again, you can only do so much because you're only affecting the finished mix, and there's not a lot that you can do about the overall levels of the individual instruments unless you actually do go back to the mix.
But you can bring a little bit out here and a little bit out there, but usually if you have to add too much, it's no good. As a matter of fact, the real trick is to not add too much in any one area, because it usually upsets the entire frequency balance of the song. So if you need to add too much EQ to try to compensate for the mix balance, you are probably better off to send the song back to have it remixed.
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