Join Skye Lewin for an in-depth discussion in this video Understanding mastering, part of Logic Pro X: Mixing and Mastering.
Before we talk about mastering, I want to first quickly point out that if you're using the exercise files, this project file is saved within a folder, unlike the other project files and the exercise files that we've been using so far. That's because this project was initially saved as a folder in Logic, instead of as a package. Let's navigate into our folder, and open the Logic project file. If you don't have access to the exercise files just take a look at the signal flow in this project and you can easily set up your own project.
Now, this is by no means the only or even the best way to set up a project from mastering and logic; however, it does offer a few advantages which well see as we explore the template. Once you've bounced a mix that you feel is up to par, the final step is to master it. Mastering is essentially the balancing of the frequencies and overall compression to make the track match the level of other tracks on a compilation of other songs and to make the level of the track have a competitive level with other recorded music. But we don't want it to be too loud or too lacking in dynamic range.
Mastering is the last creative step before your music is ready to be sent out for duplication, if you're making a CD, or vinyl. Or digitally, if you're distributing it online. In addition to handling the level and EQ curve of your recordings, Mastering is generally the last chance for addressing any sonic issues like tics or pops. And it's where the order of your songs, the spacing between the songs and even the fade ins and fade outs of songs is determined. If you have the budget on your project to hire a professional mastering engineer, I would highly recommend it.
A good mastering engineer has the right specialized mastering equipment, fine tuned ears and, most importantly, they have the experience to really take your mix to the next level. I've had the pleasure of working with some really great mastering engineers and I've been consistently impressed by how much a talented mastering engineering can do to benefit the sound of a recording. But, unfortunately, sometimes you just don't have the budget to hire a professional mastering engineer. And you have to master the song yourself. In this video, we'll look at the broad strokes of how to master using the tools in Logic Pro. If you are going to master your project on your own, it's important to take into account your listening environment. Is your room really resonant? Are there frequency build-ups in any specific locations, or maybe some dead spots? Do you have decent speakers? This is all really important to consider when mixing as well, but it's especially important when you're mastering your mixes, since the decisions you make can drastically alter the sound of the recording. If you're not certain that your room is going to be the best environment for mastering, or if you're not sure you have good enough speakers. A good approach is to get a good pair of studio headphones. There are lots of options out there, but I would definitely suggest getting something that is professional grade, and meant for use in a studio, not something consumer or prosumer.
Then you can either master in headphones, or master with your speakers and frequently check the sound in your headphones. In this chapter, we'll be mastering the song Say Something, and a few other songs, that have already been mixed. Let's import these unmastered stereo files. If you're working from the exercise files, import these files from the exercise files stereo mixes folder. I'm going to open the browser, use the key command Ctrl + F again to command port, and I'm going to find them in the stereo mixes folder here.
And use Shift + Option, and down arrow to select them all, hit return or enter. And again, our project is set to 44.1 kilohertz, but our audio files are 48 kilohertz. So, let's let Logic automatically change the project for us. Just click enter. The mixes in these exercise files are 24 bit and 48 kilohertz. If you're not using the exercise files, you may be mixing and mastering at a higher sample rate, which is common. You may also be working with mixes at a lower bit resolution, but keep in mind that the higher the bit resolution, and the higher the sample rate, the better the quality of the audio will be.
Now that our mixes are imported, let's select all. I'm going to use Cmd + A. And then I'm going to place them on the tracks, using the default key command. Command, semicolon. Since I already have three audio tracks in my template. And they already have plugins inserted. I'm going to go ahead and place these on the existing tracks. The songs will play concurrently now. So we can use solos or mute to here just the one that we want to work on. Or to switch between them. Once we get a little further along in this chapter you'll see why we're leaving each song on its own track instead of putting them all on the same track.
And before we move forward I'm going to close this browser. You may have noticed the multi-meter plugin that's opened in the project, this is a useful media plugin that you can use to reference the output level on bigger meters and the phase correlation of your mix. This will be especially useful if you apply a stereo spread plugin which we'll talk about in this chapter. Now let's take a look at the signal flow on our mastering template. As you can see, it's pretty simple. We have three different channels all of which are output to Bus 1. Bus 1 then flows into Aux 1.
And out of Aux 1, into Aux 2, through Bus 2. And that is an output to our main stereo output. We'll look at how this is useful in the next few videos, but keep in mind that there is no one right way to do this, so you can try different approaches. And remember that you can use a reference track to help keep you on track sonically, just like you may have done during mixing. If you do have a reference track that you want to use, go ahead and import it now as well. Putting it on its own track and outputting it to the stereo output will allow you to easily compare your mastered files post processing with the reference track just by muting or soloing.
If you have a monitoring system that allows you to listen to multiple outputs you could also route your masters out through a different output than the stereo reference so that you can make switching between them even easier. Mastering uses the same basic tools and techniques as mixing namely equalization and compression. But it's used in a much more fine tuned way. For a more in depth look at mastering check out Audio Mastering Techniques with Bobby Osinski right here on lynda.com. Next, we'll look at using EQ,
- Importing audio
- Using Track Stacks
- Working with the Logic Mixer
- Mixing a song
- Automating and bouncing the mix
- Mastering the final track(s)