How to Master a Song: The Mastering Definition

Mastering Chain: How to Master a Song
Mastering Chain: How to Master a Song

work in progress

 

  1. Audio mastering Definition - What is Mastering?
  2. Mastering Chain for your VST Plugins
  3. Mastering Loudness - What LUFS to Master to?

How to Master a Song. The Meaning of Music Mastering - learn how to set up your Mastering chain with VST Plugins. In the last chapter I talk about the perfect Mastering Loudness Levels.

 

The dictionary describes mastering as follows: a person with the ability or power to use, control, or dispose of something

 

1. Audio Mastering Definition - What Is Mastering?

Best audio mastering studio
Music Improvement for artist who wants to achieve quality sound
  • Mastering optimize the punch and power of your music production by thicken the mid-range, tighten and round out the low-end and bring some sparkle and richness to the high frequencies
  • Fine-tune the dynamics of your Song, produce top-notch and up-to-date loudness levels to maintain a well-balanced mix 
  • Reach competitive loudness levels with compression, limiting and clipper modules. To have a proper sound on any streaming or download platform like Spotify, Apple Music, Youtube, Beatport (we use PSR and LUFS measurement)
  • Have a tight and punchy Sound on a huge Club sound system like Function One, Martin Audio, Kirsch Audio or Void Acoustics - optimized for live and DJ surroundings
  • Adjusting the groove of your song is another crucial point, such as the bass and the rhythmic drum elements. Small intervention have an essential impact to stand out
  • Taming the problematic frequencies in your Tracks, reduce harshness by EQing and De-essing to sound more natural and pleasant. With Subtractive equing you also get rid of muddy bass frequencies. Dynamic EQ's and Mid / Side Equalizer are perfect for a subtle rework of a song.
  • Add warm, detailed analog Tape and Tube sound for a nostalgic vibe of classic electronic music recordings.
  • Or improve the color and character through Vintage Console Sound. Add extra harmonics and bring shine to your mix, to sound clean but stirring
  • Fix phasing problems and get your tracks mono compatible. So frequencies do not accidentally extinguish. This could happen if your music production is not optimized for different speakers and media players.
  • Optimize 3-Dimensional acoustics. Increase depth, generate natural-sounding stereo width

 

2. Mastering Chain for your VST Plugins

What I use in my mastering chain and how to master a song to get the perfect sound? Here are some steps how to reach a quality audio Mastering. How I improve music and what techniques I use for my mastering chain always depends on the delivered audio material.

 

Soon I will add a in depth guide for a perfect Mastering chain.

 

Surgical EQs

  • Pristine and precise frequency editing
  • Using a linear phase EQ with high transparency and zero phase issues
  • Fix problematic resonance frequencies to help positively impact on the mix
  • Remove rumble out of low frequencies and tighten up the bass

Coloring Mastering EQs

  • The analog tape machine rings analog warmth to digital recordings
  • Adds harmonic distortion and color to your tracks
  • Used for many of the greatest masterpieces in electronic music
  • Subtly analog vibe enhancement 
  • Brings out transients and smooth the sound in a natural way

Compressors

  • High-end compressors that sweetens and glues your mix together
  • Improve your mixes by thickening and coloring your song
  • Using great sounding tube compressors
  • Tame problematic parts and smooth out peaks of a song
  • Dynamic parallel compression brings your mix to an entirely new level
  • Widening your Sounds and brings out detail with character

Tape Machines, Tube and saturation

  • Tonal Balance: adjust the overall frequency spectrum between bass, mids, and highs
  • Coloring the signal and bring shiny air to the top end
  • Adding rich low-end and constructing a defined bass and kick
  • Tweak all used instruments to discern clearly
  • Decide and act if a mix is muddy, boomy or thin or toppy

Others

  • Vocal De-Esser
  • Exciter & Spectral shaping techniques
  • Multiband Compressor
  • Utilizing M/S tech
  • Classic Console sound
  • Stereo Imaging / fix phase issues / Mono compatible stereo widening
  • Mastering Limiter / Maximizer
  • Loudness Metering for PLR, RMS, LUFS targets

3. Mastering Loudness - What Lufs to Master to?

Mastering Speaker - Mastering VST Plugins
LUFS a loudness level standard for streaming services and mastering

Get your production with perfect sound on a club sound system and get a LUFS optimized Mastering for download and streaming on Youtube, Spotify, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Beatport, Apple Music and more.

 

How to master a song with perfect loudness levels for streaming? There a some different audio loudness Standards by all big streaming services.

Many of thems have a loudness normalization target between -13 and -16 LUFS. If your uploaded music is louder, they will turn down the volume to match their target level. Extremely louder Masters don't create a better playback experience while streaming. Every song will be streamed with almost the same loudness level.  

 

Let's stop the loudness war and improve your audio. When mastering your songs, have a focus on sound quality. Less is more! Less loudness but more transparency, dynamics, depth, width, and clear transients. If you want to push your sound to the next level, try to find the right balance between loud mastering and dynamic mastering.

 

My preferred LUFS loudness targets for Techno, House and Hiphop are usually between -9 LUFS and -12LUFS. You also can check the LUFS short term measuring and set your target between -8 LUFS and -10LUFS.

 

What is LUFS?

LUFS is a loudness normalization based on average loudness. Due to the Loudness War, music productions became more and more compressed and therefore less dynamic. LUFS normalizations or other methods are now used by many major streaming providers such as Youtube, Spotify and Apple Music. Very loud mastered songs sound quieter on streaming platforms and somewhat flat. Aggressive limiting tends to be detrimental and superfluous to the mastering process. As with mastering for vinyl, this now places greater emphasis on transparency and dynamics.

Spotify Loudness, Apple Music and Youtube LUFS

Here is my overview of streaming shops LUFS loudness targets (LUFS = Loudness Units relative to Full Scale)

Mastering Audio for Youtube - LUFS
Youtube LUFS - They use -13 LUFS as a loudness target
Audio Mastering optimized for Spotify
Spotify's loudness streaming target is -14 LUFS
Mastering optimized for Soundcloud Streaming
Soundcloud has no specific LUFS target
Electronic Music mastering for Bandcamp
Mastering for Bandcamp They don't have a loudness target
Techno Mastering for Beatport and DJ's
On Beatport many Songs are mastered around -8 and -10 LUFS
Techno Mastering Service for Itunes & Apple Music
Apple Music / Itunes Radio use a -16LUFS target

 

Streaming Service LUFS Loudness Level normalization
Spotify 14 LUFS
Youtube Music 13 LUFS
Apple Music 16 LUFS
Tidal 14 LUFS
Pandora -
Bandcamp -
Soundcloud -
Deezer -
Napster -

LUFS Meter - Free VST Plugins:

There some free VST Metering Plugins and Apps to measure LUFS, RMS and True Peaks, you can download them here. Add them as a effect Plugin to your DAW and visualize true loudness of your tracks and compare with other reference songs.

 

 

Why is loudness normalization used?

Audio files are sent to streaming providers by various distributors. Since the delivered music was mastered to different volume levels, Spotify, Apple Music and Youtube Music want to guarantee the best listening experience when playing the songs. You can imagine if you had to manually change the volume of each song while listening to playlists, it would be very annoying. That's why the loudness normalization comes into play, so that all heard songs are felt the same way.

 

 

What is Loudness War