Ideally the band will hire a separate mastering engineer to master their tracks. This is useful as it provides an extra set of fresh ears that can listen objectively. It can be difficult to master a track that you’ve just spend weeks recording and mixing. However, bands often don’t have the budget to hire a separate mastering engineer so I often end up mastering the tracks that I mix, here’s an example of a mastering chain that I used on a recent track.
I started of with Slate Digital’s virtual bus compression rack. This allows you to quickly audition three different style of compressors to see what works best for the track that you are working on. The FG grey is an emulation of an SSL bus compressor and was set to the fastest relates and slowest attack compressing about 1 to 3 dB. This acts to start leveling everything out but the slow attack time preserves the transients from the drums. This compressor also has a high pass sidechain function, which allows you to stop the low end from triggering the compressor.
The next compressor used was the elysia master compressor, this was set to a pretty slow attack and release and hit lightly at about – 1dB. The purpose of this compressor is to start to add glue to the mix and gels the instruments together.
The first EQ used was the fabfiter EQ. This EQ gives you a visual aid from the frequency analyser, which can be helpful when sweeping through the frequency band. I used a low cut at 33Hz to get rid of any inaudible rumble, a slight dip at about 400Hz to cut out some muddy frequencies and a boost at 1.5kHz, this cleaned up the sound and added some clarity to the mix.
The maag EQ was used to add half a dB to the high shelf, this adds air to the mix.
Next up was the FG-N EQ, for this I sweeped around the low end untill I heard a boost of energy and punch. I found this at around 120 Hz, by boosting this frequency it also helped glue the kick and the bass guitar together.
The virtual tape machine can add a really nice character to the mix if used subtly, however, if drove to hard it can really start to ruin your sound. I used the ½” 2 track setting and hit it really lightly. This added subtle tape saturation to the mix.
Finally I used a limiter to raise the overall volume to compete with commercial tracks in the same genre.