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Saturday, March 21, 2020

How to master a song with free plugins part 3/3: finalizing the track!



Now that we have our track nice and pumping we need to check just few little things before exporting in any format we want (for example mp3 with a bitrate of minimum 192khz up, or a wave track at 16bit and 44.1khz to be burned into a cd): we need to make sure the sound it's not too squashed, and to do this we need to monitor the RMS levels.

The RMS level (click here for a dedicated article) is the average loudness of the master, and it's a value that we need to monitor how pleasant or ear fatiguing our master is; keep this in great consideration because it's a make or break rule that can be possibly considered the single most important thing to not screw up everything when mastering.

The discussion about RMS levels bring us to a broader discussion about the Loudness War (click here for a dedicated article): it has been a "war" among mastering engineers between the '90s and the early 2000s, in which noone won and music just sounded worse and worse.
Mastering engineers were pushing the limiter harder and harder to make their songs stand out among the others in the radio, and this led to a point in which many of the top radio songs were distorting.

Luckily this bad period seems to be coming to an end: most of the music today is listened through streaming services such as Spotify, Youtube or Apple Music, and these platforms all features a form of audio compensation of the loudness of the tracks, ending up with lowering the volume of the loudest ones in order to make them coherent, with the results that the tracks that won the loudness wars 20 years ago now sound less loud than the others.

It's important to master knowing the final source in which our song will be played the most or to make different masterings according to the platform, here is an article with the correct mastering levels for the various streaming services, for CDs and for Club play.

Now that we have the right track for the right source it's the time of the trial by fire: listen to your track from as many sources as possible (car stereo, smartphone headphones, expensive speakers, laptop speakers, etc): you fill find out several little corrections to make which are essential to smoothe out the final bumps before releasing the song, and don't forget to compare it to some of your favourite masters: this way you can spot very easily whether there is some unbalance in your track.

I hope this was helpful!


CLICK HERE FOR PART 1/3

CLICK HERE FOR PART 2/3


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