How do music producers make a song loud? It has to do with a little bit of mixing and a lot of mastering techniques. Mastering techniques are considered as the hardest part of the post-production process in music production. It’s the place where your music goes from nothing to something really interesting to listen with optimal volume.
Yes, you can master an mp3 and convert back to wav file format but the quality that you will get will be considerably low when compared to wav format file.
Have you experienced a time where you turned the volume knob so much but the song isn’t loud enough? This is because of mastering as well. A properly mastered song will be loud without deteriorating the quality of music.
Gone are the days where analog gear was used to master songs nowadays you can see songs mastered using computer software modules to achieve loudness since music has turned into digital. The extensive use of digital audio workstations has almost replaced the use of analog gears in music production.
The plugins that are available in today’s market exceed far beyond the capabilities that are available using the analog mastering consoles. There is an astronomical difference in workflow and time consumed when both are compared.
What is mastering?
Mastering is a process by which the loudness of the music is increased to make it audible in all audio systems irrespective of where they are being used. Mastering also focuses on various other aspects of music production which include the amount of kick, power, and energy that are being translated through the song.
Mastering also includes processes that enhance the song from the mixing stage as well. Mastering brings out the intricate details that are hidden and also focuses on things that are to be polished in a mixed song.
Mastering does quite a lot when it comes to certain genres of music where loudness is everything. In certain genres of electronic dance music, the song is pushed so far to knock the sound limits.
Loudness is measured using a term called LUFS in addition to the RMS value which indicated the strength of the volume.
The normal LUFS value for a song can be around -14 to -18 but in some electronic dance music genres, it’s being pushed further up to about -8 and -7’s. A lot of digital platforms have systems in place to counteract this very easily so that they can provide optimum listening experience for their customers.
Let’s say you have an mp3 mastered at -8 LUFS it will be converted to -14 LUFS when you upload to YouTube.
Plugins used in mastering
There are a lot of plugins available for mastering songs in a digital audio workstation. Depending on your digital audio workstation you will also get stock plugins that can be used in mastering and generating output from your projects.
A normal plugin chain will include the following in the master track.
Eq is the first plugin that goes on a master track to keep the frequencies in check that comes from the mixing stage. There are various kinds are equalizers available that have varied functionalities as well.
The equalizer that I always recommend is the one that comes with the ozone 9 which has an amazing analog emulation with visual cues that help to pick up all the small things that we wouldn’t be able to see with other equalizer plugins.
The next step of the process is compression.
This is the next plugin in the plugin chain in the master channel of the song that is to be mastered. Compression is used to decrease the dynamics of the song. In simple words, it is used to reduce the gap between the lowest and highest volume parts in a song.
A heavily compressed song will sound like life has been squeezed out of it and a mildly compressed song will have space to translate the feel and emotion of the song.
The compressors I recommend is also from the ozone bundle. if you are investing in plugins invest in the ozone bundle you will not regret your decision at all .they made all the difference in my music.
The next step of mastering is saturation.
Saturator is nothing but a plugin that increases the harmonic elements in a track. A saturated track will sound harmonically cohesive than a non-saturated track. Saturator is used for a variety of purposes.
In mastering, saturation adds the extra element of spice to the compressed track. Don’t go too much overboard with saturation
The saturator I use often is the ozone saturation plugin from the ozone mastering bundle as well.
Limiters are nothing but walls that just stop the volume meters at 0db. Think of it like a huge bottle cap that just tops the water from overflowing.
Limiters can be used in individual channels and can also be used in the master channel as the end plugin for the mastering process.
There are different kinds of limiters such as brick wall limiters and so and so. If you are starting out, I wouldn’t recommend taking the time to experiment at all. Start with one limiter and understand the functionalities better.
You will also be getting a limiter in the ozone bundle for mastering. Mastering becomes easier with the ozone bundle.
Investing in a plugin may seem daunting at first but it’s the most valuable investment you can make to make your music sound amazing when it comes to music production.
Mastering plays a crucial part in getting the song or composition to sound right before it reaches the listener’s ears. It’s a process you have to pay proper attention to.
Don’t miss out on the opportunity and garb ozone from the link above.
If you are interested you can check my post on the top three plugins of all time.it will give a perspective of how to invest in plugins as well.
If you don’t have to money to invest don’t sweat it. The stock plugins are good enough to start with. Learn how to use them and invest in plugins once you have the funds for it.