How much can you do in the mastering phase to make the song sound better is a broad term to be answered as there are a thousand nuances to be answered when it comes to mastering. You cannot put a number and say hey this is the percentage to which a song can be made to sound better by mastering.
Mastering is the last and final process in the song making process. It’s like putting a cherry on top of a cake. You cannot define it by saying how much it can make a song to sound better at all.
Usually, mastering doesn’t do a whole lot to the mix or the song if it’s already sounding bad. Mastering is just elevation of the loudness which slight polishing of the song. You don’t get a whole lot of tweaks when it comes to mastering compared to mixing. Here is my short answer
Yes, even though mastering might not have a huge effect on the songs like mixing; it definitely can make a song to sound better if done properly to a significant amount.
Making a song to sound better has more than mastering associated with it. This includes polishing the song to sound better in the mixing stage and staging it properly for the mastering plugins and effects to act on it.
How to make songs sound better?
There is a sea of answers we can give to how to make a song sound better whether it’s through mixing or even through mastering. Let’s focus on mastering alone for this article.
Making mastering as the last process in the song creation makes the song sound better. Check out my article on should you master your beat before vocals to understand what goes on in the mastering phase.
Staging the mixed song properly at a proper loudness level makes a huge difference in the flexibility you get in the mastering stage of the song making process. Usually, the mixed song has to be around -6db to be mixed properly.
The reason to have this level is the “activation point of a lot of analog gear required a specific input value to perform efficiently and provide better results as possible”.
The next tip would be to always level your volume while mixing your songs. This will give you a great perspective on how the song might sound like once it’s mixed properly and you can even find the gaps where the song is lacking and fill those spaces properly.
Mastering for songs
while mastering a song is a broad topic let’s look at some factors that might play a huge role in making a song to sound better once it’s mastered and out to be given for distribution.
Btw if you want to distribute your songs check out ditto music. They are very cheap to get started with.
Let’s look at the things that move the needle when it comes to mastering.
Usage of Limiter and clippers
LUFS is a loudness value (unit) that is used to measure how loud a song is in a digital platform. In other words “how loud is the music perceived by the platform?” The lower the LUFS number the more loudly it gets
Spotify and most streaming services ask you to master your songs at a value of about -14LUFS
You can find this value in the mastering software. I use the ozone 9 mastering suite which is amazing when it comes to optimizing a song for uploading to digital platforms. Check out ozone 9 its one of the first plugins I always recommend buying to take your music to the next level. You can also check out my article on the top 3 plugins to buy as a beginner in music production.
RMS value is the strength of the loudness or the volume at which the song is played mathematically it refers to a million things if you are a math nerd you can go on to a bigger rabbit hole when it comes to RMS value for a song.
The loudness value usually depends on the RMS of a song.
The usage of limiters and clippers play a big role because these are the actual plugins that affect the RMS and LUFS values in a song. The more you apply the more you will be crushing the song and pushing it to its extremities.
Preparing a song for mastering
There are so many factors to be considered while preparing a song for mastering.
Avoid too much saturation while you are mixing you can add a global saturation on the mixed track and make it sound better instead of adding to every single track in a song. This just ruins the harmonics and special differences in a song.
Avoid too much compression while mixing your songs. Adding too much compression already pushes the RMS value up and up resulting in getting a squashed and flat sounding song after mastering .please never add compressors to individual channels unless and until it’s necessary. Nowadays all the samples are already compressed and studio-ready.
Mixing levels should be checked and referenced to have a good LUFS value at the end and have proper optimization for the streaming platforms. Adjusting the volume levels properly is the first thing to learn when you are trying to make a song sound better.
Making a song to sound better may be a huge topic but it comes down to small and simple things.
Doing things over and over again will give you a perspective on who things work and what sounds better.
There is no secret to a hit song. The repetition and process that went in are the two variables that make a song sound better than all the others.
You cannot jump into music production today and expect your songs to sound like a famous music producer or a mastering engineer. It’s an unrealistic expectation.
Maslin JE is a Music Producer/Composer Who has been working in the Music Industry for over 10 years. Having an evolution from being a church keyboardist to becoming a full-time entrepreneur he has gained an abundance of experience in music production and entrepreneurship.