Tip 1 – Keep Your Options Open
This is probably one of the most important tips I could give when it comes to mastering music in any genre and it applies to your mix! Before you even get into your mastering session, or think about handing over your prized mix to a mastering engineer, you need to be thinking about leaving your options open.
What do I mean by this, well first up, you don’t want to apply any processing on your master output. This is a bit of a no brainer as any limiting, compression or equalization will be imprinted onto your pre-master and cannot be reversed in the mastering process.
Secondly you should follow the same philosophy during your actual mix-down. This is a little less obvious but applying too much compression across large groups of instruments in your mix can reduce dynamic range drastically and limit the options you have during mastering. If in doubt, go easy on the processing, get the best relative balance and don’t try to hard to make your mix sound ‘big’. Go for a natural, dynamic sound where possible
Tip 2 – Choose Your Weapons
This is a super simple tip. Don’t load your system with every mastering plug-in going. Instead choose a smaller collection of high-quality products that you know well. Having every single compressor out there won’t make you a better mastering engineer… only time and experience can do that!
If you want to spend your money and you are interested in mastering at home, you are much better off making sure your space is acoustically treated and you are using solid converters and monitors.
Tip 3 – Master The Mid/Side
There are obviously endless forms of processing you can insert into your mastering chain, some of these are quite simply essential, such as compression and EQ, whilst others are probably considered optional.
One of the less traditional techniques you can try is M/S (Mid/Side) processing. This route will allow you to treat the stereo and mono information in your mix independently, adding width and control that isn’t possible with other plug-ins. Get a firm grip on M/S tech and you should gain the upper hand in challenging mastering sessions.