To get the best possible result from a mastering service apart from having a balanced mix (which is a whole other article in itself!) is in the preparation of your file.
When I speak to people who are sending me their mix for a free mastering sample, I ask them to prepare their file in the following ways:
- Remove any master bus limiters but keep any tone shaping plugins that you feel contribute to the sound of your mix, like bus compression or EQ
- Keep the highest peak-level of your mix at -5dB to -3dB
- Remove any noises you don’t want in your final song from the beginning and end of your mix (chat, guitar noise, coughs)
- Leave a couple of seconds of room noise, hum or buzz at the front or end of your mix so I can use it if needed for noise reduction processing
When it comes to exporting your mix from your DAW, It’s best to export it at the same sample rate and bit depth as your session e.g. 24bit 48kHz. If your session is 16bit, then it’s beneficial to export a mix at a higher bit depth such as 24bit or 32bit. This gives the plugins I use more “resolution” to work in resulting in a better sound overall for the final master. Keep the sample rate the same, I will deal with sample rate conversion when producing the finished mastered files.
When you upload your file, send a stereo WAV of your mix, not an mp3.
It would be great if you can also give me a reference track link to give me an idea on the sonic direction to aim for when I’m mastering your song and how loud you want your track to be. Just Zip or compress them into one folder before uploading. Zipping an audio file help prevent playback errors or glitches.
If there’s anything you don’t understand, just drop me an email at [email protected] and I’ll clarify things for you or ask in the comments below.
One tip that has helped me is to mix into a limiter on my master bus. This gives me a “heads up” as to what will happen when it goes to mastering. Things like, will the snare disappear? Does the vocal get buried in the choruses? It’s easy to bypass the limiter and check that you’re not going too wild with your track levels.
One last but important thing, make sure you love your mix. Get your mix so that it sounds great on any device, the absolute best you can get it, so you think it sounds awesome. Whilst mastering will bring loudness, clarity and punch in most cases, it can’t fix a bad mix. If you’re happy with your mix then it’s very likely you’ll love the final master.
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