Whether you are sending your mixes out to be mastered by a mastering engineer or doing your own master you need to know how to prepare a mix for mastering. In this case we are going to be looking at how to prepare a beat for mastering or how to prepare an EDM track for mastering but the general rules apply across all genres of music.
Finalize Your Mix Before Mastering
The first step in the process is making sure your mix is final. The last thing you want to do is have to reopen your mix and make adjustments after you have started the mastering process. Or even worse have to deal with something you missed in your mix that ends up in your final track. So before anything else you must make sure your mix is complete.
This is also a great time to clean things up. Deleting muted or unused tracks. Getting rid of unused plugins. Basically, getting rid of everything that should not be part of the track at this point.
Take out Mastering Effects
Next you want to take a look at your master buss or master track. Sometimes when mixing you will have plugins on the master track. This could be for a number of different reasons. Some people like to mix into a master to get an idea of what the completed track will sound like. Sometimes you will be rendering down the mix to take a listen and adding some mastering effects is common for that. But before we actually master the track or send it off to a mastering engineer we need to make sure we remove all mastering effects. This could be getting rid of mastering compression, limiters, EQ’s, or anything else on the master track.
Leaving Headroom To Prepare For Mastering
Now you want to take a look at headroom. Headroom sounds like it can be confusing but it’s a simple thing to understand. Basically, it is making sure your mix is not too loud. This will leave some room to master the track. This means we want to make sure that our Master is not clipping. We want our output level to at least be in the range of – 3 to -6 and it can even be lower than that.
Next you want to check your individual track levels to make sure nothing is clipping. An easy way to do this is go to the loudest part of your beat and watch your mixer to see if anything is clipping. If something is clipping and you still like your mix bring all tracks down a couple dBs. Clipping is indicated by the meter on the mixer going into the red.
From the FL Studio Site you can see how they show clipping on the mixer. Click here to see it.
Set the Start And End Points For The Track
Next you want to check your start and end points for the track. If you are sending your audio out to someone else to master it can be helpful to leave a little bit of room in the front and a little bit at the end. This gives them a little bit of room to work with in case a pop, click, or other unwanted artifact is in the beginning or end of the song. It is easier for them to cut that out than it is to try to get that out of an essential part of the audio. Giving them that room allows them to do that.
Render Your Project Down For Mastering
Now we are ready to render our project down to a single file for mastering. Everyone has their own preference on what type of file they prefer. If you are sending your project out to be mastered you will want to check their guidelines or check with them personally to see what type of file they want.
In most cases a 24 bit wave file will do the trick. No you might ask why we need to render our file down for mastering. The truth is, it is not absolutely necessary. However, This is my preferred method. This way I can see what the waveform looks like and solely focus on the master. Also, if you are sending your tracks out for mastering there is a good chance they will want a single file to work with.
This is how you prepare a mix for mastering. Let me know in the comments if you have any questions.