How should I prepare my music for mastering?

The first step in getting your music ready for mastering is to ensure your mix is well balanced and sounds just the way you want it to. Here’s a rule of thumb from our engineers at BandLab: Mastering can take a good mix and make it great, but it cannot fix a problem mix.

Here are a few rules when preparing your final mix:

  • Make sure your track isn’t clipping! Distortion can ruin a track and there’s no way to remove these unpleasant artifacts in the mastering process.
  • Don’t over-compress your master track. Leaving a little headroom is key for ensuring your track will sound amazing after mastering. A typical mastering engineer will require your pre-mastering mix to sit somewhere from -8dB to -4 dB.
  • Avoid adding too many master effects! A little bit of global reverb is fine (aux sends are ideal), but if you go too far, it can cause issues when mastering.
  • Listen carefully for over-accentuated frequencies. If the bass is too muddy, try adding a high pass filter to clean up or remove excess or inaudible frequencies. If the mids are troubled, try reductive equalizing to highlight the most important sonic aspects of each track.
  • Balance is key. Make sure you’re happy with how each track sits in the mix and relates to each other. This not only means volume but also panning.
  • Take a break from mixing before exporting your final version. Your ears are likely to tire after a long session; you’re only human! Taking 10 minutes of silence every hour of producing will do wonders for any mix.
  • Be mindful of your file format! BandLab Mastering supports most audio and video formats including wav, mp3, flac, m4a, aac, ogg, amr, mkv, ac3, wma, asf and mp4.
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