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 problemed 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 equalising 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.