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I think this will be an interesting video for you all! – It’s been a question that has been asked a few times!

I’ll start with this question:

When mastering, should I master my track INSIDE MY PROJECT that I created my beat/mixed the song in?. Or, should I export it, and then master it in a new project?

Now, the popular answer! – It depends! (Oh no! – Not again :P).

The Video!

Alright, so here’s the video for those of you who do not like to read!

And for those who do like to read, read below!

Okay, so why does it depend?

If you are mastering a beat tape, I would say to export all your tracks, and master them in a new project. It gives you total control while comparing tracks against each other.

If you are mastering a single beat, for example that will be sold in your beat store, I’d say to master it in the same file you made the beat in.

The easiest option is to master inside the actual file the beat was created in. But, some people don’t have the privilege to do this because it requires a powerful computer!

So some people, even on just a single master, may need to “freeze” the track, and master it in a new project.

Freeze means to export the audio into a file – whether it’s .WAV or .MP3 – because you use less CPU. Your computer works hard when using VST’s and effects. So “freezing the track” makes your decisions permanent, making it easier on your computer.

Topics Covered in Mastering a Beat Tape/Album,

Here are some topics that were covered in the video

  1. Create a Template – I really like to have a pre-made template made. This saves so much time in our fast-paced lives. Anything we can do to save 100 clicks here or there, I’m down for!
  2. Get Organized while Mastering – I color coded each track, playlist slot, and mixer insert. This way, the colors make finding what I’m working on that much easier! – It takes a few minutes to set up, but once you save that template, it saves you time on your next session!
  3. How to Actually Master a Beat Tape! – I show the process I used to master FREE BEATS By GratuiTous Vol. 4 – I’m not a professional mastering engineer, but hey, the steps will definitely take you in the right direction to making your tracks louder, and comparable, to commercial releases!

Resources from the Video

T-RackS 3 Metering (FREE!) – This is an amazing meter, which is now provided free by IK Multimedia! – Includes RMS, Peak, Frequency spectrum, and even a Phase meter!

Creating Your Own Template – Take a few minutes out, get organized, and save your self MAJOR TIME down the road. You’ll see a huge increase in production after you find what works for you in your template!

FabFilter Pro Bundle – This is a pricey product, but a premium one, providing you that helpful edge on your song. If you want 10% off, just send me an email!

Color Coded – Makes it EASY!

Color-Coded FL Studio Pattern
The trick with the color-coded organization is to first do it on the pattern sequencer.

Once you’ve set up the colors, highlight all the tracks so that they are green.

Now, head over to the mixer, right click on one of the inserts, and go – Link selected channels -> Starting from this track.

Set Up Sidechain FL Studio

Bam! – After this, you will be amazed at all the automatic stuff that just happened. The colors and names of the tracks followed onto the mixer inserts in order. (Saves lots of time!).

These are the steps to allowing more time for production and creativity. Now if you’d like, save that as a template.

Let’s Get into the Mastering!

Mastering is a very large subject, so I’ll just briefly go over what was talked about in the video.

Your mastering chain, which is the order in which you have effects on the master channel, does matter.

Example:

EQ, Compressor, EQ, Saturation Plugin, Limiter

If you change it to be Compressor, EQ, Saturation Plugin, EQ, Limiter, you can change how your song sounds! – So keep this in mind.

However, your limiter should always be last to prevent distortion.

For myself, the hardest part of mastering is knowing the tools that are available to me. Should I use a widening plugin.. what harm can it do to a track? What about saturation, or an exciter? – Can I use too much with them, or is just subtle all that is required?

After a year or two of practice, you will start to get an idea of your workflow.

Something I’ve learnt from Ian Shepherd, is to first boost your track to see how loud you can go without totally changing the song. Look closely at your limiter regarding the peaks/gain reduction while doing this.

Decide if you can use compression to reduce those peaks while retaining the loudness, or if maybe you should turn it down just a little bit.

What about EQ – What are some Tricks?

While EQing, I really like the ability to do Mid/Side. It opens up so much creativity and choices!

For example, if I just want the clap to stand out in the middle/mono content, I can sweep for that!

Or, if you have a really lush, beautiful PAD sound, you can select side mode, and sweep for the PAD. This can really make your track sound wider – Even .5 – 1dB is noticeable!

But What Do I Listen for While EQing?

Learning the different frequencies definitely takes time to learn.

Sure, there’s the low-end, the middle, and the highs, but the in-betweens are the hardest to decipher.

I like to do the boost and cut technique.

This is what I do:

I will first listen to the track. What do I think it needs, or does not need?

Let’s say our lead guitar in our track isn’t standing out! – I will boost with an EQ until I find where it stands out the most, even if that’s a 8-10dB boost!

Once I find the key frequency to enhance the guitar in the track, I will dial it down to where it’s not over powering, but I still hear the impact of my boost. (Usually about 1-2dB, if it’s really not standing out. Many times .5dB is great!).

From here, listen closely. What do you think you could change to make the track sound better?

A little boost in the high-end always helps, and many times I feel helps the bassline stick out just that little extra! (While giving the track a bit of clarity!)

And Compression?

In my opinion, compression is the trickiest subject about audio production.

Definitely check out What Does Compression Actually Do? >>>>>>

Using compression on the master channel compared to an individual channel is quite different as well.

On an individual channel, let’s say a vocal, you can many times get away with quite a bit more compression than you could on the master channel.

And Why Would One Want to Compress?

You will hear the term, “Compression is used to glue the mix together”.

This just simply means turning down the loud parts, so that the quiet parts become louder, and creating a bit more excitement in your track.

Compression is used to make your track more consistent so it stands out better in your mix.

So this is the example:

After you mix your track, it still has a lot of dynamics – Meaning it has loud parts, and quiet parts. These quiet parts can get lost in the song while your listening to it in a car for example, while the loud parts just feel too loud!

By using compression, you can bring down those loud parts, which make them closer in volume to the quieter parts.

This in turn, makes your tracks volume more consistent, allowing you to push it louder, and sometimes getting some extra excitement out of the track!

Don’t be afraid to go hard on compression. You’ll hear when too much is too much!

Transitions in Mastering

How long should your default transition be from one song to the next?

The standard transition time has been said to be around 3 seconds – However, rules of thumb many times don’t suite what you as the user want, right?

So I usually adjust my beginnings and ends of songs in accordance to what song comes next, and the song that comes before.

For example:

One song may be a really sad song, so a longer fade-out may be needed – That may be a 5 second fade-out!

Or, which I don’t do very often, the intro of the track could also be faded in to give it that powerful build-up you are going for as well!

Transitions are a really cool part of audio production – There’s no rules, and only your creativity can tell you what you can do!

What’s this Mono and Stereo Content you Speak of?

Throughout your audio career, you’ll hear about mono and stereo content NON-STOP!

You’ll hear the same saying, “If your music is played in a club, you want to make sure your kick is mono, because many times clubs have mono systems.

So what does this actually mean!?

If you watch the video, you’ll see how I was comparing my side content, to my mid content.

The side content is what makes stereo sound like stereo – Nice and wide, allows for movement of sounds on one speaker to the other (panning), and just sounds fuller!

The mono content is when it sounds narrow, and everything is dead center – It condenses all the audio into once source.

Now, most DAW’s give a stereo enhancing plugin, allowing you to decrease the stereo width, or increase it.

In our case, I used the Fruity Stereo Enhancer:

Fruity Stereo Enhancer

You can also use the knob within the Master channel itself, without having to use a plugin! (This is on every single FL Studio mixer insert!):

FL Mixer - Stereo Separation

100% merged is mono, and 100% separated is stereo!

Graham Cochrane of RecordingRevolution talks a lot about mixing in mono – then when the mix is close to being done, switch it back to stereo!

From what I got of his tutorial(s), it allows you to make wiser EQ decisions while EQing in mono, then when turning the song back to stereo, it amplifies your EQ decisions!

So in this tutorial, I used the Fruity Stereo Enhancer to simply “test what my mix sounded like in mono”.

While mixing the songs before the video, I may of “mixed in mono”, and made sure I disabled the plugin upon export, but just double-checking doesn’t hurt, and gives you a better idea!

You can also use that knob to increase how wide your track sounds, or narrow it out a bit. I would be careful when using it for widening, but a bit could help!

Any other Questions?

If there’s any topics here I haven’t covered fully, or went over too quickly for you, you can simply reply in the comments below! – I’m sure others have the same questions you do.

If you ask, you’re not only helping yourself, but someone else as well ;).

Hope this tutorial helped!

This post featured one of my beat tapes!
Download it for free with the button below.

You can also view
view my other beat tape volumes.

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2 Responses on “Master a Beat Tape or Album”

  1. Ernest says:

    Thanks so much for the tips and tricks they did magic to my mix, though I would like to ask , is it advisable to use a compressor on just the beat alone to kind of glue things together before merging with the vocals and exporting for mastering? This Is what and old friend of mine does hes a mastering engineer with years of experience just curious to know thanks.

    1. GratuiTous says:

      Hey Ernest,

      In all honesty, there’s so many different ways/approaches one can take!

      I’d probably compress both the beat and vocals together!

      Also, make sure to ask what the mastering engineer is wanting before sending it in. Sometimes sending in both a compressed/non-compressed version is best so they can do their work 😉

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