We look at the sweetening tools on offer for mastering in Studio One.
In last month's workshop, we walked through the Project side of Studio One to familiarise ourselves with the tools and metering that'll aid us in our mastering adventure. This month we are going to stop procrastinating and do the work of using plug-ins to process our music and see if we can conjure up a releasable product.
To begin I find it helpful to think about what it is we're trying to achieve with mastering. The goal of "making it sound awesome" is a worthy one, but how do we go about achieving that? Start with smaller goals. You're going to want all the track in your EP or album to be of a similar level so that the listener doesn't have to turn anything up or down while playing it. Individual tracks might need some EQ or compression to bring them in line with other tracks. The frequency content of each track needs to be balanced so that it's not too mushy at the low end or too screechy at the top. You'll want to be hitting levels that are standard for your sort of music so that your track will fit with others on the radio or streaming services. Push for a nicely filled stereo image. And ultimately you want the tracks to be coherent, sitting well together so that they flow and sound good to your ears.
There are a great many plug-ins that will help you achieve these sorts of aims but for this workshop I'm going to stick to those found natively in Studio One. Although the plug-ins may be specific, the ideas and processes are relatively universal and applicable whatever plug-ins you are using.
Each track in a Project has inserts for adding plug-ins, and unless your tracks are movements of a larger piece of music, treating them individually makes the most sense. However, there's some wisdom in dropping a limiter on the Master output to prevent the possibility of some accidental...