ABOUT THE AUTHOR / VIDEO SERIES CREATOR
Hello my name is John Rogers, owner of JR Mastering. I’m one of the most successful online mastering engineers, having worked with over 7,500 highly satisfied clients on now over 40,000 songs since 1999.
During my career I’ve worked with a handful of Grammy nominees, several songs I’ve mastered went top 5 on the European billboard charts. I’ve mastered hundreds of songs for movie soundtracks, and for DJs who played them in clubs all over the world.
My debut book, Audio Mastering Secrets, is one of the first audio mastering books on the market that focuses entirely on “How to master audio to radio quality standards,” all from the comfort of your home studio. No expensive gear required to get amazing results!
I also have a video series that will teach you how to master your style of music in under TWO hours!
Note - If you're looking for someone to mastering your songs (and don't want to learn yourself), visit my website JR Mastering.
ABOUT THE BOOK
It focuses on how to master audio, how to become a great audio mastering engineer, and how not to be a bad one. I don’t get into the specifics of brands of gear you should buy, the history of audio mastering, 1,000’s of compressor settings (of which maybe 40 you’ll ever use), or a dozen pages on how to sound proof your room.
If you’re looking for that information, there are several other books on the market that explain those topics very well.
In audio mastering, you will face common problems like a mix being too thin, tinny, distorted, over-saturated, muddy, or not bright enough. Sometimes you can’t get the song loud enough, boomy enough, no separation, too much bass, no sparkle, and many other problems.
I explain in detail which effects processors to use and their exact settings to solve these common problems. This is a great tool to refer back to when needed.
Not entirely on theory, what I learned in school, what I heard from some other engineer, etc. I’ve mastered over 40,000 songs for over 7,500 highly satisfied clients. Why is this important?
1. Because I know the techniques and secrets that I’m teaching work very well! The proof is in the thousands of positive email testimonials I’ve received.
2. I also know which problems and situations arise very often, and which ones never happen at all. Knowing this allows me to focus only on what you will actually experience when working on an audio mastering project. Someone who hasn’t worked with a large number of customers won’t even know what areas to focus on
Here’s where I break down the sonic qualities of sixteen different genres. How much brightness, bass, boominess, compression, etc., you’re trying to achieve for each genre. And several tips on what clients are looking for. This is a great tool to refer back to if you don’t know the sonic qualities of all the different genres very well.
In this section, I cover a series of do’s, don’ts, and facts that basically apply to all audio mastering jobs regardless of genre. I also cover several pitfalls you will experience (just like I did) as an audio mastering engineer, and how to get through them.
After reviewing hundreds of masters and re-masters from other online studios, I’ve found that most sound engineers don’t know how to properly use compression. A lot of them never use it at all! This causes their songs to break up badly during loud playback. In this book, I cover everything you need to know about compression in audio mastering. I eliminate 95% of the needless threshold/ratio combinations, which makes the entire process much simpler.
Setting Up You're Listening Environment
In this section I cover calibrating your speakers, learning your speakers, speaker placement and room size. And, the myth about soundproofing your room.
The basics of what they all do, how to use them, when to use them, and my initial settings templates.
I cover a handful of important must-know facts if you’re working with clients. Why lose jobs learning on your own (trial and error). Learn from my past mistakes!
I left out all the high-tech jargon and rarely used words that slow down sentence flow. I want everyone to learn how to properly master audio, while not having to try and figure out what I’m trying to say! Ha!
In this book I cover audio mastering FAQs, definitions, concepts, and procedures. I also talk about working with sonic qualities, A/B comparison, working with 4-BAND processors, creating headroom and dynamic range, evaluating the mix, protecting your hearing, EVERYTHING I’ve learned in the last 17 years!
In a matters of weeks, you can learn all of the audio mastering secrets, tips, and techniques that took me over 17 years to learn!
Or with my video series, learn in only TWO hours!!
If you started audio mastering and learning on your own this year, by 2034 you might learn everything that’s in this book and video series. Ha! Why not just make a small investment and start learning right now!
Check out two of my best articles -
Technically, you can properly mix or master in any room size. But, I believe a smaller room is better than a very large one for someone who's just starting out. And when I say smaller I mean closer to 12'x15' than to 20'x30'. I've mixed and mastered songs for a number of years in a 20'x30' room. It took me a few days to get used to it, but after that I could do it.
The obvious problem with a big room is it's a very open space. If you don't have a good acoustic setup, the room will add reverb to every song. You have to compensate for this on every song you mix or master, because the extra reverb you hear isn't really in the music. It's coming from the room.
In a smaller room, even with no acoustic treatment, your mixes and masters will all sound more true. They won't be discolored from bouncing around a big room.
A Mid-Side Effects Processor lets you target two different parts of the stereo field. The outside and inside (center) of the stereo field. These two ranges are preset and you don't have the option to change them, nor do you know specifically what the ranges are. From my experience, I would say CENTER usually covers roughly the range of L70 to R70. The SIDES are L to L71 and R71 to R.
WHY WOULD YOU NEED THIS? WHEN WOULD YOU USE THIS?
1. I use a Mid-Side Processor mostly to check the stereo field of a mix. I use the Mid-Side 5-Band EQ and solo the SIDES. If I don't hear much musical content on the sides (or only light reverb), the mix has a weak stereo spread and is basically a mono mix. I then either ask for a remix or boost whatever is on the SIDES (which usually doesn't achieve much).
2. Sometimes a client mixes their stereo guitars (or background vocals) very loud and they overtake the entire song. A Mid-Side 5-Band EQ can easily fix this problem by cutting only the SIDES down a few dbs. Or by boosting the CENTER.
3. If the lead vocal is buried by guitars and the guitars are stereo panned well, sometime a Mid-Side 5-Band EQ boost around 2-3k in the CENTER will bring the vocal out. You could also combine this with a SIDE cut.
Note - For mastering, I only use a Mid-Side 5-Band EQ, NOT any other Mid-Side Processors. And when I do use it, it's only for the few instances I mentioned above.
The title pretty much explains it. You're listening back and forth between a commercial industry standard reference song and the song mix you're mastering, comparing sonic qualities between the two. How does the song you're mastering differ from the commercial reference song?
As you master a song, your goal is for it to sound more and more like the industry standard reference song in every sonic area. You continue listening back and forth, while adding effects until you come as close as possible to replicating it. I say as close as possible because if a the mix you're working on is very poor, you won't be able to replicate it.
A/B comparison is "trial and error testing against the reference track." That's what you're doing in effort to match it.
It's funny how this works, but after you do this a while, the industry standard reference track is in your head! You know exactly where each sonic quality is supposed to be and how to quickly apply the effects needed to get your master there. When you reach this point, this is when you can master songs a lot faster.
To create a mix for mastering with proper headroom is pretty simple. In mixing, never let your levels go over 0db on ANY of your individual instrument or vocal tracks. If you do this, 99% of the time you will be under 0 level on the stereo/main out meter, which leaves you some headroom (not necessarily +3db or more but at least +1db). Don't compress your tracks heavy and you'll have adequate dynamic range too.
That's usually all you need to do to achieve proper headroom, but there are always exceptions. If most of your tracks are hot and peaking right at 0 level, your song mix could be at 0 level with no headroom. It won't be distorted (if not recorded distorted), but you still won't be leaving the audio mastering engineer much to work with. If this is the case, after finishing your mix, link all the channels together and just pull them all down a few dbs. Now you have headroom.
Here are some photos of how your mix should and should not look.
Remember, loudness maximization is done in mastering not mixing. DO NOT keep raising your faders way over 0 level in an attempt to match the volume level of your favorite song. This will distort it. Yes, you matched the volume level, but now you have a scratchy distorted mess!
In one sentence, it gives the mastering engineer more room to work with.
If I compared a hair stylist to a mastering engineer, hair length would be mix headroom. If someone came in with 18" of hair, the skies the limit as to how she could style it. But, if they came in with only 1" of hair, her style choices (options) are very limit. In audio mastering, no headroom limits your options.
In the audio mastering process, a series of EQ boosts and cuts are performed. Most of the time you're going to need to boost something, even if it's only a little +2db boost at 100hz. Well, if the song is already at 0 volume level or higher, you might not be able to make a necessary boost without distorting.
And if a song has very low dynamic range (the meter barely moves) it's probably over-compressed. Which means it could lack punch, power, clarity, or could even limit EQ options.
I want a song mix with some headroom and decent dynamic range. "I" want to EQ it as necessary, "I" want to compress it as necessary, "I" want to be able to set the overall volume as necessary, and I don't want to work with a distorted mix.
This section actually ties in with a previous one where I talk about not giving the mastering engineer a song that's already 75% mastered by you. Don't do it! And if you do, just master the other 25% yourself and save your money.