Mastering in Logic

A step by step guide
By Darren Stone

Mastering In Logic - A Step by Step Guide
Understanding the mastering chain will give your music the polish and punch you have been looking for.
As you may have learnt from my YouTube videos mastering is considered by many to be the silver bullet for a bad mix and an art that should only be practiced by a select few. In reality anyone can learn to master and should be seen as just another part of the recording process. Learning to master isn't just about adding that expensive plugin but more about understanding the key workflow, using and developing your ear to make good mastering decisions. This step by step guide will show you some of the key principles of how to master your own music using Logic Pro. Although there are many possible ways you can master a track having a guided outline will most certainly help you to follow the correct workflow and will ensure your music has more chance being loud, polished and sounds finished. The general workflow of mastering is this: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. Listen critically Decide what needs to be done Shape and Balance the Frequencies based on number 2 Control the Dynamics Make it LOUDER with a touch of limiting Bounce Send to label and make a ton of DOSH! DONE!!

Step 1 - Bouncing your stereo mix

The first step in the mastering process is actually at the mix stage. If you bounce your track with a loud gain structure you may as well forget mastering. Bouncing your mix correctly is critical to creating a good master, get this step wrong and all you mastering decisions won't mean zip! So let's assume you have got your mix as balanced and punchy as you can and are ready to bounce. You want to bounce your mix with the best signal and sample rate possible. As a rule of thumb you want to leave anywhere between -3db to -6db of head room clear on your master output channel ready for mastering. Make sure you have the start and end points set in the arrange window accounting for the tail if you want to. Logic's bounce window has an option to 'include tail' which you can use to if you wish. Personally I don't use this option but that's just me and I'm a bit weird!! Once you have named your file; the file format to bounce in is 'AIFF'

at a resolution of '24bits' with file type 'Interleaved'. At this point it is important to ensure 'none' is selected in the dithering drop down menu. It does not matter which mode you select to bounce in, if you select Offline (Faster) or Realtime (slower) behind the scenes Logic’s magic calculations will still come out with the same stereo master. Finally DO NOT select 'Normalize' you do not want Logic to recalculate the final level of the mix. You will be doing the normalizing when you master!

Step 2 - Setting Up For Mastering And Critical Listening Once you have bounced your stereo file it's time to start a new session and import your mix file ready to set up for mastering. I think it's important to mention at this stage if you have the time leaving the mastering for a few days from bouncing the mix to the master session is a really good idea. It's also advisable to not listen to the track for a few days so that when you come to mastering the music you will have fresh ears and will be able to make clear objective mastering decisions. Before you start adding any plugins listen through to the mix a few times and think about which aspects of the music need attention. This can be anything from the timbre of the music through to any frequencies that need to be shaped or even tamed; you will also

need to think about where compression or equalisation needs to be added to help the dynamics and increase the listening level. Step 3 – EQ

It's important to remember that there is no one way to master and the recording chain and number of plugins you use will vary from track to track. As a general guide EQ is often applied first, the reason for this is because unlike mixing you want the compressor to squeeze the EQ adjustments that you will be making. Also mastering often requires subtle frequency adjustments and therefore the effect EQ has on compression is less than would normally be the case in mixing. Logic's Pro's Linear Phase EQ (see above) is often the best equaliser to use for mastering; the reason for this is beyond the scope of this guide so for now don't worry about why you are using it just plug it in and play! Mastering engineers often start with the bass as these frequencies are normally the hardest to deal with. A good starting point is applying a low cut filter rolling of anywhere from 30hz - 50hz. Use your ear and a frequency analyser to set the exact frequency and

amount of slope needed. Move on to the rest of the music using small boosts and cuts to shape the sound and timbre of the music. You can use specific frequencies to enhance different instruments in the mix. For example applying a small boost around 1.5k - 3k will help to bring forward the vocal line (if there is one). A snare drum’s bite and snap can also sit around these frequencies (1.5k) so be careful that boosting one aspect of the mix doesn't bring out instruments you don't want brought forward. Speaking of the snare drum at around 250hz - 350 hz sits the body of the drums gentle boosts here can add a degree of warmth to the overall mix but be careful not to overdo it as the bass guitar might start to get a touch boomy. Your ear will guide you and don't forget to listen to other similar music to reference whether your master is on target. 400hz - 600hz is often known as the 'muddy' area and applying gentle cut here can help to give clarity and clean up some of these frequencies. 12000hz up is known as the area where you can add air, you have to be careful here not to boost too much as you can make the master start to sound brittle.

Step 3 - Multiband Compression

At this point you should be ready to add some compression, you may find you need to treat a number of frequencies bands and so Logic's Multipressor might well be your best plugin choice here. The Multipressor is a great plugin as it allows you to really shape the dynamics of the music and control individual frequency bands that need controlling. If you are new to the Multipressor or aren't sure how to use it the best place to start is with the presets. Listen carefully to the effect each preset has on your mix and decide which works best with your track. You will need to make further adjustments but the presets will be a good start. As with EQing you may want to start with the bass frequencies. Be careful not apply too much as you may find you start to squash the thump out of the kick drum or bass line. Setting it just enough to balance the bass with the top end should do the trick. Next work through the low mids, high mids and finally the highs. Be

careful with the low and high mids as the frequency content here is where the energy of your track resides. If you squash this too much you are in danger of losing that immediate impact that you hear on commercial recordings. At this stage its worth mentioning that mastering is a balancing act. You have to balance the Yin and Yang; what I mean by this is one action affects another. For example if you boost the high mids with a broad Q you are effectively cutting the bass frequencies leaving a 'toppy' mix. However the same effect can be achieved by attenuating the lows, if you cut the lows heavily you are boosting the high mids and highs. This may sound slightly strange but just remember if you boost you are cutting at the opposite end of the frequency spectrum. So always keep it gentle unless drastic EQ or compression action is needed! Step 4 – Limiting

After compression comes limiting, compressing the audio file will help to increase the volume of your music by reducing the dynamic

range but it won't go nearly far enough. A limiter often has simple but very powerful controls and its sole purpose is to make your music louder. Think of a limiter as a compressor on steroids with very fast attack and release times controlled automatically by the limiter. Limiters were designed to catch small transient peaks and it's these peaks that control the average level of your music. By reducing these peaks the limiter should allow you to increase the average level of the music, hence making it appear louder. Limiters usually have just a few controls - the most important being the threshold (or sometimes Input) control and the release (if there is one). Threshold is a simple control to use and as a general guide you want to set the threshold so that you get anywhere from 3db to 6db of increased loudness. Be careful not to overdo it on the limiting otherwise you may start to add distortion to your track; not what you want I'm sure! Logic has two limiters to choose from the Limiter and the Adaptive Limiter. Personally I would use the Adaptive Limiter play around with the controls but make sure you set the 'Output to -2db or -3db to ensure your music doesn't clip. Step 5 - The Master Bounce So we are now ready to bounce having EQ'd, compressed and used a touch of limiting to get the track to really punch and be loud. Bouncing is the easy bit but you still need to follow a couple of general rules. If you are bouncing for CD burning you want to bounce your 24bit mix to 16bits. So this time you need to set the dither option to POW-r # 1 (dithering). Don't worry about the other options for now I will go into more details at Once you have set the resolution to 16bit you should be ready to bounce your master down. Double check you have set the start and end points in the arrange

window and then click the BOUNCE button.

Wait while Logic does its magic calculation and boils up your hit record. Finally Mastering is all about listening to the music and working out where fine frequency and dynamic decisions need to be made to help enhance the overall sound of your music. To help improve your mastering chops listen to commercial records as reference tracks. Listening to commercial tracks will help you to get used to how professional music sounds on your speakers and how the music interacts with your room (a whole other can of worms!!).

I hope you have enjoyed this guide and have found the information provided here to be helpful? Mastering in Logic is currently developing a video tutorial site dedicated to teaching you the entire mastering process and will go through the topics discussed here in much greater detail. If you have anything that you would like Mastering In Logic to help you with either as a video or written article please let us know by either filling out our short survey which you can find at... or by contact us through our website at... Thanks for choosing Master In Logic Darren Stone

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