Crazy Daisy Productions: Audio Production Services

Important Tips for Preparing Your Tracks for Audio Mastering

What can I do to make certain my mix is ready to be mastered?

FIRST: Provide a high quality audio file

For best results bounce down (export) your mixes as stereo interleaved .wav or .aiff file formats. Choose a bit depth and sample rate comparable to the resolution settings you used when doing recording and mixing. So, for example, if you did your work at 16 bit, 44.1kHz then you should provide a stereo .wav or .aiff file at 16 bit, 44.1kHz resolution for mastering. As another example, if you did your work at 24 bit, 48kHz then you should provide a stereo .wav or .aiff file at 24 bit, 48kHz for mastering.

Don't send .mp3, .m4a, or .wma files for mastering unless you have no other option as these file types have reduced frequency spectra and won't produce the best quality results when we master it. If you must send one of these other file types, try to send one with the highest bitrate possible, preferrably 256kbps or higher.

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In order to obtain the best possible quality from audio mastering, you need to start with a good mix. Here are some hints for preparing your recording or audio mix.

Don't over-compress!

Please remove or at least reduce any Master ("main") Output compression, limiting, or maximizing effects intended simply to boost the volume levels of your mixdowns. It seems everyone these days wants to make their track sound louder and louder so they put as much compression as possible on the master output. Once you've done this, there's nothing your mastering engineer can do to remove the compression side effects and the master likely won't sound as good as it could have. If you resist the urge to make it as loud as you can get it and let your mastering facility adjust your final track volumes then we can make it loud enough in a way that avoids the bad side-effects of strong master output compression and keeps more of a sense of natural dynamics and punchiness. True artists know that loud music does not necessarily equal good music. Concentrate on making a good, solid, clean mix and let us set the final track volume during mastering. Don't worry - we'll make sure your final volumes are consistent with the industry standard levels for your genre.

Watch for volume level clipping.

During recording AND mixing take the extra time to set proper gain without overdriving your recording system's maximum levels. Also, be sure your final stereo audio mixdown isn't clipping. If you're unsure, the usual tip for setting levels is to set the master output ( master fader ) level to -6dB, or even lower if necessary, so that the maximum master volume level peaks are between -1dB and -3dB. We will maximize the volume levels appropriately in the mastering process, so don't worry if it comes out a little quieter doing this. Once digital audio data is clipped it can't be recovered so it's safer to err on the quiet side.

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Free Mastering Sample

Don't overdo reverb and other effects.

Reverb and other similar effects are nice for smoothing out some of the rough edges in your songs, but they also can make your songs sound muddy and the mastering process cannot completely undo excessive muddiness. When in doubt, lean toward cleaner and drier sounds versus heavier reverb and other effects. For the master output channel it's better to either completely avoid effects or keep your reverb levels and other effects to a minimum. If you want a more reverberant overall feeling to your track you can always request it in the notes section on our Online Mastering Order Form.

Get rid of noise.

The less hiss/hum/background noise we have to eliminate in the mastering process, the cleaner, fuller, and brighter your songs will be. Watch open mics during recording. Are fans running in the background? Are there fluorescent lights on? Planes, trains, cars, trucks running outside? Computer fans? Amps not grounded properly? Using correct cables and correct gain settings? Consider using noise gates and/or noise filtering on each track in a song. This will limit the total amount of noise in your final mix giving you a cleaner, stronger song for mastering.

Mastering Examples

Listen to before and after mastering examples from past client projects. Tracks separated by music genre.

Hear examples of mastering
Listen to mastered examples...

Fade your dubs and clips.

Don't use mute or other sudden on/off in your mixes! If dubs or clips turn on and off suddenly within your song, there will more than likely be an audible click. It may be quiet in your version, but the mastered version is often much louder. We can certainly remove or reduce most clicks in the mastering process, but why take chances? Make it clean right from the start!

Followed all these tips and hints but still unsure whether or not your mix is good enough?

If you've done the best you can with your mixes but you're still not 100% confident that it's as good as it can be and ready for mastering, we offer several solutions to assist you. In these cases we highly recommend that you submit one of your tracks for Free Sample Mastering to hear for yourself an example of the final outcome as mastered by Crazy Daisy Productions. In many cases people hear the master and find that they are quite happy with the results from mastering and now have confirmation that their mix is ready.

On occasion it may be that after hearing the mastering results and reading our feedback accompanying the sample you realize that your mixes still need some work. Often we will note the mix adjustments that are needed when we return your mastered track and these may be things you can easily attend to yourself. However, if you find our mix recommendations are either beyond your skill level or if you simply wish to have a new set of ears attend to your mixes, we offer three different levels of additional services to accompany mastering that may be of assistance:
1. Mix Analysis is an option to have an engineer double-check your tracks and provide any final tips on how to best optimize your mix for mastering.
2. Vocal and Instrumental Separation Mastering is a mastering option available if your primary concern is balancing the vocal versus instrumental levels and EQ in your mix.
3. Stems Mastering is available as an add-on to your mastering service if you would like a mix engineer to fine-tune your primary mix components during the mastering process to help optimize the blend of sounds.

If you feel you may need even more mixing work than what these options offer you can find out more details about our mixing services on our Online Music Mixing page.

For even more help, check out this article on by our lead audio engineer, Erik Veach, comparing mixing vs mastering and explaining how to know when your mix is ready to be mastered.

Order Audio Mastering Online: upload your WAV, MP3, WMA, M4A, or AIFF files here.
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How To Prepare Your Mix To Send To Your Mixing Engineer

If you decide that you would like to have your tracks mixed by a mixing engineer before having them mastered, you will need to send your full mix session to the engineer so he/she can have access to all the individual sound elements within the music to make necessary adjustments to each independently. Check out our Mix Preparation page for instructions on how to prepare your mix session files from the most common digital audio workstations (DAWs) so you can send them to your mixing engineer.

Links to online sound and music resource pages

We've assembled a list of a few useful resource pages to assist you with your music production, promotion, and other aspects of the music business.
Music Resource Links

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