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Mastering Essentials – watch my free 6-part video tutorial course here

June 22nd, 2021 BY Ian Shepherd

Mastering is simple. Not easy, but simple.

That's the message behind this series of 6 video tutorials I made recently for Sound On Sound magazine.

In them, I walk you through my entire mastering process from beginning to end, explaining how and why I work the way that I do at every stage.

Topics include:

  • What mastering is
  • My mastering chain - it's simpler than you might think !
  • How loud should you master ?
  • Why mastering is about balance, not matching
  • How to use EQ, compression and limiting in mastering
  • How to deliver your masters - for online streaming, and everywhere else
    The un-mastered mixes in the videos are from Mike Senior's superb Cambridge Music Technology site - and you can download the same files for free to experiment with yourself, or even the full multi-tracks, if you like. For more information, click here.

    I'm using Steinberg's Wavelab for my mastering and in these videos, but the same techniques and strategies can be used in any digital audio workstation.

    And if you find the videos helpful, you might also like my free Home Mastering Guide - it's a simple PDF that makes a great companion to the videos, describing the six simple steps to releasing your music with complete confidence. It's 100% free, and you can get your copy here.

    I hope you find the videos helpful, or interesting !

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    How loud ? The simple solution to optimizing playback volume online - and everywhere else

    September 26th, 2017 BY Ian Shepherd

    I get asked this question literally every day, now.

    And I see people asking it, everywhere:

    “What’s the ideal loudness for my music to get the best playback volume online?”

    Because people have realized that loudness normalization is a reality. They know that loud songs are turned down to stop users being blasted by sudden changes in volume - and they've probably heard some numbers: -14 LUFS for YouTube, -16 for iTunes and Pandora, -14 for Spotify and TIDAL… but which one should you choose ? Is there a perfect number, or do you have to submit different masters for every platform ?

    In this post I’ll answer that question, simply and clearly.

    (If you’re impatient, feel free to skip to the end – but please come back and read this explanation afterwards, too !)

    Before that though, it’s important to realise – asking this question misses three key points.

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    Dolby Atmos Mastering

    May 13th, 2022 BY Ian Shepherd

    Mastering for Dolby Atmos is a complicated topic, but one I'm really excited about. The video above is an interview I recorded with Justin Gray from Immersive Mastering about the challenges and opportunities of working with dynamics in Atmos and for Apple Spatial Audio.

    It was originally a live broadcast as part of Dynamic Range Day 2022, so we focused heavily on discussing the implications of loudness and especially dynamics in the format, but there's also a ton of helpful information in there about many other aspects of mixing and mastering for immersive audio, and there's been so much interest in the topic that I've decided to re-share the video here, as well.

    I hope you find it useful and interesting - and if you want to find out more about Atmos, be sure to connect with Justin on Facebook - he's really knowledgable about all aspects of immersive audio, and super-friendly and helpful as well, as you'll see from the interview !

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    Streaming Loudness in 2022 is 95 Percent Normalized

    April 25th, 2022 BY Ian Shepherd

    As far as I can tell, 95% of the music you're hearing online is normalized, in 2022.

    But what does that mean, and how did I come to that conclusion ? And most importantly, why should you care ?

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    De-clipping Adele - was I wrong?

    December 6th, 2021 BY Ian Shepherd

    Adele recently shared an informal "laptop recording" of her song "To Be Loved" on her YouTube channel – and it's great. A raw, authentic "real life" recording with a beautiful performance.

    Unfortunately, her voice was simply too powerful for the mic on her laptop and as a result the louder moments of the song are absolutely bathed in distortion, which I think is a real shame.

    I shared this comment on Facebook, and despite many people agreeing with me, I also got several comments from people saying they didn't mind the distortion, they felt it was more real and authentic than a cleaned-up version.


    Does Adele really sound better on YouTube ? And if so, WHY?!?

    November 11th, 2021 BY Ian Shepherd

    Adele's latest single "Easy On Me" doesn't use a click track or autotune, but it is still mastered pretty loud. At least on CD, that is.

    On YouTube that doesn't seem to be the case, though - and the loudness is just the beginning of the story. This video shows several ways that the YouTube version sounds different to other streaming platforms, and suggests some reasons why that might be.

    Does the long quiet introduction give this video a secret "loudness advantage" after normalization? Is the difference in sound just a trick of the ear, because of the sound effects? What about the numbers? Are the differences just caused by different codecs? And most importantly, how loud is it? Does the loudness suit the material, and is it necessary to convey the artistic intention?

    Take a listen, and see what you think!

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    My name is Ian Shepherd - I've worked as a professional mastering engineer for over 20 years and I run the Production Advice website with over 50,000 readers each month



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