5 Tips for Mastering EDM

A mastering engineer's instrument is a varied collection of hardware & software that brings out the best in any track. In this article Mo Volans shares 5 essential tips for mastering EDM or any genre.  

To accompany the mammoth EDM mastering course I've been putting together, I thought I'd wet your appetites with a few essential quick tips. Of course all of these areas are covered in a lot more detail in the video course, so if you want to know more... watch it here: http://play.askvideo.com/logic-pro-x-405-mastering-edm-tracks/1

Tip 1 - Keep Your Options Open

This is probably one of the most important tips I could give when it comes to mastering music in any genre and it applies to your mix! Before you even get into your mastering session, or think about handing over your prized mix to a mastering engineer, you need to be thinking about leaving your options open.

What do I mean by this, well first up, you don't want to apply any processing on your master output. This is a bit of a no brainer as any limiting, compression or equalization will be imprinted onto your pre-master and cannot be reversed in the mastering process. 

Applying processing to your mix stems or master output is a no go

Applying processing to your mix stems or master output is a no-go.

Secondly you should follow the same philosophy during your actual mix-down. This is a little less obvious but applying too much compression across large groups of instruments in your mix can reduce dynamic range drastically and limit the options you have during mastering. If in doubt, go easy on the processing, get the best relative balance and don't try to hard to make your mix sound 'big'. Go for a natural, dynamic sound where possible 

Tip 2 - Choose Your Weapons

This is a super simple tip. Don't load your system with every mastering plug-in going. Instead choose a smaller collection of high-quality products that you know well. Having every single compressor out there won't make you a better mastering engineer... only time and experience can do that!

Choose a select bunch of tools to start out with and stick to them

Choose a select bunch of tools to start out with and stick to them.

If you want to spend your money and you are interested in mastering at home, you are much better off making sure your space is acoustically treated and you are using solid converters and monitors. 

Tip 3 - Master The Mid/Side

There are obviously endless forms of processing you can insert into your mastering chain, some of these are quite simply essential, such as compression and EQ, whilst others are probably considered optional.

Master M/S processing and your masters should sound better for it

Master M/S processing and your masters should sound better for it.

One of the less traditional techniques you can try is M/S (Mid/Side) processing. This route will allow you to treat the stereo and mono information in your mix independently, adding width and control that isn't possible with other plug-ins. Get a firm grip on M/S tech and you should gain the upper hand in challenging mastering sessions.

4 - Use Broad Strokes

Another important tip I'd like to share really relates to how you apply processing, as opposed to the sort of processing you use. Using wide broad brush strokes is important. This simply means using small amounts of gain in EQs, low ratios in compressors and less gain reduction in any dynamic treatment. 

Using subtle changes and light processing is the key to transparent mastering

Using subtle changes and light processing is the key to transparent mastering.

Less really is more here, so if you find the need to add amounts of corrective processing to your master it's likely that something went wrong in the mix. If you find yourself in this situation, go back to the drawing board and get your mixdown nailed. It'll pay off in the long run.

5 - Know Your Limits

The loudness war is old news. Most of us know that we need to retain some dynamic range in our music and this means knowing your final limiter inside out. This doesn't just mean what every knob does but also exactly what its meters are telling you and precisely how much dynamic range you are working with.

A good mastering limiter should also feature detailed metering

A good mastering limiter should also feature detailed metering.

Most mastering grade limiters should give you a variety of metering modes, some even give you feedback on perceived loudness. If your limiter isn't up to the job then it might be time to change what you are using. Alternatively you can always use a third-party metering plug-in that gives you all the information you need.

Learn more about Mastering in Logic Pro X (or any DAW) in Mo Volan's in-depth video course:


Mo has been a professional in the music industry for around 15 years. He has released material with the world's leading record labels and also produces music for TV and Film. Mo is also a prolific writer and is a regular contributor to magazines such as Music Tech, Future Music and EQ magazine. There isn't a piece of music software tha... Read More


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