Inspirational master bus processing hacks
Try these tips when you need professional sheen and weight right from the start of the writing process
Let’s look at a handful of master bus processing techniques to get you pumped as you produce. Just to be clear, we’re not claiming these are pro mastering techniques – instead, these tips are designed to give you more of a ‘pro’ sound as soon as you begin writing a track. Let’s begin…
If you’ve got a few sounds going in a project, but everything’s sounding a bit dull and uninspiring, try loading a high-quality EQ on your master. A glossy high-mid and/or treble boost will lift top end in a musically-pleasing way, and will save you having to brighten individual parts.
The much-discussed technique of ‘glue’ compression can gel things together especially well if you mix into it straight away. Set up an SSL-style compressor, with a slow attack and gentle ratio, and aim for 1-2dB of smoothening gain reduction.
While on the topic, a dose of parallel compression on the master will pull up low-level signals and increase RMS levels, which will help your track reach pro loudness levels without destroying transient detail. Dial in fast attack and release times, then blend the squashed signal in subtly alongside the dry signal.
This one’s a risky technique: try saturating your master bus! This’ll only work if you’re going for an aggressive, ‘warm’ mix. Multiband saturation usually works best, as you can focus the drive around, say, only the high-mid area, to avoid the track’s bass overloading the drive. Always mix in parallel – try a subtle 2-5% to begin.
Finally, around 2-5dB of limiting will boost loudness levels up to commercial standards. Always keep your processing subtle, regularly bypass to evaluate effectiveness, and keep in mind that these treatments are only there to add vibe and power during the writing stage – turn the plugins off for the mastering engineer!