Mastering Demos with EQ
How to best prep your demo masters with equalisation.
Quite often we want to master our demos without having to send them to mastering engineers. You don’t always need to have your demos mastered if they are for your own personal use and it is both cost effective and fun to master your own demos. Of course, once your demo grows to be a full-on stereo mix then using a mastering engineer to master your mix is the right way forward.
I never master my own mixes but I do master my demos as they are only demos and might never see the light of day.
Let me show you how to master your demos using a dynamic equaliser which I believe is the most powerful dynamic tool available.
Preparing to master
The first thing I do is to listen to well produced and mastered music that is similar to the demo mix I am mastering. I use this as a reference for the mastering process I am about to undertake. The ear/brain combination needs pampering to maintain interest in what it hears and well produced dynamic masters work every time in maintaining that interest. The idea is to ‘tune’ the ears of the mastering engineer to the reference. Once my ears are tuned and ready I step back and listen to the mix I am about to master. I listen at a level whereby I can hear everything in detail but without cranking the volume. Loudness doesn’t help when you are trying to master. It throws your judgement into the air and biases critical decision making. I make notes about what I feel needs addressing in the mix. I then listen again and again looking for frequencies that need treatment. Once I have completed my list of ‘things that need looking at’ I decide on what signal chain to create to achieve the master I am after and the one process that stands out above the rest is that of dynamic equalisation.
A dynamic equaliser applies the gain change directly to the gain parameters of a multiband parametric equaliser. As with most dynamics processors, the the threshold determines at which point gain changes take place. You have control over the bandwidth denoted by the Q value and, much like a compressor, the response is controlled with the attack and release functions.
Now that we understand what a dynamic equaliser is we can start by using band-pass filtering to remove redundant frequencies and what we are left with are the ‘nice’ frequencies which we can then process with the equaliser’s built-in dynamic features.
Working with frequency ranges
I like to break my stereo demo mix into specific frequency ranges. This allows me to treat each range in isolation. Once the frequency ranges have been treated we can then process the whole demo mix as one sound. In effect we are marrying all the frequency ranges to form a single solid homogeneous sound. I find it much easier to work with ranges than single frequencies as the demo mix should already be well mixed and therefore small corrective changes won’t be required.
Using a dynamic equaliser on a demo master allows for frequency ranges to ‘breathe’ and bounce along to the timing of the mix. The idea is to have one range dip while another peaks and vice versa. This alternating of gains across ranges gives the perception of motion and that is exactly what the aim is here – to make a dynamic demo master that controls the dynamic range of frequency ranges.
In the video I break down all the features of a dynamic equaliser and show you how to isolate specific frequency ranges for dynamic processing. I explain how to use slopes and crossovers to achieve the smoothest transition from range to range. I explain what settings work best when using equalisation for mastering and I run through a number of options using a well mixed demo.
Plugin used in this video:
Topics covered in this video are:
- How to Prep your Mastering Demo with Eq
- Using Dynamic EQs
- Matching and Blending Slopes
- Crossovers and Phase
- Bandwidth and Resonance
- Threshold and Ratio
- Using Ranges for Pump and Swell
- Blending and Smearing
- Splitting Bands
- Frequency Band Solo