Clear and concise advice for preparing your exported music files for audio mastering
1. This is a concise entry with high information density about how to prepare your tracks and subsequent exported/bounced files for mastering.
2. Please allow silent handles at the start and end of your tracks. When preparing for mastering it is a good practice to bounce your mixdown out with 2 seconds before the onset of the first sound in the mix. Also, leave 3-4 seconds of silence at the end. When exporting or rendering the mix set your left and right locators beyond the start and end of the music. Take special care of synth pad decays, reverbs, guitar decay. Listen to the end of the music and ensure no music is being cut off prematurely.
3. Let me know if drum stick count ins are to be kept or removed.
4. Listen to your actual exported file (not just the DAW playback) on headphones for clicks and glitches before delivery. To prepare for mastering listen specifically for these issues. They are very common and whilst I will include up to 5 click removals inclusive it is a professional approach to check. Especially listen at sample/audio loop points (zero crossings), vocal and instrument edit points, synth envelopes, arpeggiators and vocals.
5. Ensure mix bounces/exports/renders are at a minimum of 24 bit, bit depth.
6. Export your mix at the sample rate of your DAW project. (no need to up or down sample)
7. Ensure your files do not have a limiter on the master output. And if it does, once removed, please ensure the files do not peak up and clip your master bus output.
8. Ensure your file is not clipping the master output. (exceeding 0dBFS) Pay special attention to the loudest peaks of the track. Headroom amount is not especially critical. Peaking anywhere between -18dBFS and -1dBFS should be theoretically fine. Please read the link below to understand more about gain structure. However do not remix/re gain stage an entire track that is already mixed using this approach. This linked advice is for future tracks and their mixes. Instead just pull down the master fader by the amount required to stop incidence of clipping for already mixed tracks.
9. Advise me if you want a streaming optimized master (which is default other than for some specific dance music genres) or an especially loud master for some dance music genres. A streaming master will be optimized for example for Spotify/iTunes/YouTube with the correct headroom. Possibly consider 2 master versions, a streaming one and a loud “play out” one if your track is a “hard” form of dance music (typically D&B, Psy Trance). A loud master can be produced if specifically required. (i.e. in the case of very loud dance music masters for DJ/Bandcamp or SoundCloud use – i.e. services without volume normalization) This may incur a small fee for the production of the secondary master. We can discuss this at the time we work with your music via email.
10. Feel free to supply any other extra information about your project via email.
11. Please provide an intended running order for an EP or album. (.rtf rich text format)
12. Please provide ISR codes (ISRC) track by track, if required. And any UPC/EAN bar codes.
13. Provide an .rtf (rich text format) document with “exact and definitive” release info. Such as release title, artist name, track names and running order. This will be used for any CD/DDP CD-TEXT/ Sub code data.
14. Please do not use unusual characters in files names such as – / : * use only underscores as it can cause issues with unzipping. To be safe keep them basic alphanumerical.
Feel free to read the mastering FAQ page : Mastering FAQ
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