Mixing and mastering tips – Help needed!

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This topic contains 16 replies, has 11 voices, and was last updated by  PeteJ 1 year, 2 months ago.

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  • #25210 Reply


    Hi people!
    I’m a big fan of some of the music produced by the people here in MLR and wanted to know if you could spare a few mixing tips.
    I’m a bit of a newcomer to the trailer music scene and as such, I don’t get to produce these kind of arrangements often, so any tips or constructive criticism would be gratefully appreciated!

    This is the track:

    And finally.. do you have any go-to guys for mastering?? I’m not a big fan of mastering and would love to find someone that can give this track and other the final touch they need.


    #25212 Reply


    If you want to add a nice finishing touch without having to get to far into the nuts and bolts of how to get there (like me), I’d suggest the Lurssen Mastering Console by ikmultimedia. I demoed it and in my opinion it’s excellent sounding. The only reason I didn’t buy it is because I have a tone of plugins already. I still may get it because I like it that much. Demo it and see what you think. There are also some good before/after tracks on the site.

    #25213 Reply

    Michael Nickolas

    Hi Patrick, nice composition.

    Mastering starts with the mix. If a track has a great mix, only little tweaks should be needed in mastering. If major surgery is happening to your stereo mix when mastering, then it’s time to go back and re-evaluate the mix as a whole.

    I’ve tried different tools to master. I have IZotope’s Ozone, but mostly I use individual plug-ins from different companies. I’ve found Ozone to “color” the sound. Which is good, if you want to add color like “analog”, “warm”, “tube” or etc. My line up of individual plug-ins is more transparent and this is what I prefer, as I add my color in the mix.

    Let’s see if I can recall my chain from memory:

    EQ, with a preset to specifically remove low end rumble that isn’t doing the song any good.
    2nd EQ, full spectrum, set flat to start.
    Compressor, with a mastering preset ready I’ve programmed.
    Audio Enhancer with starting preset I’ve programmed
    Stereo Imager with starting preset I’ve programmed.
    Maximizer with dither.

    Depending on how others mix, their chain would look different.

    There’s a lot to learn about each plug-in. You have to practice just like you would to learn to play a musical instrument. But it’s not rocket science. It’s all about using your ears. Pay attention to gain staging and constantly ask yourself “is what I’m doing improving the song?” Once you do enough of this you can tell right away if enabling a plug-in is going to end up helping the song or is not necessary at all.

    These days I find myself using a lot less of EQ in processing my stereo tracks. So hopefully that means I’m doing a better job in the mixing stage. Good luck!

    #25214 Reply


    If there is a trick then this is it, removing sub 100 hz from the side and then boosting higher frequencies in the side can make a huge difference, of course use your ears and is program dependant.

    #25215 Reply


    Thanks Pat, Michael and Woodsdenis!

    I greatly appreciate your words of wisdom. I’ll definitely check out the Lurssen Mastering Console, looks like it could be a great solution.
    And mixing/mastering using mid-side is something I should explore more really… thanks again for the reminder!

    #25217 Reply


    Hi Patrick
    I agree with what it has been said above. Here’s my approach:
    1) I don’t master right after mixing. I try to let at least one day pass.
    2) Listen on multiple listening environments (studio, headphone, cheap speaker, car). Car is my favourite reference 🙂
    3) Compare with professional tracks you love, in a similar genre / style
    4) If many /significant fixes are needed, go back to mixing. I master only the the mix is well balanced.
    5) Typical mastering chain for me:
    – eq, usually just to give a little shine on the high end. Kush Clariphonic is phenomenal for that.
    – eq, to cut some very low end
    – mono the low end below 100hz or so, depending on track (not necessary on many genres but I do it anyway, it doesnt hurt)
    – extend the stereo field, but only if REALLY necessary. I try to avoid it like the plague, cause it messes things up, especially reverb, but sometimes a little touch is nice or necessary
    – two compressors, for different purposes (very little touch here too) and/or dynamic eq, to fix problems when needed
    – a little saturation (depending on genre / track)
    – a little transient enhancer (this is my secret ingredient, dont tell anyone 🙂
    – limiter, dithering, loudness etc. Dont make it too loud, it doesnt make any sense anymore.
    Compare with and without effects, at the SAME loudness (there are great tools for that out there).

    #25218 Reply


    One more thing about Mid_Side approach.
    To me, this is VERY useful if you are mastering other people’s mixes. In that case, you probably don’t have any control on the mix (you can’t remix) so MS allows you to intervene with more precision at the mastering stage.
    However, if I am mastering MY OWN mixes, and I feel the need to do something at the MS level during my mastering, to me it’s a sign that I need to go back and fix something in the mix. So, for my own mixes, I usually dont use MS.

    #25219 Reply


    It’s a lovely track Patrick 🙂

    #25220 Reply

    Michael Nickolas

    extend the stereo field, but only if REALLY necessary. I try to avoid it like the plague, cause it messes things up, especially reverb, but sometimes a little touch is nice or necessary

    Yeah, this is one of those plug-in’s that you can tell right away if is helpful or not. Pay attention to the low end. Stereo imagers can decrease your perception of the bass. Some stereo enhancing plug-ins include a bass make up. Also watch the main output level, it may increase and put you near clipping. Still, on some material it is a nice enhancement.

    #25221 Reply

    Art Munson

    Don’t if this has been mentioned in this thread but I found out about it here on MLR and love it!


    #25222 Reply

    Michael Nickolas

    Thanks Art. That brings up a question that I hope won’t be off topic. What are people using for mix comparison sources these days? What I mean is, back in the day, I would extract examples from CD. This would give me a high quality 16 bit 44,100 sample rate wave file. But now, in the days of streaming and mp3’s, and CD’s mostly a thing of the past, what format are mix creators using for comparison? Do we trust compressed sound files lower in quality that a 16 wav to guide us?

    #25223 Reply

    Art Munson

    What are people using for mix comparison sources these days?

    Great question. I’ve been using the highest quality MP3 I can find but that’s only 256k from Amazon. Still, it’s better than nothing and helpful to me. Then again, with my attenuated high end ignorance is bliss! 🙂

    #25224 Reply


    Don’t if this has been mentioned in this thread but I found out about it here on MLR and love it!



    #25225 Reply

    Per Boysen

    That FabFilter video is spot on! In fact, I’ve learned a lot from all their educational videos. When I finalise my mixes I use to set up a MS matrix in the DAW mixer; about the same approach as that video above, but with direct routing rather than using a plugin. The way I do it is to split the master into three parallel stereo channels. One gets treated by shifting left and right, the second gets treated by phase reversion and the third simply gets monofied. By summing these three stems you now have total control over the stereo field (as well as optional processing of side channels vs center field)

    I also use to set up a parallel compression channel, that sidesteps the full MS treatment. Very little of this iis mixed with the master – like at -16 dB somewhere – just to give a little warmth to the wide stereo. A subtle fix that adds definition.

    I also like to slap a console modeling plugin on most of the channels in the mix; it’s called “Strip Bus” (or maybe “Bus Strip”?) by the Italian company SKnote.it. Having this helps to get rid of some mid frequency mud and it opens up the sound. I assume it is the subtle dynamic and EQ that causes this effect. Adding the SKnote Strip to just one channel doesn’t do much that a normal EQ can’t provide, but when applied to all tracks in a mix this subtle dynamic processing adds up to a much better sounding summed mix (master). In short, it is a console modeling plugin.

    #25226 Reply


    If could address this track specifically, here’s my $0.02’s worth:

    It’s a very, very nice piece, but it doesn’t sound like a trailer track. Here’s why:

    Trailer music needs to sound very full, with a lot of clear but deep low end coming from drums, strings and maybe synths. Your track seems to have all the low end, and most low mids, chopped away. This isn’t just an EQ thing, I think it’s the arrangement that is currently missing a lot of parts like basses, cellos, trombones. If they’re in there, the mix isn’t quite bringing them through. The great advice from previous posters should help with that.

    Also, in trailers we use a lot of tricks to boost the low end, like a sub bass following the basses, and a soft brassy synth pad following the horns.

    I would recommend losing most of the lower piano after :44 – it’s competing with the cello (which sounds really good!) and cheapens the sound a bit. It’s important to not lean on the piano as a crutch (especially for us piano players) as it’s not a particularly ‘epic’ sound… in fact it’s really the opposite of epic – intimate, the sound of ‘home’. At the moment, trailer music usually features piano only as a single high ‘ping’.

    Your finale is great, (I love the choir and trumpet parts especially) but needs more big drums, and a more drawn out ending. It’s a beautiful track and deserves more than a quick ‘ta-da’ at the end : )
    Consider adding horns in the 3rd act – modern trailer music tends to lean more on horn than trumpet.

    I hope something in all that was of use to you! Now it’s back to trying to write trailer music for me…

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