Stem Mastering a Country / Rock track : Full video walk through

Hi Guys, Tom Frampton here, and today I’ll be showing you how I stem mastered this track for streaming services.


Music Credit:


Video Transcript: 

I’ll start off by showing you a level matched comparison of the pre-master and my final master. Then we’ll look at the journey the track took to get to that result.


So when a mix and master are level matched, the difference between them might not sound so impressive but it gives you a really accurate representation of the actual changes made during mastering. Let’s have a listen.


0:40 Sounds great. So let’s start at the beginning and take a listen to the mix.


I’m using a mixing preset here in LEVELS to make sure the mix is free of technical issues.


1:42 low end is nice and central.


2:00 Using Bass Space here to make sure there aren’t any unwanted low frequencies in the vocals, guitars and keyboards.


2:36 switching to the Mastering for Streaming services preset here.


2:50 so I can see the LUFS during this chorus is around -22 which is a little low. Well be aiming for about -14 integrated LUFS for this master.


I’ll give the limiter some initial settings that I’ll probably tweak later.


Using the Sonnox inflator here to add some harmonic distortion energy.


The shadow hills compressor here to add a bit of glue and catch some transients.


4:00 Using a multi-band compressor here to zone in on glueing the elements of the mix and shaping the sound in a subtle way.


4:41 Just using the limiter again here to increase the volume to around -14 LUFS.


5:05 The vocals are sounding a little harsh to me. With stem mastering I can address that specific problem on the channel itself without affecting the other instruments.

Using Refinement by Brainworks I can reduce the harshness in a very organic way.


5:42 i’m boosting the lowest notes of the vocals here. Not only will this give the vocals bit more body but it will also have positive effect on how harsh they are perceived to be.


5:58 They still feel a little harsh so i’ll use a more surgical approach with a multi band compressor. 


6:25 bypassing the plugin to make sure what i’m doing is positive.


7:00 vocals sitting nicely in the mix now.


7:10 To me the drums are sounding a little flat in the mix. I want to add punch and colour. I’ll start by using an expander to add some controlled punch.


8:00 You can see the purple band is only reacting to the kick and the blue band is only reacting to the snare. I adjust the threshold to make sure the yellow line always returns back to 0dB before the next hit.


8:51 The bypass shows me that the drums are now cutting through the mix better.


9:19 Now to add some flavour and clarity. 


9:50 The before and after shows a pretty obvious improvement when soloed.


10:10 before and after sounding great whilst listening to the whole mix too.


11:04 adding some analogue warmth to the guitars.


11:43 switching between listening in solo and listening to whole mix is very helpful. Never spend too much time on either without checking the other.


12:26 Adding an eq boost adds overall volume so I’ll bring down the gain so I can test the changes fairly.


13:10 I feel like the bass has it’s place in the mix now.


13:27 I want the bass to duck out of the way of the kick here as they’re both competing for that low end space. I don’t want the whole bass to duck, just the clashing frequencies so I’ll use a Multi-band compressor.


14:32 Just listening to the bass by itself to make sure it doesn’t sound unnatural.


15:00 checking back in with LEVELS to make sure we’re still on track for a technically great master.


16:02 I’ll fire up REFERENCE now to make comparisons to the mix I received and the master in it’s current state, as well as comparing the master to other reference tracks.


The track align and level match features in REFERENCE help me compare the two version in the most objective way possible.


17:15 I’ll hit ‘level match all’ to make sure my references are also the same volume.


17:30 Looks like the master could use more prominent high mids and high frequencies.


19:32 I’ll add some tape emulation to the accompaniment stem to give it some warmth. 


22:50 Making some adjustments to the mastering compressor here. As the signal comping in has changed.


23:00 Checking in with LEVELS again.


24:00 The before and after comparison using REFERENCE let’s me know that I changes I’ve made are positive.


25:00 Ok so what i’m gonna do here is take out some low end in the stereo field to focus the low frequencies in the centre. This should help give the mix a tighter sound.


26:50 I want to be peaking at -1dB true peak so I’ll reduce the output of my limiter.


27:20 LUFS sitting around -14 which is ideal for streaming.


28:40 I’m just adding a small amount of compression to the harsh frequencies of the brass here.


29:27 Sounding good and ready to be streamed! Thanks for watching, I hope you picked up a few ideas to implement in your next project.