Mastering Hip Hop Songs in Your Own Home Recording Studio Or Computer

I cannot stress enough the advantage of having your home recorded Hip Hop songs Mastered by an outside Mastering Engineer that are experts in the Hip Hop genre. The outcome will no doubt be superior when done by a trained ear with an acoustically tuned environment & Mastering specific gear. With that in mind, it is possible for you to achieve usable leads to your home Hip Hop recording studio & the objective of this article is to help you achieve those results while using recording gear/software that you already own. If you are recording on Digidesign Protools software then you can use the plug ins that came with the program. Most similar programs must have comparable processing extensions so consult your user manual for those.

Mixtape Mastering

You will start your mastering session with a two track stereo mix of your song preferably using the master level peaking at about -3db never hitting the red on the meter. This combination should already be sounding the way you want while needing a lift in volume & maybe a couple EQ tweaks to really make it translate well to various sound systems/sources.

Starting with the EQ make adjustments to the lows, mids, & highs, according to any notes that you taken after hearing your mix on several different types of sound sources such as earbuds, a car system, a bookshelf stereo, a mono clock radio, laptop speakers etc. Your ultimate goal is for your master to end up sounding good on all the different systems where obviously on larger systems with sub woofers you will have more bass & on laptop speakers & earbuds there will be little or no sub bass. The key is to have a master that still retains clarity on all these sources. When you listen to your mix on these sources listen for frequency problems that tend to show up on multiple sound sources because these are the first things you should work on with the EQ. You should try trial & error to obtain the frequencies and remember it is always better to fix by cutting the offensive sounds then by boosting other frequencies to cover them. Remember that any EQ tweaks that you perform on the stereo mix is going to affect the whole song so make sure the adjustments are actually fixing the problem without causing a bigger one out of another area.

The next phase in your home Hip Hop Mastering session after you are happy with the EQ results will be adding a Compressor towards the track. This will be accustomed to give the song an even level sound making the track level consistent from beginning to end. The Compressor will even aid in boosting the perceived amount of the song. Below is really a set of Compressor settings which i have come to use on Hip Hop tracks as a starting point when putting together an audio lesson Master.

gain 3.5 db

threshold -22.6 db

ratio 3.00:1

attack 11 ms

release 50 ms

knee 80

(They are compressor start off positions which i've found are a good starting place for Hip Hop recordings in which the mix has been peaked at -3db)

The following device in line following the Compressor is a Limiter, that is kind of like a Compressor on steroids, the Limiter is going to be used to max the volume of the mix & produce a master that is as loud as any commercially released Hip Hop track.

The Limiter settings shown below are settings that I have found to be a good starting point achieving a loud yet not distorted final master of a Home studio recorded Rap track

3.5 gain

threshold 17.6 db

attack 1.0 ms

release 20 ms

Mixtape Mastering

(They are Limiter start off positions which I have found are a good starting point for Hip Hop recordings in which the mix has been peaked at -3db)

You will want to do A/B listening comparisons between your working master & a commercially released Rap track that is similar in fashion to your song. You will want your master to become as loud as the commercially released song and translate well on all of the different sound systems/sources.

Just as you will need to do with a mix, after completing your song master save it & leave it alone for a day or two then come back to it with fresh ears and you may have a different perspective onto it & finds things to fix that could have been missed earlier. when you feel your song master is comparable to the commercially released song you are done mastering your new song.

There are many different specialty programs & software plug ins that are designed for Mastering however this article is geared toward those that want to master their songs while using options that are already present on their recording software or workstation. Also remember that Pro Mastering houses will provide you with a master CD that will be verified to be error free in addition to contain special encoding that'll be the master you would want to give to a CD replication/duplication plant to get mass produced CD's. It is really an important feature although it seems in the music business more & more artists are bypassing the cost of getting CD's made & instead having download only releases.

The information in this article should give you a path to follow when trying to master your Hip Hop songs in your own home studio. There aren't any rules set in stone though trial & error have helped to formulate the mastering procedure given above.

Mixtape Mastering