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Will Stanley

Noob question about Master Volume

Question

When making my final mix before the mastering stage - how high should I set my master volume, and can I use it to tone down the entire mix a bit so I have more headroom in mastering, or should I rely on setting other tracks/buses lower?

Sorry if this question doesn't make sense, I'm still learning...

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The rule of thumb is  to have the 'pre-master' peaking at no more than -6dB. But if you're going to master the mix on the Master bus in the same project, you'll want to use the input Gain to pull down the level ahead of the FX bus where you'll be putting mastering plugins. If you're going to export the mix for someone else to master or to do mastering in another project or another application yourself, you can use Volume to bring the level of the exported file down.

I do it all in one project by basically renaming the Master bus to 'Pre-Master' and putting another 'Master' bus between that bus and the hardware outs. I can get away with doing it all in one project because my projects tend to be pretty lightweight to begin with in terms of  plugin load.

Another trick I use for doing it all in one project is to put a third 'Main Outs' bus between the Master and the hardware outs. This can be used  to control output volume to the monitoring system without affecting metering on the Master. This is also where my metronome bus outputs so I can keep it from clipping the output when the Master is maxed out.

Also, when I like how the Master is sounding, I can bounce that to a 'Master' track that outputs directly to that 'Main Outs' bus, and group the mute on that track in opposition with the Master bus mute to A/B between them as I make more tweaks to the live Master. Additional bounces can be made to new lanes of the 'Master' track, and the lane solo muttons used to A/B/C/D... between all the different mixes/masters. I started doing this long before the Mix Recall function came along. Using  Mix Recall on top of this gives me the best of all words - superfast and easy A/B switching with 'hard copies' of everything plus and the ability to recall the settings of whichever mix/master I finally settle on as the best... so far ;^).

And finally, the trick of bouncing the master bus to a track means your final, mastered mix is saved with the project, and you can easily tell whether the rendered file is a faithful representation of the live mix. You can even invert the phase on the Master track and play it back in parallel with the live mix on the Master bus to check for nulling (just remove the mute grouping first, and keep in mind that some synth and FX plugins may behave slightly differently from one playback to the next, causing less-than-perfect nulling, unless the tracks are frozen).

Hmmm... that got longer than intended...  Hope it helps.

 

 

 

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Your best bet is to watch a few tutorials on Mastering in Cakewalk. It's to complicated to explain properly in a paragraph as Dave just found out :) 

There is a tutorial sub form here or quicker is just do a google search for Mastering in Cakewalk. Creative Sauce are my go to videos. He's easy to follow and uses mostly free plug ins. 

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