Mastering in the box with Ableton Live 9

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Review and competition to win a copy of this 8 hour course worth £50!

1 Mastering In The Box With Live - HighRez - 1000x1000-11

This course consists of 8 hours of videos from Nick D’Ombrain, owner of Zeitgeist Mastering, and is brought to you by, which is part of Producertech. 

Nick starts by building a mastering template, but this contains no actual effects. This is provided as a download to get you going, along with some racks and pdfs. He stresses that there is no such thing as one size fits all in mastering. In module 3 he takes a look at some of Ableton’s mastering racks, and explains his obvious difference of opinion with some elements of them. Module 4 is a solid 96 minutes of mastering tips. 

In the next few modules (5-8) he builds some custom effects racks — an exciter, bass maximiser, stereo enhancer, and explains mid side EQ and processing. You should build these yourself as you follow the tutorial, but they are also provided in the downloads. 

Next Nick shows you how to put it all together in a custom mastering rack, and in module 10 he takes you through mastering a track in detail. At the end there is a short video on alternatives to limiting  to achieve loudness. 

This is a nicely presented course. Nick is very thoughtful as in he thinks about his craft a lot, and clearly wants to teach it properly. His presentation is easy to listen to as well as thorough and clear, so I have no hesitation in recommending this as the ideal way to start mastering your own tracks. 

For a chance to win a copy, just post a comment at the bottom, or in an email to me, saying briefly why you’d like to win it. The winner will be picked at random at the end of January. 

Module Details

1. Module 1 - Introduction (Click to watch free)

A few words on what to expect throughout this complete course, as we embark on a mastering journey!

2. Module 2 - A Master Beginning – How to best Master with Accuracy & Confidence

A look into creating a Mastering Project Template for best workflow in Live; gaining some consistency between masters, be it single tracks, an EP or an Album. Using reference tracks in combination with level and spectral metering and how stay confident that we're on the right track when seeking a balanced audio master. We also briefly discuss other vital topics such as: Different DAWs, Monitoring, Acoustics & Soundcards.

3. Module 3 - Where to start – A look into Live's Effects & Mastering Racks

It's time to start getting familiar with what we might use on a mastering chain. The options are vast and varied, so we take a look at Live's Mastering rack presets for inspiration and discuss their possible pros and cons.

4. Module 4 - Pro Audio Mastering Tips – Ableton Live 9

A thorough look at common mastering trends and the way to get the best out of our mastering tools. Learn how compression can be extremely versatile when tailored to specific needs. We cover EQ and some very helpful features of Live's fabulous new EQ Eight, different forms of Mastering Compression (Glue, Parallel, Multiband, etc.), Stereo Enhancement, Reverb, Saturation, Limiting & even a brief practical problem solving example on applying Mid Side EQ. This chapter comes with a handy 13-page pdf booklet containing a full summary of all of the main points & tips.

5. Module 5 -Building Custom Mastering Weapons Pt. 1 (Aphex Style Exciter)

It's time to expand the toolbox that we have at our fingertips, and think about custom designing a few specific mastering weapons. The famous Aphex Aural Exciter sound can be fairly closely simulated in Live, with just a bit of effort. In this chapter we’ll put it together, explaining the thought process and every step along the way.

6. Module 6 - Building Custom Mastering Weapons Pt. 2 (Bass Maximiser)

Similarly to Chapter 5, in this module we’ll consider how we can achieve a little extra bass, especially when mastering for good translation on small systems or speakers. It's not uncommon in the age of the Internet to make sure that the bass or the low end of a track can be heard on systems of all sizes, including tinny PC speakers or trashy mp3 headphones. The plugin we build here will do exactly that and can be compared to the likes of the Waves MaxxBass example.

7. Module 7 - Building Custom Mastering Weapons Pt. 3 (Stereo Enhancer)

Stereo Enhancement is a very sought after & necessary tool in any mastering arsenal. Since we do not have anything of mastering quality at our fingertips in the standard range of plugins, we’ll look at how we can best assemble an enhancer that is both flexible and musical. You’ll wonder how you lived without it! By the end of Pt. 3, you’ll be confident with macros, control mapping, audio effects racks and signal chains within Ableton Live.

8. Module 8 - Mid Side EQ & Mid Side Processing

Mid Side EQ is a seriously valuable mastering tool with many benefits. It is here where we can really start to bring our mastering shaping into the next dimension! This chapter will give you a great intro into the mastering uses of Mid Side EQ and the concept behind it. Live makes it easy! We’ll also put together a handy Mid Side EQ Rack for dropping into any Mastering Chain and learn about the endless creative potential of Mid Side processing.

9. Module 9 - Build Your Own Custom Mastering Rack

Build a dedicated Mastering Rack with all the bells and whistles dedicated to your needs, making mastering a much simpler and straightforward process. It will also really help you learn the ins and outs of Live and its massive potential and could help to develop a signature sound. Also included is an intuitive pdf guide with a visual approach to achieving a specific sounding master.

10. Module 10 - Preparing and Mastering a Track from start to finish

Take a hot seat in the studio with a pro mastering engineer and go through the thought process from start to finish as we put together everything that we've learnt and our custom mastering tools to achieve an industry-ready master. We also cover the basics of premastering.

11. Module 11 - Loudness Trick - Alternative to Limiting

In this Chapter, we look at 2 new ways of adding final loudness or character to our mastering chain without the use of a limiter. Live is very versatile and these simple alternatives can make all the difference to that overall mastered sound.

12. Module 12 - Vinyl Mastering Considerations (Mastering a Track for Vinyl)

A rare opportunity to learn some tips on mastering for vinyl. We work through a practical example and look at treating various things like sibilance and harsh notes so that we can be safe knowing that our master will translate well to vinyl. Everything you need to know if you're mastering for a vinyl release.

13. Module 13 - Live Mastering Summary

The journey is complete, or is it just beginning? Final thoughts about mastering in today's world and where Ableton Live 9 fits in.

14. Module 14 - BONUS MODULE - Building and Applying a 3-Band Exciter & Mid Side Compressor

We are not finished yet! We'll build 2 more extremely useful mastering tools. The Mid Side Compressor can really achieve results that a standard compressor cannot as we experienced in the mastering of a full track chapter. The 3-Band Exciter is simple in design but also very effective – a plug-in of desired taste but nonetheless a great alternative way to add a touch of bass impact, mid presence or warmth, or even some high sizzle to a master! 

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