Making your Master POP - PART 2

"Continuing on our pop mastering session, today we look at EQ for Tonal Balance as well as Reference Tracks.

Most pop mixes are defined by enhanced lows and highs with a nicely balanced midrange. The lows typically focus on the kick and bass, and the highs are exploited to add that shimmer and “expensive polish” to the mix.

Take a pen and note pad. Have a really good listen to the overall tonal balance of the mix. Are there enough lows, mids and highs? Does something need to be turned up or down? Make notes of what needs changing or fixing.

In mastering, subtlety is critical. If you find you are making big adjustments of 3dbs or more, you really should consider having a look at going back to the mix itself.

Too little low end makes the mix sound ‘thin’ and on the other hand, too much low end results in a ‘muddy’ mix. For the low end, achieve clarity and transparency in the mix by removing or reducing any low-end rumble with a high-pass filter. Use a spectrum analyser to zoom in on any problematic frequencies and filter them out. Make sure you use an EQ with transparent filtering options; or you can really mess up the imaging and balance of the mix.

To work on those hard mid-range frequencies, use a parametric EQ. You can really be quite specific in your decision making then. To add that ‘polish’ try some analogue style EQs over the mix. This will add in some character, especially in the high end.

Using a mid/side EQ is great to be able to add the depth and dimension you need in a Pop Master.

A great technique to enhance the stereo image of your Pop Master is to boost the frequencies above 8-10Khz in the side channels. Use a mid side EQ with transparent filters, so that you don’t end up ‘muddying’ the mix, but instead, create clarity and add depth and dimension to the mix.

Reference tracks

In order to remain competitive in the Pop music genre, you need to properly craft the frequency range, dial in the right dynamics and keep up to date with the current Pop sonic trends. The only real way that you can achieve this is by using reference tracks.

Each sub-genre of pop will have a distinct sonic signature. Dark Pop for instance is characterized by more emphasis on the low frequency, with a darker warmer sound, the highs rolled of, and sometimes even more lo-fi sounds. Power Pop has a brighter, more ‘shimmer, glistening’ sonic signature. Each mix in each POP sub-genre will have its own identity. Look for the familiar and common themes between the songs. Listen especially closely to the balance between each instrument.

Make some notes, and then address each area of your track to make it similar in sound balance to your reference track. Use your Spectrum Analyser and Goniometer to help you see what the changes you are making are doing!

Here’s a video to demonstrate the necessity of using EQ subtly, as well as showing you Mid/side EQ in action. "