Master Your Tracks Instantly With Promaster by Aftermaster

If you’ve been using TuneCore or reading our blog for the past few years, you know that we’ve tried to highlight the benefits of well-mastered releases. Mastering is an art that can vastly improve the sound of your recorded music – and it once took knowing an audio engineer who specializes in this process to make it a possibility. It could also be more costly for those releasing on an indie budget.

In an effort to solve this, a little while back TuneCore began offering Aftermaster in our suite of Artist Services – a brilliant program that connects independent artists in need of mastering with GRAMMY Award winning engineers at a reasonable cost. Artists without the local resources or connections to high quality mastering options could now use Aftermaster to easily coordinate this studio magic-making in advance of their release.

Now, we’re psyched to announce a new and even more cost-friendly solution for instant mastering: Promaster by Aftermaster. TuneCore has expanded its partnership with Aftermaster in order to offer our artists the finest instant mastering tool on the market right now to polish their recently recorded tracks.

Promaster by Aftermaster is unlike any other instant mastering product in that it was wholly developed by artists, producers and audio engineers to streamline the mastering and storage process without compromising quality or creative intent. It uses cutting edge audio processing systems developed internally to instantly master audio to the highest standards.

Since we’re in the business of hooking artists up, Promaster by Aftermaster is ready to offer special rates exclusively for TuneCore Artists. For $9.95 per single and $24.95 per album, TuneCore Artists can also enjoy the following features:

  • Receive four versions of each track: ‘Powerful’, ‘Radio Ready’,’Bass Enhanced’ and ‘Vocal Enhanced
  • Free preview of your masters before you purchase
  • Master an entire album at once, ensuring consistency
  • Monthly and annual subscriptions available

Whether you just wrapped up in the studio, recorded a new single in your bedroom, or feel like revisiting some never-released tracks – polish ‘em up fast at a price that doesn’t break the bank.

Learn more about TuneCore’s partnership with Promaster by Aftermaster here, or if you’re ready to start instantly mastering your tracks, get after it!

How Streaming Will Change the Sound of Pop Music

[Editors Note: This is a guest blog written by Jason Moss. Jason is an LA-based mixer, producer and engineer. His clients include Sabrina Carpenter, Madilyn Bailey, GIVERS and Dylan Owen. Check out his mixing tips at Behind The Speakers.]

Last year, the U.S. music industry made more money from streaming than CDs or digital downloads.

The times, they are a-changin’.

In case you haven’t noticed, the way we consume music is shifting. You’ve likely read about how this is impacting artists. But no one’s talking about how it will impact the sound of pop music.

Streaming won’t just change the way pop music is consumed, but also the way it’s created. This shouldn’t be surprising. In fact, there’s always been a relationship between music, medium, and distribution. For proof, look to the past.

In the 60’s, Motown built records for radio. Short song lengths allowed for the regular interjection of ads, and long intros gave DJs the freedom to talk over tracks. In the 1980’s, the dawn of the CD gave way to longer-form content. The average album’s length increased from 40 minutes to well over an hour. And since it was no longer important to maintain the integrity of vinyl grooves , records started sporting wider low ends and louder levels. (Is it any surprise that hip hop emerged as a dominant genre during this time?) In the 2000’s, Apple’s decision to unbundle the album and offer single-track downloads on iTunes shifted the trajectory of the music industry once again. After an album-oriented trend that lasted decades, singles once again became the primary focus.

Throughout the history of the music business, the goal was always the same: get people to purchase records. Once that purchase was made, it didn’t matter whether the record was played or not.

The traditional pop music-making process evolved to serve these intentions. Infectious, hook-heavy records were crafted to drive listeners to the checkout aisle. The biggest hits seemed inescapable for a month or two, but often disappeared as quickly as they emerged. But as far as the music industry was concerned, this was irrelevant. As long as people bought the CD or downloaded the song, we were happy.

But streaming has completely changed the game. For the first time, financial success is no longer based on one-time sales, but on ongoing streams. The more a track is played, the bigger the payout. The implications of this shift are massive.

On streaming platforms, flash-in-the-pan tracks that burn bright and fade fast are less lucrative than ever. The most profitable pop songs instead burrow their way into the hearts of listeners, inspiring millions of streams for years to come. Success is no longer about the hit, but the replay.

This shift introduces a powerful new incentive to foster deeper, longer-lasting relationships with listeners. While tracks will still need to be hook-laden enough to inspire an immediate connection, they must also be worth listening to hundreds, if not thousands of times.

What will this mean for the pop hits of the future? We can only guess. As terrestrial radio continues to become less relevant, song structures and arrangements will likely become more fluid. New, innovative mediums may even emerge. Who says a recording has to present the same experience with every play? What if tracks evolved over time? What if, after one hundred plays, a bonus verse emerged? As play count becomes a dominant metric for measuring the success of tracks, ideas like these are fair game.

One thing’s for sure—as streaming continues to emerge as the dominant platform for music consumption, the sound of pop music will change. Will you change with it?

5 Tips To Avoid Ruining Your Mix With Muddy Sound

[Editors Note: This article was written by Scott Parsons and was originally featured on the LANDR Blog, of which he is the editor of! Make to check out LANDR Instant Mastering for an afford way to polish your new tunes.]

Just like Moms say: ‘leave the mud outside.’

A muddy mix sounds bad. If there’s mud then frequencies are fighting, nothing is popping, and it’s difficult to hear each part.

It used to happen to me all the time. My mixes would blur together into a giant ball of meh.

Everything sounded fine soloed, but my mixes lacked clarity and punch.

My tracks needed de-mudding.

It’s time to start leaving the mud out of your mix for good. Don’t waste time going back to clean it later. Use these tips to get better at mixing music.

Here’s everything you need to know to keep the mud where it belongs.

IT’S AN EQ THING

Fixing a muddy mix comes down to EQing.

EQing is adjustments you make to highs, mid-range, and lows of your sound.

Typically, a snare or a cymbal will register in the mid to high range. A kick drum or bass pad will show up in the lower mids or all the way in the lows.

The tricky part is that all sounds can register in the high, mid, and low frequencies.

For example, a snare or a vocal will tend to have some low frequencies that get cluttered up with all the other lows.

If you’re not sure what frequency is all about Google’s amazing new Spectrogram tool is a great way to visualize sounds. I recommend comparing the flute to the trombone.

CAN’T THE LOWS ALL JUST GET ALONG?

Low end instruments also end up fighting to stand out on the same frequencies. This causes some major mudding.

The cluttering of frequencies is what causes a muddy mix.

Fixing these elements will make your mix clearer, crisper and punchier.

Follow these simple steps to de-mud all your mixes.

1. CUT THE MUD FROM THE START

The easiest way to avoid a muddy mix is to ensure that you’re working with the cleanest possible samples and recordings.

If your tracks are crisp and polished from the beginning there will be less unwanted noise floating around.

Plus, the cleaner your tracks are, the more responsive they are to certain processes. It will make the cleaning process much easier later on.

If you start with Grade-A sound, it’s easier to get a Grade-A mix.

2. PANNING AGAINST THE MUD

When you’re getting a first rough mix together panning is crucial to set you up for success later. Plus it’s a good way to get a bit of the mud out of the mix early on.

Good panning will give each instrument its own space in the stereo image so it’s not fighting other instruments.

If you have lead vocals start by leaving them in the centre. Same thing goes for bass. Once you have those centred you can pan everything else around them.

Panning is a creative process, so your pans are up to you and your ear.

But try to keep instruments that sound similar on opposite sides from one another. Don’t hard pan all the way to the left or right unless it fits, just find a good medium.

You should also make sure that your mix isn’t left or right heavy. Poor panning can make your mix lopsided. So check for balance often.

Hot Tip: use headphones and monitors to get a full sense of what your pans are doing. Using only headphones gives you an overly exaggerated sense of your stereo image.

3. LISTEN TO EVERY TRACK SOLOED

You’ve probably already listened to your overall mix. That’s how you know if it’s muddy or not.

Now it’s time to solo each track and pinpoint where the biggest bad boominess problems are.

Start by soloing your lowest tracks. These will typically be a bass drum, or bass guitar. It’s best to start with your drums and go from there.

solo

Listen for any unwanted boominess (don’t try and fix it yet, just listen so you know what needs work).

Slowly unsolo each track and listen for which frequencies are fighting each other in that all-important mid-low frequency area.

To get a better sense of what’s clashing, I like to use a multi-channel frequency analyzer like Voxnego’s SPAN.

It’s one of many helpful free VST plugins. It will help you visually see where frequencies are clashing.

This will give you a good idea of what needs to be fixed during corrective EQing.

4. PARDON ME, BUT COULD YOU PLEASE PASS THE HIGHS AND THE LOWS?

Your best friend for corrective EQing is the high and low pass filter. You’ll notice a difference immediately.

When applied, a high pass filter allows only frequencies above a certain frequency to pass.

hipass

They’re perfect for getting rid of unwanted low end on tracks that register mainly in the higher frequencies—like vocals or a lead synth. Which means less mud.

Most DAW software has a simple EQ for all your high and low pass needs. I used EQ Eight in Bitwig.

A low pass is filter is the opposite of the high pass. It only let’s through the lows below the frequency you set.

Use it to roll off some of the highs that might be sneaking through into areas where you don’t need them.

Feel free to use the high and low pass filters to free up your best possible sound. They’re a perfect starting point for correcting EQ across your entire mix.

5. CARVING EQ

The most common part of a mix that gets muddy is the 200-500Hz area.

Fixing it is as easy as carving out a bit of space in these frequencies.

Carve

Go back to your EQ insert on the tracks that are still sounding a bit muffled. Select the frequency range that you’d like to target and tweak it until it’s sounding better.

Each audio track needs specific frequency settings and unique gain cuts.

So go through each track and carve out whatever sounds best for that track. But be careful. Removing too much can lead to a mix that’s too thin.

In this step you may have to sacrifice some good frequencies on a track in order to benefit your whole mix.

DIG DEEPER TO CUT YOUR MUD

Like all audio production, It’s important to start with the basics.

These tips will get you started with corrective EQ. But dig deeper into your mix and make changes on a micro level.

There are no overall best practices for EQing of this type.

Your music is unique. The only way to find your best sound is to tweak these concepts to your tracks.

That means listening to your mix on a deep level and applying corrective EQ that suits your track’s specific needs.

Free your sound from that nasty mud. Your mix will sound punchier, clearer and overall better.

Which is what everyone wants at the end of the day: better sound.

5 Tips For Quality Home Recordings

[Editors Note: This is a guest blog written by Joey StrugisProducer, mixer, recording engineer, programmer, writer, performer – Sturgis is multi-talented, and for a full decade he has brought these powers to bear on nouveau strains of metalcore, post-hardcore, electronicore, and more, shaping a revolutionary new wave of hard music.]

1. Fix your listening space

Recording, mixing, and producing all comes down to one centralized focus, a great listening environment. If you don’t know what you’re hearing, you don’t know what you’re mixing or creating. I can’t stress this enough, make sure your room doesn’t have bad reflections, weird resonating frequencies, or distracting acoustical properties. If you encounter any of these problems, use the internet to help you solve them. A great resource for something like this is TapeOp’s Acoustics category.

2. Reference everything

Want to sound like the pros? Listen to the pros, and compare your work to theirs. Don’t be biased and be honest with yourself. Does your mix cut like theirs? If not, be willing to go back to the drawing board time and time again. Just be careful not to pigeon hole yourself into being a copycat. Use this tip as a technique for improvement rather than a guide for ripping off success.

3. Great sound isn’t by magic

You don’t need quirky plugins, cool trendy techniques, or even magic tricks sold by thousands on the web to get a great sound. Mixing is fundamentally just dynamics and tone, and you can accomplish all of that with just Volume, Pan, EQ, and compression. Master those four things, and you’ll be on your way to unlocking great sounding work in no time. Add on the extra layers of sauce later!

4. Don’t focus on the small stuff

Don’t forget that 99% of a great song is actually just the song itself. All that time you wasted on getting your snare to sound like x could have been spent worrying about better vocal melodies or even better vocal performances. Don’t get so caught up in the small stuff; nine times out of ten the small tweaks don’t resonate with people as much as the actual song itself does. Present it well, that’s the main point!

5. Take your time

Don’t rush to the finish line! Sure, the more time you spend on a song, the more it rots. Alternatively, the less time you spend on a song, the worse it gets. Be careful about the balance here, and try to find the sweet spot that matches your creative flow. Spend too long on a track, and you’ll massage it to the death. Spend too short of time on a track, and you’ll experience negative feedback. If you’re in a hurry, slow it down. Take your time to hear the song a few days after not hearing it to return with a fresh perspective.


Joey Sturgis 33Joey Sturgis has racked up a massive list of credits for a who’s who of modern cutting edge metal, channeling the raw power of bands like Asking Alexandria, Attack Attack!, Born of Osiris, Of Mice & Men, Attila, We Came As Romans, Blessthefall, I See Stars, and many more. Follow his podcast here.

4 Reasons Why All Musicians Should Know Basic Recording and Mixing Techniques

[Editors Note: This is article is by Belinda Huang and it originally appeared on the Sonicbids Blog. On top of being a contributing writer for Sonicbids and The Berklee Groove, Belinda is also a production & engineering major at Berklee College of Music.]

The process of recording music can seem quite daunting, and in many ways it is, but it’s also a powerful way to take your musicianship up a notch. Even if you aren’t a producer and have no interest in engineering, having basic recording skills will go a long way and pay itself off.

I started a little home studio from scratch years ago for the sole purpose of having a way to record my music as a singer-songwriter. Along the way, however, I’ve learned a surprising amount about music – arranging, creating grooves and beats, writing harmonies and counterpoint melodies, balancing levels, etc. It’s definitely to your advantage in many ways to have a basic understanding of the recording process, and here we’ll explore some of the major benefits.

1. Technology is a powerful tool for expressing your creativity

We all know by now that technology is as powerful as you make it. Knowing how to utilize your computer, an audio interface, and a microphone will provide you with the fundamental resources for a home studio and a basic understanding of how the recording process works. From setting up a microphone to setting levels on a mic preamp to operating a DAW (digital audio workstation) – you’ll be equipped with skills that will give you greater command over your creative process. You’ll be able to lay down ideas right on your computer, experiment by overdubbing parts or harmonies, mock up arrangements for your songs – basically, you can be as infinitely creative as you choose to be once you have the tech side down.

2. You can whip up your own demos (and do it your way)

Let’s face it, we all need demos, and we’ll never stop needing demos. Whether it’s a demo to pitch to publishers, a demo to send a barebones idea to a producer, or a demo to send to your band, they’re crucial, and sometimes voice memos on your phone just don’t cut it. Having recording basics under your belt will ensure that whenever you need a demo, you’ll be able to create one without the hassle of finding someone else to do it for you. I also find that when I track on my own, I sound better because I’m not under any pressure. I can take my time and do as many takes as I want to get it just how I like it. I’m also in a familiar space where I’m comfortable creating, so I’m naturally more expressive.

3. You’ll improve your communication with producers

Knowledge is power, and the better you understand how sound works, the more you’ll be able to command just how you want things to sound . If you’re working with a producer, one of the most crucial elements is communication. I fiddled around with a little recording rig for years doing tons of little projects with my songs and arranging parts for them. When I finally started working with a producer, I was able to say things like, “I want the high-pass filter to open up more slowly so that washing effect doesn’t sound so drastic,” or, “Let’s try a reverb with a faster decay time so it doesn’t sound like I’m in a giant concert hall,” instead of being completely unaware of what was happening to my music.

4. You’ll gain transferable skills

The fundamentals behind the technology we use for music, whether in the studio or on stage, is the same. For example, you’ll want to know the difference between a TS cable and a TRS cable (which look nearly the same) because that can mean the difference between your signal coming through or not coming through. Knowing that you need a DI box for your acoustic guitar in order to plug into an XLR input is crucial both in the studio and on the road. Technology can be your best friend or bite you in the butt, so again, the more you know what you’re doing and how it works, the more control you will have in all situations in the studio and beyond.

The takeaways from getting your feet wet in the recording side of music are vast and as infinite as you choose to delve in and experiment. I think all artists and musicians should have some basic understanding of the process, and the more technology advances as the years go by, the more crucial it will be to ensure success and longevity in this business.


 Get a free PDF of The Indie Musician’s Ultimate Guide to Booking Great Gigs by Sonicbids, featuring pro tips and advice from musicians, venue owners, and talent buyers.

5 Tips for Cherry-Picking a Professional Mastering Studio

By Dwight Brown

Mastering enhances the OVERALL sound of your music. Professional mastering can give your tunes the same high-quality sound that big labels get for their recordings, priming them for downloads, streaming, radio play…

According to Jeff Strong’s guide Home Recording For Musicians For Dummies, which has a chapter called Hiring a Professional Mastering Engineer, there are some key tips to making the experience of hiring a professional mastering studio/engineer a successful venture.

1. Ask around for referrals.

If you know local bands or musicians whose music you like and whose CD sounds great, ask them who mastered their music. Call local studios and find out who they recommend for mastering in your area.

2. Listen to other recordings that the mastering house has done in a style of music similar to yours.

If you like what the prospective mastering engineer has done on other people’s music, you’ll probably like what he/she does with yours.


3. Clarify the fee for your project before you start working together.

Most mastering engineers charge by the hour and can give you a pretty good estimate of how many hours they will need to do the job.

4. If you don’t like the way the engineer mastered your music, you’ll probably be charged an hourly rate to redo it.

Be sure to discuss this possibility before you start the project so there are no surprises.

5. Many mastering engineers can do a demo of one or two of your songs.

This way you can hear what kind of job they can do to your music before you hire them. Ask whether the mastering engineer you’re interested in offers this service.

This can save both you and the engineer a lot of time and energy if he or she isn’t right for the job. It can also help you determine whether your mixed music is ready for mastering.

There are seasoned professionals who can take the sound of your stereo mixes to another level. They do it for Grammy-winning, multi-platinum artists. Why shouldn’t you and your music get the same high-quality service? Go for it.

Read the full Hiring a Professional Mastering Engineer article.

Check out AfterMaster Audio Labs.

TuneCore is proud to work with AfterMaster Audio Labs to connect independent artists with top engineers in order to master their new music! AfterMaster helps artists to mix and master their music quickly and confidentially. Learn more about this service!