Mastering Rap Instrumentals

March 17, 2013 // News

Guidelines and general practices for mastering rap instrumentals.

So you’ve gotten to the point where your mixes are pretty stellar. Things are panned appropriately, gain levels are balanced, and the frequency spectrum isn’t cluttered. Let’s cut to the chase: How Do You Achieve Radio Loudness? How do you master rap instrumentals?

Mastering Rap Instrumentals

Most engineers and audiophiles would argue about one wanting to “master” an instrumental. Afterall, a lone “beat” doesn’t even have any vocals. Why anyone would want to “master” that would almost seem foolish. However, mastering rap instrumentals is an important aspect when shopping music to artists. Basically what we’d be doing in this scenario is bringing the overall dB up to (or right below) 0.0dB. Generally, professional producers opt for a condenser microphone for studio recording.


Loudness Mastering

Bringing your gain up to 0.0dB (to match the volume of commercial releases) can be done in any DAW using any of it’s stock plugins. Specifically, you want to search for your native DAW’s Limiter. We’re going to use the limiter to increase the “perceieved volume” (while keeping actual the headroom down to -3-5dB). To accomplish this, we put limiters on the master channels of our rap instrumentals to “squash” the dynamics and create more “density”.

Now, it’s easy to go overboard with a limiter. They take some time to get used to. It’s fairly easy to neuter your dynamic range (cutting off peaks). This can result in your rap instrumentals sounding “heavy”, or “squashed”. It truly takes trial and error to achieve the desired results from loudness mastering.

Mastering Suites

When it comes to mixing hip hop or rap instrumentals, “mastering suites” are your cheat codes. Yes, softwares such as Ozone, Spectralive, and MClass are our GameSharks here. Mastering Suites are all-in-one softwares (sometimes huge bundles) that aim to take our mixes to a professional, pristine level of mastering. Almost sounded too good to be true.

Using mastering suites in music production is pretty straight forward. Whenever I’m working on a piece or a few rap beats I always put my mastering suite (Ozone) on the master channel. I actually start up the template with it already inserted and just build the track with it enabled. Saves time to mix it as I go.

About the author

Chris Smith (Blue22™) • Music Producer • Author • Contemporary Keyboardist • Born August 5th, 1990 in Dallas, Tx. Founded ShadezOfBlue LLC in late 2012.