What to expect from mastering
Learn what mastering is and what you can realistically expect when you hire a mastering engineer.
The mystery of mastering
Mastering is one of those things that to newer artists and sometime even to experienced artists, is the world’s most profound mystery.
You probably know that mastering will improve the sound quality and you’re meant to master your music, but what does that really mean? What is mastering and how is it going to realistically affect your music?
Mastering engineers cannot work miracles
difference between Mastering & mixing
Mixing is made before the mastering. It is the art of balancing several different audio tracks (mostly recorded) to make a round and balanced sound that fits the genre. When mixing is done good a mastering engineer can boost a B mix to an A mix. or an A mix to a A+ mix. But if the mix is bad or a recording isn`t mixed and doesnt sound right you shouldn*t give it to a mastering engineer to fix it because it wont work. Mastering engineers cannot work miracles. First get the Mixing right and then give it to Mastering.
Target of Mastering
Mastering is a process that prepares a song for distribution after it is mixed by another professional. Mastering is applied to one file only – one song – the final mix. A mastering engineer takes into account the destination format (CD, vinyl, streaming, etc.) and then proceeds to optimize playback of the song accordingly.
It commonly includes the use of high quality EQs, Stereo enhancements (imagers), dynamics processors, saturators, limiters, and meters. Some mastering engineers opt to create transparent masters (that sound as close to the pre-mastered version as possible), while others like to apply their own style via coloration and various other means.
The biggest advance of the mastering engineer is his great acoustic and monitoring.
What to expect
Before investing any time or money into mastering, it’s important to understand the benefits that it provides. Mastering won’t necessarily make your song a hit, but poor mastering can ruin the mix that you’ve worked hard on. A quality mastering engineer will be able to provide a service that does the following things for your song.
1. Make It Presentable for Consumers
Taking a step back from your music and allowing a third party (your mastering engineer) to tackle it with unbiased ears is going to bridge the gap between your vision as an artist, and the people listening to your music (the consumers). A mastering engineer’s main job is to prepare music “for the people”.
2. Ensure Proper Playback Across Various Devices
It’s vital that your music plays back consistently across common devices. These devices include phones, computers, car speakers, and in the club! Keep in mind that most people aren’t listening to music through $1000+ monitors. If your music sounds good on your monitors but falls apart on the devices that most people are using, you need a mastering engineer! Mastering engineers work in sound-treated spaces that provide a flat listening environment. Achieving a balanced master in a space like this helps ensure consistent playback across multiple devices in different listening environments.
3. Provide Clarity Enhancement
Although mastering won’t fix a broken mix, it can provide enhancement to a good one. Assuming your mix is clean, mastering should help pull the track together and give it a sense of “togetherness”. Devices like saturators, exciters, and expanders can target certain frequency ranges and give them more presence in the mix if necessary.
4. Achieve Loudness
Making your music loud is becoming less and less important with streaming services beginning to normalize tracks based off of LUFS (Loudness Units Full Scale), but it’s currently still a vital part of a mastering engineer’s job. This ultra-compressed sound has even become a fundamental building block for a lot of EDM. There’s a way to achieve this sound without destroying your track. It requires a “tight” mix and a carefully executed master.
As the profession progressed, disc jockeys noticed that their listeners enjoyed these processed records more than the quieter, less processed records. This positive reaction on behalf of listeners resulted in better sales, which helped to illustrate the value of employing talented and skilled mastering engineers.
Soon, mastering carved its way into the post-production process, and is now a staple of professionally engineering music.
An important take away from this synopsis is the role of mastering – it is now and has always been, a way to make a mix sound better, and perform better on the medium with which it’s distributed.
With that said, both the technical and creative aspects of making something more enjoyable for listeners work together in this process.
Mastering is now and has always been,
a way to make music sound better.