What is Audio Mastering?
Audio mastering is the process of getting music finalized for playback on any system. Due to the nature of the audio spectrum and frequencies in which sound operates, for a collection of sounds that form a song existing within that spectrum to be played and sound the same on any system isn’t quite as simple as one might expect. So mastering aims for this to be possible, and to give a track colour, flavour and tone that is pleasing to the ear.
What do you use to master music?
A collection of EQs and compressors, and saturation effects – that’s it! Every track is different and requires different equipment, and each mastering engineer has their own preference. I too have my own ‘secret sauce’ of equipment that I’ve come to trust through trial and error, and use to get the job done. Some tracks are mixed so well they require nothing at all, so it all depends.
Why should I use you and not just go to an online mastering website that uses algorithms at a fraction of the cost?
I’m glad you asked because in my search for ‘the perfect master’ and to gain a level of objectivity over my own music, I tried & tested many of these sites, and they never mastered anything to my satisfaction. There was no flavour or colour to the final product. And often it would lack some punch, or a band of EQ wouldn’t be where I thought it should be to enhance my track.
It was a very cookie cutter type of result that may have improved one thing, but missed something else, and didn’t make my mix stand out from anything else out there because I couldn’t express to the algorithm that I knew what I wanted the track to sound like. This is the whole reason I taught myself to master music, and do a course, so that I could get the inside industry secrets from those who know, and keep the human element which I think is 100% important in this day and age.
Why don't I just master my music then... why come to you?
You can master yourself! But it is often the case that when you are familiar with your own music, having mixed and crafted it, you can lose some objectivity and might not be able to hear the track as it would be heard by someone with fresh ears. I still now send my music to other people to master when this happens as it is always a better option to have a fresh set of ears go over your work, because they will doubtlessly be able to hear issues in the mix that you couldn’t hear yourself.
If I do master my own music, then I usually put the track away for a couple of months and return to it when i’ve regained some objectivity.
How long does it take you to master a track?
I usually set the time scale between 2-24 hours. Sometimes not much work needs doing at all, other times a track can fight to get to where it needs to be and take longer.
What do you need me to do before sending my track into you?
It is always required to remove master bus processing where possible, especially limiting. The limiter is the final stage in the mastering chain, so if there is already a limiter working on the track, then it does actually ‘limit’ what I can do too. It is also a requirement to leave at least -6db of headroom for me to work with, to add whatever processes I need to bring the track up to commercial levels.
I like the way a certain track sounds. Can you make it sound like that?
It depends. It is often a misconception that mastering is the be all and end all of how a track sounds, when really, many of the elements of a song, whether it be compression or stereo width, are actually achieved in the mixing stage. Mastering can only really enhance what is already there and add an overall veneer to the sound. For example, if you’ve made a house track and want it pumping with compression, but the dry stereo mixdown isn’t pumping, then the master will likely not have much of a pumping compression sound either. Yes one can be added, but a lot of the other sounds that are not supposed to have that vibe will suddenly have it, and it could make for a muddy sounding mix. It is always advisable to get your mix sounding as close to how you want it to sound as much as possible before it reaches the mastering engineer, who can then add to and enhance that sound and style.
The bottom line is, you know how your mix should sound, and we can discuss how to achieve that before the mastering process begins. Providing me with reference tracks is always recommended, and if I spot anything in the mix that I think will give you a better master, then I can advise you it. Working tightly together and communicating is always something I encourage in order to achieve your vision efficiently, and with as little confusion as possible.
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