03 Feb What is Mastering?
Now that so many musicians are able to record entire albums in their own homes or studios, mastering is becoming an increasingly important stage in the music making process.
Analogue mastering means your tunes (which may have lived their entire digital lives within your computer) will be played through a selection of classic, industry-standard and dedicated mastering outboard equipment – breathing real-world life into those ones and zeros of digital data.
Mastering is the final process (between mixing and replication) that allows you to fix problems and/or enhance the audio in order that your music sounds comparable to commercial music.
Mastering may involve some, all or none(!) of the following treatments:
- cleaning up any ‘muddiness’ in the low end and the mix in general
- reducing sibilance and/or harshness
- smoothing out sonic irregularities
- improving ambiance and/or presence
- adding ‘air’ and ‘sparkle’
- maximising volume (and creating consistency in levels across an album)
- creating warmth and reducing the ‘digital’ sound
Often by the time a mix is done everyone involved is a little frazzled, having heard the songs many times over in order to get the mix right. The advantage of using a mastering engineer is their ‘fresh set of ears’ which can evaluate and treat the music in a non-biased and experienced fashion, applying only the processes the engineer thinks relevant to the overall presentation of the tracks rather than getting bogged down with details within a mix.
The other advantage of course is the the mastering-specific equipment found in mastering facilities like MASTERWORKS. This equipment has been designed and built with only the mastering process in mind. With ultra-clean converters, compressors, limiters and EQs etc. designed for only this one task, the advantage is audibly clear!
Mastering can make the difference between your tune sounding like a demo or a radio-friendly record. If you are serious about your music and want to compete with the endless number of bands/artists out there, then your tunes need to been given every advantage possible.