So, you've put together a recording of a song. You want it to sound its best, but what exactly is "mastering"? It's not just about adding more effects to your track. Let's discuss the nature of mastering and how it can benefit your music.
Mastering is the final step before releasing a song
It ensures that your music will sound great when played on any system, be it a home stereo, a portable device, or even a club system.
Mastering is not part of the mixing process but rather an additional post-production step that transforms a "good" recording into a "great" one.
What is the difference between mixing and mastering
The term "mixing" refers to the process of putting together all the different parts of a song (instruments, vocals, etc.) into a single, unified whole. Mastering can begin once you've finished mixing and are satisfied with how everything sounds.
Mastering is the last step before sending your song to record labels or production companies. It's what gives you a sense of how everything will come together as a whole when you listen to an album or playlist, while also helping you appreciate each piece on its own.
What tools do mastering engineers use?
Equalization, or "EQ" for short, is the process of making changes to a sound's frequency range. To put it another way, it can be used to attenuate unwanted frequencies while amplifying desired ones.
The use of compression can help your music sound louder. A track's dynamic range is narrowed as a result, with soft passages becoming louder and louder passages becoming softer. This normalizes the volume, making it more pleasant for your listeners in some cases. This means that if your song alternates between loud and soft sections, compression will make them more uniform in volume.
The term "stereo imaging" refers to the method used to create the illusion that sounds on a recording are coming from different locations. You can accomplish this with M-S processing or a stereo enhancer plugin, both of which will expand and deepen the audio field.
Saturation, as a form of distortion, can enrich a sound with character and warmth. Further, it can boost the amplitude of a sound, making it more audible. Most of the time, mastering engineers use saturation to make songs sound louder at the cost of the transients in the mix.
Can a mixing engineer also do mastering?
Mastering engineers can be mixing engineers. However, mastering is a separate skill from mixing and requires a different set of skills. Mastering engineers listen for overall patterns and harmony while mixing engineers hear individual instruments and vocals.
While some engineers prefer to split their work up into distinct phases, such as mixing and mastering, others would rather keep everything under one roof. To maintain flexibility to make changes to the mixing, for instance, I prefer keeping everything in one project.
Can you do mastering for your own songs?
You may want to consider mastering your own music. If you want your songs to sound professional, you need to hire a mastering engineer, and the best place to find one is online. Of course, you can do it on your own if all you want to do is learn and have fun.
The cost of acoustic treatment and monitoring equipment for a home mastering studio would be prohibitive for most people, but high-quality headphones and mastering plugins can achieve results that are largely identical.
Have you ever wondered how your song would sound after being mastered by the pros?
Send me your mix via email, and I'll create a test master so you can hear how it would sound if your song were mastered professionally.