Mastering, what is it?
here is a great piece from Paul Wright from Cosmic Mastering:-
I was recently asked by Joel from Univibe Audio to write a piece about audio mastering and why its so important in todays competitive music industry.
Ive been the Mastering Engineer at Cosmic Online Mastering for several years having mastered thousands of independent releases and recordings from independent record labels and artists alike. Ive also had the honour to master a few major single and album releases for well known producers and labels. Although being the last link in the chain and entrusted to master someones creation is always an honour whoever its for.
Even though Ive had over 15 years experience in the music production/mastering industry Ill never stop learning. And my advice to any budding engineer or producer is to utilise the best tool that youll ever find and thats simply your ears! Dont get too bogged down in the technology.
Ill attempt to give you a general overview of professional mastering and why its so important for todays music in a cut throat music industry.
If youve ever done any recording youll probably have wondered at sometime how do I get my mixes to sound like commercial records?
I would also imagine that some of you dont realise that mastering without doubt plays a vital role in achieving a commercially acceptable sound.
Back in the day when studios recorded to tape it was possible to end up with a fat and fairly loud sounding mix mostly due to tape saturation. I used to saturate the tape when I worked freelance for an analogue studio and although mastering was still a pre-requisite it was probably a little less important than it is today.
There are many advantages that digital recordings have over analogue and one of them is an increased level of detail in general. However digital recordings sometimes lack warmth and fatness given from analogue. This is where mastering plays a massive part in achieving a warm and fat but detailed sounding master.
Of course any premastered mix needs to be as vibrant, dynamic and as alive as possible as this is the starting point for a good master. The better the mix the better the master!
However with professional mastering theres a vast improvement in the finished product with virtually any mix.
Modern commercial records are generally pretty LOUD. The idea is that the record companies release stands out from all the other songs on the jukebox/radio.
Whilst there has been much debate regarding the loudness wars, and its something I generally dont condone, its something that like it or not, is here to stay for the foreseeable future.
There are bad sounding major releases out there nowadays which are in my opinion generally down to poor mastering.
Sound Quality issues: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Californication_%28album%29
With every mastering project I undertake my aim is to bring out the best in every song, taking into account the style of the song whilst being as LOUD as possible.
It is perfectly possible for a good professional mastering engineer to make songs LOUD but also open up the space within the song and improving impact.
Most clients are amazed at how fat, open, LOUD and punchy their mixes are after mastering.
This is what tends to sort out a good mastering engineer from a mediocre one. Its easy to make something LOUD but its challenging to make it LOUD, punchy, open and dynamic all at the same time!
If you want your music to sound as good as possible you should always use a good professional mastering engineer. All major labels have their studio mixes mastered by professional mastering engineers and theyre not wrong to do so. As well as the advantage of having a third party listen to your mixes with fresh ears they have a plethora of tools to bring out the best in every mix. Not to mention the fully acoustically designed and treated mastering studio and high resolution monitors/speakers.
I hope that gives you a useful overview of mastering. If you have any questions or comments or if you’re interested in any of the services Cosmic Online Mastering offer please do not hesitate to contact me.