A good mastering engineer will ensure that a song sounds dynamic on both radio and in clubs, through a ‘sonic partnership’ between the producer, mixer and mastering engineer. As one of the world’s most in demand mastering and sound engineers, Pete Maher has worked on songs by Scissor Sisters, Jack White, Depeche Mode Katy Perry and Cold Play, just to name a few. I got to speak to Pete for Music Producers Forum’s podcast Episode 7, where also talks about his dealings with one the most iconic bands of our time, U2.
MPF Podcast Player: Running Time 20:17
In his younger years, Maher joined a band called the Emotionals towards the end of the 80’s. They were signed by Warner Chappell, where they had some success and experienced life on the road and in the studio. Beyond the ups and downs of touring, Maher found that he had a quest to discover what makes a great record. It was in the studio where Maher’s interest in getting a great sound started to surface.
In defining the mastering process, Maher’s explanation is simple, yet profound, “Mastering is a continuation of the production”, and he continues to describe the importance of a producers function, “good producers record everything, and the balance the track and make sure that the finished stereo mix of the track is solid and really well balanced. The good producers know that they should leave headroom, and not add any compression whatsoever”.
Maher also talks about recording in the digital age. Tape is much more forgiving with recording levels, where digital is not ‘as kind’, when recording into the red. “It will loose definition, it will distort with upper harmonic problems”. Maher suggests that the sensible level of recording is around the -3 mark.
Maher’s ongoing work with U2 is an built on a relationship of communication and working with the bands undying quest for the highest standards with their craft. Both Bono and The Edge maintain a high attention to detail.
The one thing that made this discussion with Pete so special, was the fact that whilst he works in the upper echelons of music artists, he still gets a thrill on working on new music from new artists, whether it is one of today’s big artists, or from the bedroom of an unknown.
For more information on Pete Maher, visit PeteMaher.com