A part of the music production process that is often overlooked is mastering. On the Music Producer’s Forum Linkedin discussion board, one of our members Grammy nominated Adrian Carr of ACMastering posted a discussion on this Topic. His words, explain nicely to us, what is normally a mystery, and a part of the process often under appreciated. Read on to have mastering explained.
What is Mastering? If you think you know the answer, please read on! – By Adrian Carr
A common question I get is, “So what is CD Mastering and how is it different from mixing?” By the time you’ve finished recording and mixing, you feel like you’re finished. I know, I went to Juilliard and have been a musician all my life. However, where you leave off as a musician is where the professional mastering engineer begins. Mastering creates the experience –the listener– will have with your music. That is why mastering has become so important from a first time indie performer to a major label artist. Creating a great experience for your listener is going to help you sell more records, get more professional acclaim and land you better reviews! So it’s not just about you anymore – mastering is your first step launching your music into the world. Here’s the why:
1) A professional mastering engineer does only mastering. With years of practice as a mastering engineer, I’m not only listening to the needs of your music but making decisions about how to optimize the sound of your CD to compete favorably against major label albums in your genre. Besides the primary element of sound, other things like the spacing of songs, order, fades (and ISRC codes, so you get paid from iTunes) and sometimes even very creative things get done in Mastering. The important thing to remember is that it’s all about creating the experience of how your CD will sound to your listener. As a mastering engineer I loan you my trained ears and experience to help you make the best decisions for your album.
2) With the advent of the home recording studio, a professional mastering room, which is a normalized and tested listening environment, has become more important than ever. Any shortcomings in your home or recording studio monitoring environment can be heard and corrected by the mastering engineer before you get the 1,000 CD Copies!
3) Any professional mastering room has the expensive, specialized tools and technology of a mastering studio. Although home recording may have gotten cheaper, a Universal Audio 1176 limiter has only increased in price. And the plug-in does not do quite the same thing.
4) It helps if you have a great teacher. I worked with Vlado Meller who is a world class mastering engineer, with 15 Grammy Nominations in 2009! In working with Vlado and his many clients like Barbara Streisand, Linkin Park, Rage against the Machine, Celine Dion, I’ve learned what can make the magic in mastering and the difference in your music.
Please feel free to comment on your experiences in Mastering.