The mastering process (As covered in Mastering Explained) identifies how mastering is a separate finishing process in finalizing your production. Music Producers Forum resident mastering expert, Grammy Nominated Adrian Carr follows up Mastering Explained with his tips in preparing your song for the mastering process.
There’s three parts in the sound production process when you’re making a CD: recording, mixing and mastering. Although these three stages may overlap somewhat, they are three distinct parts, each with their own guidelines, concerns and tools. A professional mastering engineer will only do mastering. I’ve mastered top names in the music business as well as indie artists and I’ve put together some simple guidelines for you to ensure great results in Mastering:
1. No limiting or mastering plug-ins on your mix buss.
Please don’t try to make your songs louder by Normalizing, adding Compression or using a Limiter. These methods prevent us from giving you the loudest, punchiest master you can imagine. Don’t worry. We’ll make it loud. But we need room to work.
2. Give yourself -3 to -6 db of headroom.
Never go into the red on the Master Fader Meter. Going into the red means it may have already clipped, leading to digital distortion. Keeping your mixes at -3 to -6 db leaves us maximum headroom so we can give you a quality, finished product.
3. Record at the highest bit rate possible.
A 24 bit rate is ideal because it gives more headroom. For example: 44.1k 24 bit, 96k 24 bit, and so on. Regardless, always send us what you’ve recorded at. If you recorded at 16 bit, that’s cool. Send it to us at 16 bit.
4. Don’t add dither.
Dither is the very last step in the mastering process. It’s done after all signal processing is complete. We use high quality converters and you’ll hear the difference when we do it for you.
5. Clean up your tracks.
It’s a gazillion times harder to get rid of a guitar player sighing or a singer clearing his throat after it’s mixed. Solo all the live audio tracks and take a listen to what’s there. You might get a laugh.
6. Relax on the reverb.
Reverb levels, like everything else, are heightened during mastering, so holding back a bit when you mix contributes to a superior final product.
7. Send songs as WAV or AIFF files, not MP3s.
Just compare the file sizes between the different formats and you’ll see that MP3s contain about one-tenth of the data in a WAV or AIFF file.
8. Never mix and master at the same place.
It really helps your CD to get a fresh approach in mastering. Mixing and Mastering Engineers are two different breeds.
Adrian Carr of ACMastering can be contacted by visiting his website www.acmastering.com