“When it comes to your art, mastering can be the difference between your music sounding like a demo vs a record. It is the critical last stage where a capable mastering engineer can add a unique aesthetic to your product.”
• A PERSONALIZED AND PROFESSIONAL FINISH TO YOUR MUSIC
A common misconception about Mastering is that it is about making tracks louder. However, Mastering is not about making things louder. You can make it loud at home. Put a limiter or maximizer on it, and it will be loud. This is not Mastering. Mastering is about feeling the song, and trying to understand what the song needs. But it’s done in a very measured way. Mastering should also never interfere with the raw emotion, and vision of the artist’s work. A Mastering Engineer should use their ears, and not rely solely on presets, meters, numbers, and visual aids. A well mastered song should be carefully planned to balance levels, frequencies, dynamics, and emotional content.
“There is no such thing as instant or AI Analog Mastering”
• AI-BASED ONLINE MASTERING IS NOT A VALID ALTERNATIVE TO A PROFESSIONAL ENGINEER
Automated online mastering services (or iZotope Ozone master assistant) are little more than glorified processing presets.
If you like what those processing chains do to your mixes, that’s okay and it’s okay to use them. That still doesn’t make those services a replacement for professional mastering provided by a good mastering engineer.
None of those services can identify genuine problems in the mix and address them. None of those services can understand the emotion and vibe that the music is trying to convey.
For more on this last subject, here is a video of legendary mastering engineer Bernie Grundman talking about the emotional experience in mastering:
So just because you may like what any of those services does to your mixes, it doesn’t mean you are getting a suitable professional master.
• ANOTHER SET OF EARS
When you have spent months or more obsessing over the final details of your music, you need another set of ears to give an unbiased listen to your mixes. A mastering engineer with high quality speakers in a good room can hear weaknesses in your mixes (or tell you how good they actually are!) that can be addressed and corrected during the mastering stage. An un-biased opinion is usually a great thing to have at this stage of your project.
• CORRECTION, ENHANCEMENT, & BEAUTIFUL GEAR
The first thing I often listen for when I begin mastering is what, if anything, needs correcting in the mixes. Common problems include resonant frequencies that poke out and cloud or cover a mix, an imbalanced stereo field, phase issues, or excessive build-up in common problem frequencies such as bass or muddy low-mids. Every song is different and has different needs and I approach every song on its own terms.
I usually begin with the previously mentioned correction stage and then, with the aid of some of my favorite analogue gear, listen for the best ways that your mixes can be enhanced. I pay close attention to achieving a sense of space and detail in the mastering. My style could be described as one of clarity and a sense of physical, tactile sound.