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Mastering has somehow gained the reputation of the final process in the post-production chain that will fix all the mistakes that go in the production process.
Earlier the process of creating a master copy was called Mastering; a Master copy is something that is used to create multiple duplicates of a file. Now though Mastering simply put is the final step in the post-production process, somewhat like a finalizer to the recording. In this stage, the Audio Engineer takes care of adding tonal character, dynamic control, space/width and so on.
In this post today, I will talk to you guys about some common misconception pertaining to mastering and what you should be asking before you send a track out for mastering.
Are you mix ready?
The first thing that you need to look into is whether your mix is good enough to go through the mastering process; if there are things that are obviously not working in a mix you can’t expect the master to fix that. This approach, to begin with, is the reason why so many people end up with average sounding tracks. If the guitars in your mix aren’t sitting correctly, try to find a way around that problem in the mix itself instead of expecting the problem to be solved in the master.
Think of it like this, if you have a well balanced good sounding mix then the master is only going to make it better. Expecting the master to fix unbalanced sounds in the mix is the wrong way of going about this.
Now the question is how do you know when your mix is ready? This answer may vary for everyone but as long as the elements in the song sound balanced/interacting with each other and the emotion of the song is coming across in the mix than it is ready. Obviously, there are a lot of other factors to look at and everyone has a different filter for the quality of their mixes but as long as these two points are covered I think you’re good to go.
When to draw the line with your mix (What to leave for mastering)
a. Overall Track Dynamics
d. Spatial Width
e. Translation and consistency
All the above-mentioned things will be taken care of in the mastering process, so if you’re done with your mix don’t sit obsessing over how loud you can make the mix. Leave this up to the mastering engineer and focus on getting the main aspects of the mix right!
Do you need to hire a mixing engineer?
Although it is hard to admit, more often than not there will be mixes of your music that you’ve worked on that won’t sound great. I’m not against musicians mixing their own projects but I do feel that they lose perspective on their own recording after listening to it so many times over. If you think your mix isn’t cutting it, book a few hours at any of your nearby studios and get an outside perspective of an engineer on your project. It should give you a clear perspective of how much work the mix needs and what can be fixed. If there are certain things that need to be re-recorded to fit in the mix; do it.
Have you heard your mix on different monitors?
A well-translating mix will become an even well-translated master. Mastering engineers work in a near flat room environment that gives them an idea of how the mix or specifically the tonality of the mix is going to translate outside. It can also help to get outside of your room to hear your work. In the beginning, as you learn the quirks of your mixing environment, the more systems you can test your mix on the better.
Have you heard the work of this Mastering Engineer?
This approach will require a bit of an investment, but if you’re looking for someone to stick with for your future mastering projects it is well worth the investment in the long run.
Hope this blog helps you with streamlining your process of post production!