The mastering engineer is the last action of the creative phase, and the primary step of the manufacturing phase. It’s the last chance to listen, polish, and make a modification in the sonic presentation. It is also the first step of the production stage, since it prepares the master in the way that best matches the requirements of the maker.
The goal is to listen to the broad photo; the actual content is immaterial. The mastering engineer is paying attention to EQ presentation, to level presentation, to characteristics discussion. It’s taking a collection of songs, and creating a streaming body of work.
A Little History
Mastering has altered significantly considering that the late 1950s, when mass-produced music became the standard. Engineers began their professions as apprentices, and the very first stop on their path was to apprentice with the mastering engineer. The mastering engineer was responsible for moving the last tapes from the mix/balance engineer, and guaranteeing that the transfer to lacquer (the master at the time) was as accurate as possible.
As the studio/label relationship broke down over the years, engineers became independent, and began working in various studios. The difficulty here was that each studio had a various mix environment. The engineers were then charged to polish the results from a less familiar environment, utilizing the tools they had at their disposal: EQ, characteristics, processing, and levels. This is the circumstance we are still in today, in which the function of the mastering engineer has broadened to end up being the last check for both the artistic and technical aspects of a project.
1. Be Prepared
You need to clearly identify which are the final mixes you ‘d like the engineer to utilize. It’s also crucial to have paperwork of any known issues with the files. This will save a lot of time and loan during the mastering stage.
Furthermore, you must know who the maker will be, and what their requirements are for type of master and approach of delivery. If you are supplying the pre-master mixes on an analog format (like tape), it is very important to consist of complete referral tones and documentation of the specifics.
2. Provide Alternate Mixes
A preferable method to present files is for the mix engineer to consist of alternative versions of the mix: vocal up, singing down, solo up, solo down, and so on. Remember it is necessary keep these alternate mixes well significant, arranged, and recorded.
With the advent of DAWs, one concern that has actually turned up is whether it is more suitable to have stems as part of the shipment. Some engineers choose stems to enable more tweaking and flexibility in the mastering process. There are also numerous possible downsides to this.
Consisting of stems can blur the line between mastering and mixing. The mastering engineer can begin to lose neutrality, because he or she is now charged with stabilizing the final mix. Another issue is that the character of the entire doesn’t necessarily translate to the character of each of the stems. In attempting to enhance each private stem, the outcome is frequently harmful to the nature of the final mix.
3. Do Not Over-Compress the Last Mix
Digital audio files ought to be provided at the same resolution as the recording. It’s important that the mixes consist of some headroom to allow the mastering engineer room to work. An excellent guideline is to have peaks at around -3 dBfs with an average (rms) around -10 to -14 dBfs. Final buss compression ought to remain very little, due to the fact that it’s not something the mastering engineer can undo. A standard practice can include final compression of the mixes as a reference file to the artist, however it’s best when that’s not included in the delivered declare mastering. With high-resolution audio there is no benefit to maxing out the levels.
In a related problem, it’s useful to not have fades consisted of on the last mixes. The mastering engineer can make fades shorter, but can’t make them longer. In some cases in the sequencing you understand you want it longer than you believed you did, just to keep things flowing properly.
A Note on Loudness:
There’s been a lot of conversation recently about the concern of loudness. There are benefits and drawbacks to having high levels, but there’s a point where it can be too quiet or too loud. A misunderstanding about a loud file is that it will sound louder on the radio, when in fact the reverse holds true. Going through all the compressors on the broadcast can clamp onto a signal and hold it back. The louder a tune, the smaller it will sound on the radio.
A misunderstanding about MP3s is that the louder the tune, the much better they sound. The purpose of an MP3 is essentially to diminish the file size, which takes place by removing data.
4. Gear Is Great; the Room Is Much better
The most important tool for a mastering engineer, besides his or her own ears, is the room. The feedback offered by the space impacts the perspective and opinions of mastering engineers, which in turn influence the decisions they make. A revealing tracking environment tells everything about the mix– the great and the bad. This is essential for mastering engineers to be able to make accurate changes that impact the final translatability of the audio. One of the goals of mastering is to ensure that the project sounds as good as it can on a wide variety of playback systems.
5. Don’t Master Your Own Work
If you are too close to the material, it is tough to emotionally different yourself from the content, and precisely hear things like level, EQ, and characteristics. This is not due to the fact that you do not have the abilities, however since it is extremely challenging to have the psychological detachment necessary when you are listening to your own work. An important function of the mastering engineer is to be emotionally unbiased. The mastering engineer and the mix engineer should be two separate individuals, in 2 different environments.
If you can include your mastering house early in the process, it is always best. Get the specifics for submittal prior to the last blends if possible. Sending your blends ahead of the mastering session can permit for detection of issues and ideas for enhancement if they are willing and time permits.
Mastering is the final innovative action to take your blends to the next level. The customized devices, finely tuned monitoring environment, and most significantly, the objective experience of a pro will assist you hone your product to an one-upmanship.
Following these suggestions can help you enter this last with confidence, and help you optimize your time for a smooth and efficient session. This will eventually save you time and money, prepping the way for a hopefully pleasurable and efficient experience.