If you are recording your own music and want to give it the best possible presentation, then you need to get somebody to MASTER it. Why?
- You are too close to your music to be able to hear it the way your audience will - fact!
- A mastering studio specialises in a way that most recording musicians won’t. For example:
- The room is specially treated to be acoustically “clean”
- The processing tools are specifically selected for working on stereo mix-downs
- The monitors are full range, high precision and calibrated to work in the room
- Your Engineer has experience of working on many projects and so can work objectively
- Many weaknesses in a mix can be significantly improved using advanced mid/side and stereo processing
- It costs much less than you thought!
Trusting your mastering Engineer means that you can be confident that your creation will sound as good as possible to your audience and not just to yourself!
Here’s what happens:
Tonal Balance - making sure that musical energy is shared appropriately across the audible spectrum doesn’t only provides a technical benefit but almost always a musical one. In reality, all frequency ranges interact with each other in the track.
Having the tools to surgically control the behaviour of specific sonic ranges using Equalisation and/or compression through both stereo and mid/side processing allows the Engineer to remove unsympathetic characteristics, bring forward soul and character, while maximising the available technical headroom - a key technique in loudness optimisation.
Compression - This does much more than influence the the overall dynamic range, it also directly effects the sense of “punch”, “warmth” and sometimes “texture”.
Perhaps the most important skill an Engineer brings to the table is knowing how to use compression to bring out all of these qualities. It also requires having access to the very best processors.
Harmonic Enrichment - depending on the type of music, this is often the “black art” of the Mastering Engineer.
Using a combination of modelled desk, channel and tape stages can turn even a fairly flat and lifeless mix into a living, breathing classic.
Knowing how to do this, and how to apply it properly across a wide range of styles, is what sets a good Mastering Engineer apart from the hobbyist.
Spacial Presentation - many of the processors used here in the studio can give me control over the width and depth in the final audio (like the passive EQ on the left here, set to mid/side mode). This can be applied to specific ranges in a mix to maximise the sense of space, without creating unnatural or overblown results.
I believe in building a really stable central image before looking to add left and right “fairy dust”.
Limiting - to accurately prepare audio in the digital world requires very precise peak level control. It can also be used as part of the compression regime, providing punch and sometimes texture depending on the techniques or processors applied.
Again, knowing how to set this up to get the best from a specific mix is something most recording artists won’t get the chance to develop, but is a daily creative challenge here in the smallfishrecordings studio.
How I work…..
The artist sends the stereo files for initial audition. You can use Soundcloud, Dropbox, or any other service you prefer to do this.
I listen to the audio and consider the artistic direction given by the artist.
I may make mix suggestions which if agreed, the artist will make, then re-submit the new mix.
I’ll work on an initial treatment and send it back.
We may repeat this routine several times until the artist is properly satisfied with the results.
Disc authoring happens as the final stage of a project and includes setting the running order (I can help with this), fades, gaps, titles, credits etc.
Preparing your Mix for Mastering
Focus on the balance of instruments and the long term dynamics of your mix, try to get everything properly positioned in the composition. Use as little processing on the stereo bus as possible and bounce your mix so that it peaks well below 0dB. Bounce the file at your original sample rate and bit depth.
Finished masters can be supplied on a red book standard CD or electronic image file, ready for duplication. This includes all necessary data and ISRC codes where available. If you just want your audio for digital distribution, that’s fine too.
Still Have Questions?
Let’s start talking: Email Me
Or find me on Soundcloud: