Mastering in audio software requires a high level of attention to detail, and it differs from mixing in a number of ways. When you’re mixing a song, you’re taking into account all of the instruments and tracks, blending them together to make one harmonious piece of music. Mastering, on the other hand, is the process of taking a mixed track and enhancing it using various effects and techniques. The mastering process is the final piece of the puzzle added to a song before it is sent out to the world.
Why Mastering Matters
When you master a song, you are creating its final form. Mastering engineers need to have a special ability to really hear what is going on in order to deliver the right product for end listeners. In most cases, a professional mastering session requires very high-quality monitors, or speakers, in order for the engineer to hear all frequencies equally and clearly. Without this equipment, it can be difficult to get a good master copy.
Can You Master Recordings on Your Own?
Now, even though record companies spend a lot of money on mastering, this doesn’t mean that you can’t master your own recordings, especially given all of the tools that today’s audio software titles provide. The key in mastering is to have fresh ears, so if you’ve been listening to a track over and over, give yourself some rest and come back tomorrow. It’s also a good idea to separate the mixing and mastering processes. When you’re a mixing engineer, you may be too close to the source material. Let someone else who is proficient in audio engineering give it a go instead of trying to tackle it yourself.
Create Multiple Masters
It’s also a good idea to create multiple masters in order to get the right sound. For example, one master may have more compression versus another, or you may have chosen to add more bass to a track for one version of a master and more treble for another. By creating multiple masters, you have the chance to listen through each one to see what will create the best final product. As with any type of audio engineering, give your ears a rest and wait a day to pick the right version. Professional mastering engineers often allow themselves a week or more in between listening sessions in order to approach each project with a fresh set of ears.