Behind The Audio Mastering
Mastering is the final step that is made before printing an album – both in terms of technical and creative point of view.
I will present some techniques used by many sound engineers. Mastering using these techniques will help you understand better what you need to do before you start working on mastering a new song, when and how to get the best results.
Sound engineer in charge of mastering is (or should be) a specialist who devote their time perfecting the art of audio mastering. He is the last person who will contribute to a musical project. A sound engineer should have in-depth knowledge both in music and in the technical, high quality audio equipment and experience to use them at their true value, and last but not least, some very good ears.
A mastering studio should contain only one set of studio monitors with a wide frequency sound reproduction positioned properly in a room whose acoustics is very carefully calibrated. In a mastering studio acoustics is the most important thing. The equipment are very well maintained and the signal lines are as short as possible, to minimize interference between wires.
To achieve a better result, the master engineer who handle mastering should be other than the one who recorded tracks, and certainly should be different from the person who composed music project, by the way, and studio should be changed for good as a result.
To do a good master, the best thing would be to let some time pass after the completion of the final mix and mastering – to give them human ears and brain a chance to relax and able to judge the real quality of sound. Is recommended a minimum of one week break – during which you can work on another project.
Try as much as possible to work on mastering at hours when the body is in good condition – and not and 03:00 AM! This tips applies also on recording / mixing. The best time to mastering is in the morning immediately after waking up – the human ear is most sensitive to sounds, not yet invaded and “tired” by the noise always present in a city landscape; brain is rested and not dealt with other issues – so you can focus on mastering process.
One more thing, I call the “re-calibration of ears” – useful technique not only during masterization, but also during mixing. Meaning: from time to time, start another song that sound good and is in the same style as the one you mix or mastering. This is useful because while working, the ear tends to get used to the sound of the song you mix without more do you know if there is imbalance tones.
One of the main purposes is that final mastered song to sound adequately into any audio system, either is a hi-fi system, a set of ordinary desktop speakers, car radio, or headphones.
Repeat the process for as many audio systems – depending by your possibilities and most important is to compare your final mix with other commercial songs and make the difference.
I did not go into technical details in this article, effects, tools, technical data, numbers and figures. I think these tips are useful for anyone who wants to learn to mastering music and is a good starting point for anyone.
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Also you can read:
General Audio Mixing Techniques – Tips and Tricks