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Indie Musicians: Do you know what Mastering Is? If you think you know the answer please read on>> 

A common question I get is, “So what is CD Mastering and how is it different from mixing?” By the time you’ve finished recording and mixing, you feel like you’re finished. I know, I went to Juilliard and have been a musician all my life. However, where you leave off as a musician is where the professional mastering engineer begins. Mastering creates the experience the listener will have with your music. That is why mastering has become so important from a first time indie performer to a major label artist. Creating a great experience for your listener is going to help you sell more records, get more professional acclaim and land you better reviews! So it’s not just about you anymore – mastering is your first step launching your music into the world. Here’s the why:

1) A professional mastering engineer does only mastering. With years of practice as a mastering engineer, I’m not only listening to the needs of your music but making decisions about how to optimize the sound of your CD to compete favorably against major label albums in your genre. Besides the primary element of sound, other things like the spacing of songs, order, fades (and ISRC codes, so you get paid from iTunes) and sometimes  even very creative things get done in Mastering. The important thing to remember is that it’s all about creating the experience of how your CD will sound to your listener. As a mastering engineer I loan you my trained ears and experience to help you make the best decisions for your album.

2) The right listening environment. 
With the advent of the home recording studio, a professional mastering room, which is a normalized and tested listening environment, has become more important than ever. Any shortcomings in your home or recording studio monitoring environment can be heard and corrected by the mastering engineer before you get the 1,000 CD Copies!  Also in my Mastering studio, I have a couple different kinds of monitors that really allow me to see how your CD will sound in the real world.

3) Any professional mastering room has the expensive, specialized tools and technology of a mastering studio. Although home recording may have gotten cheaper, a Universal Audio 1176 limiter has only increased in price. And the plug-in does not do quite the same thing.

4) It helps if you have a great teacher. I worked with Vlado Meller who is a world class mastering engineer, with 15 Grammy Nominations in 2009! In working with Vlado and his many clients like Barbara Streisand, Linkin Park, Rage against the Machine, Celine Dion, I’ve learned what can make the magic in mastering and the difference in your music.

Please feel free to comment on your experiences in Mastering or post a question.

Reader Comments (4)

What is a reasonable price that I should expect to pay to get a CD mastered?

January 25 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

"how to optimize the sound of your CD to compete favorably against major label albums in your genre."

Question you're under no obligation to answer: Do you prefer jobs where you're not just sculpting a final mix into another peaked-out warhead in the Loudness Wars? Because reading articles like this reminds me of why I got into learning the mastering process myself -- I felt like the experts had a "product" mentality that went beyond simple technical constraints. I mean that when I brought a hip hop album to them, all they were thinking in terms of was what everyone else was doing that year.

Personally, we like rap albums that sound like St. Pepper-era Beatles on vinyl, or like Mahavishnu Orchestra's 2nd album, which was worlds apart from their first. I know that, with the retrospect of history, we can see that the "sound" of those classics, which losers like me fetishize, were just accidents of technology. St. Pepper sounds like it does because that process is simply all that was available at the time.

So personally -- to you -- do you see a horizon for the art of mastering beyond turning everything into a cookie-cutter dance mix? Or is that solely the domain of the guys doing the final mixes in the first place?

January 25 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

That was all personal rambling, not a judgement on this post. This was solid technical info, digestable and short -- in other words, good stuff and you should keep posting here.

January 25 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

-IWC InGenieur / AMG watches Swiss A man can succeed at almost anything for which he has unlimited enthusiasm.

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