Mastering

What's Mastering?


Mastering is always the last step before a song is completed. Different mastering jobs will sound vastly different from the same speakers or headphones. You may feel some songs have too much treble, or not enough bass, or visa versa. Maybe you feel like the song needs to be louder compared to other music you listen to... These issues would all be conditions brought on by the mastering for the song you are listening to.

Once a mix is complete, the song is not ready for distribution because the mix only focuses on the overall balance of each instrument, and their role in the song(s). The mixing will create the environment, where mastering is the final polish to that environment. A good master will accentuate a good mix or even a bad mix! On the contrary, a bad master will ruin even the best sounding mix. It can be a delicate process!

Mastering focuses on the overall harmonic balance of the song, its frequency response, and its "loudness". The goal of mastering is to boost the volume of the song in a musical way, so that playback sounds good on all playback devices. How mastering is accomplished widely varies, and it depends greatly on the need(s) of the specific song(s) being mastered.

Why does it have to be loud?


All distributed songs are victim the LUFS (Loudness Units relative to Full Scale) standards set by the distributors of the music industry. Different platforms prefer different LUFS volumes, so mastering a song to a standard is important so your song has a similar volume as the others on whatever listening platform is being used. If those LUFS standards are ignored while mastering, your song may be too loud, too quiet, or possibly even distorted.

Because mastering is the final step to completing a song before its release, the quality of the mastering job is hugely important to the overall sound and potentially the success of any project. Many mixing engineers prefer NOT to master their own mixes, as a mastering engineer focuses solely on mastering is often better equipped to compliment the engineers mix.

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