We are all used to hearing songs after they are fully mastered. If a song wasn't mastered in a way that you like, you may feel it has too much treble, or not enough bass, or visa versa. Maybe you will feel like the song needs to be turned up louder than other music you listen to... or maybe you can't get the music loud enough in headphones. These issues would all be conditions of the mastering that song's mastering.

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 said song. 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.

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 music 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 being mastered.

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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