Artists usually make use of different studios, engineers, and producers when recording an album. What happens is that each of the songs contained in the album will have a different sound. The process of making the sounds within the different songs to sound coherent is called mastering.
The engineer that will do this is expected to have impeccable ears with some top-notch equipment. Basically, the function of the engineer is to correct any minor deficiencies in the mix. He’s also expected to work on the sound and volume by putting all the songs through similar mastering gear and making the same adjustment. This step is to make the songs sound more alike since they are contained in the same album. You can also master your own tracks with some cool software out there. However, a professional with many years of experience is always going to do the job best. Although, with a good chain of plugins and presets, you can take it!
1. What is Mastering?
The final step in the music production process is the audio mastering, which can be seen as the post-production process of preparing audio mid for distribution. Mastering is primarily aimed at balancing the stereo mix, making all the elementary sounds cohesive to reach commercial loudness. Across all media formats and systems, it ensures playback optimization.
2. Why is mastering important?
On all streaming platforms, media formats, and speaker systems, mastering ensures your studio sounds the best it can. As a final stage of production, it prepares your audio for distribution. Some other important reasons of mastering are:
- Improve overall mix by fixing problematic frequencies
- Improve imbalances missed in the mixing process
- Create an even distribution of frequencies through tonal balance
- Control transient spikes and glue tracks
- Remove unwanted noises, clicks, and pops
- Balance stereo field to reach commercial levels
- Create smoother transitions between songs in an album or EP
- Add ISRC codes for cataloging and song tracking
The three phases of editing sound are:
In the first phase, different kinds of noise and recording defects are removed by the audio editor. This is the stage where equalization is also required. However, if not carefully used, it can eventually reduce the quality of the finished material.
Many experts frown at the idea of using it at the stage of mixing. It is used for correcting balance and ensuring a low frequency. Additionally, it controls the recording area by using a multi-band compression to create a deeper sound.
3. Mastering steps
Two separate but important parts in the audio production process that is hard to differentiate between are the mixing and the mastering process. These two processes are often blurred. However, the mixing step comes before mastering. It involves adjusting and combining individual tracks together to form a stereo audio file. The various songs are clearly polished and form a cohesive whole on an album when the stereo file is mastered.
For the album to flow and be cohesive throughout, all the mastered songs are brought to similar levels. At the beginning and end of the songs, spacing and fades are added. To put the songs in the desired order and encode the tracks with ISRC, audio mastering engineers often offer sequencing services for albums.
When you have the right tools at home, making music won’t be a problem. As a beginner, you cannot do without mastering, especially in a commercial environment. In order to build your mastering skills, you can enroll in special programs, masterclasses, and training workshops. Here are things to take note in order to successfully run the process;
- The soundtrack should be well analyzed.
- Make sure the volume indicator does not exceed 0 dB
- Make sure the sound is not distorted, you are advised to. Achieve this by judiciously using the maximizer.
- Use the compressor to obtain a smooth soundtrack.
- Repeating the mastering process multiple times will decrease the quality of the sound.