Music Mastering Guidance for Electronic and Small Studio Music Producers...

Disclaimer and cheeky plug: I'm part-owner of a music mastering service called clickmastering.com. This doesn't influence the guidance I give on the page below which would remain the same even if I wasn't involved with a professional mastering business.

Music mastering is the final stage of the music production process which follows the mix-down.  Mastering makes your album, EP or track ready for commercial release and distribution.

In most cases it's better to have your productions mastered by a mastering engineer, although home-mastering is not uncommon today.

Mastering your own tracks is definitely cheaper than using the services a professional mastering engineer, but this is where the advantages of home-brew mastering stop. It's cheaper.

Great-sounding professional productions should of course be your goal as a serious music producer and artist.  That's of course if music is more than just a hobby to you.  So, unless you can do a better job at mastering yourself, my advice is to use the best mastering engineer you can afford.

Here's why it's easier and better to hire a mastering engineer rather than go the DIY-mastering route...

A fresh perspective...

A good mastering engineer provides you with a second set of ears and a different nervous system.  This means they may be able to quite easily pick up issues you don't hear because of your involvement in production or mixing.  In other words, obvious issues may not be noted by you since your own nervous system has adjusted to compensate for these issues. The mastering engineer gives you a chance to limit the chance of such issues making it to the final production.

The benefit of experience and skill...

The process of mastering a track, EP or album involves using EQ, compression, phase correction and other tools to create a balanced master ready for public consumption.  Mastering involves making very subtle tweaks to your mix, where and when needed. Experienced mastering engineers know which subtle tweaks to make, and when to make them, which something they picked up through experience and practice.

The listening environment and tools...

You'll find different equipment, and often expensive outboard gear in a good mastering studio not present in the normal recording or mixing studios of small studio owners or music producers like yourself.  These tools make it possible for mastering engineers to achieve results which you would find hard to reproduce in-the-box with mastering software such as T-RackS, Ozone or other mastering software.

The ability to hear the source material or mix is also vital when it comes to mastering, so proper mastering studios or engineers will spend a lot of money and energy to create the right acoustic environment to work in.  This is again something which most producers don't have set up at quite the same level.

Working with a mastering engineer...

I've written a brief music mastering tutorial which shows you how to find a mastering engineer and how to prepare your tracks for the mastering session.

You may also want to watch this great explanation of music mastering by Ronan Chris Murphy...

In conclusion...

You can of course try to master your own tracks and could potentially do a good job. Who knows, hey?  What you cannot do is divide yourself up in to two people to have a second set of ears.  So, it could be fun to master your own tracks but overall I'd say this is one area best left for an engineer who knows the craft and how to get professional results.


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