musicwisdom3



by Ian Shepherd

This is a rant. If you don’t like rants, don’t read it.

The first argument goes like this:

1. Mastering is just a matter of balancing tracks with each other using EQ, compression and limiting.

2. I can get mastering EQ and compression plugins free with a pint of beer, nowadays.

3. Why would I pay someone else to do my mastering?

The second argument goes like this:

1. Nobody buys CDs any more.

2. Nobody listens to albums any more.

3. Everybody uses mp3 players and crappy earbuds nowadays.

4. Why would I pay someone else to do my mastering?

The third argument goes like this:

1. I sent my last CD off to be mastered, and it came back sounding no different.

2. I sent my last CD off to be mastered, and it came back sounding the same but a bit louder.

3. I sent my last CD off to be mastered, and it came back sounding absolutely terrible.

4. Why would I pay someone else to do my mastering?

Case closed, right?

When I started out as a trainee mastering engineer, over 15 years ago, one of the toughest jobs was explaining to people what mastering actually was. In those days it truly was a dark art, costing you hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gear just to obtain admission to the club. Nowadays you rip a few tracks into iTunes, burn a CD and you’re a mastering engineer, right?

Hmm.

My first set of replies goes like this:

1. That’s some of what mastering involves, yes. I wrote more about it here.

2. You can buy plugins that say they allow you to do mastering EQ and compression, yes. Why don’t the top engineers use them? Leaving that aside for a minute, do you know how to use the ones you have? Are your speakers good enough to hear what you’re doing with them? Do you have the experience to know exactly what things should sound like in your genre? Do you know when it’s a mix problem and when it’s a mastering problem?

Let’s try another tack. As a musician or record label, releasing your music to the world is a bit like having a really important job interview, and you need a new suit. Do you buy the cheapest, or the best you can afford? Given the choice, would you have one hand-made by a master tailor using the finest quality material to fit and flatter your exact build and body-shape, or would you order one over the internet and hope for the best?

3. Why would you want someone else to do your mastering?

See the rest of it at Mastering Media Blog


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