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Learn 6 quick mastering tips from 6 professional mastering engineers.
Hone in on how to approach mastering so you can get your music release-ready.
Mastering is an illusive concept that many producers fail to grasp. Often times, this is why the mastering stage is left to the professionals who know what they are doing, and have the right gear to achieve it.
But what if you want to learn the craft?
With the wealth of information available online, we’ve compiled a list of 6 top mastering tips from some of our favourite mastering engineers.
Christian Wright (Ed Sheeran, Bjork, Ella Fitzgerald)
Andrew Edgson (5 Seconds Of Summer, The Kite String Tangle)
Leon Zervos (Pink, Rihanna, Beastie Boys)
Luca Pretolesi (3x Grammy Nominee & Founder of Studio DMI)
Emily Lazar (Beck, Coldplay, Foo Fighters)
Mandy Parnell (Aphex Twin, The XX, Sigur Ros)
6 Quick Mastering Tips From The Pros
Don't master inside your mixing session... bounce the file out, begin a new session, reset your brain and recalibrate the way you’re going to approach the music. If you’re new to it, reference against other material you know but don’t set yourself unrealistic expectations of hitting a super high standard from the off.
If you’re starting out as a mastering engineer, use LANDR as an absolute baseline. You CANNOT succeed as a mastering engineer if you're producing results that are a lower quality than LANDR, so you can actually use it as a training tool to make your own masters better.
Learn about music. It’s not all about mastering, it’s about music. Learn different styles of music. Learn what the people want to hear and really try to identify yourself with that style of music. And then definitely try to do as much work as you can.
Don’t over compress. Mix with your ears not your eyes. Push the faders up and get a balance before you put a compressor on every channel. Don’t process until you’ve listened to the song first and heard what needs the processing. If you process everything you are eliminating the dynamics.
There can be a compromising of dynamic range in an effort to make a track louder. It’s important to experiment with and understand plug-in presets, but what a lot of younger engineers forget is that the result of great mastering should really only be two or three percent. If you are slamming the final mix you are completely altering the song.
The most common mistakes in mastering can actually be traced back to an issue referred to as the ‘loudness wars’ when source mixes are delivered to each stage at an exceedingly loud volume. Each stage tries to ‘beat’ the stage that comes before it. This adds distortion, reduces audio fidelity and can create an unenjoyable experience.
Patience is key, to be able to listen and interpret what the production team wants. Have a huge array of references - that's also a big thing.