So, you've recorded and mixed your
own material. Now your at the mastering stage.
Are you thinking of mastering your project yourself?
Before you do, ask yourself this question. What is
my definition of mastering? If you answered, I
want to make it as loud as commercial releases, then your
understanding of what mastering is needs to be expanded.
The definition of mastering is: To enhance
the presentation of a mix so it sounds its best on the
widest variety of playback systems.
Unless you have the experience and the proper tools to
achieve that result, you may not really be mastering.
You could just be changing the mix. Unless requested
by the client, mastering shouldn't change the mix.
It should enhance the presentation.
Here are additional questions you should ask before you
begin to master your project yourself.
1. Did my favorite music equipment dealer tell me I could
master my own projects if I purchased Brand X audio
2. If I master my own project, what do I expect to
accomplish that's different from what I've already
achieved in the mix?
3. Am I going to master in the same room I mixed in, using
the same monitors, the same gear, and of course, the same
4. If my answer to #3 is yes, will I really be able to
determine what needs to be improved?
5. Will I be making adjustments during the mastering stage
that should really be made by going back to the mix?
6. Can I burn a Red Book CDR that will exceed, or at least
meet the requirements of CD replicators?
7. Can I embed CD Text and ISRC Codes onto my CD?
Seriously think about your answers to these questions
before you proceed, especially number 6. Many
artists have become confused while facing the challenge of
mastering their own projects. Unfortunately, far too
many do it yourself artists think that mastering simply
means making it louder. Just making it louder isn't
mastering at all. It's simply making it louder.
Anyone can slap a brick wall limiter on the output buss
and raise the level 6 to 10 dB. However, that's not
mastering. It's messtering.
You can search high and low on the Billboard Charts, and
you'll never find a song that was recorded, mixed, and
mastered, by the same person in the same room, using the
same gear. When a song hits the charts, you can be
sure it was mastered in a tuned room with proper monitors,
specialized gear, and most importantly, an experienced
engineer with a fresh set of ears.
Mastering is the quality control phase of a project.
It should never be taken for granted, especially if the
recording and mixing took place in a home studio.
Equipment dealers are only too happy to confuse the do it
yourself mastering issue. After all, it's their job
is to sell products. They'll be more than happy to sell
you a computer and convince you to buy the software
necessary to guarantee professional results. However, what they can't sell you is the experience it
takes to enhance the presentation of a mix so it sounds
its best on the widest variety of playback systems.
Mastering tools are just that... tools. Just because
you have an auto mechanics tool chest filled with all the
latest tools, doesn't mean you can repair a car.
Education and experience are also necessary.
Having the right gear is great. However, it's the
mastering engineer (not the gear) who listens objectively
and makes the right decisions. The talent to make
the right decisions cannot be found in hardware, software,
or plugin presets.
If your project is just for fun, then master it yourself
and have fun. However, if you're serious and plan to
market your music,
I strongly recommend having your project mastered by an
experienced mastering engineer. Remember, mastering
shouldn't change your mix. It
should preserve your musical vision while
enhancing the presentation.