When it comes to mastering, Yes Master Studios in Nashville, TN has been my go to place for well over a decade. So, given that I get a lot of questions about the mastering process from my studio clients, I’ve asked Yes Master owner and founder, Jim DeMain, and mastering engineer, Amy Marie explain what exactly mastering is… Enjoy!
Mastering is somewhat of a mystery to most artists and songwriters and I am here today to shed a little light on the subject.
A good place to start this conversation is listening to a playlist with multiple songs from different artists and albums. You might listen to the first song, and then the following song simply doesn’t sound nearly as exciting as the last one. I am not referring to something like a ballad next to a pop song, I am talking about when the song itself is great, but the song just doesn’t sound as good as the last one on the playlist. That difference you are hearing is the mastering on the track.
Mastering is the final step your song should go through before being released. The mastering engineer determines the final volume of the song and makes sure it has the excitement, sparkle and width of a commercially viable release. Mastering engineers also make sure that the song is at the proper specs for each type of release you may be doing (iTunes, Spotify, CD, Vinyl, etc.) The mastering engineer will make changes on the final mix, which means they won’t be making changes to specifically the guitar or drums, but to the whole mix as a unit.
If you were to send a song to us at Yes Master some differences to the song you would notice after the mastering is complete would be:
These are just some examples of what mastering can do for your song.
One big reason mastering is important these days is the fact that commercially released music tends to be quite loud, but the process used to make the music louder generally changes the mix in a less than pleasing way. Mastering engineers are specifically working to make sure the mix gets better as it gets louder, not worse.
Some processes that take place during mastering are: Limiting, which is a type of compression that is used to make the song louder without allowing any peaks to go over 0 and create distortion in the song. EQ, which is used to make sure the highs and lows of the songs (highs as in high end frequency information, and lows as in low frequency information) are as properly balanced as possible. And Stereo Widening is used to create a wider stereo image. These are not all the methods that are used by any means, but some of the more frequently used techniques.
Mastering gives you a final set of ears in the process to make sure your song sounds great next to anything it is put up against. Please give use a call or email if you have any further questions about the process!
Big thanks to Cliff for letting us write this guest blog post!