Okay, so you’ve finished your mix…now what?

There’s a crucial step between mixing and selling millions of copies.

That step is called MASTERING.

Will mastering help you sell millions of copies of your music? Probably not, but it WILL make your mixes sound as good as possible…if you do it right.

So today Graham Cochrane and I tackle the issue of self-mastering over on the Simply Recording Podcast.

Here are some popular questions we answer on the show:

Question: What IS mastering?

Answer: As my buddy Ian Shepherd puts it, mastering is like Photoshop for audio. It takes a great mix and enhances it. It does NOT take a lame mix and make it sound awesome.

Question: Is it bad if I master my own mixes?

Answer: Not necessarily. I’ve mastered plenty of my own mixes. I’ve also sent them off to be mastered by someone else. There are pros and cons to both, which we dive into in the podcast.

Question: Can I master songs in my current DAW or do I need special mastering software?

Answer: I’ve mastered in Pro Tools and Studio One primarily. I’ve nevered used Peak or Waveburner or Wavelab, or any of those dedicated mastering platforms. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with them, but you CAN master your tracks in the DAW you currently own.

To dive deeper, listen to the full podcast here:

SimplyRecordingPodcast.com/self-mastering/

Happy listening!

Joe Gilder

P.S. If you’re interested in the mysterious topic of multi-band compression, Ian Shepherd has an eBook on the topic that totally rocks my face off. Check it out here:

http://www.MultiBandCompression.com/ebook (affiliate link)

  • Andrew

    I’m all for “Self-Mastering!” since it’s now possible, and of course there is pro’s and cons to letting someone else doing it or letting yourself doing it just like anything else in this world because “perfection is an idea based off a perspective” and we all have our own perspective of sounds good to our ears LOL.

    I personally believe the new future of music making will be artist self producing everything on their own and not relying on a record label to give you a pricey staff to record, mix, and master. So hop on the ship now before you miss boarding it!!!

    P.S.: I Totally agree with Xan that promotion sells records not mastering. No one is going to buy your stuff if you don’t market it and get it out there…I no I won’t LOL!. XD

  • Xan

    First ov all, let me get this off my chest. The real crucial step between mixing and selling millions ov copies is not mastering at all. It’s PROMOTION!

    People forget that nowadays, they are more concerned with beginning their next “masterpiece” (quotes most certainly deliberate, and meaningful!!) than actually trying to sell some copies ov what they have already created.

    This is the absolute BAIN ov someone who runs a small label. You start to feel you are the dumping ground or sewerage pond for these “artistes”. Most ov whom totally suck.

    But anyway back to Mastering. I totally agree with Joe that you do not need a dedicated mastering platform to do this and you can just use your multitrack DAW.

    In fact there is some HUGE advantages in this. Usually in a Wave Editor type program you have to listen to one song at a time. Perhaps you can have multiple files open, but it gets messy.

    But if you do it in a DAW (doesn’t matter which. I use Cubase) you can lay out your whole release in the track order with the gaps, crossfades, hidden track, anything you like really and compare track to track for volume & tonality very easily.

    You can rout certain tracks through a sub-group for a certain plugin treatment but not others if you want.

    I really cannot see any disadvantages compared to using a dedicated mastering program. Can anyone tell me any?

    Another thing I like about mastering in a DAW is it feels “like the old analogue mastering process” but inside a piece ov software. And having an Analogue Heritage to my work. I like this.

    In fact I am currently working on a 100 band Mp3 compilation. I have to match up 100+ songs from all over the world, recorded to all different grades so that they play nicely one after the other. That’s a lot ov work. So I am actually doing it through a Analogue mastering chain because adjusting a physical EQ and Compressor etc is far quicker.

    Doing it this way I have been getting the tracks to within 1-2db ov each other in terms ov perceived volume level so only needs a quick re-touch in the DAW to level them correctly. Because as we know, no gear or meter can truly match up perceived volumes like the ear can, but if one is only 1-2db within target range it’s harder to make a mistake and screw it up.. 🙂

    • Xan

      Oh and to delve into the actual thrust ov Joe’s post. Well, I consider myself a professional Audio Engineer, so why wouldn’t I master my own tracks?

      However there is something to be said about getting someone else to do it providing they know their shit. It’s simply a FRESH PERSPECTIVE.

      I find mastering other peoples music kinda fun, but doing my own it always results in the trial by fire as the “fussy-fux” tend to set in.

      I did get one ov the Beltane releases mastered externally. But in the end though I felt like I was doing it by “remote control” and was starting to think why aren’t I just doing this myself on my own rig?

      I still had to do a couple ov minor tweaks to a couple ov tracks on my own setup one he sent the “FINAL” masters before I was happy with it.

      But the end result though was really good.

  • For me, it just depends on the album/song. I’ve done it myself and sent it off, and each with varying results. I’ve used PT, Logic, and Waveburner. Not a big fan of Waveburner. I really enjoy Logic’s Multiband Compressor for mastering. Plus Logic has a Linear Phase EQ which is nice at this stage.

    If I have done the mixes myself, I tend to do better mastering for clients with individual tracks as opposed to full length albums/EPs. With full projects I’m thinking about tying the album together even as I’m mixing. So when I finally get to mastering and start thinking about how to best accent an album’s “sonic footprint,” sometimes I’m just way too close the record as a whole for that concept to really work me again. Make sense?

  • Mastering in Ableton Live is pretty straight-forward too, with default plugins or dedicated VSTs. I used both default stuff than Ozone with good results.
    The main advantage in mastering your own stuff for me is simple: it’s fun.