Mastering is the process of perfecting the mix for the optimized sound of a recording. Consequently, a mixing and mastering engineer is a specialist who prepares a musical product to distribute to consumers. Mastering engineer activity is carried out at the final stage of processing modern music. Without this specialist, the musical product may not reach the buyer in the form in which it was conceived by the recording artist.
Like any professional, a mastering engineer must comply with a number of requirements imposed on both professional skills and personal properties.
- Immediately, a professional mastering engineer must have an ear for music. Without this, it will not be possible to satisfy even the coarsest errors that occur when processing music and vocals.
- For the development of the profession, the engineer doing the mastering needs to understand the sound, knowledge of the features of the music on different reproducing devices.
- Mastering requires knowledge of special software that allows you to control and improve the quality of the musical product.
- The ability to learn is also important, since professional masting equipment is constantly improving and updating.
- The attentiveness is an important feature of the character for mastering engineer, because it helps him notice all the shortcomings of the musical material.
- A Mastering Engineer needs the ability to quickly adapt and the ability to make decisions in accordance with the current situation.
Mastering is the last opportunity to intervene in the sound quality of the musical work in order to optimize. In other words, this complete quality control Before the music reaches the ears of the public or through the distribution platform for digital music (for example, YouTube, iTunes, Tidal, Pandora, Spotify, etc.), or with the help of physical media (CD, DVD, vinyl). At the same time, the master engineer should find all previous technical problems, if any, and solve them, as well as improve the quality of the musical product as a whole.
Previously, all this had to be done literally manually, in many ways based on intuition. Now software products came to the aid of mastering engineer, such as:
- LEVELS tools;
- MasterCheck Pro analyzer;
- EZ MIX 2 package;
- Fabfilter plugins;
- Sets for mastering T-Racks 5, Slate FG-X, etc.
If I want to mix and master my song myself, I will use LANDR. This is a cloud service that performs mastering automatically. For novice musicians, such a service is a valuable tool. It is useful to facilitate the work of a mastering engineer. However, it should be remembered that the abuse of such practice often makes songs monotonous.
The work of mastering engineer of music includes:
- sound processing in order to improve the dynamics;
- working with a signal for the purpose of alignment;
- fighting noise;
- ordering compositions.
Consider some of the mentioned aspects in more detail.
At the processing stage, the sound is optimized for a digital or physical release, so that it dismisses its quality in each audio system, whether it is a home acoustic system, smartphone, headphones, in a car, etc. When mastering is required, the music is reproduced as best in any listening situation. If the mastering engineer achieved this, it means that his work was done correctly.
The main goal of mastering is to achieve the best sound for previously mixed music and at the same time ensure that each song in the album will be heard homogeneously from the point of view of timbre, colors and intensity. In other words, during mastering, products are communicated to the best possible quality, and an identity is created between the songs in the album.
The feature of mastering is that at this stage also defines the order of songs in the album, smooth transitions or alternations of tracks are used, the metadata required to identify the musical work are inserted:
- year of issue;
- the name of the artist;
- album name, etc.
In the process of mastering, the time interval between songs is also determined.
So, mastering is a process by which improvements are made to the mixes, and songs are given to the appropriate commercial level of sound for the distribution selected by the Artist, whether it is a physical output or digital release.
At the mastering stage, technical problems are solved and the recorded material is optimized for distribution. And if you do not work in a professional studio, without an experienced mastering engineer and without relevant tools, then all the songwriting and recording that has been done for weeks, months or even years can be spoiled.