Everyone would like to know everything, it would be nice to be able to do everything yourself. A lot of people are attempting
their audio mastering with mastering software and there is no wrong doing in that intention. After all people are recording
and mixing at home and it appears to be a natural thing to do. In life I have found that there are a lot of people who specialize
in an area of work or interest and you will commonly find that the experiences that are gained by serious interest, practice
and professionalism mean people become expert, their skills set them apart. Professional mastering has so much to offer a
piece of music and in some instances this is not understood. There can be various reasons for this, in the worst case musicians
may not have the listening acuity or equipment to even be able to hear the differences between a professional master and an
amateur attempt with mastering software.
This is somewhat disturbing as the result is a
lowering of quality of music that is released into the public domain. This is not good for musicians, people who work in the
music industry or the listening public. An erosion of standards on top of the existing financial climate and music industry
specific issues is something we can all do without. A mastering engineer is someone who is experienced enough to make good
judgements on the tonal balance of music and how any decisions will translate onwards to a wide variety of musical playback
systems. As well as analogue equipment it will include mastering software. An experienced online mastering studio will be
able to get your project from sounding good to great. As a mastering engineer if I am given a good mix I find musicians and
producers can be quite surprised at the improvements in terms of richness, width, punch and clarity that mastering with high
quality tools and experience can achieve.
The skill of the mastering engineer will have started with a background
in audio production. My background for example is in recording many, many music sessions for broadcast on the UK's national
radio provider the BBC. I have been in a very fortunate position of recording big artists such as Chick Corea, Lemar, Craig
David and many others. Being in this position and recording largely to stereo meant I developed an ear for musical balance.
This has stood me in very good stead for the work as a mastering engineer. This experience has allowed me to make effective
equipment choices which is a key aspect of audio mastering. In a world of 1,000's of mastering software plugins where
do you start to find out where the gems are, the plugins that can make a real difference ? How does one choose their high
end analogue equipment, the boxes that make a difference? You have to listen and be able to discern what the qualities are
and how they would be applied. Mastering engineers are specialists, day in day out they listen to music with a very specific
type of listening technique which takes years to perfect.
"What is audio mastering?"
fact : The most significant aspect relating to the results of mastering is the
engineer you employ and his skillset and ability to chose and apply the right tools for the job.
I believe that the internet has skewed what the definition of mastering audio is and it seems as if "popping mastering
software on the output" is commonly perceived as being mastering. Well mastering is so very much more. The enhancements
of energy, space, warmth and clarity in mastering go a long way to dispel this myths that adding a limiter irrelevant of results
is the mastering job done. unless you have had the chance it would be easy to feel that mastering software is the be all and
end all of the audio production world. However a mastering engineer who has access to top quality analogue audio equipment
will know that analogue can add a special something to the sound. Analogue equipment is by it's very nature almost impossible
to replicate to perfection as it is always adding something very slightly different to the sound as the voltages representing
the music pass through the circuits.
Conversely I do believe there are a few people who are over charging
for their mastering services. Ultimately this comes down to the business model you adopt and your expectations of earnings
as an individual. There are engineers with low experience in mastering audio charging high rates for mediocre services.I believe
in offering an uncompromised service which is affordable and yet has the same level of quality associated with it as mastering
studios charging significantly more. The service of mastering is also changing, mastering has always had an element of quality
control and as such this can be extended to artists who may wish to have some feedback regarding their mixes. If a mastering
client has paid up front or definitely proceeding I am more than happy to offer a few tips and feedback relating to their
mix if that is requested. This is good for both parties as the end result will end up being better.
it comes to the mastering software options available I constantly hear differences in subjective quality. For example I can
hear a great difference between the various digital equalizer plug ins that are available on the market. When you are in a
position of responsibility you want to be making certain that only the best is being employed when mastering tracks. Again,
limiters all have a different sound and applying the right one for any given track is very important. The differing characters
of mastering software plug ins is critical and using the wrong ones can mean a sub standard master is created. These days
I use a combination of analogue and digital tools to generate masters and as such selection of the right tools is a significant
part of the resulting sound. Compromise has no place in mastering, by definition it is application of the best tools to create
the best end result. If compromise in skill, toolset, monitoring or room acoustics is evident then the track has not been
So if you decide to do your own self finalizing on your musical project I suggest your re consider
and think about what a specialist can offer your project. Experience, objectivity, choice of tools, full range monitoring,
accurate acoustics make a significant different to results and that most people will understand.
©Copyright 2011 Barry Gardner
what is audio