WHAT IS MASTERING?
Or: Why You Need a Mastering Engineer
Creating music that people love takes a team. From production to mixing to mastering, it takes many talented professionals to bring the final piece to market.
Cesar Legazpy is a Mastering Engineer with over 12 years of experience as an audio engineer, three years directly in mastering. His career started as a musician, but he fell in love with the technical side of things. I got to sit down with Cesar to chat about his job as a Mastering Engineer and why they’re essential to the music-making process. We covered a lot of interesting topics in this conversation—listen to the full thing here!
What is Mastering?
Mastering is the final step of the process. As Cesar describes it, mastering is the bridge between post-production and distribution. Clients come to a mastering engineer for peace of mind that their music is sounding the best that it can and is ready for distribution.
Mastering engineers are responsible for:
· Communicating with the client to really understand their needs and wants for the end-product.
· Analyzing the previous work done on the track (i.e., production and mixing) and adjust the mastering process to it. This includes adjusting the process depending on whether it’s a single track or a whole album to be mastered.
· Ensuring that the sound is optimized for the type of distribution the client is using (i.e., digital vs. physical).
Cesar describes the way he works as “obsessing” over the technical details. The mastering process is that final quality control and polish to make a track or album market ready.
What Do Recording Musicians Need to Know About Mastering?
To bring music to market, there are four steps: production (recording), mixing, mastering, and distribution. As the second-last step, mastering engineers care about what went on in the stages before it reached them.
Production and mixing both matter for mastering, as they will directly impact the outcome. Production is particularly important, and musicians should strive to always record the best piece of music they can—don’t rely on mixing and mastering to “fix” mistakes!
Musicians should remember two things:
· Good production will lead to a good end-product. Work with a producer that will bring out the best in your musical abilities by striking the balance between what the client wants and your own creative skill and freedom. A good producer will help you think outside the box, see things from a new perspective, and create space for innovation.
· Go for great… not perfection. Post-production mixing and mastering cannot fix the mistakes of a poor recording session. Musicians need to, therefore, do their best work and create something great. But on the other side, focusing on perfection is not helpful. Do your best, record something amazing, and then allow the mastering process to polish it up to perfection!
The last thing to keep in mind is that everyone is on the same team. So, communication is a key element to making sure everyone is working at their optimal levels to create something amazing.
Advice for Musicians: Get a Mastering Engineer!
Cesar shared that musicians, artists, and clients will get the most out of mastering if they understand each step of the process. It’s important to have realistic ideas about what is possible in recording, mixing, mastering, and then distribution.
Mastering music is the final polish to make something market ready. It can elevate already-great music and give you peace of mind that you’re putting the best of the best out into the world for others to enjoy.
If you want to see what Cesar is up to, make sure to visit him at his website here. And, if you want to keep up with future episodes of the podcast, drumming resources, and everything else I’m up to, visit me over at www.joeseltzer.com.
Special Credit to @alyssa_wiens on fiverr.com