Music Production: Commercial Sound Through Professional Audio Mastering

 

Author: Rahul Rungta

Music industry today is highly competitive. Thus composing great songs is not enough to gain popularity and climb the rankings. A music album that is well mixed and mastered is the need of the hour. Here lies the importance of professional digital and analog music mastering: A process that can transform the music and turn a simple song into a sonic masterpiece. With the development of new innovative techniques more punch and clarity can be added to the music as well as an extra touch of spatial depth and dimension. Once the songs are recorded, they are mixed and brought in an audio mastering studio for further enhancements. The mastering engineers play a crucial role in a music mastering procedure. One of the prime job of a mastering engineer is to identify the various sonic gaps and mistakes that came with the recording and mixing processes. In an audio mastering studio the tracks get screened through ultra-precision mastering monitors. The whole process is done by highly experienced audio experts.

Inside the studio various sound mastering techniques are applied that shape, sculpt and sweeten the music: Equalization, compression, harmonic saturation, stereo image adjustments and other types of audio processing help to enhance the quality of the tracks and give them a professional sound quality. However as most music mastering experts agree, the tracks should not be over compressed as it can sonically hurt the project rather than refining the tracks. According to experts music mastering should always be performed in dedicated audio mastering studios as these particular studios are well equipped with acoustically treated rooms, state-of the-art speaker technology and fine tuning and equalization instruments that are essential for elevating the sound quality of the tracks. The techniques should be suitable applied so that the frequencies fall in the right place, the tracks get a coherent spectral balance and bass, mid and treble frequencies are neither to weak nor too loud.

In every music mastering session carried out in an audio mastering studio the following actions are

performed:

The average and peak volume levels of the music tracks are optimized for attaining a proper loudness

The tracks are arranged in order for the final sequence

Signal processing is done through proper compression, EQ and audio limiting

Proper timing between the tracks are maintained

A homogenous ‘sonic character’ is established for all the tracks

Placing track markers at the head of all the tracks

Removing unwanted hiss, clicks, glitches and noise from the tracks

Cleaning up the start and end of each track including the fades

Insertion of the Master Track Log

The creation of professional PMCDs (PreMaster CDs)

Considering the above advantages, the money for music mastering in a professional audio mastering studio is well spent. Besides the traditional mastering houses, a lot of web based audio mastering services offer fairly priced flat rates for CD mastering on-line. You simply upload your music to the mastering studio, where it will be treated professionally. So even an indie label or a home studio producer can nowadays afford a professional music mastering for his their audio productions.

 

Mastering Won’t Fix a Bad Mix!


Author: Mehrzad Mehrabanpour
Audio mastering is the final step in music production. In order to achieve the best result; “A great sounding song”, every step of the way must be taken carefully and with optimum precision. 

If you have a bad sounding guitar, no matter how hard you try or how great your recording equipment are, you can’t record a good guitar track. Or if you have the best guitar and a bad guitar player still you won’t get a good recording.

 

If you have done an ok job in recording, you can’t expect a good sounding mix, no matter how good your mixing engineer is or how great the gear.

But still many people leave some of their work for the next guy, this is certainly a bad habit and affects the end result in a destructive way. Mastering improves the way a song sounds, but that doesn’t mean that mastering engineers are miracle workers.

These are some useful tips to achieve better mixes for mastering:

     

  • Make as much contrast as you can between different elements of your mix, this way nothing gets lost in your mix and everything will be defined. This is done by EQ, reverb and panning.
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  • Make sure you don’t brighten your vocals more than the hi-hats, cymbals or rides.Those elements are mainly responsible for high frequency detail, boosting the high frequencies in mastering affects the whole mix and if the vocals are brighter than they should be, they will start Essing.
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  • Don’t use a lot of reverb in an up-tempo song. Using a lot of reverb specially for the singer in a fast song harms the beat’s rigidity and kills the punch.
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  • The kick drum is one of the most important elements in making your song sound punchy or even ruin the dynamics of your song. It is also the loudest part in a stereo mix file that’s going for mastering. so be careful with it, first get the best sound out of it, adjust the bass till you get a good sound and a distinctive sound in relation to the bass guitar, adjust the attack (should be in the mid-range or high mid’s), compress it and make sure it has the loudest sound with the lowest possible peak and it doesn’t lose its punch while compressing.After that mix the rest of the tracks one by one. If you mix everything before the kick, you will need to make the kick drum louder and louder and you don’t have enough headroom, then you need to bring everything down and run into numerous problems.

And again, never assume that the next guy will correct your errors.