Recording music for most of us is rather simple. The old fashion way with a tape recorder or now, with a computer, calling to digital technology, there is not much to it.
Recording original music is more complex.
In a studio, recording music is a succession of processes from which mastering is the last link of the chain.
Mastering, means taking your recording mix, and finalizing it with:
- Stereo enhancement
A good mastering gives your audio recording, a quality output on any playing device.
It is true for any professional production intended to be distributed via support such as CD or for digital distribution. It is especially true when the music you recorded is used to be mixed with a film or TV show.
Mastering has a lot to do with frequencies. The layers of individual tracks put together creates challenges and audible issues needed to be fixed.
EQ allows you to address them. One of those issues is the tonal balance of the frequencies from low to high.
It begins with a focus on listening. To fix issues, you need to find them. A deep listening to the mix, concentrating on finding what needs to be adjusted is crucial to any mastering engineer. The right EQ combining minimum and linear phases or plug-in if used with a DAW, will facilitate the equalizing process.
Compression when used accordingly can add fullness and dimension to a mix.
In short, a compressor will reduce the dynamic range between the loudest and softest signals of your mix however, in the context of mastering, compression if often used to increase loudness.
A focus listening to the mix before any attempt to fix issues is essential also because, in some cases, the compression process is unnecessary.
Then comes “limiting”. This is the very last operation in your mastering process. Limiting allows you to enhance your mix without distortion.
Limiters are compressors with remarkably high compression ratios.
If mastering sounds complicated, it is. Some musicians would do it themselves others would trust an experienced engineer who knows what to do and how, and go through the process faster for a better result.