Second week of the trimester and today we looked at the subject of mastering. What is Mastering ? Mastering most often refers to the final stage in the production of multiple audio programs— typically, a group of songs or pieces of music. (Savage, 2014)
Mastering also to my understanding is a final mix after the mix process which makes the mix louder according to Guy Gray, raising output level ranges to 0.3dB 0dB.A mastering engineer also has the right to send back the the mix process on the grounds that the mix was heavily compressed and there is no room to work with. At first i felt that it would be harsh but then I did understand that his or her role is compromised if the mix is not right. The work of a Mastering engineer is o boost the quality of the recording. Critical listening skills are of paramount importance at this stage, spending time analysing a track and understanding the genre, how it was recorded and mixed and finding if there are any issues that need to be fixed prior. These are critical points of mastering to begin with.
The next part of mastering after analysis we may also take into consideration what the client wants. Things like too much bottom-end and sub bass can be too much on top end. It is common for a mix to have a little too much of one or the other. Either it can be fixed during mastering process or may be returned back to the mixing stage, depending on the financial constrain for the client. Honestly Before I thought mastering was as good as mixing but actually it is not. Yes during the mix process we use compression and EQ, it is different to mastering despite using compression and EQ too. Here is the difference which Guy explained, the mix engineer uses EQ to create spaces so that each instrument or elements can each shine on the respective regions or for creative purposes. A mastering engineer uses the EQ to balance or make loud the spectrum, adding a bit more presence to the track. Though Savage suggests “Why Mixing and Mastering Can No Longer Be Separated.” There, you will learn how the tools for producing loudness have impacted what used to be the separation between mixing and mastering ( Savage, 2014 )
The same approach goes on to compression. The mix engineers may use an extreme parameter to a kick, guitar or vocal to result a punch or suck out the life of the track while the mastering engineer will subtle the move working on compression range around 1.5-3:1 ratio catching all the high peaks/transients with 1-2 dB of gain reduction. A limiter is then applied to make the track louder just like a commercial release depending on how you set the ceiling and threshold. The limiter draws back extra peaks or transients before it smashes the maximum ceiling.
Beyond that, it may be helpful to adjust the frequency balance of some songs so that they all sound relatively similar. For example, one song may sound like it has more bottom end than another. Taken individually this may not be a problem— both songs sound great— but when they are played one right after the other, one song may suffer in contrast to the other. So, the mastering engineer will adjust the low frequencies of one of the songs (more on the song that has less low end, or less on the song that has more— or a little bit of each). It isn’t that either song really needed the adjustment if it were playing on its own, but when it’s sitting with the other songs it fits better with the adjustment. All elements of the sound: level, frequency balance, dynamic range, ambience, and effects are considered in the mastering process ( Savage 2014 )
There is more to do with mastering, once I get into the practise of it I will surely come with another blog and talk more with hands on experience about the mastering process.
Savage, Steve. Mixing and Mastering in the Box : The Guide to Making Great Mixes and Final Masters on Your Computer, Oxford University Press, Incorporated, 2014.
Smithers, B. (2010). Mixing in pro tools : Skill pack (2nd ed.). Boston, MA: Course Technology.
Izhaki, R., & Izhaki, R. (2017). Mixing audio : Concepts, practices, and tools (Third ed.) [Third edition.]. London: Taylor and Francis.