What is Mastering?
What is Mastering? (if you have no idea at all)
People always ask, “what is mastering?” (And the worst is at family events or places where you have to explain what you do to other adults who have traditional jobs).
Invariably the definition is presented like conversation between two experienced industry professionals. That provides no help for someone who is asking the question in the first place. So, when someone defines mastering as:
Mastering is the final step in the creative process and the first step in the technical production process.
They are precisely correct. However this explanation only makes sense if you know all of the details surrounding the Recording Lifecycle and the production chain. And to beat this horse into the ground, if you knew all of that, you would not be asking what mastering is in the first place!
Other writers define mastering in terms of an advertisement or an imperative. For example:
Mastering makes your record loud, competitive, and professional sounding.
Certainly this is the goal of mastering, but it’s not the best definition. In a few sentences, here is our explanation of what mastering is in plain-speak:
Mastering Engineers were originally technicians who cut the “master” copies of records on a lathe machine. To accommodate the physical requirements of the recording medium (shellac or vinyl) mastering engineers used equalizer and compressor/limiter devices. It didn't take long to realize these tools could also be applied with artistic merit. Soon mastering engineers were asked to increase loudness, improve consistency from song to song, and add a final polish to the project. Thus, mastering role shifted from being exclusively technical to being a blend of artistic and technical. When distribution formats changed (vinyl to cassette to CD, etc.), the need for a person to straddle the technical and artistic realms remained. And with more and more recordings being made outside a professional studio (which often means an less experienced engineer working in an acoustically compromised listening environment), the need for mastering is even greater.
So there it is; the Treelady Studios' definition of mastering. We still use industry-speak, but provide context. And of course, the imperative / sales pitch closes out the piece – not just because we’re a business, but because it's true. Now that you know a good bit more than when you started, we hope other areas of our web page can help answer questions you may have. Of course, feel free to email or call us.
What is Mastering? (if you're a little more familiar with audio issues)
Mastering is a gateway. Your creation is being finished and prepared for its introduction into the world. Mastering is the final step in the creative process of creating a recording. But it's also the first step in the manufacturing process. Consequently, the best mastering engineers are those who possess a balance of artistic creativity and methodical (we prefer geek-like) attention to technical matters.
Once all of the songs have been mixed, the artist, producer, and engineer have heard the tracks over and over and over. You've also been working in the same room, on the same mid-field speakers. It's time to send the project to someone with a fresh perspective, with full-range speakers, who polishes albums day-in-day-out. That person is a true mastering engineer, a professional who relies on his or her experience and specialized gear to bring out the best from your work.
(Note: the gear shown on our pages is the actual gear from our studio, not from a catalogue or filched from another studios' website).