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The Sonic Excellence Guide for Rappers Pt. III: Mastering

February 22, 2012

Mastering

The purpose of mastering is to prepare your project for its final medium, whether it’s going to be released on CD, Vinyl, Digital Distribution or all three. The Mastering Engineer should have the means to deliver files and materials of the highest quality for this purpose. If you will be having your project professionally replicated by a CD pressing plant, vinyl record plant or online distribution service, your Mastering Engineer should have enough experience to work with these services and act as your liaison at this step.

On the aesthetic side, Mastering also ensures that the music will translate well to other systems; the tracks should sound good when you play them back on a full range speaker system as well as an iPod. A good Mastering Engineer might even improve the quality of the mixes by bringing out all of the positive attributes, while masking some of the things that were keeping it from sounding like a polished record. A great Mastering Engineer might even make your record stand out from all the rest of the squashed, lifeless releases out there. Subconsciously, people tend to repeat-play albums that have a good sonic balance, which is what we ultimately want.

Some recording/mixing engineers feel a bit intimidated by having a third party make comments on the recordings and mixes, and I can totally understand that. For starters, they are working on the project on your behalf and maybe they’ve even become emotionally attached to the sound of the project up until this point; maybe over their monitoring system, the mixes sound fine – why would any changes need to be made?

What I would like for you to consider is that if you’re going to hire a Mastering Engineer who has a lot years of experience in working with hundreds of recordings and mixes made under possibly every conceivable circumstance, they probably are able to spot issues in the recordings and mixes that the recording/mixing engineer may not catch immediately. This level of experience should be seen as a portion of your investment into getting something professionally mastered. That said, a professional Mastering Engineer should be able to make suggestions without coming off like some kind of higher authority, which can make the recording/mixing engineer feel like they’re being talked down to.

The whole idea is to make the project sound as good as possible at every stage of the project’s creation process. If someone deviates from that, it can cause all sorts of problems which can delay your project and this is something that you as the client and “executive shot-caller” should recognize and make sure everyone is on the same page, working towards the same goal.

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