Mastering is about taking your mix to the next level, hence preparing it for distribution
What will be achieved during a Mastering session:
The Audio Engineer will:
- Adjust the tonal balance of your track.
- Ensure that your track level matches industry standards.
- Ensure that your track sounds its best, across multiple playing devices and platforms.
What files you will receive:
- WAV - 44.1khz/16 bit;
- WAV - 44.1khz/24 bit;
- WAV - 48khz/16 bit;
- WAV - 48khz/24 bit;
- Mp3 - 320kbps;
- DDP (for sending to CD manufacturers)
- FLAC - 88.2khz or 96khz/24bit (Uncompressed);
What you need to send for a Mastering session:
WAV or AIFF files at the same sample rate you are using on your mix project. Preferably at 24 bits or using the maximum number of bits allowed by your workstation.
> If you've chosen Stereo Mastering:
- 1 Stereo Track of your full mix
> If you've chosen Stem Mastering:
- Up to 4 stereo channels + the stereo mix
- Stem 1 - Rhythm (Drums + Percussion)
- Stem 2 - Harmony (Keys + Guitars + Horns + etc.)
- Stem 3 - Low End (Electric Bass + Low synths)
- Stem 4 - Main Vocal
- Stereo Mix
- Reference track link - for the Engineer to know what type of sound you're looking for.
- Additional Info - any specifications you might want for this particular master.
- Editing and Mixing must be completed in order to proceed to the Mastering session.
What is the difference between Stem Mastering and Stereo Mastering, and when should I choose one or the other?
- Stereo Mastering uses a single stereo file for processing, while Stem Mastering uses up to 4 stereo files. Even though Stereo Mastering is more typical, Stem Mastering provides the Mastering Engineer more freedom and control over the final product.
- In most cases, Stereo Mastering is preferable. Stem Mastering adds one more step to the process that may be very beneficial or not at all.
- The track's genre does not impact on the choice between Stereo and Stem Mastering.
- If you chose Stem Mastering, always send the stereo mix also. The stereo mix will serve as a reference, and the choice of which files to use may be discussed at the beginning of the session.
- Stem Mastering may take more than one session.
What will not happen in a Mastering Session:
- You won't be selecting the best takes. That is comping.
- You won't be editing any rhythmic issues. That is editing.
- You won't be tuning the vocals or any other instrument. That is editing.
- You won't be adjusting levels, EQs or effects of individual instruments. That is mixing.
Keep your peaks close to -0dB. If your peak volume is below -6dB, you're wasting resolution.
- Don’t over compress, or hit the limiter too hard. Mastering is responsible for your final volume. Too much compression and/or limiting will not help the mastering process.
- As a general rule, the less processing you have on the master bus of your mixing, the better. That said, if you used any processing on the master bus while mixing, don’t change it at the last moment.
- Leave at least 300ms of silence at the beginning of the file.
- Check how the ending is sounding. You may work on the final fade-out during mastering, but if an instrument is ending abruptly or before others, that can’t be fixed in mastering.