BandLab Mastering vs Mastering Engineer

Why Master Your Track If It Sounds Good?

Most individuals understand what mixing is, right. You take a collection of recorded takes, fly them into a DAW, and then you proceed to balance them all to fit together cohesively. This balancing act involves level adjustments, frequencies that may be overpowering the mix, and adding space for the various elements of the mix to breath.

While this can be very time consuming, if a song is mixed well, it will sound as if it's ready to be released for the whole world to hear! However, I am sure you've heard an awesome mix you've just poured over fall flat on its face when played back through another source. This is usually the case when taking a song from our studio space into the car.

This is where Mastering comes in.

An Analogy For Artists.

Music production can be likened to a painting. The initial idea of a song sets the stage for the next elements, that song idea becomes the canvas and the elements that make up the song are sort of like the sketches. Once the drawings begin to take shape a clearer picture is defined and the picture is arranged in such a way as to pull the viewer into the scene. From here, the the artist can begin adding some coloration to the canvas.

The various plugins that are utilized are like brushes, all of them serve different purposes and allow the painting to come to a desired result. A little EQ here for some clarity, some Reverb there for some depth and perspective, until the initial shapes become recognizable.

Normally, what sets apart an average painting from a Masterpiece, is the small details that are often overlooked by a beginner. These small strokes make the difference between an amateur painting that resembles what the artist might be trying to convey and a professional painting that is well defined and displays to anyone viewing it the intent of the artist.

Mastering audio is just that! Putting the final touches on a great mix to take it to that next level of quality.

The Nerdy Explanation.

Mastering a song involves taking a mix and putting the final touches on it by elevating certain sonic characteristics. This can involve aspects like adjusting levels, applying stereo enhancement, and monitoring for clicks and pops–anything that could distract the listener from the music. The end result is a polished, clean sound that is optimized for consistent playback across different formats and systems. 

Likewise, Mastering makes the sound cohesive across the record and prepares the music for different distribution formats, such as Vinyl, MP3/AAC, streaming services such as Spotify, and broadcast. In today’s world, mastering is necessary to create that “finished” sound that you hear everyday in everything from television commercials to radio and streaming.

Why BandLab Mastering?

While a human touch is always the best approach when it comes to Mastering a project, some may not have the knowledge as of yet or the confidence to Master their own work. In situations like this, BandLab allows you to  instantly master your tracks with the world’s leading online mastering service. What would normally take years of experience can be heard in just a few minutes with the fastest, best sounding, and truly free artist-driven Mastering tool integrated right within the platform.

FULL DISCLOSURE: Mastering is a beautiful blend of art and science. Because of this, nothing can beat experienced ears. BandLab can help your music sound it’s best, but, if you have the means, we highly recommend finding and supporting professionals in the field.

Preparing For The Mastering Phase.

The  first step in getting your music ready for mastering is to make sure your mix is well balanced and sounds exactly how you want it to. Here’s a rule of thumb from most engineers:

Mastering can take a good mix and make it great, but it cannot fix a mix full of problems.
Here are a few rules when preparing your final mix:
  • Make sure your track isn’t clipping! Distortion can ruin a track and there’s no way to remove these unpleasant artifacts in the mastering process.

  • Don’t over-compress your master track. Leaving a little headroom is key for ensuring your track will sound amazing after mastering. A typical mastering engineer will require your pre-mastering mix to sit somewhere from -8dB to -4 dB.
  • Avoid adding too many master effects! A little bit of global reverb is fine (aux sends are ideal), but if you go too far, it can cause issues when mastering.
  • Listen carefully for over-accentuated frequencies. If the bass is too muddy, try adding a high pass filter to clean-up or remove excess or inaudible frequencies. If the mids are troubled, try reductive equalising to highlight the most important sonic aspects of each track.
  • As stated before, balance is key. Make sure you’re happy with how each track sits in the mix and relates to each other. This not only means volume, but also panning, and the "space" each track lives in.
  • Take a break from mixing before exporting your final version. Your ears are likely to tire after a long session; after all, you’re only human! Taking 10 minutes of silence every hour of mixing will do wonders for any mix.

Watch the video below to hear what a difference Mastering can make on a song that's already been mixed.