”More
Dynamic Range Day - Loudness War Protest

Production Advice

make your music sound great

How to be a mastering engineer

by Ian Shepherd



What makes a mastering engineer ?

I’ve written about the question “what is mastering” before, but when you try to explain where the boundary between an enthusiast and a “real” mastering engineer lies, things get more complicated.

I’m a professional mastering engineer. People come to me and ask me to make their music sound the best it can be – and I do.

And the truth is, if you want the absolute best for your music, I think you should do the same. Send it to someone like me to have it professionally mastered.

It took me years to get to this stage. I’ve done way more than my “10,000 hours” – and I know that experience counts.

But on the other hand, I run both this website and the Home Mastering Masterclass, where I tell people that you could get great results mastering your music at home !

Talk about conflicted.

How can I have it both ways ?

How can I say my work is worth what I charge, when I make YouTube videos showing people how to do exactly the same things ? How can I justify the time and effort I spend, when I keep telling you that mastering is simple ?

There are a host of “how to master” videos and blog posts out there – some are great, some are garbage. But what’s the difference ? How can I say that mastering is only EQ, compression and limiting, but also believe that it’s so much more than just putting plugins on your 2-buss ?

Good question

Here’s the answer.

The answer is me.

My ears, my experience, my perspective, my skill.

Me. I’m the mastering engineer.

Pretty arrogant, right ? Well… no.

Because it could also be you !

Many of my clients have tools, ears and monitors every but as good as mine. They sit with me on the session and they hear what I hear. They could be making exactly the same calls.

But they still choose to get me to master their music for them, because of my experience, my perspective, my skill.

But that doesn’t mean you have to…

How to be a mastering engineer

If you have tools, ears and monitors as good as mine, plus plenty of time and patience, you can master your own music, too – and get great results. And if you want to, who am I to say you shouldn’t ?

Because it’s not what you do, it’s not how you do it, it’s WHY. As I’ve written before, that is the heart and soul of mastering.

So, if you want to master your own music – go for it. Just remember, it’s not about which processors you choose, or the order you use them in, or the amount of money you spend on them, or any of that stuff.

It’s about YOU.

And if you’d like some guidance along the way, I’ll be glad to help.


(This post was inspired by a great discussion in the excellent Pensado’s Students Facebook Group – I recommend you check it out.

facebook comments:

2 Responses

  1. Peter Feegle says:

    No matter what you’ll show to the public, it’s the experience which makes the mastering / mixing engineer able to use all the knowledge and tricks shown here in appropriate way. Also the experienced engineer is going to make less mistakes than the newbe thats’s tha difference. Also $$$ is different ;)

  2. Chris Picton says:

    I’d really like to do the mastering course to improve my own music but have recently been asked to master some dance music and I want to do the best job possible…

Leave a Reply

Ian Shepherd


BBC Radio 4 Interview

Please install Flash plugin

Ian Shepherd from Production Advice discusses the Loudness Wars

Connect