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How To Master Your Own Music - Resources and Information to Get Started NOW

CAN you master your own music ?

I've worked as a professional mastering engineer for over 20 years now, and my honest opinion is that with the technology available today, the answer is "Yes".

Ian Shepherd

Of course, as a mastering engineer I'd always recommend you take your music to a pro ! But I also realise that you may not want to - perhaps you want to learn how to master yourself, you may not have the budget for mastering - or maybe you even want to learn how to be a mastering engineer yourself.

And in that case I'd much rather you had the right information to do a great job of mastering your music. There's a lot of advice out there - some of it is great, some of it is OK, and a lot of it is just terrible !

So, here are some links to some of the most popular posts I've written over the years to help get you started.

Topics include EQ & compression, mastering speakers, building a home mastering studio and loudness.

And, it's all free !

So first:

What is mastering?

Here's an overview:

Mastering is like Photoshop for Audio

- and here's another one of my favourite posts on the subject

The heart and soul of mastering

Now to get into the details:


Perhaps the most crucial element of any mastering setup is the monitoring - the speakers and room you use to listen to your music in. Many professional mastering studios have speakers that cost as much as a large family car - and a room that has had several times that much spent on the acoustics alone.

Why is this important ? Well, take a look at this...

If you can’t hear it, it doesn’t matter, right ? WRONG

So does that mean you can't master your own stuff, without a speakers and room like that? No. But you do need to accept that monitoring is critical.

I recently set up a "home mastering studio" for myself, and posted a series of videos showing the process, talking a lot about monitoring. Take a look to find out how I got on:

Building a home mastering studio – Is it possible ?

And this post goes into more detail about choosing the right speakers for mastering

Mastering monitoring – how to choose speakers that are up to the challenge

Not all of us have the luxury of a dedicated mastering setup, though. That's OK - the most important thing is to learn how your monitoring sounds. Luckily that's straightforward to do - I wrote a post that talks about this from a mixing perspective but it applies equally to mastering:

Learn what your monitoring sounds like

As an addition or alternative to this strategy, if you have a high-quality audio system where you listen to most of your music for pleasure - in your living-room, say - you could consider using a laptop to master there.

The key is to find a place where you have "gut instincts" about how your music should sound, and in some ways the distance you get by working on a different system can be valuable.

Compression and EQ

As well as understanding the ideas and goals of mastering, you'll also need to understand compression and EQ. If you fancy a refresher, here are two articles to help.

Using compression to add punch, warmth and power to your mix

7 crucial EQ bands to help balance your mix

And this post describes the way I think and feel about compression, and how to decide what the settings should be.

Compression - The Punchbag Analogy

Mastering engineers sometimes use a particular type of compression known as multiband compression - it's a complicated subject, but there's a free webinar with an introduction to the subject here.

Multiband compression for mastering


Loudness is a hot topic in mastering at the moment, and I've written a lot about the subject ! Here are a few example posts and videos:

How to master a song loud (and the price you pay)

How EQ can make your music sound louder – using LESS compression and limiting

How to sound loud on iTunes Radio – the surprising secret of U2′s new album

If you don’t take this crucial (but simple) step, you’ll never know what your music REALLY sounds like

Good luck !

So, there you go - I hope these posts helped you - if you liked them please share them with your friends. There are plenty more on my site and I'd love to know what you think, so please drop me a line and say Hello!

You can find me on Twitter (@prodAdvice), and Facebook

I'll look forward to talking to you !


If all of this is actually starting to feel more like work than fun - that's OK ! You have to be a little strange to want to be a mastering engineer anyway : ) To find out more about working with me, click here.

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