Can you master your own music ?
I’ve worked as a professional mastering engineer for over 15 years now, and my honest opinion is that with the technology available now, the answer is “Yes”.
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 “how to master” posts I’ve written over the years to help get you started. And, it’s all free !
What is mastering?
Here’s an overview:
- and here’s another, more detailed attempt to answer the same question:
To cover some more detailed topics:
Perhaps the most crucial element of any mastering setup is the monitoring – the speakers and room you use to listen to your music in. Most 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.
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.
Not many 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 it.
It talks about mixing but the idea is the same:
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 normal, “single-band” compression and EQ. If you fancy a refresher, here are two articles to help.
And this post describes the way I think and feel about compression, and how to decide what the settings should be.
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.
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:
Mastering with plugins
I’m often asked if it’s possible to master your own music with just plugins, and the answer is Yes – if you know what you’re doing. I’ve created a free email “Quickstart” course to help get you started with this – if you’d like more information, click here.
Good luck !
So, there you go – I hope these posts helped you – if you liked them please share them with your friends. I’d love to know what you think, so please drop me a line and say Hello!
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 : ) Feel free to get in touch for a free assessment of your music. I’ll give you an honest opinion about how much your mixes would benefit from mastering, and maybe even do a demo for you, if you like. To find out more about working with me, click here.