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The art of mastering consists of multiple facets, all with the common objective of presenting the finished product in the best possible way.
The process can be divided into the following sections:
Noise reduction and removal of clicks and pops
This is usual the first step within the mastering process. Upon listening through the tracks, I get an overview of what needs to be done to the tracks before the mastering work can begin. If clicks, pops or other noises are present, these will be removed in this stage. Depending of the type of noise, different tools can be used. Typically this can be done in a non-destructive manner, meaning that the changes can be rolled back to the original, if the client is not pleased with the changes.
This is where the magic happens! Audio processing is the part of mastering where, among other things, the tone, colour, dynamics and stereo perspective of the original track is changed. In some cases very little needs to be done. In other cases, it can be expected from the client that the mastering engineer takes the tracks to a totally new place.
Typical tools used are:
- Equalization (tone, colour)
- Compression/Limiting (dynamics, colour)
- Stereo Widening/Narrowing (perspective)
- Saturation & Clipping (tone, colour, dynamics)
These tools can overlap though, as some compressors add colour and some types of EQ’s can change dynamics. The important aspect is to know when to use which kind of tool as every song is different.
Arrangement can mean different things; On one hand an arrangement can be a sequence of tracks, their order and the spaces between them. On the other hand an arrangement always exist within the song itself. Both types are important, but often people don't consider the latter a part of the mastering proces. They should. Maybe the song needs to be louder during the chorus, or more quiet during the intro? It's things like these that can really help a song stand out.
Loudness is important! Louder is not always better though. It depends a lot on your final target destination (streaming, vinyl, tape, CD etc.), and I always make sure to make all tracks perform at their optimal level.
The final Master
When pressing vinyl it is my advice to create one audio file for each side. By doing this we make sure that the track order isn’t ruined and the spacing between tracks is kept as intended.
- Digital files
For digital files ISRC codes, metadata, images are embedded into the files whenever possible (NB: Not all formats allow embedding in the same manner).
For CD’s a DDP file is created. This file holds all data needed to create the final CD, including CD-text, ISRC codes and of course the audio files.
I will deliver the mastered tracks in all the different formats you wish at no additional costs.