Mastering, Do I Need It?
Mastering and Mixing are two very different parts of getting your finished songs to sound great.
Mixing involves all of the tracks in the session being mixed into a two-track stereo session. Whereas, Mastering takes those two mixed tracks and adds more balance, warmth, clarity, loudness, and focus.
Singers and bands often tell me “I know my sound and I don’t need my song to be mastered.” While you may think that your song sounds just the way you want it to, the professional labels do not. They professionally master songs for a reason. Having a second set of ears to review your mix is always a great idea. As an artist, you are too close to the mix to be objective and won’t be able to hear the critical adjustments that are necessary to make your song more polished.
Some artists even try their hand at mastering their songs themselves because the don’t want to give up control or they don’t want to spend the money. But, are they using the right gear for mastering the song? Is that gear being used in the right context? As an artist do you know what to listen for? Well the answer is most likely and unfortunately no. Mastering is a skill that takes years to master (excuse the pun). One needs years of mastering experience to acquire the critical listening skills needed to properly master a song. Most musicians do not know or understand the difference between mixing gear and mastering gear and how to use them to their fullest potential.
The above photo is a mastering session screen shot. The gear that I chose was strictly based on the needs of that particular song. I use a lot of different gear when mastering a song which is selected to match the particular song perfectly.
There are cheaper services out there that will master your music over the internet, however a lot of those services never even listen to your music. They run your song through a computer algorithm and call it a day. In the end “you get what you pay for.” A one size fits all approach just doesn’t work well for most artists and bands. Your songs represent you and your sound, don’t you want a mastering engineer who customizes your song to your own style? The bottom line is, if you don’t know what to listen for, how do you know if it's mastered to meet its full potential? This is where the second set of ears comes in handy. A professional Mastering Engineer will listen to your mixed tracks and through experience and critical listening, will give you the perfect master for your finished song. The Master is the “icing on the cake!”
So, to answer the question “Mastering, Do I Need It?” is most certainly, YES. Take a listen for yourself. We recommend listening on a good set of studio monitors or high quality headphones.