Mastering Music: Why is it important?

Mastering Music: Why is it important?

Around 40,000 songs are uploaded to Spotify every single day. That’s 14.6 million songs every year.

With so much music available, listeners have come to expect a certain level of quality. Not only must your music be mixed to a good standard, but it must also be mastered.

What is mastering music, exactly? Why is it important?

Read on to learn more.

What is Mastering Music?

Mastering is the final stage of music production.

You start by recording your track. You then mix it, balancing the levels of the different instruments to make it sound as good as possible. The final step is mastering, which gives a final polish to the entire song.

Mastering uses techniques such as compression and limiting to make the final version of the song the best it can be.

Why Should You Master Your Music?

If you’ve mixed your music as well as you can, or hired someone to do it for you, it should be perfect right? Is there any need to master it too?

Short answer: yes! Here are some reasons why mastering is so important.

Meet Broadcast Standards

If you’re planning on uploading your music for distribution, then it needs to be at a certain level of quality.

Spotify, for example, requires you to target the loudness level of your master to -14 LUFS with -1 db headroom. If you don’t use the correct levels, these sites will compress your music to meet them, which can make it sound much worse.

If you’re planning on releasing CDs or vinyl, your music should be professionally mastered before it goes to press.

Make Your Album Consistent

If you’re putting an album together, then proper mastering is vital.

If you don’t master the whole thing correctly, each song will sound different from the next. It could be louder, or feel muddier, making the process of listening to the album far less enjoyable. Listeners may keep having to change the volume to get the same level of sound for each song.

Good mastering will make your entire album sound consistent.

Professional Sound

Proper mastering can turn a song that sounds a little amateur into one that sounds completely professional.

All major artists have their music professionally mastered, and even if you’ve never even heard of mastering, you’ll be able to hear the difference between a track that hasn’t been mastered properly, and one that has.

Without mastering, you’ll never achieve the professional quality of sound that listeners have become used to.

Are You Looking for Mastering for Your Music?

Now you know why mastering music is so important, you may be looking for someone to master your music. If so, you’re in the right place.

I offer quick, convenient and accessible online mastering services. Upload your tracks and I will master them using state of the art equipment, with a personalized customer experience that is second to none.

Upload your song today for a free mastering sample.

5 Pro Tips for Recording Vocals Perfectly Every Time

5 Pro Tips for Recording Vocals Perfectly Every Time

You’ve done it. You’ve crafted the perfect song, and it’s time to show it to the world. But something happens when you go to play the file.

The vocal recordings are terrible. There’s background noise, the volume slips in and out, and occasionally there’s a screech of static or patch of fuzz. This audio’s un-usable: you’re back to square one.

So how can you prevent this nightmare scenario from coming to pass?

All you have to do is listen up because we’re here to give you 5 pro tips for recording vocals perfectly every time! Are you ready? Then let’s get started.

1: Use The Right Tools For The Job

Would you use a wrench to hammer a nail in? No, because that’s not the right tool for the job. A similar idea applies to vocal recordings.

For example, adopting the “one mic solves all” approach is a bad idea: different mics will better handle different sounds. The two main types are condenser and dynamic microphones.

Condenser microphones are microphones with a small, lightweight diaphragm inside to capture sound. As a result, they record high-frequency instruments like the piano or acoustic guitar best. Dynamic mics have bigger diaphragms and are more equipped for lower frequency sounds.

Mic selection can be tricky, you’ll want to analyze the type of genre youre working with as well as the type of singer you’ll be working with if you’re recording someone else. If you’re going to bew working on pop or rock, a dynamic microphone like thge Shure SM7B might do just the trick, although that might not always be the case. In most styles of music, most producers will go for either a condenser or a tube microphone due to their polar patterns. In this scenario, some of the most sought after microphones are the Neumann U87 and the Telefunken u47, however there are more affordable options like the Rode NT1 that will give you a great result. So when picking a microphone, always consider the style of music you’ll be working with and remember to do your research!

If you’re not sure what gear you might need, taking a look at equipment lists professional companies use may prove helpful.

2: Take Steps To Make Post-Production Easier

Eventually, you’ll get to mixing and mastering your track. So as much as it’s a headache now, take steps to make it easier on yourself in the long run.

Need an example? Track your vocals in mono, but route your effects, such as delay and reverb to a stereo track. While you should still check those mixes in mono, recording the effects in stereo will give your vocals a more vibrant and rich quality.

Another example is to study good mic technique: how far away should someone stand, how should they stand, etc. This way, you can coach your vocalists to avoid mistakes that you’d have to deal with in the editing process.

3: Don’t Have A Pop Filter? Get One

A pop filter is a special “guard” built to help disperse the intensity of air that comes when you say “hard” letters like B, T, P, etc. Without this guard, you run the risk of overloading your vocal recordings whenever these letters show up in your vocals.

Pop filters are pretty inexpensive too, so if you can spare the funds to get one, we recommend it.

4: Check The Acoustics

The place where you record your vocals is as important as the tools you use to record those vocals.  Recording in a room with bad acoustics can make you sound hollow or weak. So make sure to treat the room you’re going to record in with techniques like placing foam panels on the walls to absorb sound waves or putting things in to diffuse the sound.

Running tests ahead of time is also a great idea. Nothing worse than recording only to find out that there’s a problem testing beforehand would have found.

5: Keep The Singer Comfortable

Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean springing thousands of dollars to pamper their every need.

It’s as simple as applying a reverb effect through the singer’s headphones while they are performing. This helps to drown out some of the tiny imperfections singers can have in their normal voice so the singer can feel free to relax and give it all they’ve got.

Start Recording Vocals

Congrats! You are now equipped with 5 tips you need to help you with recording vocals as perfectly as possible!

If you’re interested in learning more about the process of recording and mixing music, check out the other posts on our blog! So until next time: break a leg and keep on singing.

The Importance of Tonal Balance in Mastering Audio

The Importance of Tonal Balance in Mastering Audio

You know when you’ve heard a good piece of music when it just works. You can’t put your finger on why, but every part works to enhance the others.

Chances are, you’ve hit on a song with good tonal balance.

Some ideas about how music should sound come from early nineteenth-century classical music. Back then, music was all about tonal balance and symmetrical phrasing.

While we’ve lost some of the focus on phrasing, we still appreciate good tonal balance today.

Why is that? Read on to learn more.

What is Tonal Balance?

The tonal balance is the way energy, or the tone, is distributed across the audio spectrum. In other words, how the frequencies you can hear relate to each other.

Lots of artists and audio engineers will talk about a mix being ‘balanced’. Trouble is, the definition of tonal balance can be subjective. Different people interpret it in different ways.

Musicians have a different conception of tone because it depends on what instrument and style they play.

Engineers have a different approach because they have more individual factors to play with.

They have to balance the instrument, the acoustics of the recording space, and the technology used. The way they achieve tonal balance depends on the sound that’s required.

Why Do I Need It?

It all comes down to the required sound we just talked about.

The engineers need to walk a fine line between what the performance sounds like both live and recorded. Let’s take a guitarist as an example.

The engineer needs to balance the tone so the guitar sounds amazing on its own and alongside the rest of the band. Hitting the right tonal balance involves managing all the instruments so they sound good together.

This becomes even more pronounced during mixing. Here, the mixing engineer needs to be sure everything works together. No instrument can dominate or fight another for attention.

Achieving this balance will vary from one genre to another. That’s because people expect different sounds from certain types of music. It can even vary between artists of the same genre, depending on how they use instruments and song dynamics.

Without that tonal balance, the song will sound “off”.

How Do I Get a Good Tonal Balance?

You need to know what you want the song to sound like. Go into the recording phase with this in mind so you have the right tracks available.

Move into the mixing phase and listen for any parts of the mix that sound too soft or loud. If the mix sounds muddy, cut low frequencies or add high ones.

Make sure you use the same EQ settings on both channels. You don’t want to upset the stereo balance.

When you reach the mastering phase, try checking your mix against an existing song. Choose one from the same genre that you’re working with.

Run the existing song through a spectral analyzer. This lets you look at and understand its frequencies. Compare these to your own mix to see if you’ve achieved a similar tonal balance.

Nailing Tonal Balance

Now you know why tonal balance is so important when mixing and mastering audio. If a song is unbalanced, the listener won’t get the same enjoyment from the track.

Getting the tone balanced right will leave them with a pleasurable listening experience.

There are lots of elements involved in hitting the right balance. If you want expert help, get in touch and we’ll get you going.

Top 7 Mixing Mistakes

Top 7 Mixing Mistakes

The mastering process is extremely important in all aspects of audio recording. Whether you’re creating a musical magnum opus or recording an audiobook, the master plays a huge part in the audio’s quality and character. Regardless of the raw material that’s recorded, the mastering process is an artform in its own right. It’s not simply a matter of pressing a few keys and waiting for a piece of software to do all the work.

Mastering requires a skilled and practiced hand which is why it’s best left to a well trained and experienced professional. However, even the most seasoned mastering engineer can be encumbered by limitations. Issues with the raw audio data they’re working with can lead to problems that no amount of post-production trickery can resolve. With that in mind, recording artists do well to keep the following in mind when preparing their audio mix for mastering…

1. Lack of dynamic range

As musicians and advertisers alike compete for the attention of fickle listeners on the airwaves, this has led to the problem of loudness. Especially in an era where our sophisticated compressor technology has enabled studios to create “radio mixes” which are punchy, loud and confrontational.

While it’s understandable that all kinds of recording artists might want to create punchy, attention-grabbing tracks, they can create significant problems for mastering engineers. If you boost the apparent volume or normalise a track’s relative volume it will inevitably come at the expense of your dynamic range.

This means that the mastering engineer will have less resources to work with.

Ideally your tracks should have an average volume of -6 to -8dB with peaks at -3 dB to keep your dynamic range intact.

2. Too much on either end of the sound spectrum

One of the most problematic (and most common) issues reported by mastering engineers is that of excessive low-end. This is especially common in home studios and other environments where there are a number of bass traps and reflective surfaces. These result in an uneven response on the lower (bass) end of the audio spectrum with some notes being given too much emphasis and others too little. Make sure that your speakers are as far apart from one another as you are from them.

At the same time, an overemphasis on the high end (treble) can also cause problems of its own. Some recording artists can be a little over zealous when it comes to equalization and the result can be problematic. Use EQ sparingly and score brownie points with your mastering engineer.

3. Phase issues

Recording in stereo can lend individual tracks a richer and more characterful sound. But be sure to check stereo mixes in mono to keep track of any issues with phase cancellation- where frequencies can disappear when two tracks are merged into mono.

Even if you don’t intend for your music to ever be heard in mono it’s a good way to keep track of your balances.

4. Misaligning track stems

Make your engineer’s life easier by ensuring that all stems (guitar, bass, drums, vocals etc.) start at the same time. Misaligning tracks leaves your mastering engineer having to guess when each comes in which can be tedious and stressful for them and potentially compromise your overall track.

5. Poor vocal placement

Don’t you just hate it when the lyrics of a song are utterly incomprehensible. When we’re used to singing the same lyrics over and over again, it’s easy to forget that other people don’t know them. So try a number of variations with the vocals sitting just in front of and behind other stems. Your mastering engineer will appreciate having options.

6. Poor panning

Having a nice, wide stereo field gives tracks a nice sense of balance and definition. So don’t be afraid of those outer limits. All too often, recording artists don’t allow the sound to pan sufficiently, keeping everything at or close to the centre. But this can lead to a very cluttered and chaotic mix that a mastering engineer will struggle ton bring definition to.

Try experimenting with setting different elements off to the side. It helps to separate different audio elements and give them a little more room to breathe.

7. Not understanding the space

Finally, the better you know your space, the better you can pre-empt any issues you might have with your mix. Try listening to some familiar records in your space to gauge how the sound relates to the space around you.

The better prepared you are for the mastering process, the better results you can expect at the end of it. Mastering is equal parts art and science, but even the best engineers cannot make bricks without clay!

10 Tips for Audio Mastering if You’re Not a Mastering Engineer

10 Tips for Audio Mastering if You’re Not a Mastering Engineer

Audio mastering is the final step before you release your track to the world. This is the stage where all minor flaws are corrected, the track is leveled up for commercial release standards and ensures that all the tracks play at the same volume.

It’s a process with a lot of history. 3M introduced the first mastering tape in 1962.

But can you master songs if you’re not a qualified engineer? Is audio mastering something you can do yourself?

The answer is yes! You can do your own mastering even if you’re not a mastering engineer. Read on to learn more.

1. Don’t Mix and Master at the Same Time

You want your final mix to sound like you’ve mastered it. But don’t try to mix and master at the same time.

Finish your mix and wait a day before you try to do your audio mastering. That way, you’ll hear things you need to fix that you might otherwise miss.

2. Create an Optimized Listening Space

You need an optimized space to listen to your track while mastering it. If you can, install acoustic panels to balance the sound in your room. If space is a concern, you can check your mix with a quality set of headphones, although speakers will always be better.

Or just choose a good pair of headphones. This means you can easily master your audio at home.

3. Check Where Your Track Will Be Used

Many platforms like YouTube and Spotify use loudness normalization. This means they raise or lower the volume on uploaded tracks. That means the tracks all match.

Check your meters while you’re mastering to make sure you’re in the right range for your chosen platform.

4. Use Meters

Meters give a more professional result to your sound quality.

At the very least, use a LUF meter (LUFS – Loudness units relative to Full Scale. This is a loudness standard designed to enable normalization of audio levels. Loudness Units (or LU) is an additional unit. It describes loudness without direct absolute reference and therefore describes loudness level differences. (i.e., the maximum level a system can handle) This will tell you how loud your track is. You’ll need to know this to check its volume across the mix.

Using the right loudness lets you hit the requirements of streaming platforms.

5. Avoid Any Clipping

You may not notice digital distortion when you’re mixing. But it becomes apparent when you’re mastering.

Before you export your mix, check nothing is clipping in any of the faders. Before exporting the mix, make sure that you are leaving around 6db’s of headroom and that at no point the signal is going over 0 on the meters.

6. Always Use Reference Tracks

It may sound odd to say reference tracks can make or break your final product.

But they give you something great to compare your mix to. Listen to other professionally mastered music while you’re working on yours.

That way, your track can hold its own alongside these other mixes.

7. Make Notes the First Time You Listen

We recommended you take at least a day between finishing your mix and starting your master.

When you finally get to listen to your track, make notes. Write down anything that stands out as being off or annoying.

You’ll pick up most of the problems during this first listen. That makes them easier to iron out.

8. Listen in Different Spaces

We advised you to optimize your listening space. But it’s also important to ‘test’ your track in a range of spaces.

That’s because people will listen on their phone, in their car, or through speakers.

Listen to your mix in these spaces too. Remember to listen to your reference tracks in the same spaces for better insights into how yours should sound.

9. Keep Audio Mastering Simple

You’ll find plenty of tools in your software. But keeping things simple results in cleaner tracks.

Restrict yourself to three tools: Compressor, EQ, LimiterStart with your EQ and try to find out if anything needs boosting or cutting. If the mix is already compressed, adding more compression might be a bad idea. After you have everything leveled out, pay attention to how loud the material is and if it needs some limiting.

10. Use the Right Export Settings

Before you start mastering, export your mix at the same sample rate and bit as the session. Use lossless formats like .wav or .aiff. Never use a compressed file format like mp3 at this stage.

When you export your master, export at 16 bits and 44.1 kHz. These are standard rates in the industry. Use both a lossless format and something like mp3.

Learn to Master like a Pro

There’s a lot to remember when you start audio mastering yourself.

It’s fulfilling but there’s also a learning curve while you get used to the terminology. At the end of the day, and to always achieve professional results, you will always want to hire a seasoned engineer, since he/ she will bring years of experience and judgement to the table. If you’re serious about your music (and I know you are) you will learn a lot more by going this route.

Why not submit a track and get a free mastering sample? We would love to help you out!

How to Master Your Audio at Home

How to Master Your Audio at Home

You love music so much that you’ve set up a home studio. You’re enjoying the benefits of music in your life as a stress reliever or a creative outlet. But maybe you want to take your journey to the next level by learning how to master audio.

Of course, becoming an expert in anything requires a lot of time and dedication. Sound engineering technicians typically spend at least a year in a certificate or degree program.

But, you don’t have to dedicate yourself to schooling to gain sound engineering skills. Use these tips as a launching pad toward becoming more proficient and comfortable with mastering audio at home.

Understand Mastering

To master audio the right way, you should understand what it is exactly. Mastering is the final stage in mixing a song.

What’s the difference between mixing versus mastering?

Mixing is all about blending several tracks into one single track. Mastering, on the other hand, revolves around adding precision to the audio track. The mastering stage is the last step of refining a song so that it’s officially ready for listeners.

How to Master a Song: Six Important Steps

Learning how to master music can be a layered and complex process. But here are a few high-level tips you can keep in mind as you get started mastering tracks.

Prepare an Ideal Listening Environment

To mix and master music, you need a quiet listening space. Set yourself up for success by installing acoustic panels in your home studio.

Other important investments include a good pair of open-back headphones and studio monitors to help you accurately hear and listen to your work.

Even if you just have some of these basics, this will help you mix and master audio more successfully.

Create Your Final Mix

Mixing involves transforming multiple tracks into a single track. Balance is hugely important during this phase. You want to address imbalances or issues with synchronization and consistency when it comes to the right volume for your particular song.

Put the time in to get your mix in great shape before you start perfecting it. This will help lay a good foundation for those final tune-ups in the mastering phase.

Start Making Revisions

Once you have your single track, you can get to work with refining what it.

Remove sound harshness, imbalances, and inconsistencies.

You’ll also want to iron out issues with compression. Compression is important to add to your track so that you can create an ideal dynamic range. This refers to the highest and lowest volume of the track.

Compression done the right way helps your track sound put together and cohesive.

Be mindful of any signs of clipping—which can register as distortion or audio breaking up.

Enhance Your Track

To ready your song for release, you’ll want to add finishing touches. These might include:

  • Adding extra effects for more dynamics
  • Adding saturation to create more body
  • Stereo widening to help add more room if sounds are too close together

Reference Your Final Product

Once you’ve reached a good point with your mastered track, listen to your work. Make sure to compare it to other songs that are in the same genre and have been successful. You might also do this during the mixing stage too.

This can be a helpful tool to reset your ears or provide perspective when you’re deep into a project.

Continue Learning How to Master Audio or Hire a Pro

While this is just a crash course on how to master audio, you can find plenty of other helpful tips on our site. Or submit your track and get a FREE MASTERING SAMPLE!