Mastering is often a difficult process to describe, though I like to define it as the final stage in the creative process and the beginning of the distribution process. A critical component of recorded sound for decades, mastering ensures an unbiased pair of trained ears triple-checks your record before it is sent to distributors. This is where any problem areas, unwanted artifacts, and issues of volume are addressed, along with a light amount of creative polishing – always directed by the artist’s vision – to present the music in its best form.
This is the first and in many ways most essential component of the mastering process. With iZotope RX, SPL HawkEye, and Metric Halo's SpectraFoo, your music will be checked through every type of meter imaginable to ensure the utmost fidelity upon release. I will use a variety of spectrographs, oscilloscopes, and level gauges to get a complete picture of the width, depth, dynamic range, and frequency spectrum of your mix. In conjunction with our discussions together, this will allow me to get a clear idea of where you’d like your recording to go and how I can best use my skills to assist you.
Using state-of-the-art hardware and software equalizers (GML, Dangerous Music, FabFilter), your track will be filtered for any troubling frequencies resulting from unchecked errors in the recording or mixing processes. At the same time, EQ (and other complementary tools) can be subtly used to transform the stereo image or reshape the transients in your record in accordance with your artistic vision, adding presence to vocals in one song and providing clarity to an 808 sub bass in another. This is done on an extremely small scale where adjustments are made in tenths of decibels on individual frequency bands; such tiny changes can in fact drastically improve the character and tonal balance of your music.
I will use saturation, compression, and limiting in varying amounts and in different ways to achieve the right balance between an exciting, present piece of music and a dynamic arrangement. During this stage of mastering, assorted pieces of gear from SPL, Shadow Hills, Black Box Analog Design, and Universal Audio are among my go-tos. Once your music has been run through an intense process of scrutiny and enhancement, it will be exported in accordance with the appropriate broadcast and distribution conventions. This ensures that it reaches listeners sounding the way you intend while meeting their expectations of loudness and fidelity on any medium (streaming services, CD, radio, etc). Along the way, processes such as reducing noise, restoring sound, and adding metadata/ISRC codes for distribution rights can be considered as needed.
Before I can begin mastering your music, it is important to ensure that I receive the optimal file to be mastered. This means that considerations must be made regarding format, bit depth, sample rate, and headroom before I begin to work. Mastering requires a great deal of processing and data integrity, so unfortunately only stereo interleaved files in .wav or .aiff formats are acceptable for the highest possible quality. These lossless files must be bounced (with normalize, dither, and trim silences turned off) from your DAW at the same bit depth and sample rate at which your session was recorded and/or mixed. For example, a track recorded in a Logic session as 24-bit/88.2kHz should be sent as a .wav or .aiff file at 24-bit/88.2kHz for mastering. Lastly, it is very important that the master track in your DAW remain untouched before export – if you have mixed or recorded your song with limiting/compression on the master track, please remove it and lower the volume accordingly to ensure there is at least -3dB of headroom above the loudest peak level in your track.
Think of a mastering engineer as something like a book editor who proof-listens, offers unbiased suggestions, and ensures total integrity of your work before it reaches the public. You will receive a stereo file of your music in its highest possible fidelity via collaborative Google Drive and/or Dropbox folders, with a guarantee that the mastering process will have injected more energy, balance, and clarity into your mix. Should you wish to have further alterations made, I will of course do so with your feedback. As the final pair of hands to work on your music, I take great pride in what I do and can't wait to share the results with you.