Choose mastering by a specialist.
I chose to dedicate as a mastering engineer 12 years ago. I can mix, however I choose not to as I enjoy a successful career solely mastering.
In 2022 there are some people that mix music, who also suggest they can “master” music.
Objectivity is immensely important
It beckons a serious question :
Are they a mixing engineer or a mastering engineer ? You cannot excel at both. In fact, you cannot mix music and have any objectivity at all on that project. It seems some cannot earn a living being either one or the other, yet have plenty of time to make lots of videos expressing their tiring 50pct mastering 50pct mixing opinions. I am 100pct mastering here, a specialist in the mastering profession.
Objectivity is an absolutely non negotiable part of mastering music. Objectivity is the ability to hear something new (often an EP or Album) without the baggage of knowing the technical process, fatigue, acoustic colouration, monitor colouration related to mixing multitrack audio. If you mixed music only a dedicated mastering engineer has objectivity available. Objectivity is the foundation from which worthwhile mastering can flourish.
Objectivity must be coupled with experience.
Objectivity is not in isolation, it needs to be coupled to thousands and thousands of hours of professional listening (and ideally mastering specific listening as is the case for a mastering engineer who specializes). Objectivity coupled with experience provides a high degree of ability to make decisions that minimize the carefully judged compromises that may appear in mastering.
Whilst correcting potential issues and finding the middle sonic path for a release a mastering engineer decides what not to do, as well as what to do. It is a very fine sonic line that needs balancing. A dedicated specialist will usually make the correct judgement more accurately, more of the time. This is what dedicated listening in high end environments achieves.
This is not only with respect to individual tracks. Mastering engineers master EP’s and albums and in general unless otherwise instructed seek the middle tonal, dynamic and perceived volume paths. This is to ensure the music plays back as well as possible on all music systems as a released product.
Specializing means you are not compromising your skill set with a secondary service.
Let’s not beat around the bush. If people mix and master they have not specialized their skillset for mastering. Developing mastering specific skill day in, day out, over long periods of time. They have split the time that a dedicated specialized mastering engineer has put in to mastering specific listening alone. You do not excel at anything in life by splitting your time between multiple things instead of having a razor sharp focus on 1 skill.
Superior room acoustics and mastering grade monitoring is immensely important
Not only is the auditory freshness of this important but also the acoustics and the equipment used for monitoring. Most mix engineers are not mixing on £10,000.00 worth of mastering grade monitoring. Here the acoustics are perfected, flat to 25Hz, PMC IB1S mastering grade monitors (10 inch drivers), Crane Song Quantum DAC (lowest jitter of any DAC in existence and subjectively beating DACs costing 10x more) I also use high power (totally distortion free) high headroom Hypex audiophile amplification. Not a small set of nearfields that lack detail, definition, linear and deep accurate sub, mid range definition and all importantly scale.
Any serious mastering engineer who hears large format speakers never goes back solely to using nearfields. (and if a mixing mastering engineer has not heard large format mastering grade monitoring their experience for mastering is incomplete.) There are no super human ears, you cannot hear more detail, definition and accuracy than your monitoring provides and near fields alone do not cut it. Neither do headphones. Do not mistake exceptions for rules.
Music industry history is telling
Dedicated/specialized mastering engineers have served the music industry since its inception
Mastering music takes a different mindset and approach to listening compared to mixing. You only develop this mastering listening to such a deep level by mastering. So the more mastering you do with objectivity, and focused on mastering only, the better you become at mastering. The mental and auditory reasoning that comes together before making an adjustment takes time to develop. It is this reasoning plus any client inputs, pre job, that can create the best results overall.,
In mastering you must take in the whole. With a view of making the best of what is really there in a mix. Using tools that work with and across the entire mix (often with primary technical effects and secondary tonal effects). Both the listening and application of these tools is very different than in mixing.
I firmly believe that mixing and mastering are seperate tasks entirely, as does the professional music industry itself. Top artists, record labels, producers and virtuoso musicians agree. The entire history of the music industry has been served well by this approach for more than 60 years. So by mixing and mastering (or choosing a mixing mastering engineer) you are going against collective and historic wisdom that has served the music industry for a very long time.
Jack of all trades, master of none
Dedication to mastering music means you avoid being Jack of all trades, master of none. To mix and master music as an engineer displays arrogance. It is in opposition of what the music industry itself considers the gold standard of seperating mixing and mastering tasks. Serious mixing engineers, musicians and producers will unlikely send their music to a mastering engineer who splits their focus and experience by bolting on a mixing service.
I don’t think we need explain why in great detail. Suffice to say most mixing engineers would not support a mix engineer (who “masters”) who is directly in competition with their own skillset. If a mastering engineer cannot survive on mastering alone it is unlikely they have the skills required to excel on your music.
In conclusion :
The entire history of music production ends with mastering, as decided by the professional music industry itself. Get your music mastered by a specialist who dedicates to mastering, the approach which has served the music industry well for decade upon decade. Diluted skill sets do not help your music reach its full potential.
Contact me Barry Gardner on safeandsound123 at googlemail.com or 0044 (0) 7810 271371
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