Recording

Spinnup’s Ultimate Guide to Mastering

Once you’ve gotten your tracks recorded and mixed there is one final step before you can distribute your music, mastering. Once mastered, your songs are ready to sell online sounding better than ever. In our Ultimate Guide To Mastering you will learn:  

 

What mastering is and why you need to get your tracks mastered 

How to prepare your music for mastering 

How to find the right mastering engineer 

How you can learn to master your music yourself 

 

What mastering is and why you need to get your tracks mastered 

 

Often jokingly referred to as a ‘dark art’, mastering gets a mysterious reputation due to confusion over what the process actually entails. We’re here to clarify the mystery and explain what you should expect when getting your songs mastered. Mastering is the final step in the music creation process before distributing your music on a platform like Spinnup. To ensure that music is well-balanced and stands up to the test, no matter what device someone is listening to the song on, mastering engineers polish off a song using an array of tools like EQ, Compression, and Limiting.  

 

When a DJ spins your new song in the club you want to make sure it has maximum impact. The rumble of the bass and the glistening vocals need to be balanced so that it doesn’t sound like a jumbled mess. This is where clever equalising can give your song the final polish it needs.  

 

Compression similarly shapes audio waves so that the elements of your song stick out when you want them to. If you’ve gone through the trouble of having a sick bass line on your track you want to make sure people can hear every note clearly. Mastering can help with this.  

 

A limiter is essentially an intense compressor. You set the level of the limiter to bring out the general ‘loudness’ of a song, a term that refers to the perceived sound level the human ear hears. When Drake’s professionally mastered song is put on a playlist before yours, it can be underwhelming if your unmastered song dips so much in volume that people thing it sounds ‘weaker’. Mastering will allow your music to stand up next to any other song in any genre. Think of it as the great (audio) leveller 

 

How to prepare your music for mastering 

 

So, what kind of shape do you need your songs to be in to get them mastered? Once your songs have been properly mixed you can create a final ‘bounce’ (stereo track) of your song for it to be mastered.  

READ SPINNUPS ‘ULTIMATE GUIDE TO MIXING’ 

 

You typically won’t deliver the individual parts (guitar, bass, vocals) to the mastering engineer, although some mastering engineers called ‘stem mastering engineers’ will do it this way. They simply need the highest quality stereo track of the song. Once they are sent the file, they listen to the song in a professional audio environment, meaning the room has been acoustically treated to allow the mastering engineer to properly hear every detail of the song. Mastering rooms can be some of the greatest sounding audio rooms in the world. This is part of what you are paying for when getting professional mastering. Mastering can take as short as an hour or as long as a few days for an album. Naturally the delivery time will be dependent on the workflow of the engineer so it’s best to make sure you submit your songs for mastering well in advance of your planned release.  

 

How to find the right mastering engineer 

 

Where can you hire a mastering engineer? Most of the famous studios you’ve heard of have in-house mastering engineers ready to get your songs sounding ace. Abbey Road Studios have a world-class team that have mastered albums by The Beatles, Ed Sheeran, and so many more. Lucky for you they are available to everyone starting at £90, but all Spinnup artists are able to get 10% off Abbey Road Studios online mastering! To get the discount code, just login to your Spinnup artist account and click the ‘partners & discounts’ banner at the bottom of the screen. Then you simply need to head to the Abbey Road ir website and upload your song. From there you can choose a specific engineer and even plan a visit so you can attend the mastering session in-person.  

 

Login or sign up for free to access our special discount on online mastering from our friends at Abbey Road Studios 

 

Another option is to find a mastering engineer on a website like the Spotify owned SoundBetter. Tons of competitively priced mastering engineers offer their services to anyone who submits a proposal on their site. This will allow you to work with someone within your budget.   

Lastly you can use a robot. Yes, truly. Artificial Intelligence has come so far in the audio world that AI programs can ‘listen’ to your song and know what it needs to be mastered. 

 

How can you learn to master your music yourself? 

 

What if you want to become a mastering engineer yourself? Back in the golden-age of recording you had to use a professional mastering engineer because they were the only ones who had access to the expensive tools. Not so much the case now with companies like Waves and Universal Audio creating incredible digital plug-in versions of mastering gear that would cost thousands physically. If you learn how to use the software correctly you can do a pretty nice job mastering yourself if you have an environment to properly listen to music.  

 When using a professional you’re also paying for their set of ears that have listened to music for decades, so you’ll have to put in the years of training to get as good as some of the best mastering engineers. If you want to jump-start your mastering career you can learn attake a course at an audio production school, like Abbey Road Institute who offer an advanced diploma one-year course.  

Once you’ve written and recorded your songs, and gotten them mixed and mastered, the hard part is over. Upload your (impeccably sounding) tracks with Spinnup and we’ll make light work of distributing your music to all the best streaming platforms and online music stores.  

Want more on mastering? Check out our tips on the five things to avoid when mastering