After the mix: what you need to know about mastering tracks
Updated: Aug 30, 2021
Mastering is an art in of itself. Most Mix Engineers and Producers that I know, including myself, prefer to have their work mastered by someone else, bringing fresh ears and a fresh perspective to the recording.
The 'Master' is not one file, but instead, a set of files specifically created for the end product,
i.e. ADM (high Quality online), DDP (CD), Vinyl Master, WAV & MP3, each of which has its own specific set of requirements.
The job is not simply a technical one. Decisions on compression (relative loudness) and Master EQ can have a dramatic effect on the overall feeling of the track, so having a good rapport with the mastering engineer is a really good idea.
Provide example tracks that have the feel you desire. Taking this step is extremely helpful for the Engineer when approaching the mastering session to establish the approach. By providing that clear direction initially, it will likely save a lot of back of forth.
But be realistic. If you provide a track as an example that has none of the sonic characteristics of your track..., then it's unlikely to be helpful or result in the outcome you desired.
Just like recording, mixing and the overall production, feeling comfortable with those you chose to work with is absolutely the key, so chose your mastering partner in the same way you would your engineer and producer. Check out their work, get references and also ask yourself if it feels good to work with this person.
Your gut instinct is usually right :)