Mastering Thought for the Day


I think that the changes the "mastering engineer" is suggesting is more of what the producer used to do. Guys like George Martin, Bones Howe, Jimmy Iovine, Tom Dowd, Mutt Lange and Phil Spector would guide the artists to produce the best song, the best mix, the best balance. From that would come the master tape. Of course, somebody sitting in their basement isn't going to get Jimmy Iovine to come by and adjust their mixes.

Mastering engineers in the original vinyl area would adjust the final two track master tape so that it fit into the parameters needed for cutting a lacquer on a lathe. These were guys like Stan Ricker, Bernie Grundman, Bob Katz and Robert Ludwig, and in many cases were uncredited unless you knew the codes in the lead out groove area. They were needed because tape masters had fewer limitations than vinyl records. You could put the bass on the left without a problem on a tape, but it wasn't a good idea to cut grooves that way. Cut too loud and you needed to have wider groove spaces, which means less time on the side. Cut too low, and the surface noise intrudes on the music. It was up to the mastering engineer to make the square peg fit into the round hole, so to speak.

I can't ever remember a story about a mastering engineer going back to Phil Spector or Mutt Lange and saying "you need to bring up the bass, and take down the drums. It needs more vocals." They probably would have gotten a mic stand shoved up their butt!

Thanks, TalismanRich. I appreciate what you are saying.
Labels aside, for me, it is little more than a collective effort in function and result.

There is no production suggestion, just level balance notes that will support a better master and song collection cohesion. As mentioned, it happens on occasion, a minor change on a single song or two. I am certainly never offended when considering a detail I may have missed before mastering.
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Give whoever you are considering to Master your album/project just one track/song of yours to Master.

Then listen to it on the best system available to you.

You should clearly hear every detail on the original mix much better and be already thinking about making tweaks to your original mix.

If you don't have this urge, try someone else?

This is the essence of a great master ... It translates perfectly across any playback system. But, this assumes the mix is high quality as well.

If the mix is not excellent, the mastering engineer needs to play a dual role, using tools like ozone RX to balance the mix before mastering can begin.