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Is 'mastering' actually needed?

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Re: Is 'mastering' actually needed?

Postby SafeandSound Mastering » Mon Jul 27, 2009 8:49 am

No offence taken, as mentioned.

When I master audio I don't think I have ever thought of the music as a commodity as such or definitely not in isolation. I consider how much hard work has been been put in by a songwriter, band/musician, producer, rec engineer,
maybe mix engineer and with that in mind proceed in a way that will produce a good master for that genre whilst taking into consideration client taste and suggestion.
I send out a short questionnaire for some guidance. There is a fairly wide aperture for what is a good master and as such a great result can be achieved whilst including the clients comments as well as keeping it within sensible/translatable technical constraints.

consumed by generations who have no idea how it came to be, and no desire to find out; as such, we either accept the situation as it is, or risk self-delusion.

I also think this does not give music lovers a great deal of credit, I thnk you will find that a great many young people are interested in music and production (thankfully)
a classic example would be the readership of magazines such as SOS and the dwellers on these forums. This week I am mastering an album for someone who has a day job and does not deem themself a pro musician, but the material and attitude I am working with from the client is nothing but 100pct professional.

It might be a wider problem with society that things should happen without very hard work, but I know nothing happens unless you are 100pct passionate about what you do. Being a cinic is easy, working hard to succeed is hard but rewarding.

I would love to talk more but I am installing some enormous bass trapping today.

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Re: Is 'mastering' actually needed?

Postby van Sinn » Mon Jul 27, 2009 1:12 pm

I'm being offensive to John's (post #757366) disection, feeling this is mostly off to the discussion at hand about mastering.

Those comments may hold true if we all allow us to get drawn into this all-is-free-internet-download mechanism/hype, which seems to not only be about to litterally/partly destroy our business, but also impair our good judgement, morale and willingness to still persue Good Music, as difficult doing so may be.

Of course I'm perfectly aware of reality, but to say almost noone cares about albums and that correcting music to ideal conditions et al.. doesn't matter is really playing the devils advocate.

I believe it depends on which market. John's comments may hold true to a lot of popular pop and pop-rock et al.. - which may well constitute the majority of sellable contents in these times . but IMHO is not valid for all genres.

I mean no pun with this ;) I just partly disagree..
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Re: Is 'mastering' actually needed?

Postby Guest » Mon Jul 27, 2009 7:26 pm

Hi John,

I did find your post very funny as unfortunately it reflects the thought process of many budding musicians.

Luckily I have enough clients keeping me busy, so don't feel too much threatened by this, yet. Most musicians making a living with music or taking their art seriously soon realize that involving the best engineers (mixing or mastering) to help with their projects is money well spent.

The presentation of a song (even if it is not on CD) is as important as ever and can be make or break for a career.

Re: Is 'mastering' actually needed?

Postby turbodave » Mon Jul 27, 2009 9:48 pm

To respond literally, no, mastering is not needed! porn is not needed! I , however, am knock kneed! Dave
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Re: Is 'mastering' actually needed?

Postby Elephone » Sat Aug 01, 2009 12:48 pm

One thing I'd say about mastering in modern times is... if you can, do it yourself. If not, make sure you're present and keep your recordings with you.

People are more likely to lift stuff from seperate tracks than from finalised recordings. Also, remember to post copies to yourself. (I developed a really cheap method of protecting CDs without needing recorded delivery. I'll post it in the Music Business forum...)
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Re: Is 'mastering' actually needed?

Postby Freuman » Sun Aug 02, 2009 6:38 am

Sorry for not posting a response sooner (holiday), The post was indeed very tongue-in-cheek, but I do find it interesting and I haven't had any answers that have convinced me yet, so lets play devil's advocate even further...


John has put forward most of the replies I would have (Though I was thinking more iTunes than Pirates).

So if music is mixed well, why can't the Mix engineers slap it onto a redbook? Surely they can top and tail songs? Surely they can fade out? When a Album goes onto iTunes (or similar), all the needed info comes up automatically when played on a computer, even with a dodgy CDR...


Could you not say that mastering is only really needed for engineers who are not confident about their mixing?
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Re: Is 'mastering' actually needed?

Postby SafeandSound Mastering » Sun Aug 02, 2009 9:16 pm

I thought about this before I posted up and whilst it may feel radical and "interesting" to suggest music does not require mastering I would purport that around 95pct of clients music is generally improved in some way by mastering.

That's really all I have to say now.

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Re: Is 'mastering' actually needed?

Postby Waltz Mastering » Tue Aug 04, 2009 1:41 pm

There's many mastering engineers who know how to improve the sound of your mix.
Despite all the negative vibes sent out about bad/crushed mastering. It's pretty cynical to think all mastering makes things suck or is not needed on a professional level.

What does destroy the sound of most really good mixes is just relying on a software limiter to get it up.

It's hard for me to grasp how a songwriter could write, producer, engineer, mix and master there own song and expect it to come out to the same level artistically and sonically as it would if you were utilizing people who specialize in some of these crafts to help you and the record making process.

There are many ME's who do samples, so if your not certain if you will benefit from the process of getting your mixes or album professionally mastered you have nothing to lose by checking it out for yourself.
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Re: Is 'mastering' actually needed?

Postby notefarm » Tue Aug 04, 2009 10:46 pm

Perfectly put.

I have been thinking of how to add my thoughts to this thread, but you said what I was going to say.

There is no way that I can play the guitar, engineer, mix and then master my own CD. I just can not wear that many hats. I would rather leave the mastering to some one that has dedicated there time to that craft in the same way I have to my guitar craft. I still have to wear the agents hat too in there somewhere, and teach guitar students and write out charts for gigs and sessions. I have to draw the line somewhere.

There is more to mastering than Red Book CDS and fade in and outs, and space between tracks and making things loud.

Financially, if I take into account my hourly rate and how long it would take me to master something and get and hmmmm OK job compared to and experienced full time ME. I know I save money letting them do it every time and get better results. They can do it quicker and better than I. Just as they would probably hire me to play guitar on there CD for the same reason.

Sorry for my rambling reply,

Wishing good mixes and success to all,
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Re: Is 'mastering' actually needed?

Postby Pure-Tone » Fri Aug 07, 2009 8:44 pm

I kind of like the way this guy thinks. Seeing all the "£25 per track" fools drives me nuts!, but if someones going to be daft enough to use one of them....that's their problem!.

I don't think there's much of an excuse for choosing the wrong guy anymore. Things have moved way past flicking through the ads in yellow pages etc. A good M E will have plenty of stuff out there on the net, their name will be passed around in tweets etc(people are more than happy to shout your name if you did a great job).
That's how i get all my work. I never advertised once, and i don't have a proper website. As yet, I haven't had the need, or time to make one!.

The right people find me. They pay the right price for the right finish. I take as long as i need on each track, until I think it's good enough, and my standards are damn high!, sometimes i end up sort of out of pocket. I've had shootouts with waaay better equipped people and put them in the shade.

What's the point of all this??. Find someone who still does it for a passion, not just the £25 for the hours work. Find someone who wants you to sound as good as possible, without making your sound hard and "brickwalled".
Don't be fooled by nice pics of expensive kit on their website. Mastering is an expensive business gear wise, so many of the people who do it had the money to buy the gear before having any talent. I know plenty of them!! (don't gripe at me if your talented and have good kit)

But once you find someone who makes your work all it can wont question the need for mastering again :)

Bring the flames....I don't get to visit here much now

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Re: Is 'mastering' actually needed?

Postby ken long » Fri Aug 07, 2009 9:59 pm

Mastering digital for digital release is not necessary anymore.

Mastering for vinyl is. But its not something you can't learn by yourself with a bit of discipline.

My experience with overpaid mastering engineers is thus. No mastering engineer ever made my mixes sound better and I've hired the cream of the crop in both London and NYC.

Having said that, I would gladly give a tape master to aforementioned mastering engineers to both digitise and master. I know they will have better replay systems and converters than mine.

Otherwise, as a personal client* its a waste of money IMHO.


* as opposed to a record label with forecast budgets.
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Re: Is 'mastering' actually needed?

Postby SafeandSound Mastering » Sun Aug 09, 2009 10:32 pm

Find someone who still does it for a passion, not just the £25 for the hours work

To ascribe a negative connotation to a price is nonsense
I will compete against anyone, at any price and I preview to back it up.
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Re: Is 'mastering' actually needed?

Postby rz » Sun Aug 09, 2009 10:51 pm

I'm sure that there are many good reasons to get your album mastered. But for me no one else can make the creative decisions about how my tracks/album should sound. I've spent 45 years in music, learning to play better, learning to listen better, learning about audio technology - it seems pointless at this stage to arbitrarily give my music to someone else to make decisions about it based on their particular experience. They just can't think like me, and why would they want to.

So I'm prepared to accept the limitations of doing my own album mastering (which in Waveburner is really just volume adjustment and a small amount of eq and finishing). But each time I do it I continue to learn and get better at it.
Why would I want to miss out on that?

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Re: Is 'mastering' actually needed?

Postby James Perrett » Mon Aug 10, 2009 10:17 am

rz wrote:it seems pointless at this stage to arbitrarily give my music to someone else to make decisions about it based on their particular experience.

And this seems to be a common misconception brought about by all those online mastering studios that don't do attended sessions. There is no reason for you to lose control over your work by having it mastered. If you go along to the session most mastering engineers will be happy to work as a team with you, the client, ultimately deciding what sounds good and what doesn't. Mastering is more about giving the project to a fresh pair of ears as a final check than it is about making things sound loud or bright.


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Re: Is 'mastering' actually needed?

Postby SafeandSound Mastering » Mon Aug 10, 2009 12:51 pm

I do agree with James. Many online mastering studios offer free revisions which works very well if required.
Conversely, sometimes people will change there mind after the event as with mixing and require a change a day or 2 later, a revision is quick and easy (especially for an uploaded file for an internet label) and keeps mastering costs lower.

As an independent artist you may or may not have the skills required to master music, this is a choice for the musician.

Either way it is still the process of mastering which is required.
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