Planning mastering

Yes! Mastering should be planned!

I’ve written in depth about the process of mastering itself, but there’s also some important things to consider before you start – especially if you’re preparing several songs for publication (public release) together.

Packaging – How many songs will be in the release? Is it a single? An EP? An album? What is the order of the songs? Of you’re mastering for CD, will each song have a crossfade transition into the next? Will there be a gap? How long should the gap be?

Distribution – What will the target format be? CD? Internet download? MP3/AAC/WMV? Streaming? Vinyl? Radio?  Each of these distribution formats requires a slightly different mastering approach.

Target playback – Who will be listening to the music, and on what system? iPods and computer speakers? Audiophile HiFis? Clubs?

Genre norms – On top of all this, different genres require different approaches – modern rock can be thick and loud, but an acoustic singer/songwriter album needs to be quieter and cleaner. Orchestral music should emphasise dynamics and natural acoustics, but electronic music might need to be clear and solid.

Without considering these factors, you risk compromising your mastering – either getting an ordinary job done or even an inappropriate job done. Mastering requires subtlety and diligence, and it’s important that this final processing stage is approached the right way so that your music is presented at its best.


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