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HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT MASTERING ENGINEER

With the multitude of choices available online currently, it can be difficult to find the right audio professional to work with.  In this latest article, I’m going to share with you a few areas that I think are important to consider when deciding on the right mastering engineer to work with.

Mastering is the very important final stage before your music is released.  It is the last opportunity you get to critically assess your mix and ensure that it not only sounds great, but is compliant with all streaming platform requirements.  If you’ve recorded an EP or a full length album, it’s also the stage where you can ensure that the collection of songs work together cohesively, or if there are any standout sonic irregularities that need to be addressed.  The following points are some areas that I think are important to consider when selecting your mastering engineer.

EXPERIENCE

Mastering is one of those areas of music production where experience does make a difference.  The mastering engineer’s role is super important because they generally have the final say before your  music goes public.  So, it’s important the mastering engineer has had experience in working across a wide variety of genres and has received audio in all shapes and sizes (and knows what to do when they are presented with a specific problem).  An experienced mastering engineer will also know when very little (if any changes) are required to the music at all.  There’s no set rule or standard practise when it comes to mastering.  The tools a mastering engineer will use are actually very similar to that of a mix engineer, it’s knowing when those tools are required.

EQUIPMENT & ROOM

When you are sending your completed mixes to a mastering engineer, it’s important to pay attention to the type of processing that is potentially going to take place on your pristine recordings.  You’ve likely already invested in professional recording and mixing, it would be a shame for that to be ruined by being run through a potentially poor mastering setup in an untreated room.  Especially one that claims to have an analog setup.  Now, analog equipment is not so much the enemy, it’s the type of digital to analog conversion that can potentially ruin a great mix.  In modern mastering, you’d have to have a very good reason to send audio out of the digital domain, back into the analog domain, to then re-record it back into digital.  It’s always good to ask a few questions before booking a mastering session to find out exactly how your audio is going to be managed and what sort of processes might take place during the session.  In my studio, I’m fortunate to have a hybrid setup with high quality Antelope converters, which allows me to easily switch between analog and digital to determine if there will be any benefit in actually using outboard gear.  That benefits my clients by offering flexibility and adaptability in the studio during mastering to find the right approach for each individual mix.

PROFESSIONALISM

The way in which an audio professional interacts with their current and potential clients speaks volumes of their character and professionalism.   Communication is a key component here and a professional mastering engineer should be able to guide you through the entire process of working with them.  Including providing advice on how to prepare your audio for mastering and guidance on how to improve your recordings in future, if needed.  Just because an engineer has a prominent discography, it doesn’t always mean that the experience the client received was a positive one.

RELIABILITY

When it comes to releasing music commercially, you want a mastering engineer you can rely on.  Also, you want an engineer that is experienced in the pressures of meeting important deadlines.   If there is any question around the reliability of the mastering engineer, you could potentially put yourself (and maybe even a record label) in a position where you have a deadline and that engineer is unable to deliver for you.  In your early discussions, it’s recommended to chat about expectations regarding turnaround times for delivery.  This will help you gauge whether the particular engineer is indeed capable of meeting your needs appropriately for the project.

RELATIONSHIP

Working alongside reliability, comes the type of relationship you can develop with a mastering engineer over time.  Like any professional serviced based industry, people will often align themselves with people they enjoy working with and whom has consistently delivered a high quality service over a period of time.  The value of having a quality working relationship with a mastering engineer can really speed up and improve your future productions.  Having an engineer that you can rely and who has your back when the pressure is on is worth it’s weight in gold over the long term!

All the best with your musical endeavours and I hope this article has helped you in your search to find the right mastering engineer!

Until next time,

Mike

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