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Digital Subscriptions > MusicTech > July 17 > MASTERING


For 20 years, Marc JB has been mastering mixes for the likes of Lady Gaga and Rihanna. Here, he explains the beautiful art of mastering and details the techniques needed to make your own tracks sound as epic as possible…


MT Cover Feature

The process behind mastering may seem like a dark art – but the aim is simple. Good mastering makes a record sound sonically balanced, warm, clear, punchy, present and loud (without distortion, of course), with tight bass and sublime stereo width. If a record sounds good on a variety of systems – a phone speaker, laptop speakers, supermarket PA, a lift, car stereo, hi-fisystem, club PA and festival sound system – then we have mastering success.

Mastering is an art form: if you can afford to hire a specialist to work their magic on your tracks, then that’s the way to go for the best results. But following Marc JB’s tips and mastering a track in your own studio will give you valuable insight into the process…

What is mastering?

Once an audio recording is mixed down, mastering is the final stage of creative sound shaping, before the record is let loose into the big wide world for replication and distribution. Traditionally, mastering has been the domain of specialist mastering engineers, who use high-end equipment with impeccable monitoring and great experience to manipulate the audio. Doubtless, if you have the funds, this is still the best route to go. But we’re blessed these days with the ability to master in our DAWs, with the assistance of a huge array of inbuilt and third-party plug-ins. So let’s take a look at some practical ways to get to grips with the process…

Preparing your tune for mastering

Before we get into the wonderful world of mastering, we need to make sure the record mix is correct. To get the best possible sound, here are some useful pointers to make sure the mix is sounding fantastic before we focus our attention on the mastering stage.

• Set up your monitoring so you have a clear, uncoloured sound.

• Use great microphones, and the best recording gear you can lay your hands on.

• Use traps, sheets and reflective surfaces to create a good acoustic environment.

• Get the best musicians, playing great instruments.

• Take your time recording, and spend time editing the takes. Ensure you’ve managed to capture the best compiled (comped) performance.

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