Originally Posted by fuseboxx
how do you guys define mastering, btw?
do you consider it as a separate process entirely from mixing, or the overall process of post-processing the album inclusive of mixing?
What I tell my clients:
"What is mastering and why do I need it?"
First of all - not every project needs it.
Most projects need mastering because studio monitors and/or the mixing room aren't always optimal or correctly set-up. If an album, for example, was mixed with bass heavy monitors, the result will sound thin or trebly on correct monitors. Likewise, if the monitors are bright, the mix can sound dull. In other cases, if you work on a project for a long time, and the album is mixed in the same environment, the person or people doing the mix can lose their sonic perspective and the results come out with weird EQ or a strange sonic canvas. Moreover, the stereo balance could be off, a channel could be out of phase, there could be strange noises, etc. We can fix those problems.
Now...mastering, in simple terms, is the last part of the creative process and the first part of the manufacturing process. To better understand what mastering is, let's use and analogy:
Let's say someone has a nice diamond that they just dug up. OK. So they send us this new diamond that looks like dirty glass and we get excited and decide to invite all of our and your friends over to see it. Now, are we going to take the diamond outside and show it in the direct sunlight so it looks all old and dirty? Or, are we going to set it up inside, cut it, polish it and show it off with the right kind of lighting? It’s all in the presentation. That’s we do in mastering. It’s taking the original, cutting it and polishing it so it can sound the best it can sound. To do that involves making dozens of decisions such as making sure that when it’s played the levels of the songs are relatively the same, there are no dynamic problems, no distracting noises and everything is running and sounding as natural as possible. While that stuff may not sound like a lot of fun, getting that stuff right is what actually makes something sound better than it actually has before.