May 2011

When most people look for a mastering engineer, they often think that talent is the most important characteristic.

Although it’s true that skill is vital to getting a “Hit” sound, it’s NOT the most important part.

Far more important is effective communication.

This is because without it, the engineer’s talent doesn’t mean a thing. It’s impossible to get the “Hit” sound YOU’RE after.

You see, the reason communication is so important is that there are countless adjustments the mastering engineer can make.

But, knowing which ones can be tricky. They must be based on the sound/feel you’re going for and what the engineer is technically able to do (based on experience and tools).

Additionally, good communication also allows you and the engineer to get on the same page.

Because each person only has half of the story. You have an idea of what you want your music to sound like and the engineer knows the full scope of what can be done to achieve your vision.

And when everybody involved with the production gets in the groove of creating the best possible sound, this is how hits are made.

A good dialog allows both sides to fully picture what can be achieved… and generate the ideas needed to get a successful master.

With that said, let’s move on to…

5 Tips to Achieve Communication Success:

1. Give references of bands you want to sound like. Then, discuss with the engineer the parts you like and what you want to capture for your music. The more specific you are in what you like, the better job the engineer can do.

2. Talk to the engineer about all the potential changes and solutions he or she has in mind. You can then give your input to generate new ideas and ensure these changes are what you’re going for.

3. Look for an engineer who you can get in touch with using the phone or email.

You can then quickly reach the engineer if a good idea hits you.

4. Look for an engineer who’s interested in listening to your ideas. The last thing you want to work with is somebody who fails to listen to your input. A good mastering engineer will deeply consider your ideas and then tell you what can be done.

5. Pay attention to the engineer’s critique of your recording. Often the engineer has worked with hundreds of other acts and knows exactly the common problems that occur. By listening to the engineer’s ideas carefully, then you’ll know exactly how to get the best sound out of your music.

Relating to this, you should also be in contact with your mastering engineer during the mixing and recording phases to make sure that you have the best possible mix by the time it gets to the mastering engineer.

Mastering can only improve your audio based on where it starts. A bad recording can’t be turned into a top-quality master (though it occasionally can be transformed into an average sound with a star engineer).

Simply put, good communication is the difference between having simply “Average” or “Good” sounding music… or creating memorable music that leaves a lasting impression on the listener.

About the Author:
Lorenz Vauck is an Audio Mastering Engineer, Musician, and Internet Entrepreneur from Dresden, Saxony, Germany. He is the Managing Director and Chief Mastering Engineer of XARC Mastering, one of the world’s first online audio mastering studios established in 2003.

Quality mastering costs good money for a reason. It can sometimes mean the difference between having simply a good album or creating a smash-hit that lives on for decades to come.

All because it gives your music the independent look by a skilled engineer who can quickly identify problem areas that need improvement —and add polish to the parts of your music that may end-up causing your album to sell far less than it could.

With that said, there are a few times when it is NOT worth going through the expense of hiring a mastering engineer. These are for small personal projects that you may not want to focus on promoting.

They are just for you to experiment with and for a small amount to people to hear.

So, if this is you, then pay attention. Here are 6 mastering techniques to get a winning result if your music does not warrant hiring a pro:

1. Focus on the big problems and let many of the small ones slide. Remember, that many of the changes you make may cause problems to 5 other parts of the song.

In other words, you don’t want to get off track by focusing on a small problem that in the end isn’t very noticeable.

2. Remember that every track is different. Just because a change in a previous track was effective, it doesn’t mean it’s going to work on another.

Listen closely to each track and then decide what should be applied.

3. Get another pair of skilled, independent ears. The biggest advantage mastering offers is getting a second opinion from someone else who is not close to the music – and knows from experience about potential problems that occur.

Do your mastering with someone who has experience with music production to help make sure your changes sound good. And if you’re not sure about something, then take a break and let your ears and mind become “Fresh” again.

4. Know that mistakes are part of the process and you will make lots of them. Just be sure you save your music every step of the way…. And listen closely every time you make a change to make sure you don’t get way off track.

5. Create a mix optimal for mastering.

6. Listen on as many systems as possible. You want to make sure that your music sounds good on as many different systems as possible (like at home, in the car, on the kitchen radio, etc.) If you don´t have a good monitoring system in an acousticaly treated room and if you don´t know your system very well, then this is the only way to get at least “useable” results.

Simply put, you’re never going to get a truly “Pro” job without the help of someone who can perform expert mastering. However, it is possible to improve your personal music on your own and get a sound far better than you would have otherwise had.

About the Author:
Lorenz Vauck is an Audio Mastering Engineer, Musician, and Internet Entrepreneur from Dresden, Saxony, Germany. He is the Managing Director and Chief Mastering Engineer of XARC Mastering, one of the world’s first online audio mastering studios established in 2003.