Mastering Tips: Introduction

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What about Mastering?

In the last decades, musical industry progressively moved its attention towards the economic aspect, in spite of focusing on quality. This lead to the so-called Loudness War, a run towards higher and higher volumes, against less dynamic tracks. As time passed, the phenomenon lead to a lack of interest in the average users towards music listening, to disinterest in repeating the listening experience and to a generation which is used to excessively compressed tracks.

The digital world is continuously evolving, and, although it often returns a less characterized and immersive sound compared to its analog counterpart, its use is largely increasing in the most modern recording studios, Mixing and Mastering. Instrumental music was with no doubt the most affected by Loudness War’s consequences, because of the reduced dynamic. In fact, the single instruments in the mix are often evidently compressed, with a sound that results at the edge of naturalness of instruments.

These factors have brought up various debates and discussions, as continuously wondering what is better among digital, analog and hybrid. Other typical considerations may be “It doesn’t make sense to spend money on hardware if there are so many less expensive plug-ins”, or “plug-ins will never be able to reach analog hardware level”. In addition to this, there are some discussions about the reduced dynamic, which worsens music’s quality, and some people are convinced that everything was different when the digital world was not so developed or did not exist yet.

Sometimes, we should also consider that everything goes forward. Change brings new negative aspects, but also positive ones, and we can do nothing but accept that and use its strong spots.

EDM was born and developed thanks to the great changings we have just described, using extremely reduced dynamic levels and new ways of generating sounds, bringing to the consequent progress in new sonorities’ research and techniques to obtain the maximum sound quality, even at extreme dynamic levels. We will analyze and argument various aspects of Mastering, bringing particular attention to saturation, clipping and limiting processes, fundamental to reach dynamic levels in line with the EDM world, reducing to the bone the collateral effects related to the excessive compression we want to obtain.

By Mastering we mean the final phases of the production process of a musical album or single, to which you get after completing all the previous steps: production, recording and mixing.

It is a variable series of interventions on the audio signal: equalization, compression and limiting, for instance. Its aim is to optimize the signal’s out-turn. Thus, Mastering’s purpose is to solve possible issues in the audio signal, such as resonances, imbalances among different areas of the spectrum (Low-Mid-High), or phase issues. The aim is to make a track reach its full potential and to make it coherent to the other ones, if we are talking about an album. The Mastering Engineer is a total different figure from the Mixing Engineer and he works, especially at high levels, in a Mastering dedicated Studio, with specific hardware and precise and linear listening devices.


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