Mastering can be a tricky stage to get prepared for. You’re so close to completing your record, possibly tired from hearing your mixes a thousand times, and truth is a lot of artists aren’t completely familiar with what mastering does; let alone how to properly prepare for it.
There are plenty of technical and audio-related tips that will help prep your mixes for mastering (we’ll get to those later).
Here are some simple, non-technical tips to prepare YOU mentally for the mastering process:
1) Shop Around
Most professional mastering studios will offer to master a test track for free, or at least give you a 1-2 minute mastered sample of your song. Use the opportunity! Mastering is an important stage in solidifying how the audience is going to hear your music. There’s no sense in rushing the process.
Send a track to a few different studios to get a sense of what they can do for your mixes. The process is commonly referred to as a “shoot-out” and most studios will gladly oblige.
(Talk to us about getting a test master done!)
2) Be Happy With Your Mixes
Make sure everyone involved in decision-making is happy with the mixes prior to mastering. This can vary depending on who’s calling the shots in the band. The mastering stage is the time to kick your songs into high gear, not the time for arguments over whether the drums need to be louder than the guitars.
Test out your mixes on different sound systems as well (headphones, speakers, computer, etc.). You might pick up mistakes on your laptop speakers that you didn’t catch in the studio.
Get your songs to a happy place where you won’t spend your mastering time trying to fix issues that should have been dealt with during the mix. This will allow you and the mastering engineer to focus on getting your mixes sounding great!
3) Rest Up!
We’re not your mother, but it’s probably not the best idea to go on a Rock-fuelled binge the night before your mastering session.
Spending a day in the studio, meticulously going through your mixes demands focus and works your senses. Rest up and come into your mastering session with fresh ears and a fresh mind.
Mastering is the last chance to get your songs to that extra level. Save the celebration until after your work is done and you’ve got a beautifully mastered recording.
4) Know The Sound You Want
Spend a little time thinking about the sound you want, and how you’re going to describe that to the engineer. Pick out a few reference tracks or artists who have captured the sound you’re going for. This will help the mastering engineer get a better sense of how you want your project shaped sonically.
It’s important to keep an open mind during your session. The mastering engineer is there to offer an objective second opinion, but the clearer you can be about the sound you want, the easier it will be for them to find a sound that works with your vision.
We’ll explore some technical ways to prepare your songs for mastering in some posts coming down the road. In the meantime, if you have any non-technical preparation tips we’ve missed, please post them below!