This post is for aspiring music producers. I can’t say I’m experienced enough to give a lot of advice, but I have learned a couple things. One of them is about mastering.
A couple of months ago I had the privilege of hearing Atlanta-based music producer Billy Hume talk about the ins and outs of mixing and producing. When asked about mastering, he said that it was (and I’m paraphrasing) a special kind of science (or magic or wizardry) that was best left to those who only do mastering. That is, he focuses on his art – mixing and producing music – and leaves the art of mastering up to someone else. I’m sure he was being humble (just check out his resume), but it’s an interesting point. Should you master your own music or get someone else to do it?
Well Billy is more knowledgeable than I am so I trust his judgement. But I’m a fan of getting mastering help for a couple other reasons:
First, I prefer to do what I love and what I like to think I do well, which is writing and recording music. After I mix everything down, I rely on experts to handle the mastering. While Billy was being funny, he’s right. It really is different from anything else you do when recording. I don’t want to spend a lot of time learning about the complexities of mastering when I could use that time to write more songs.
Second, if you’re a solo musician like me, you’d benefit from another set of ears hearing your music, and contributing some sonic support. Actually I think everyone who is recording music would benefit from this. Of course if you’re a perfectionist who has to do everything on his/her own then you might disagree. But I like getting the help and suggestions of a professional.
Finally, and this is the most important point, mastering is an art unto itself. The people who do it well add a quality, a warmth, an extra sparkle to your music. And this is absolutely worth the investment.
A couple of recommendations: my most recent music was mastered by Frank Marheineke at Analog Mastering and I think he always does an amazing job. My first release was mastered by Lorenz Vauck at Xarc Mastering and I would definitely recommend his work as well.