Mastering Your Music Yourself - dummies

By Jeff Strong

If you decide that you just have to do the mastering yourself, or at least you want to try it once before you decide to spend the money on a pro, following some guidelines can increase your chances of mastering success.

There are just many variables and many ways to mess up your music when trying to master it. What can be done to help you is to walk you through the process of mastering and show you the tools to use for each step. Keep the following points in mind:

  • Less is more when mastering. Do as little as possible to your music. If you find that you have to make a lot of adjustments, you may want to go back to the mixing process and try again. When you master your music, you only need to optimize the dynamics and tonal balance of each song, get the levels between the songs even, and sequence your songs.

  • Mastering is all about compromise. Each adjustment you make to your mixed music affects all the instruments. If you use EQ to get rid of muddiness on the bass guitar, you affect not only the bass guitar but also every other instrument in the mix.

  • Don’t try to master a song right after you mix it. Give yourself time and space from that song before you do anything. In fact, take a few days away from any of the songs for your album between the mixing and mastering stages. A little time to reflect and rest your ears can do wonders for your ability to hear what your music needs.

  • You can only master music if your monitors and monitoring environment are great. Without a good reference for how your music sounds, trying to EQ or dynamically process your music does no good. The music may sound good through your speakers but probably doesn’t through others’.

    Before you master, make your room sound as good as you can and get to know the strengths and weaknesses of your monitoring environment by listening to a ton of commercial CDs that have the sound you’re trying to emulate.