What is Mastering?
What is mastering? In short, mastering is the last stage of a song’s processing before distribution. Mastering includes having the right levels for streaming platforms, an overall loudness that translates on different listening systems and a very general tightening up – general because details are attended to during the mixing stage, mastering does include some alteration to the balance but very broadly. “This can involve adjusting levels and general “sweetening” of the mix. Think of it as the difference between a good-sounding mix and a professional-sounding, finished master.” (What Is Mastering and Why Is It Important?, 2014) This is, of course, if the mix needs it. What you’d hope and aim for, is the mix to be so good that not much needs to be altered except loudness.
Mastering also has a tendency to be occupied by an old guy who’s been mixing for long enough to be able to take the seat of a mastering engineer. Some may call it a ‘dark art’ because it’s known for taking a particular kind of person to sit in a dark studio for 6 hours a day working on the same song without having much creative input. However, this is not always the case and not always necessary. As long as you’ve got a bit of mixing experience, care enough about quality, follow the guidelines of LUFS and RMS and have an ear for balance then you can be a mastering engineer. Having the right plugins, just as in mixing, is crucial. Some limiters have their own characteristics just as your chosen pre-amps would.
iZotope. 2014. What Is Mastering And Why Is It Important?. [online] Available at: <https://www.izotope.com/en/learn/what-is-mastering.html> [Accessed 6 May 2020].