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#022 Is Mastering a Scam?

Published: November 23, 2021


Do you think your music should sound better?


In this episode:

  • "Is Mastering a Scam? Why can't they just turn it up?"

  • Yarn explains Mastering in simple terms, and explains what it is, why it's not a scam and why it's not just as simple as turning things up.

  • What is mastering?

    • Mastering is the last step in the production process, before distribution. It is the final quality control, which is best left to someone experienced, with a fresh set of ears.

    • Mastering includes tonal polishing and careful loudness adjustments.

Warning! Some websites promise cheap automated mastering. There’s also software that promises mastering with a one-click ‘mastering assistant’.

In all these cases, a computer algorithm will apply a mastering preset.

I've tried and tested all of them, but the results were disappointing.

While algorithms may be acceptable for a no-budget demo, I strongly suggest not to use algorithms for a release.

My tip: Get your music mastered by an experienced human - because the algorithms make dumb mistakes, and they have no sense of taste!

Here is a list of very experienced mastering engineers, whose work I highly recommend:

You could also google for 'free mastering sample', which is an interesting option if you want to compare different mastering houses.

A good mastering engineer will give you a master for approval, and be open to reasonable adjustments.

How can you tell a good from a bad master?

Most masters will sound louder than the mix - however, loudness alone is a bad measure for the quality of a master: The loudest master is probably not the best-sounding one!

Here's my tip:

  1. Load the mix and the master into software that allows for volume adjustment. A DAW like Logic or Ableton comes to mind, but even simple tools like iTunes or QuickTime will do.

  2. Turn the volume of the master down until it matches the loudness of the mix.

  3. Let another person switch between the two for you.

This test works best when you have no idea which version is playing (blind-test). A good master will sound a little more detailed and a bit more musical.

However, if you like the mix better than the master, then take a few notes and ask the mastering engineer for a revision.

Sounds really confusing? Let me do a free master check for you!

I'm happy to check your master for you. Just reach out to me and upload the master to my website. I'll listen critically, and I’ll give your master a technical 'health and safety' check.

Here's more info on the loudness war:


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Podcast artwork by Tom 'Chubbs' Boundy


Transcript (auto-generated by a robot - please forgive the occasional error):

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