Why Attending Your Mastering Session Can Hurt Your Record

master-of-puppets.jpgControl is a hard thing to give up, and after you have made your record you now need to put it in someone’s hands to do crucial final tweaks.  If botched it can ruin the experience of your record or if done properly it can accentuate and give your record a breath of fresh air. Mastering is the last creative step in making any record that has the potential to be great get to that greatness. Unfortunately, many times trying to keep control at this stage can be one of the things that brings down your record.

The relationship between an engineer’s speakers and their ears has a value which can never be calculated. That said, many times artists/producers will walk into a mastering engineers room and try to make critical decisions on the sound of a record when they do not know the room very well and can’t make proper judgments. In the hundreds of records I have made over the years, one of the smartest decisions I have learned to make is to stay home from the mastering session and have the mastering engineer send me files to listen to on my own speakers in my own room so I can make educated decisions on how I want the record to sound. By being in my own comfortable environment this has made it so I am happier with my records and know I am always making the right decisions.

Jesse Cannon is the editor of Musformation. He produces records at his studio Cannon Found Soundation. Follow him on Twitter at @JesseCannonMusF. For more info please visit his website.

  • 2 Cent

    To the contrary, certain mastering houses can ruin a records dynamic range if you leave it up to them. I’ve even had records sound worse when I’ve got them back. I prefer to be there. It’s my record and my sound, and therefore I have no one else to blame if it goes south, since I was there the whole time.

  • http://soundcloud.com/movementalstudios Movemental Studios

    While I agree it’s good to let someone do their work, a mastering engineer is a specialized case where a self-respecting engineer should maintain as close a relationship as possible to the person who made the music and put it into the engineer’s hands. Of course, this also involves trust, and part of that trust certainly lies in trusting their ears…however, I don’t see why an artist can’t even attend the very room in which decisions are being made to their music’s final sound.
    I get the feeling the person who wrote this is coming from a past in which too many artists threw too many suggestions his way and he simply couldn’t take it anymore, channeling it into this final article.

    What is crucial to me is a respect to the integrity of the actual music, and it’s the engineer’s responsibility to inform the musician of the negatives to resorting to make their album/single “as loud as this other artist”…for today is an age of increasingly poor decisions I’ve heard in regards to the respect of DYNAMIC RANGE and a CONSIDERATE use of Compression/Limiting instead of relying on it as a default fallback. Far too many songs I’ve heard that are like the CAPS LOCK I just used…EXCEPT FOR THE WHOLE SONG SO IT’S BASICALLY SCREAMING AT YOU INSTEAD OF LEAVING HEADROOM IN WHICH TO BREATHE.

    I’m further concerned after seeing another post made by Jesse here, with a picture showing a before-and-after of two waveforms: The bottom one looks so miserably flattened/”brickwalled” that I’d by far prefer the top one, the pre-mastered version: http://musformation.com/check-out-jesses-course-on-diy-mastering/

    • musformation

      I think you’ve made a lot of assumptions here that are not rooted in any of the intents of this article.

      1. I welcome suggestions from artists, but I find their suggestions are much more educated when they hear music on their speakers so the feedback is more valuable.
      2. Loudness is an emotion and while your perspective that its a mastering engineer’s duty is a popular one, many of us don’t share it. I find it important to explain the emotion of a quiet record one with a happy medium and one too squished.
      3. This is what happens when a graphic designer who isn’t an engineer makes a graphic in a big company of hundreds of people. Don’t read further into it aside from that a job needed to be done by an outsider.