Don’t rush mastering! I know sometimes it’s boring and tedious and not very creative. And you’re probably excited to get your song or EP or album released and out in the world.
But mastering is important. It’s the final stage where audible changes are made to your song. If you screw it up, no-one can fix it later. I wrote about the lack of a safety net last year, and it’s still true.
That’s why you should be careful of taking shortcuts. There are new tools available that promise to take some of the thinking about of various aspects – whether it’s compensating for your room, or matching EQ curves, or measuring loudness. Used responsibly, these tools can be a useful time-saver.
For example, I use software that automatically matches EQ curves. But it only gets me about 60%-90% there. I always need to manually nudge the tone into the final position. The software does a technical analysis of the sound, but it doesn’t know how our ears and mind respond to the music. Pulling down the highs might be ‘technically correct’, but maybe this particular song needs to be brighter because the top end moves with the music. Or maybe boosting the lower mids might be ‘technically correct’, but the voicing of the bass makes the boost sound too tubby for the creative direction of the song.
Psychoacoustics – the way we perceive sound – is complex and subtle. Two songs might have exactly the same (technically-measured) tonal balance, but sound very different in weight, brightness, sharpness, density and depth. Often you’ll need to deviate from what’s technically correct to produce a sound that feels right.
These tools can be useful, but don’t lean on them. They’re not your crutch. You’re still responsible for the final decisions.