Mastering Your CD Project

By: Jerry A. Greene

Question: I am about to finish my first CD. I heard about a process called mastering. I have been using my own home recording studio software and was wondering if I need to have the mastering process done to my cd. I don't know what mastering is, so I was wondering if you could help me by explaining what mastering is and why I should do it? Thanks

Answer: Mastering a CD in short is getting your recordings to sound really good together as a unit on one CD. When you record each track separately, you have different volumes and different Eq's that give each song it's own "personality". But when it comes to putting them on a CD, you want them to be able to be listened to straight through without the person having to constantly turn up and down the volume between each track, or even during a track. When dealing with consumers of music, you want consistency between tracks.


Compression and Equalization

During the mastering process, these volume levels are evened out, usually with a compressor, and EQ is adjusted to the overall mix. Depending upon your genre of music and style, you may need a little more compression than you think. It turns out that a lot of the pop, r&b and rap cd's being put out today go through a great deal of dynamics processing during the CD mastering process. These CD's need to have the biggest "punch" and really need to sound good at loud and soft volumes. Radio stations also like these CD's more because it gives their station a sound that is "pumping!" Stations will add compression to their mix as well, but the closer you have it to what they want, the more likely you are going to get played on the air. You also want your CD to sound great in all different audio products (car stereo,home stereo,mp3 players).

Mastering a CD Project Yourself, or Hiring a Professional Sound Engineer

Some people want to know if they should master the project on their own, or have someone else do it. It sometimes helps to have a fresh pair of ears, or two, to listen to the project objectively while mastering. You also want to have someone with the experience of mastering cd projects all the time, if you can. A professional mixing engineer has an idea of what the CD's "need" to sound like to compete with other CD's out there. Never underestimate what a professional audio mastering engineer can do to make your project stand out from the croud!

Making Good Recordings/Songs Sound Great!

Just remember, before you decide to master your CD, you need to make sure that you have a great recording to begin with, and great songs for that matter. No matter how good of a job, you yourself do at mastering, or someone else with a great track record for mastering does, you can't make bad songs GREAT, by going through the mastering process. But good songs can be made to sound amazing with the right ears and equipment for mastering CD projects properly.