the dark art of mastering

Mastering, often referred to as a 'dark art', is not as mysterious as some producers would have you believe..

Mastering, often referred to as a 'dark art', is not as mysterious as some producers would have you believe..






For details of our mastering rates, Songcraft equipment and what we will provide, click here

"mastering was the last thing..

..I learned as a novice mixer. I was told by the many tutorials and more experienced fader-jockeys that it was a realm for experienced ears and that I should tread carefully. Whilst it is true that the mastering process is very different from mixing, it is also important for any young mixer (or musician) to engage in some practical learning.

The most important thing with mastering, if you're approaching it with little knowledge, is to have a clear idea of the end-game. That should be a 'radio-ready mix'. The aim of mastering is to create a track or collection of tracks that do two important things:

Sit well sonically with each other (Which is sometimes lost when tracks are mastered separately).

Sit well alongside tracks from similar artists.

The second point is what we mean when we say 'radio-ready mix'. Its perhaps an outmoded term, but it still applies to the modern listening habits of music fans who use Spotify, Youtube, DAB etc in place of the old analogue radio.

We want the feel of our music to stand-out but also compare favourably to the music it may be played alongside.

A lot of people assume mastering means making music louder. When I'm mixing, I prefer not to have the track at the loudest possible volume. Headroom (which is a phrase used to describe the desirable gap in overall volume between the mixing and mastering stage) is what allows the mastering engineer to regulate the volume of the track whilst maintaining the unique dynamics of the song. This area is where the mix can be matched to other tracks, therefore getting to our end-game. Reference tracks, which are songs of a similar genre that the band and/or the mastering engineer use as a target, are very helpful. I tend to use these only in the mastering process, so that my mix and master has a very different approach. 

Overall, I would say mastering is about taking the mix and enhancing what you already have, so that it sounds at its best within the context of the album and the target genre.

For more information on mastering and our rates, please click here.."


Mark Simpson, Summer 2017