The Definition of Mastering


This is for anyone about to start a thread about, or who doesn't know the definition of - Mastering:

MASTERING IS..... for everyone who may ever want to know:

The process of preparing a body of recorded material for reproduction. THAT is the actual literal definition of mastering.

This process generally contains TWO phases. The first is a Quality Control phase and involves correcting or enhancing the mix, removing pops or weird noises, fading the song in or out - if anything needs to be done. This is also where the mastering engineer checks to make sure that the audio material fits the guidelines for the medium it will be reproduced on.

The second phase is called Authoring. This is where the songs are sequenced, and encoded with data such as track information and ISR Codes.

You do not "master a song" you master a project. The exception being a project CAN be a single. However, one of the main things addressed in modern mastering is the relationship between multiple songs - tonally and volume wise.

Please copy and paste this into a sticky somewhere.
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New member
Thanks Weiss.....there is a ton of info on mastering on this site. Stickys, tutorials, etc. sadly, it is skipped and the same questions get asked over and over again. Hopefully this will get stickied so maybe the mastering question won't be asked for the rest of this week at least.

Here is a good tutorial (found right at the top of this page) on mastering with sound examples and definitions:
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Mastering Engineer
I think defining mastering for me is something like this:

Advise on mix issues if client asks for it.
Ensure mix translates as well as possible. (frequency response/image)
Resolve sonic defects.
Ensure tracks are sequenced correctly.
Ensure tracks are PQ's correctly.
Quality control.
Point of contact for duplication facility.


Emcee Death Machine
Very well put, and I most definitely agree. More focus should be put on the actual mixing of separate pieces of a project. Mastering should foremost be the last thing you do to finalize a project as a whole to maintain consistency.


Registered Gangsta
"The process of preparing a body of recorded material for reproduction. THAT is the actual literal definition of mastering."

...That WAS the original definition of Mastering.
Nowadays it's just making the goddamn song LOUDER and LOUDER.


Mastering Engineer
I think mastering is a different procedure to different people these days. For some it's a final QC and tweak in an accurate envirnoment + hitting the right perceived levels with least detriment (if desired).

For others they wish for critique on a mix, mix resubmissions and often the kitchen sink thrown at the mix for processing and it to be at maximum possibe level. Of course there is eveything in between these extremes too. I personally think when I reflect on "saved" mixes, clicks and glitches I have found and overall sonic improvements mastering is more relevent than ever before and my body of clients tend to agree.


SafeandSound Mastering

Salem Beats

Ki from
I view mastering in the traditional sense (making songs sound cohesive together), but with a twist.

In today's iMusicMarket, people put together their own "albums" or "mixtapes" simply by mixing and matching the singles that they like the most.

Therefore, it's even more important than ever to match your songs tonally to popular songs in the same genre as yours.

Very true, many producers overlook the importance of balancing multiple songs from one project and focus on each song as septate entities.


dope! i actually ran across acouple of articles that said the exact same thing but just different wording..


Mastering Engineer
I don't think the overall plan for mastering should be that they match up with everyone elses tracks. A larger disparity than "tone" would be level. Mastering is very much playing to the strengths of any given piece of music. (or collective release)

SafeandSound Mastering
online mastering

---------- Post added 04-05-2011 at 11:24 PM ---------- Previous post was 03-22-2011 at 11:34 AM ----------

Just to add, we live in a DIY age, DIY recording, DIY, Mixing, so it's understandable that people
want to understand the entire production process. And that is fine, it's good to learn and develop. But mastering engineers exist for a reason, they have lot of years under their belts, you get access to kit that is costly, they can hear things you cannot cause the room, hearing and monitoring is in place. It's a little odd to think that everyone has this accuracy and experience in place and that you just put your 3 fave plugs on the master and you are done with.

I hate to drop it to you but that is not mastering.

Mastering is a unique track by track service, no presets, no patterns.
Just careful tweaks from objective ears on the finest equipment, and they all add up.

Ultimately you need to consider where the money is best spent.
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Yeah, mastering is definitely it's own thing. As a mixer I have a pretty solid understanding of mastering - I can even do it decently. But nothing makes me happier than when a client takes what I've mixed to a designating mastering engineer. The people who really are experts in this can really bring a mix to life.

At the same time, if someone thinks they're good enough to write the song, produce it, record it, and mix it - well - they may as well master it too at that point.


New member
GEEZ!!!!! Well put for a lost soul like me. I'm doing things that don't make neer since too the mastering i'm doing. I really like how you put it in simple laymen terms! As Martin would say! ( CAN YOU MOLD ME)