Can you think of any process, artistic or otherwise, that hasn’t yet been digitized? Desktop publishing, graphics, website creation, photo editing. Some of these you can even do online – for free! The temptation can be overwhelming for some people. Especially when you consider the quality you can get. It’s almost as if you were missing out for not coming onboard the DIY route.
Digital democratization has brought high level professional tools into more hands than ever before. The Mastering process is no exception. But this blog is not about analog vs. digital or hardware vs. software. And it’s not about whether you may or may not have the qualifications to use those tools. This is about why you should hire a mastering engineer to master your music instead of going the DIY route. And I’ll spare you the quips about it like ‘doing your own dentistry’, or ‘being your own lawyer’!
Ever play a mix for friends or colleagues you did yourself and thought was ‘finished’, then suddenly hear glaringly obvious mistakes?! Were you suddenly providing a running commentary of excuses? It’s similar to writing an article. You double and triple-check, only to have someone point out a spelling mistake, or ask what this sentence means? Why do we miss those things one time that suddenly seem blatantly obvious later?
The reason is because we get so close focusing on a project at different levels in different degrees that we start to lose sight of that overall important big picture. Hiring a mastering engineer gives you a professional, experienced, objective point of view. Think of it like having a proofreader for your work.
A mastering engineer is your insurance that you only put your best foot forward, and are spared embarrassing mistakes. You’re not paying the mastering engineer for their tools or software collection, either. You’re paying for their experience in using those tools.
Mastering engineers give an experienced listen on a system they know intimately in terms of translating to other systems. They balance your artistic desires and preferences with what’s commercially acceptable for your particular work in the marketplace. They will listen, consult, advise, revise if necessary, anything that needs to be done to ensure you can share your music confidently with the world! They do so passionately – but objectively.
No tools – software or hardware – can give you that kind of involved human input. Hiring a mastering engineer gives you a professional, experienced, objective viewpoint for your music. It can protect you from awkward, embarrassing mistakes. That is why it is a necessary and worthwhile investment.
-Karl Machat is an S.A.C. member and a mastering engineer at Mister’s Mastering House. He has been putting the final touches on artist music projects for more than ten years.