A successful composer gave me advice to hire a mastering engineer for my demo album, because if mastering were easy to do yourself, well, the world wouldn’t have any mastering engineers.
I’m taking the advice, and before hiring an engineer, I’m reading ” Mastering: The Art and Science” by Bob Katz of Digital Domain. It was recommended to me as a sort of bible for mastering, and reading it I would agree.
Let’s say you’re a film director and you want to use a friend’s band for some of the music. It’s an inexpensive option, the song fits your story, but lacks that full professional sound of say, a Fall Out Boy.
A surprising number of bands don’t consider mastering for their demo albums, which can greatly improve their sound. At the very least, ask the band how their project has been mastered. If not, they may be willing to spend the money to add that polish, since after all, it is their demo, and it will improve the fit and finish of your film when you show it.
Why hire a mastering engineer? Bob Katz has an article about this. It’s long, but here are some excerpts about why a band should master their album:
1. Ear Fatigue
Some mixes may be done at 2 o’clock in the morning, when ears are fatigued, and some at 12 noon, when ears are fresh. The result: Every mix sounds different, every tune has a different response curve.
2. The Skew of the Monitors
The result: your mixes are compromised. Some frequencies stand out too much, and others too little.
5. The Perspective of another Trained Ear. The Buck Stops Here.
The Mastering engineer is the last ear on your music project. He can be an artistic, musical, and technical sounding board for your ideas.
7. Don’t Try This at Home
We’ve found many DAWs and digital mixers that deteriorate the sound of music, shrink the stereo image and soundstage, and distort the audio.
Those are only some of the reasons why, inevitably, further mastering work is needed to turn your songs into a master, including: adjusting the levels, spacing the tunes, fine-tuning the fadeouts and fadeins, removing noises, replacing musical mistakes by combining takes (common in direct-to-two track work), equalizing songs to make them brighter or darker, bringing out instruments that (in retrospect) did not seem to come out properly in the mix.