The sternest challenge for an independent artist arrives when their work has to compete with big-budget music albums of eminent performers. Although fabricating a track seem like a simple task, making the sound quality of that particular song as good and reliable as the other releases are not that easy. This difficult endeavour is successfully managed by competent sound engineers through certain exceptional techniques. In the following discussion, we would explore a few of those methods in details.
- Frequencies- A song is just not made of one component. Several elements work together to form a particular track. Thus, it could be said that each one of them is significant and you cannot offer undue prominence to any one. Competent audio engineers make use of professional mixing and mastering to offer all the tracks with unified frequencies. This means each component of the arrangement is given its suitable space. Make sure that there is no fight of frequencies for it can make the tracks messy. For example, your song comprises two major instruments- keyboards and guitars. If the guitars occupy much of the low-mids, then make sure to push the keyboards towards the higher notes. You must create a hierarchy and clearly state how much audible spectrum would be covered by each instrument.
- Balance- As a musician, you must have a clear understanding of the sound of all your tracks. You could sharpen your comprehension skills by listening to other songs of the same genre. Try to evaluate their balance: how loud are the guitars, drums and keyboards? Are they on the same level with the vocals? Once you have analysed a few of the reference materials, start assessing your own track: how much space does the sound of each instrument occupy? Are they overlapping one another? Are the vocals too quiet? Try to find answers to all these relevant questions and then arrive at a final decision. You need to arrange all the components in such a way that the music album acquires a definite balance. It is not necessary to adhere to the set rules but make sure to do things with acute precision, so that your album could create a buzz in the commercial market.
- Bottom End-The low or bottom end plays a significant part in most of the songs because it is where the entire credibility of a track lies. A song that sounds frail at the end would not be able to compete with the contemporary tracks that make use of online mixing and mastering services. Unless you are into experimental music, every normal song at the low end must have enough clarity so that the kick and bass could have a free movement but any other instrument should not meddle that range. Remove the frequencies of pads, guitars, percussions and any other element that was in the arrangement. Work on kick and bass by reinforcing them and adjusting the EQ.
- Sound Effects- Use the effects much wisely because an excess of it can destroy your entire track. Do not keep on adding reverbs wherever you can. Effects are used to make a stereo mix large. Equalise, filter, tweak and widen them so that they do not make your track sound cheap. At first, learn to control them and then use them in the track subtly.
The aforementioned techniques could make your songs sound professional and allow them to hit the music market with a bang. By following the above methods, your tracks would appeal listeners and sound exceptionally well through all devices starting from loudspeakers to earphones.
Mastering continues to be one of the tantalizing pursuits on which musicians want to be dexterous. With decades and development of technology, the mastering procedure has been the subject to colossal changes that made it further impossible to delineate out a precise learning method. Yes, you can enroll in music mastering course or scour the internet to learn about the steps before mastering your own album but the professionals have spelled out the importance of ‘experience’ in mastering. Without extensive practice, it’s virtually impossible to master the processes, moreover, innate creativity is another prerequisite.
It is truly said mastering is the concoction of science and creativity, technology irrefutably plays an important role but the artistic feel, taste of the person is also crucial. While music is a pure art form, the way instruments resonate and the right application of compression, equalization techniques are deeply rooted in science or better say the understanding and knowledge of these technical forces. Being an enthusiastic musician, you must be eager to explore the art of mastering process but before you start investing your time, it’s important to weigh up the viability of hiring professional mixing and mastering service and learning the skill. As its mentioned earlier music mastering process has undergone myriad of changes let’s have a basic glimpse on them-
Evolution of Audio Mastering
Though the basic work remains the same that is to prep up the album but the methods, related technology and tools have undergone transition. Initially audio mastering was designed to ensure a set of mixes would work impeccably on the vinyl format and in addition to that the music of the album was sometimes be tweaked to make it compatible for radio broadcast that was crucial for the promotion of the artists and the record albums.
In the era of vinyl records, owing to the two sides of the vinyl disc the song order was a cautiously weighted decision. It was important to determine whether the song would belong to side A or B and the total running time, the sequence of the song was decided in several ways specifically considering certain vibe or feeling.
Nowadays, the final mixes need to be sent via a hard drive, data storage device or FTP, no matter whichever media you have chosen be sure it must be on a format on which the mastering engineer can work unhindered. A clearly perceptible sound will help them to discern the flaws existed in the mix. You must be wondering how people in earlier days brought the mix to the mastering studio before the invention of such advanced data transfer procedure, prior the advancement and widespread use of computer, analogue tape was the medium to record and store the final mix. In the era of 80, digital tape took its place; the final mixes were recorded in digital tape in Reel-to-Reel format. The transfer process has been simplified over the decades, a greater part of the final mixes is now sent as digital audio files storing a hard drive and this has significantly eliminated the necessity of analogue to digital conversion. The most remarkable change in mastering technology came with the launch of compact disc in the year 1982; it completely changed the customary mastering techniques. Now with the commence of mastering music online it’s better to discuss with the mastering engineer about his preferred medium or simply follow the instructions mentioned on their website before you send the mix.