“Can mastering save a bad mix?” is a common question. The short answer? = Yes…. to an extent.
It’s always better to fix your mix at the mix stage, rather than waiting to fix the mix in mastering, but what if you don’t have the project file anymore, and still love the track. Do you have to settle for a rubbish mix? No way!
What can mastering fix?
To understand this, we need to have a quick understanding of what mastering engineers do, how mastering works, what mastering a song does and of course why mastering is important.
An experienced (human) mastering engineer will give your music the professional finish you want.
The quality of your final result is a reflection of the entire process back from the first time you pressed “record”.
But great mastering can skew the reflection in your favour, like a flattering fairground mirror.
Common mix problems yield different results:
Bad mix room problems and inexperienced mix decisions can often be evened out dramatically.
Mixes that are badly clipped and have no dynamic range can have their bounce restored and sound alive again.
Badly recorded instruments, or an overall “dull” sound from using cheap mics can be enhanced and enlivened.
Hiss can be removed, with varying results ranging from totally flawless, to just a bit better.
A flabby bottom-end can be tightened up beautifully, still retaining the weight and heft (still talking about audio here).
The Art Of Compromise
Mastering a bad mix is the art of compromise. It’s a delicate process of balancing unbalanced material.
“Can mastering make vocals louder?” Yes, but depending on how the song has been mixed, it may bring up another element with them…
“Can you make my £20 microphone sound like a £2000 microphone?” Nope. But we can probably make your £20 mic sound like a £200 mic!
Got an album you recorded on a cassette 4-track 25 years ago, and want to dust it off and finally get it out there? We will make it sound way better, absolutely… but obviously it will never sound like it was recorded at Abbey Road. Embrace your lo-fi roots and enjoy the “best it can be” result.
Far too much sub, but a weak kick? We can sort it out. But necessarily as well as if you supplied the kick and sub as separate stems (or used our mix evaluation service to fix it yourself at home first).
The Bad Mix Challenge – Try Us!
We love a challenge, and can make drastic improvements to even the most appalling, lost-cause mixes.
The difference can be astounding. Try our free online mastering for your bad mix, and see how much better we can make it!
Or if you still have the project file, consider our mix evaluation service and fix the mix yourself at home.
They are a way of measuring the intrinsic volume of a piece of audio, relative to 0dB – which is the absolute loudest signal possible in digital audio – in the same way that a cup can only ever be filled up to 100% full, and no more. …
How do artists make money from their music in 2022? Getting your music on TV or in movies, games or advertising is one of the most lucrative ways. Instrumental mixes are essential to land these deals. …
How to sound good on a podcast – that’s the goal of many aspiring creators. You create and record valuable content, edit it, and stream it… only to hear that it doesn’t sound as professional compared to some of your peers. There’s so much content available these days, listeners will switch off quickly if your …
There are several different opinions on the question of “What is the best volume to finish my master?” (or for the more technically minded “What LUFS should I master to?”). We can’t avoid mentioning the famous loudness wars in this article either, and the direction music mastering is heading. After many years spent racing towards the loudest master, is the loudness war over?
Having been a professional mastering engineer since 2006, I have a few opinions. I’m going to give my perspective on these questions and explain about LUFS, peak and true-peak (with as little jargon as possible).
The end point is finding the ultimate recipe for the best mixing and mastering finish for your music, and how to win the loudness war in 2021 and beyond. …
If you are wondering “How can I make my music sound better?” You may be considering taking your mixes to a pro, but are wondering what service your money is better spent on: professional mixing vs mastering, stem mastering or stereo mastering. …
In this new series I interview some regular Fat As Funk mastering clients who have some interesting stories behind their music. Here we chat with Context – a producer and MC who has released records on Sony, and is also a university lecturer and author. We’ve had the pleasure of mastering several banging tracks of …
Releasing a vinyl record is an expensive business. It’s tempting to cut corners where possible to save money, and inevitably the question gets asked… “Vinyl mastering – is a separate master really necessary? Or can I use digital masters for vinyl music?
Short answer = You need a separate vinyl master for the best results.
Often masters created for digital use (Streaming/download/CD) are accepted by the pressing plant, so technically it’s OK to press on vinyl, but the end result is disappointing sound quality.
Using masters optimized for digital use to press vinyl will usually result in a slightly flatter sound, less dynamic range, various levels of distortion, skipping needles when playing back, and less overall “life” on vinyl – a crying shame after spending so much money on getting the records pressed!
In this new producer interview series, I interview regular Fat As Funk Mastering clients whom I’ve got to know over the years and have some interesting things going on musically.
First up is reggae producer Hal, from the Arrival Sound System, who has recently released the sublime album “Voices”. A collection of blissful positive dubwise vibes, featuring a variety of different vocalists. …
“Can mastering save a bad mix?” is a common question. The short answer? = Yes…. to an extent. It’s always better to fix your mix at the mix stage, rather than waiting to fix the mix in mastering, but what if you don’t have the project file anymore, and still love the track. Do you …
How to make it in the music industry? Whatever musical path you choose, you will find lots of new opportunities by attending music industry conferences that happen around the world. We have some tips to help make the most of a trip. …
Humans are the natural choice to master your music – A.I. bots are getting better all the time, but they can’t feel the rush of a hot performer, or the anticipation of a bass drop. An A.I. bot will never shed a tear when the violins rise up, or a surge of energy deep within them from a wicked riff. You can… We can. …
One of the most common questions we are asked is “how do I prepare a song for mastering”. It’s an important stage to get right, as the quality of audio going into the mastering chain makes a big difference to the final result of the master. When you’re looking for the best song mastering services, …
Now there are more opportunities than ever to become a professional DJ – and it’s a more crowded market than ever before because of it! So how do you get your mix to stand out to listeners, booking agents and promoters on common platforms like Mixcloud, Soundcloud, Spotify etc? Mastering is an overlooked step that makes you stand out as a pro DJ. …
Time flies. Fat as Funk is 12 years old in a couple of weeks. A lot has happened. We were one of the very first to offer free mastering tasters back in 2006, and since then have had the pleasure of working on over 10,000+ tracks! We’ve seen the rise of some of our regulars …
In this day of the disposable digital-only single culture, the release of a proper, full album is a thing of beauty. An album remains the best place to showcase your musical works and demonstrate who you are as an artist.
Our album mastering service is where we really demonstrate our skill too. Mastering an album requires subtlety, intuition & a certain sprinkle of black magic that can only come with plenty of experience.
Even if you have a mixture of soft & heavy songs on the album, the end result must make them flow perfectly together, & smooth out any discrepancies between mixes. This must be achieved while keeping your original preferences & ideas in mind.
Highly dynamic, subtle music must be blended flawlessly & sensitively into an understated work of art. By contrast a bass-heavy, banging album needs to hit the listener hard and loud all the way through. The skill comes in minimising the compromises needed on each track to join-up different tracks naturally. A compilation album is the most extreme example of this problem, but most albums have some variation that needs smoothing out.
Be Beyond Binary – Feel The Music In All Stages
Whatever the music needs, an experienced mastering engineer can intuitively make it happen – they must feel the vibe first to know the best approach to master an album!
The best album mastering service is a human expert. Mastering an album is not a “1-size fits all” task that can be properly achieved with technical metering alone. It’s important to trust your gut – where the music is felt.
No A.I. online mastering service (like eMastered or Landr for example) can actuallyfeel music in the same way as you the artist did when creating it – by definition A.I. automatic mastering can only ever see it as digital binary code. Musicians think and feel beyond binary.
A.I. online mastering is getting better, but there’s a big difference between an unfeeling computer algorithm making decisions based only on maths, Vs a human music lover with soul thinking “that 2nd guitar riff is fu**ing wicked – I’ll bring that out!”.
Analogue hardware is another essential part in achieving next-level sound quality across your album. Especially if the track was produced 100% “In the box” as so many are these days, a lovely mastering-grade analog tube EQ for example, can enhance it sweeter than any plugins could, and bring a certain “magic” to the sound that is still not-quite “there” yet with even the best plugins.
Your finished album should sound cohesive, level matched & with appropriate pauses between tracks (or seamlessly if you prefer). Softer songs shouldn’t feel overly pushed, and banging tracks should feel fat and hefty – and most importantly should both sound “right” when played together. This is where experience comes in.
Dynamic range won the loudness wars – celebrate!
Mastering in 2022 is a little different to a few years ago. Physical CD releases are less common every day, and streaming services are using sophisticated auto-volume levelling to even out playback between songs.
This means that trying to max out your tracks to compete for the ultimate perceived volume blast is not as important as it used to be (although we are fully equipped to max out the volume if you want).
Depending on the genre of music, you may prefer the sound of a more dynamic, quieter master which can sound punchier and more dynamic on streaming services than a super-compressed crunched master. Most music sounds better with more dynamic range. Also with services such as Spotify Loud, listeners have a certain amount of control over the perceived loudness of playback.
Of course many electronic genres and heavy rock styles just sound fatter with a more pushed, louder master – and it is what’s expected from the listener. There is a lot of well-meaning pressure from some places not to push your music to an extreme level, but in the real world a heavy dance track finished to the suggested -14LUFS will simply sound weak in comparison to similar tracks, even with volume levelling. This is a slightly controversial opinion, but a realistic one. Looking at the vast majority of big dance and heavy rock tracks released, they are finished much louder than -14LUFS, and everyone loves it.
So really the best choice is what is right for your genre of music AND your intention as an artist. As an experienced mastering engineer I know immediately what is the best LUFS to master an album.
These auto-volume levelling systems are only going to get better, so it really makes sense to master your music for ultimate sound quality for your individual album and genre, not just maximum volume for the sake of it OR stick rigidly to a LUFS number without taking into account the needs and expectations of your genre. We recommend this approach – if you have other ideas, we are happy to oblige you.
It’s important to finish the album slightly differently for a vinyl press run too, so the vinyl version translates well in keeping with the version finished for digital. There are a few key differences in the mastering finish if it’s going to be pressed on vinyl to avoid problems with the cut, and make it sound great. Often using masters that have been finished for digital use will lead to a less dynamic vinyl cut, and not “kick” as hard as you’d hoped. We recommend getting dedicated pre-vinyl optimised masters in the same session (for only £10 each).
If you are having a CD run made, you can then optionally deliver a DDP file to the pressing plant. A DDP is like 1 special zip file with everything needed to make a CD, with all your ISRC codes, credits and title metadata embedded. This is not essential, but some pressing plants request them, and it is the neatest, most secure way to deliver your album.
Let’s Go Far Out For A Moment
Loz (our mastering engineer) is a zen practitioner and generally esoteric chap. He uses barebow archery, meditation and other ways to clear his headspace when the computer gets too much, and comes back to the job with fresh perspective and clarity.
We feel this gives us an edge which, in our opinion, helps make us one of the best mastering services around (especially when you consider our highly competitive rates). These visceral approaches really come into play when finding the correct natural point in an album to start work from, and in the final levelling and “tying it all together” thus making the final result flow together beautifully (spoiler alert: you can’t just rely on a LUFS meter to level out an album properly).
Trying not to be too much of a hippy about it, but perhaps music is a tangible expression of the living, all-connected energy of the universe, and when musicians are totally buzzing during a recording, they are channelling that energy during their flow state – reflecting their synergy with the universe at that time. That’s when a track turns from good to awesome.
When the hairs on your neck stand up and you feel your blood run cold from hearing your great new song on a fresh head, or you just know that this take is “the one” while you’re recording it – that’s what I’m talking about. That’s what needs to be channelled during mastering an album. Why throw all your magic to an A.I. tech company’s cash-cow, (essentially just running your music through a meter-adjusted plugin preset chain) just to save a small amount of money right at the end of your creative process – one of the most crucial stages. Get a human expert instead who can feel your music.
Fat As Funk – Est. 2006. – Album Mastering Experts
Fat As Funk offers great rates on album mastering, & you can order with confidence knowing that your carefully crafted studio mix will stand up as a complete work you can be proud of.
You can try our online mastering free. Upload your track today for a free stereo mastering demo!
If you want to test our stem mastering before committing to a full analogue mix+master, you can buy some stems and try it at a greatly reduced cost! (Stem mastering is like a mini-mix+master).
We usually hit the sweet-spot first time, but rest assured that if you feel any adjustments are necessary, we will gladly tweak our work for free. We insist on our clients being thrilled with their masters, as we want you to tell your friends how pleased you were with all aspects of our work. If you’re happy with your album, we’re happy.
We would love to transform your recordings into a record! Try us today and level-up your sound!
Travel is a big adventure, especially when attending a music business conference.
In this article I outline what you should expect from music industry trade fairs and music networking events. I give a load of tips learned along the way, and also provide you a handy list for packing, a flight checklist and a hand-picked list of extras to make your travel easier and more efficient.
Many of these tips are useful for a general business conference, networking social or trade show in any industry.
The big question: how to make it in the music industry?
There are numerous careers available in the music business. Whatever path you choose, you can find a professional advantage by attending music industry conferences that happen around the world.
A lot of aspiring musicians become disillusioned with the industry. The feeling of “it’s not what you know – but who you know!” is a constant source of frustration among artists.
So – how do you actually meet the people you need to know? One route is international business networking at Music industry Conferences like SXSW, Amsterdam Dance Event, MIDEM, Reeperbahn, The Great Escape Festival, or one of the many smaller, more intimate networking events.
There’s every music deal to be found at these events: Information and contacts for how to get a record deal, how to get a publishing deal, connect with music sync companies or a music supervisor, find a suitable music management company or hire promotion in the music industry. Even information for how to start a record label yourself.
These events give you the chance to mingle with top-level music executives from the biggest music companies in the world, alongside hungry indie start-ups and independent music hustlers from around the world. Information and opportunities exist for every kind of deal imaginable.
You will gain a solid grounding across the music industry and see opportunities for growth in your business.
Humans are the natural choice to master your music – A.I. bots are getting better all the time, but they can’t feel the rush of a hot performer, or the anticipation of a bass drop. An A.I. bot will never shed a tear when the violins rise up, or a surge of energy deep within them from a wicked riff. You can… We can.
Mastering bots don’t have the soul that your music does. Hire a human for this crucial last stage.
You cantry online mastering for zero cost (from a human expert), with no obligation to buy. We want to make your music sound amazing.
There’s nothing to lose, and the potential to make your music sound nice and expensive, for free!
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One of the most common questions we are asked is “how do I prepare a song for mastering”. It’s an important stage to get right, as the quality of audio going into the mastering chain makes a big difference to the final result of the master.
When you’re looking for the best song mastering services, it helps even the best mastering engineer if your mix arrives nicely prepared. What if you have lost the project file & only have a rough mixdown? We’ll explore that scenario too.
Show the world you live a Fat As Funk lifestyle with our dope new range of apparel. We have fresh designs for mens streetwear and womens streetwear. Ideal for chillin’ in the studio or around town. Worldwide shipping!
Now there are more opportunities than ever to become a professional DJ – and it’s a more crowded market than ever before because of it!
So how do you get your mix to stand out to listeners, booking agents and promoters on common platforms like Mixcloud, Soundcloud, Spotify etc ?
There are so many other factors in DJ promotion (a great website, building a busy live gig schedule, a robust social media strategy, networking at conferences, making a DJ remix for other producers, keeping your DJ equipment in top form) that it’s possible to overlook a process that can take you to the next level where it counts – the end listener.
“Mastering” is the process of making a recorded piece of music sound slicker, fatter and louder, with a sweeter tone than before. Mastering turns a recording into a record! Every commercially released track you own will have been professionally mastered.
DJ Mixes sound better when they have been properly mastered too. All the classic commercial mixes will have been mastered before release. That’s why they sound so slick!