Have you ever wondered why the music on the radio seems so much different than music that you might record yourself? It has a polished sound, and everything seems to flow together so much better. This is because all music that you hear on the radio has been mastered.
Mastering is a process that a song goes through after it has been recorded, which prepares it and transfers to a data storage device. This copy, which is called "The Master" is the one from which all other copies are made. During the mastering process, the original sound recording is equalized, compressed, and edited for noise reduction to eliminate clicks, dropouts, hum and hiss. The levels or the volume might be adjusted, the song may be edited, a fade in or out may be added, or any other enhancements may be added. The mastering process is different for every song, because each recording will have unique flaws that require editing. Ambience or additional sounds may also be added during the mastering process. Also, a skilled audio mastering technician can create different effects, such as making your music sound like it is a vintage recording.
In the olden days, mastering used to be done using massive tape machines and then acetate pressings. The machines and tools needed to do this were expensive, cumbersome, and difficult to operate. However, now we have the benefit of computer software, which means that there are many easy to operate and affordable digital audio editing programs on the market. You can purchase one of these and teach yourself how to master your own tracks, or you can choose to have your audio mastered by a professional mastering engineer. There are advantages to both, but the thing to remember is that while anyone can learn to operate a digital editing program, a truly great audio mastering engineer simply has an 'ear' for music which is a talent that cannot be learned.
If you are a recording artist producing your first album, it is important that you make sure that your music is audio mastered properly. It takes a bit longer and there is a small cost, but the difference in sound quality is the difference between something that sounds like it was recorded on budget home recording equipment, to something that sounds like a professional track that could be played on the radio. You can be the best song writer or musician of all time, but if the sound quality on your recordings is terrible, no one will ever want to buy your records. Audio mastering simply takes your raw materials and polishes the rough edges so that your great lyrics and melody shine.