Mastering demands a good ear, but how do you train your ear for mastering? Below we explore a quick top ten of tips and tricks to help fast track you to mastering mastering.
Listen to a wide range of music, from different genres and time periods, and pay attention to the differences in sound, production, and mixing.
Use ear training exercises and software to develop your ability to identify frequencies, compression and saturation types.
Practice listening to individual tracks in isolation, and identify the different elements and their roles in the mix, where they sit in the sound space and why they have been placed there.
Listen to reference tracks, and compare them to your own mixes, to identify areas where your mixes might be lacking. This is vital for combating fatigue and as a life raft for when you are lost in your mix.
Use blind listening tests, where you listen to tracks without seeing the waveform or other visual cues, to improve your ability to evaluate the sound of a mix based on its sonic qualities alone. Never make drastic mix or master or master decisions with your eyes first. Every action should have meaning.
Practice identifying and correcting problems in a mix, such as muddled frequencies, poor stereo imaging, or excessive loudness. If you identify a poorly mastered track, see if you can EQ it better.
Use referencing to compare your mixes to professional releases, and identify areas where your mixes might be lacking in terms of clarity, balance, or impact. There are plugins that can help you to A/B. Have this element as part of your process, if you need it.
Attend workshops, seminars, and masterclasses, to learn from experienced mastering engineers and gain new insights and techniques. We run our own paid classes at ESM.
Work with other musicians, producers, and engineers, to gain experience and perspective on different approaches to mixing and mastering.
Continuously learn and improve, by staying up to date with new technology, techniques, and trends in the industry.