What is mastering?
Mastering (or pre-mastering) is the process of preparing a track or album for its final destination medium. This means ensuring that things will sound as good as possible on the widest variety of sound reproduction equipment, sequencing and preparing CDs for final album releases, providing an error-free master copy of such CDs, and in the case of vinyl, ensuring that a track can be cut to vinyl with no problems. Mastering an album also involves making all the constituent tracks sound consistent as a single project.
How does SC Mastering work?
For online mastering, simply send us a message via our contact form, and we will reply with details of how to transfer your tracks to us along with payment details. Once everything is ready to go, we will master your tracks and return them as promptly as possible.
Alternatively, a preview clip of each track can be sent prior to payment being made. Once the masters are approved, we will make the full final versions available upon receipt of payment. This allows new customers to hear the work without financial commitment, while allowing regular customers to receive full files as soon as work is complete.
How long will it take for my tracks to be mastered?
We aim to have your tracks back with you within 10 working days or less.
If things are more or less urgent, then be sure let us know. We pride ourselves on our flexibility, and always try to accommodate our customers’ time frame.
Can I attend the mastering session?
You are very welcome to attend your mastering session. Contact us to discuss attendance costs and schedule a session.
What guidelines should I follow when mixing my tracks before I send them for mastering?
The simplest advice here is that you make your tracks sound as good as you possibly can before handing them over. Make sure you have checked them on several different playback systems, and referenced them against tracks that you like (preferably at the same subjective level). Make sure that all of the parts in the track sound how you want them, the balance of elements is as you want it, and that all in all you can't think of any way it can be improved. We will then bring the very best out of it.
It's also much better for the final results that you don't apply limiting to your track. Limiting a master should be the last stage of processing, and is practically impossible to undo/remove. So please leave any limiters turned off, and ensure your track is not clipping. If you like to mix into a compressor, then go ahead - however, putting a compressor on after your mix is finished is not recommended.
Ensure that your tracks are mixed down to the required file formats and that you leave around 3dB of headroom for us to work with. Don't worry if the track sounds quiet - clean is more important than loud at the pre-master stage. Simply mix it down with plenty of headroom at 24 bit, and we will take care of the loudness in line with your preferences.
What if I'd like changes to the mastering of my tracks?
In the unlikely event that you are not happy with the preview clip, simply tell us what changes you require and we will revise the master accordingly. The first revision is non-chargeable. Any subsequent revisions may be charged at a negotiable rate, though more than one revision is almost always unnecessary.
What if I want to change my mixes after hearing masters of my tracks?
It sometimes happens that after mastering, the artist/producer wants to change something in their mix. These changes obviously have an impact on the mastering, and the degree to which that happens depends on the scale of the mix changes. For example, raising an occasional violin part by 1dB may mean no/minimal changes in mastering, whereas realising that the drums and bass had been accidentally muted would mean a completely new mastering setup. As such, we charge for this on a case-by-case basis. Assuming the changes have a minimal effect, recalls are charged at £10 per recall to cover the time involved.
What if I have alternative versions of my tracks?
Additional versions such as radio edits, clean edits, alternative arrangements etc are subject to a small additional charge per version. To minimise the cost, these alternative versions should be supplied at the same time as, and be sonically identical to, the main version.
How much will it cost for my tracks to be mastered?
Prices can be found here.
Will you check my mix and tell me how to improve it before working on it?
In general we assume all creative decisions have been made knowingly and considered carefully prior to sending for mastering, and go ahead and work unless there's something preventative happening in the mix. However, sometimes we get something in a track or two that is much better fixed in the mix. We'll always get back and suggest changes in these cases.
In some cases people prefer to request more formal listening notes prior to mastering, which is a service we provide for a small extra cost. While the make-up/composition of your tracks will largely be governed by the sounds you're using, that's not to say that some hints/tips regarding the mix won't be of some use.
In summary, it's the client’s choice. The fact is that in 90% of cases, if an artist has done their very best and are happy enough to send it for mastering, the mix is usually nowhere near as bad as they think.
I have a question about mixing that isn't answered here, can you help?
Many production-related matters are addressed in Bob Macc's blog, and your question may be answered there. You can find Bob's blog here