I’m a mastering engineer. I’m not a ‘jack-of-all-trades’. Mastering music is what I do and all I do, because I believe mastering is a specialist skill.
“What is mastering? Why do I need it?”
Put simply, mastering is finishing. It’s everything that happens between you completing your mix and it being ready to be released, sounding as awesome as it possibly can.
From a sonic point of view, that could mean some eq work if needed, controlling dynamics if needed, finding ways to enhance the music’s best features to make it as exciting, engaging and emotionally effective as possible, and making sure everything’s at a suitable loudness. Any or all of these things work toward making sure your music sounds brilliant wherever anyone might be listening to it.
Also, possibly most importantly, getting your music mastered by a professional provides a final, crucial quality check. Making sure there’s no clipping, audio errors, clicks, pops, making sure you have exactly the right file formats for how you want to distribute your music, making sure all of your metadata and ISRC codes are embedded correctly, etc etc. Basically, all of the boring stuff that you, as an artist, really shouldn’t have to think about.
And personally, I don’t believe mastering stops there. If I send you a folder and you’re not sure which file formats to use for what, I can advise you! If you’re not sure about how to get your masters onto Spotify or Apple Music, I can help! Not sure where to start getting vinyl pressed? Just drop me a line.
A mastering engineers’ job is to take your recording and turn it into an actual record.
“How long does mastering take?”
That depends on the project. I can give you a more realistic idea of turnaround depending on my schedule at that particular time as I do get booked up, and if you need something turning around quickly, just let me know and I’ll see what I can do. I’d recommend giving yourself a bit of time before your final deadline though, the more relaxed we both are the better the result will be!
Because I like to communicate with artists and bands and take time to get the perfect sounding masters for them specifically, I don’t make any claims to turn around finished albums in 24 hours or whatever, that’s just not the way I work.
“Do I need to book in advance?”
It’s definitely worth getting in touch sooner rather than later, I do get booked up and the sooner I have an idea of your deadline the easier it will be to accomodate your mastering.
“What’s your mastering ‘chain’? / What gear do you use?”
I don’t have a set ‘mastering chain’ as every project, in fact even every song, is different. I treat every mastering job individually and use the tools that I believe that particular song or album or EP needs to enhance it’s best qualities and get it sounding the best it possibly can. I don’t have a ‘signature sound’, and I don’t just apply the same mastering process for every job then send it back to you and tell you that it’s ‘done’.
Like many modern mastering engineers, I now work almost completely ‘in the box’, which basically means ‘digitally’. Tall Trees has had a lot of attention put into making the studio sound as excellent as possible, which in combination with a full-range Neumann monitoring system produces superb clarity of sound with which to work on and really get the best out of your music.
“Do you offer free test masters?”
No, not generally. If you want to have a chat about a specific request, please feel free to just drop me a line!
“What are Apple Digital Masters?”
Apple Digital Masters (previously known as ‘Mastered for iTunes’ or ‘MFiT’) is a specification set by Apple Music to ensure that the highest quality masters are created for Apple Music. In order for your music to be included in the Apple Digital Masters section of Apple Music, it has to have been mastered by an officially certified mastering engineer or studio, which Tall Trees Audio Mastering is. When you or your label submit your track to Apple you have to include a few details, such as the name of the studio, the mastering engineer and their email address. They will check their list of approved mastering engineers and if the details you submit match their records your music will be included in the Apple Digital Masters section. Read a very, very in depth breakdown of exactly what that means HERE.
NB – you do NOT have to submit Apple Digital Masters in order to get your music on Apple Music or iTunes, it’s an extra level of specific quality control to ensure only the highest quality masters are labelled as Apple Digital Masters. It is not mandatory, you can still submit your music to Apple and you can always expect to recieve extremely high quality masters from me regardless!
“Can I hear some examples of some music you’ve mastered?”
Sure thing, here’s a Spotify playlist of some recent projects I’ve worked on:
“Why shouldn’t I just use LANDR or CloudBounce or whatever?”
You totally can, and the results will more than likely sound… fine. In my opinion though, there’s just no substitute for having an experienced pair of actual human ears listen critically to your music in an environment that sounds great and for it to be worked on with care and attention. You can’t have a conversation with an algorithm about how you’d like your master to sound, and an algorithm can’t react to your music on an emotional level and make mastering decisions based on the music itself, not just the digital information it’s been fed. An algorythm doesn’t know whether those noises at the beginning of your track are meant to be there to create an atmosphere, or whether they’ve just been left in by accident – and it won’t email you to ask! I’m not absolutely against those automated services, and they may well work for you, but I personally wouldn’t entrust the final stage of any music I’d put all that time and care into making to an algorithm. Remember, they don’t actually listen to your music!
“Can you make my songs really loud?”
Yep, if you like. It’s your music and I’ll master it exactly to your taste. I’ll always start by mastering music to a loudness level I know from experience is suitable for the genre of music it is, but if you’d like to alter that I’m more than happy to work to get it where you want it!
“Why should I get you to master my songs, can’t I just do it myself?”
Well, you don’t necessarily have to get me to master your songs, but I would strongly advise getting someone else to do it. See below…
“The person that recorded my album/EP has said they’ll throw in mastering as part of the price! That’s cool right?”
Sure, many mix engineers are totally capable of creating great masters too. However, any mix engineer worth their salt would almost certainly agree that a final, impartial quality check by a dedicated mastering engineer is a wise investment.
It’s incredibly difficult to see (hear?) the wood from the trees when you’ve been working on a mix for an extended period of time and it doesn’t take long to lose perspective. Also, if your master is being made in the same room and on the same speakers as it was mixed on, whether that’s by you or the person mixing your record, any inherent problems that come with either of those things (and no room is absolutely perfect) will more than likely still be present in the master. I genuinely believe that denying your music the final mastering stage by a dedicated mastering engineer is selling it short. Think of it this way – I can almost guarantee that your favourite album of all time wasn’t produced, recorded, mixed and mastered by the same person!
Concentrate on getting your mixes sounding as great as you can get them, then get that all important, impartial quality control check by someone else who really knows what they’re listening for – I promise you it’s worth it!
“Ok, you’ve convinced me, how do I go about working with you?”
Easy. Just send me a message! Use the contact form on this website, message me on Facebook, Instagram (@talltreesaudiomastering), I’m not hard to find and I respond to every message.