While so many engineers now attempt to master their own mixes with mixed results (pardon the pun), just about every major label and large indie still sends their mixes to a pro mastering facility. Regardless of if you decide to master yourself or use a mastering engineer, here are some tips from The Mixing Engineer’s Handbook to help you get the most out of your mastering session.
1. Don’t over-EQ when mixing. In general, mastering engineers can do a better job for you if your mix is on the dull side rather than too bright. Likewise, better to be light on the bottom end than have too much.
2. Don’t over-compress when mixing. You might as well not even master if you’ve squashed it too much already. Hypercompression deprives the mastering engineer of one of his major abilities to help your project. Squash it for your friends and squash it for your clients, but leave some dynamics for your mastering engineer.
3. Come prepared. Make sure all documentation and sequencing is complete before you get there. You’ll make it easier on yourself and your mastering person if everything is well documented, and you’ll save yourself some money too. Be sure to include shipping instructions and record company identification numbers, and if your songs reside on hard disc as files, make sure that each file is properly ID’d for easy identification (especially if you’re not there during the session).
4. Check your phase when mixing. It can be a real shock when you get to the mastering studio and the engineer begins to check for mono compatibility and the lead singer disappears from the mix because something is out-of-phase. Even though this was more of a problem in the days of vinyl and AM radio, it’s still an important point since many so-called stereo sources such as television are either pseudo-stereo or only stereo some of the time. Check it and fix it if necessary before you get there.