So you’ve found a great mastering engineer who will master your project for the right price. Congratulations! The hardest part is behind yo Now you have to get your files ready to be mastered… But what exactly does that mean? Here are a few things to keep in mind.
1. First of all, your songs must be mixed and ready to go. This means your final mixes are complete, and you have full-quality stereo audio files of each song. Remember, that’s full quality audio we’re talking about here; WAV or AIFF format, typically, and no MP3s. MP3s are not full quality audio files, and if you give them to your mastering engineer you are greatly limiting what he can do for your song. Make sure the bit depth is at 24 and sample rate is anywhere from 44.1khz (standard CD quality) to 96khz.
2. You’ll want to take off any compression and limiting you may have on your mix. Effects on individual tracks are OK, but the stereo file should be uncompressed and unlimited. It may sound a little quiet, but that’s actually a good thing—it means your mastering engineer will have plenty of “headroom” to add as much compression and limiting as he feels is necessary without the track distorting.
3. Be sure the EQ on the mix is well-balanced. If they’re not, the mastering engineer may find it difficult to adjust certain frequencies in your master while keeping the overall sound nice and even.
4. Come prepared to describe what you want. While all of the above steps are technical and deal with the audio file itself, you can help the mastering engineer (and yourself) by having a good idea of what you want beforehand. Bring reference tracks of songs and albums you love the sound of. Engineers always appreciate a tangible example to work from instead of abstract descriptions of how you want your album to sound. Bring other CDs so they get a good idea of what you’re talking about.
If you follow the four steps above, you should be well on your way to getting yourself a great mastering job. And your mastering engineer will appreciate that you’ve made life a little easier for him… Who knows, maybe he’ll do an extra special good job on your project!