How to Prepare Your Songs for Mastering in 2019

Sending your songs to a mastering engineer always requires a certain amount of preparation. Steps that might be clear to some and steps that not so clear to others. Read the tips below on how to prepare your songs for mastering in 2019.

Pro tip: you should not skimp on these, because you have put so much effort making your song sound great, it would be stupid to throw it all away before mastering.

1# Make sure your song is 100% ready

Many or almost all mastering engineers will charge extra if you send them a new mix after the initial upload, so make sure that your mix is 100% ready before sending it to a mastering engineer. 

Many mastering engineers (including me) are willing give their input to a song, so if you have any concerns about your final mix just ask their feedback. They are probably more than happy to help.

One thing to keep in mind is that mastering isn’t a magic bullet that will salvage a bad mix. So make sure you’re pleased with your song before sending it forward.

2# Only upload high quality files

What is actually quite interesting that people send me a ton of low-quality m4a and mp3 files. To you show you the effect in practice, I added a screenshot from a song I was working earlier on. As you can see from the Instagram post, almost everything above 16kHz has been cut due to m4a compression.

But why all this rant? Because it is plain stupid to upload a low-quality m4a or mp3 file when it takes the same effort and time to use a high-quality file like .wav or .flac. Of course, there are situations where you are forced to use a low-quality file and they also have their place while demoing a song or listening to a final product. But to send such file to mastering? Big no-no!

Always use high-quality lossless files like .wav or .flac when submitting your files to a mastering engineer. Period.

3# Limiting is part of mastering, not mixing

One thing I have also noticed is that some people send their song with heavy limiting already applied to their song. Limiting cuts of transients (you loose punch), causes distortion and because you’re destroying your audio, it is meant to be the final part of the mastering process.

There are situations where limiting your audio slightly is acceptable but it is more to catch the peaks and glue things together than to raise the volume. If you’re uncertain what you are doing, it is better to ask your mastering engineer. He or she will tell you what they prefer.

I completely understand why some mix engineers might do it to bring the volume up so it will sound as loud as mastered songs. To be honest it is completely fine for referencing. However, you should keep a clean file without any limiting applied on the side. If you’re a producer or mix engineer, remove any limiters from your mix bus. Or if you’re an artist, ask your producer to do so.

Remember, your final mix isn’t supposed to sound that loud. Keep your peaks below -3-4dB and you should be clear from any clipping. Let the mastering engineer raise the volume to the desired level.

4# Find the right mastering engineer for your song

While looking for mastering for your songs, you’ll find a lot of different options on the market. Some are pricier than others, some are better and some might work only on one genre. Because not every person is the right fit for your project, it is completely acceptable to ask for a test master. Almost all mastering engineers offer free test masters for new clients, including me. You can book one below.

Test master is basically a small sample of the end result so you get to hear the result before paying anything. This is perfect if you’re not sure who will give you the best value.

That’s it! Just follow these few rules and you should be all good. If you have any questions, comment down below and let me know what did you think. If found this post valuable, please remember to subscribe for future blog posts straight into your email.