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Top 10 Mastering Mistakes

Mastering is a very important part of the music production process. Mastering means shaping and polishing the final mix without tweaking the individual tracks. The purpose of mastering is to make sure that the final song sounds good on different types of speakers and listeners can have the best listening experience.

Photo by David Bartus

It's easy to make mistakes while mastering which may go unnoticed. So, here we are, to stop you from making these common mastering mistakes.

1. Master is Too Quiet

Your listeners do not want to listen to quiet tracks! Also, you may not want them to miss some essential part of your song just because it's too quiet! You should reference your master level with the level of other commercial releases. Generally, -14db LUFS is considered a great loudness for a master. (But, don't stick to numbers! Use your ears!)

2. Master is Too Loud

Yup! This is actually a problem! Loud is not always equal to good. Mastering is not just making everything loud. If you make your master too loud, it may start clipping or distorting. Many producers ignore this but it's important! So, make sure that your master is not too loud compared to other songs mastered by professionals!

3. Over-compression

Compression is probably one of the favorite effects that a mastering engineer may use. However, over-compression can be a massive problem for your song! Sometimes, engineers use heavy compression even when it's not necessary. You don't have to squash your song!

4. Too much EQ

EQ while mastering should be subtle. While mastering, you don't have to use harsh EQ moves. Too many or harsh EQ moves may make your song sound boxy, boomy, or even bad! And you definitely don't want that! So, try to limit the use of EQ while mastering and be gentle!

5. Bad Stereo Image

The stereo image is probably one of the most important components of the mastering process. A song should have a great stereo width without losing the strength! It should not be too wide or too tight. You should consider listening to your master in both mono and stereo and compare it with reference tracks.

6. Not Referencing

Many beginners do not understand the value of reference tracks. Reference tracks are very important while mastering. Not everyone has professional ears! It's hard to master something which sounds great without reference tracks. Of course, it's different if you're a professional who's working for years. Reference tracks can help you achieve the sound you want! So, don't make this mistake and use reference tracks!

7. Not Giving Break to Your Ears

YOUR EARS NEED BREAK! Yes, you should always give breaks to your ears while producing music. You should not expose your ears to loud music for a long time. And, even if you're working with low volume, they need breaks! Hearing loss or any other hearing problem can cause a downfall in your music career. You should take a break after every 20-30 minutes. So, take a break and keep your ears healthy!

8. Mastering a Bad Mix

NOTHING CAN FIX A BAD MIX! If you think that you can fix all the problems of the mix while mastering, you're wrong! Mastering means polishing the mix, not fixing the issues. You can make a good mix perfect with mastering, but you can never make a bad mix good! So, make sure that your mix does not have any issues and sounds good before mastering.

9. Getting Too Familiar With the Mix

This generally happens to producers who master their own tracks. When you listen to the same thing again and again, you become too familiar with the sound of the song. When you get too familiar with the sound of your song, you may start ignoring the mistakes in the mix and may not be able to polish the track! So, you should not spend too much time listening to the track. You should try to listen to it as a fresh listener. To avoid this problem, you should take a break after mixing and listen to some other music too to keep your ears fresh.

10. Not Listening to the Final Master

So, you finished mastering but you didn't listen to it again and again? A great mastering engineer tries to listen to the final master at least a few times on different speakers and environments. This gives us time to think about our mastering decisions and fix any mistakes if found.

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