What is Mastering? A Guide to the Final Touch

What is Mastering? A Guide to the Final Touch

If you're learning about music production you'll often hear the term 'Mastering.' It's one of the main stages of music production and deserves a thourough explanation. All new music producers should take the time to fully understand what the mastering process is and why it's so necessary.

What is a Mastering?

The music production mastering process is the final stage of creating a piece of music. Once a producer has completed the composition of the track and mixed all the sounds together using a digital audio workstation (DAW) they will finalise the project by creating a master version. The 'master' is a final bounce of the audio track which they have created adjusted to meet industry standards of loudness and boosted for peak performance on different types of playback systems. The master is saved as a WAV file and will be uploaded to distribution platforms for sale to the public.

In layman's terms, the master is the final version of the track ready to be played on a variety of sound systems from personal AirPods to huge music festival speaker systems. The point of the mastering process is to make sure your track sounds as good as it possibility can, so that it compares favourably to other tracks out there in the market place.

Meeting industry standards means that when your master is compared to other professional tracks it has equal power, volume, dynamics and has a polished sound. A good master is therefore essential for music producers because it is how the public hear your work. A good master reflects your production talent, vision and professionalism in the best light.

It's also incredibly important for music producer making tracks for DJ sets. DJs will only buy and play songs that have a loudness equal to the other songs in their collection. If you don't master your music before release it will sound low quality and have a low impact when played through headphones or speakers. Make sure that you also release a mastered version of your work.

Mastering is the final stage of Music Production

Core Mastering Processes

Mastering is considered the last step of the production chain. It's the stage where you polish your track to make it sound it's best. However, mastering is an umbrella term which actually encompasses many types of audio processing. A music producer or master engineer might have multiple steps within their mastering chain but here are some of the most common processes.

Checking For Mistakes: Part of the mastering process is to check for any errors in the production. First check for any beat matching or gridding issues, use quantise when needed. Make sure all the notes and sounds hit on the right beat. Master engineers will also check for errors in recordings such as pops and make the necessary adjustments. The track should be error-free and everyone should harmonise before moving on.

Balancing: Mastering engineers carefully adjust the levels of individual sounds within the mix to so they sound good together. Each element needs to have clarity and fine tuning the volume, EQ, and dynamics of each sound individually can help with cohesion. A good master will have a balanced sound that is not muddy. The mixer is used as well and plugins to help balance every track together.

Enhancing: Mastering allows music producers and master engineers the optimal time to add the final touches. Think of it like adding the cherry on the cake! Mastering aims to get the maximum impact from every sound and enhance the sonic characteristics of the track. These types of adjustments might involve adding specialists effects, subtle EQ adjustments, dynamic processes and stereo effects to create depth, width and space.

Finalising: The final part of the master process will involve making sure the track compares well with other existing tracks. We call this and A/B comparison. When comparing your track to an existing track it should have the same impact, loudness and dynamics. If everything compares well the engineer will format the master to ensure compatibility across all distribution and playback systems. This includes applying metadata. The final mastered version will then be delivered to the producer or record label.

Why is Mastering Important?

Mastering is a cornerstone of the music production process and ensures that the music industry delivers a consistent and improving listening experience to customers. There is a huge range of benefits of the mastering process contributing to the overall quality and professionalism of your music. There benefits include the following:

Quality Control: Mastering allows you to take the time to compare your work with other professionally produced tracks. During this process you will learn how to improve your music and allow your tracks and compositions to reach their maximum potential. Mastering is a quality control process that will address any inconsistencies in the work that may have been overlooked during the production stage. Mastering will always ensure the final product reaches industry-standards and sounds great on all playback systems.

Consistency: Mastering allows you to create consistency within your entire discography and ensures your music sounds consistent when compared to other producers work. Your masters should all represent excellent sound quality, tonal balance, loudness and dynamics and sound uniform. This is especially important for albums and EPs.

Optimisation for Playback: Your masters must sound good on a variety of playback systems. This means it should meet professional industry-standards when a consumer plays it. This could be someone playing your music in their car, on their AirPods, on their home hi-fi system but it could also mean a DJ playing it at music festival, on the radio or in a club.

Competitive Edge: If you can create great masters that make your music shine you will have a competitive advantage. Imagine a DJ dropping your music to thousands of party-goers and the bass just hits right and the vocals have that crisp airy sound. Great masters make great music. Take advantage of the power of mastering and use it to advance your music production career.

Artistic Enhancement: Mastering is an art form. Mastering mastering will enable music producers to add creative touches and dynamic changes to their music. All these subtle nuances will take your music to new heights. Master engineers might creative the master with a range of plugins within a DAW or even make use on analog gear to achieve a warmer sound. Whichever way you master it will add an artistic enhancement to your vision.


In conclusion, mastering is an essential step in the music production process. A great master will increase an artists worth and help the track achieve maximum impact both sonically and artistically. The range of benefits are undeniable and every professional music producer should ensure the mastered tracks are hitting all the right notes. Be is performing a self-master or entrusting an experienced and skills master engineer, mastering is the way to unlock your tracks full potential.

If you would like to learn how to mix and master your tracks consider join LSA's Mixing and Mastering Course.



Want to Receive DJ & Production Tips?

Sign up to our newsletter to get regular tips, tricks and discounts from DJ Gym