What is Mastering?

As I’m getting a little better at composing (of course I’m aware I still have a LONG way to go, I just think I am a little better than some months ago xD ) I’m starting to look more into mixing and mastering.

As far as Mixing goes… I “think” I’m getting a hang of it, at least a little bit. I think it kinda is the process of having all the different frequencies sound good togheter by manipulating the single tracks with equilization, dedciding the kind of reverb, delay etc to put on it etc…

Like, since I want to compose for games I’ll take games as an example, if I have to compose for an outdoor scene I’d probably want to just do not use reverb at all… or very little… if it’s inside I’d have to think about the room dimension and pump it up… stuff like that.

I finally managed to understand what compression is for (thanks Mike for the video on his youtube BTW).

Anyway… still have to learn a lot but I think I’m going in the right direction.

Mastering tho is really confusing me. I’m trying to see different videos about it but, if not for the fact that it’s supposed to be done on the full track and not on the single parts of it, I can’t understand what it’s for.

So here’s the question… can anyone try explaining it in an easy and comprehensible way? What is it for exactly? What is the goal of it?

Thanks to anyone that would spend a little time answering this :slight_smile:


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Hey Luca. I’m no master of mastering myself (see what I did there :grin:) so I won’t go into full detail, but to put it simply as I understand it, mastering is the final process, essentially where you take your completed track and “polish” it. If mixing is concerned with the small, finer details of your sound, track by track, mastering is taking the entire mix and adding some additional touches and preparing it for final release in your chosen format (CD, streaming, YouTube, game track etc.) so you’re looking at targeted loudness units (LUFS), dynamic peaks, stereo spread and the like.

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So… basicly mixing is directed towards eliminating contrasting frequencies and adding necessary effects to single instruments.

Mastering is more related to, I guess, compression, overal gain and stereo range?

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Some good reading:


In very basic terms, yes.

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Very informative article Stephan. Thanks!


Mastering is the enhancement of a songs tonal quality, without changing the production. Not all songs require mastering, it is probably more commonly used for visual media and films/tv series especially but not for streaming as much for example.

Thanks for all your replies everyone :slight_smile:

Mastering is actually the easiest thing to understand… but it’s the hardest thing to do.

So most people can mix… at least to a certain level. When it comes to mastering we need to start to compartmentalise the different aspects of making music.

So you’d have this:

  1. Coming up with the ideas

  2. Composing - writing and arranging your ideas.

  3. Composing decisions (adding effects that enhance such as delay to a note)

  4. Mixing (no composition should be done in this step… this is simply levelling the mix and making conscious decisions about dominant sounds in your track. This is why EQ, compression and automation are the most important parts of mixing.)

  5. Mastering - this is taking that finished track and making it commercial, so that it works in multiple platforms. It’s a bit of misinformation that a mastering engineer just polished the mix… yes they do but what they’re actually doing is making conscious decisions about your mix so that an average person won’t get distracted when they listen to it on their tuned/coloured hifi speakers. Then the final step is making it louder.

I hope this helps :slight_smile: as you get better you’ll start to work in phases like this. Right now you’ll probably be mixing up the steps which confuses and blurts the process. Each one of these roles is a real job done by an individual in a film scoring house or production studio too… even the idea step, which is often a producer or overseer.