ABOUT THE AUTHOR / VIDEO SERIES CREATOR
Hello my name is John Rogers, owner of JR Mastering. I’m one of the most successful online mastering engineers, having worked with over 7,500 highly satisfied clients on now over 40,000 songs since 1999.
During my career I’ve worked with a handful of Grammy nominees, several songs I’ve mastered went top 5 on the European billboard charts. I’ve mastered hundreds of songs for movie soundtracks, and for DJs who played them in clubs all over the world.
My debut book, Audio Mastering Secrets, is one of the first audio mastering books on the market that focuses entirely on “How to master audio to radio quality standards,” all from the comfort of your home studio. No expensive gear required to get amazing results!
I also have a video series that will teach you how to master your style of music in under TWO hours!
Note - If you're looking for someone to mastering your songs (and don't want to learn yourself), visit my website JR Mastering.
ABOUT THE BOOK
It focuses on how to master audio, how to become a great audio mastering engineer, and how not to be a bad one. I don’t get into the specifics of brands of gear you should buy, the history of audio mastering, 1,000’s of compressor settings (of which maybe 40 you’ll ever use), or a dozen pages on how to sound proof your room.
If you’re looking for that information, there are several other books on the market that explain those topics very well.
In audio mastering, you will face common problems like a mix being too thin, tinny, distorted, over-saturated, muddy, or not bright enough. Sometimes you can’t get the song loud enough, boomy enough, no separation, too much bass, no sparkle, and many other problems.
I explain in detail which effects processors to use and their exact settings to solve these common problems. This is a great tool to refer back to when needed.
Not entirely on theory, what I learned in school, what I heard from some other engineer, etc. I’ve mastered over 40,000 songs for over 7,500 highly satisfied clients. Why is this important?
1. Because I know the techniques and secrets that I’m teaching work very well! The proof is in the thousands of positive email testimonials I’ve received.
2. I also know which problems and situations arise very often, and which ones never happen at all. Knowing this allows me to focus only on what you will actually experience when working on an audio mastering project. Someone who hasn’t worked with a large number of customers won’t even know what areas to focus on
Here’s where I break down the sonic qualities of sixteen different genres. How much brightness, bass, boominess, compression, etc., you’re trying to achieve for each genre. And several tips on what clients are looking for. This is a great tool to refer back to if you don’t know the sonic qualities of all the different genres very well.
In this section, I cover a series of do’s, don’ts, and facts that basically apply to all audio mastering jobs regardless of genre. I also cover several pitfalls you will experience (just like I did) as an audio mastering engineer, and how to get through them.
After reviewing hundreds of masters and re-masters from other online studios, I’ve found that most sound engineers don’t know how to properly use compression. A lot of them never use it at all! This causes their songs to break up badly during loud playback. In this book, I cover everything you need to know about compression in audio mastering. I eliminate 95% of the needless threshold/ratio combinations, which makes the entire process much simpler.
Setting Up You're Listening Environment
In this section I cover calibrating your speakers, learning your speakers, speaker placement and room size. And, the myth about soundproofing your room.
The basics of what they all do, how to use them, when to use them, and my initial settings templates.
I cover a handful of important must-know facts if you’re working with clients. Why lose jobs learning on your own (trial and error). Learn from my past mistakes!
I left out all the high-tech jargon and rarely used words that slow down sentence flow. I want everyone to learn how to properly master audio, while not having to try and figure out what I’m trying to say! Ha!
In this book I cover audio mastering FAQs, definitions, concepts, and procedures. I also talk about working with sonic qualities, A/B comparison, working with 4-BAND processors, creating headroom and dynamic range, evaluating the mix, protecting your hearing, EVERYTHING I’ve learned in the last 17 years!
In a matters of weeks, you can learn all of the audio mastering secrets, tips, and techniques that took me over 17 years to learn!
Or with my video series, learn in only TWO hours!!
If you started audio mastering and learning on your own this year, by 2034 you might learn everything that’s in this book and video series. Ha! Why not just make a small investment and start learning right now!
Check out two of my best articles -
In order to produce a good master, a mix needs proper headroom and dynamic range.
WHAT IS HEADROOM?
Headroom is the distance between an audio tracks peak level (when the meter is at its highest) and 0 level on the output meter.
As a song plays, the output meter on the stereo/main out bounces up and down with the music. You can see how high (loud) an audio track peaks by looking at this meter. Anything peaking over 0 level usually means distortion, so at all costs stay below 0 level.
How far is your peak loudness below 0 level? That's the simple definition of what headroom is. So, if your meter is peaking -3dbs below 0 level, you have 3dbs of headroom. If your meter is peaking right at 0 level, you have NO headroom.
Note - +3dbs to +6dbs of headroom is the standard recommended amount, but many times a song with more or a little less headroom can still be mastered with no problems. Although it really makes no sense to give a mastering engineer a mix with 0dbs of headroom and risk the chance that it's slightly distorted. There's no reason to do it because overall song volume is done in the mastering process, not in mixing.
WHAT IS DYNAMIC RANGE?
As a song plays, the output meter constantly goes up and down.
Dynamic range is the area between the peak level (when the meter is up) and the low level (when the meter is down). Roughly, 3dbs to 6dbs of movement between the high and low meter level is a typical amount of dynamic range, but this does depend on the genre of music.
Note - One problem you want to watch out for (if you're mixing your own music) is dynamic range between song sections. You don't want a +10db or more difference between the verses and choruses. This creates a mastering problem because the verses will never be loud enough compared to the rest of the song. Roughly a 6db difference is as high as you want to go.
Here's another popular question I see online, always with the wrong answer! "There's no such thing as radio ready mastering!" REALLY?
Let me explain how this works. If a record label, after paying them millions, submits a new release to the radio stations and it's very poorly mastered (distorted, over-level, super bright, heavily compressed) it will be REJECTED. They will not play it on the radio. They'll tell the label the quality of the song is terrible and will request a re-master (maybe even a remix).
Technically, it would never even go this far because an executive working for the record label would reject the poor master and get it corrected before the radio station even heard it.
Two Facts -
1. Some songs aren't ready for radio play and are rejected by management for poor quality reasons. This happens very often in the music industry.
2. Songs that are playing on the radio, are radio ready!
If songs are rejected for radio play, then there has to be a radio ready mastering quality standard. There is! There's your answer.
Note - This section is basically a tip for those of you working with clients or if you plan on submitting your mixes to a mastering engineer.
DEFINATELY 100% NO!!
I've actually seen a few sound engineers online say the opposite. They say to make your mix sound as close as possible to a finished master. "All you want the mastering engineer to do is make the song louder." These comments are based on common sense and theory, NOT on real world experience working with thousands of clients (like I have)!
Note - If the only thing your songs really needed was for the mastering engineer to make them louder, why not just make them louder yourself and save the money? Duh! No, pay someone $500 to do it in 15 minutes. I want that job!
Here's why you don't tell clients to partially master their own songs:
1. Because you're paying an experienced mastering engineer to properly do the entire job. Here's a non-music example. Before you get your car detailed, do you clean it spotless inside and out, but leave only the windshield dirty? So that's all the car detailer has to do is wash your windshield and he's done? NO! That doesn't even make any sense.
You're paying for a car detail and you want every process that comes with it. That's their specialty and you want their expertise in every area, not just the windshield washing process. The same goes for audio mastering.
2. Mixing is not mastering. For a song to sound like a commercially mastered song on the radio you MUST use effects on the stereo/main out bus. When you do use effects on the stereo/main out bus you are mastering not mixing. And you're not supposed to partially master your songs if they're going to a mastering engineer. Read #1 again.
3. And the #1 reason is THEY CAN'T DO IT! They don't have the knowledge, skills, replicating abilities, etc. That's why they're looking for a mastering engineer to begin with!
I explain to my clients to submit a mix that's clean, but slightly dull with lower overall volume levels, so that I can bring everything up to where it needs to be. Nothing on the stereo/main out bus.
In the past, before I was giving this info, do you know what my clients sent me? I would say half the submissions were partial masters where the clients were trying to make them sound radio ready. The problem was they were TERRIBLE! Way over-level, distorted, super bright and/or super bass, way too much compression, etc. Many times they had everything wrong!
In a perfect world, yeah send me a song that's already mastered and I don't have to do anything to it. But I know from years of experience working with actual people that this is a very unrealistic request. Most can't do it, that's why they're looking for a mastering engineer to begin with!
I've also heard the comment that mastering is taking all the songs on a CD and making them all sound similar. Really? That's all mastering is? So, I'm supposed to take the best mix on the CD and make all the other songs sound just like it? That doesn't even make any sense! What if the best mix on the CD sucks?
What if someone gives me only one song (which happens daily)? It can't be mastered because there isn't an entire CD?
I make every song on the CD sound as close as possible to a commercial industry standard song. Each song is mastered to sound the very best it can, regardless of past or future songs on the CD. Also, every song is mixed differently and requires different actions to achieve this. After I do this, all the songs on the CD are comparable in every sonic area.
Audio mastering is taking a mix and bringing it up to commercial industry standards.
I would say someone just starting out in audio mastering might take an hour to A/B compare a song and replicate it. That time includes reviewing the song on different mediums like a car stereo, headphones, small speakers, etc. That's an hour total time to master one song.
As you improve with practice, you can quickly get it down to 30 minutes per song or less. A highly skilled audio mastering engineer can master a song in 10 minutes. At least that's how long it takes me. Note - I ALWAYS split my audio mastering into two separate sessions so I can finalize on fresh ears. I talk about this later in the book.
Some of you might think 10 minutes to master a song is too fast. It is if you're just starting out. You will need more time to A/B compare and to test out different settings through trial and error. But in time, you'll learn how to quickly diagnose what a mix needs and what to do to achieve your desired results.
Now (after many years), if I spent 10 minutes or 40 minutes to master a song, my results would be exactly the same. An extra 30 minutes would not make my masters any better.
A good non-music example would be tying your shoes. The first week you learned as a child, it might take you a minute to tie each shoe. And you still might not get it right! Now, you can tie both shoes to perfection in 5 seconds!
If you spent an extra two minutes tying your shoes, could you do a better job? No. Whatever you can do in five seconds, the results will be exactly the same as if you spent two minutes.
The same goes for a highly skilled pro in audio mastering.
I would say YES, most people can become a great mastering engineer. I say this because most of the mixes I receive from clients are pretty good and I know the audio engineer (the band member with a computer) has only minimal training. He could easily be great if he put a little more study and practice time into it. And if he had this book to teach him what took me over 17 years to learn! Ha!
The bigger question is, how much time and effort are you going to put in? You know, everyone can be in good physical shape, or at least in decent shape. The choice is yours. But, is there going to be a diet and exercise plan that's followed daily for months, or is everything going on eBay or craigslist a few weeks after January 1st? It's up to each individual to do what's necessary to achieve their end goal.
You get out what you put in, even when it comes to audio mastering. This book gives you the knowledge and tools you need to become a great audio mastering engineer. And you'll learn a lot faster than I did. But it's still up to you to read this book in its entirety and put in the practice time.