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 -
I've seen this question on the Internet many times. The answer I always see is "Because all songs on the radio have been professionally mastered, yours should be too." This is a true fact, but not an answer.
Your songs need to be mastered because you want them to have the same qualities of a well professionally mastered commercial song, and this can only be achieved by using effects on the stereo/main out bus. Which is what mastering is, using effects on the stereo/main out bus. Many critical processes can only be done in mastering.
Here are couple of examples of why a song needs to be mastered:
This question is kind of like asking, "Why does my cake need to go in the oven?" If you want it to be a real cake, and be similar to other cakes, the oven is the final process to get it there. You don't have a cake unless it goes in the oven! You only have raw mixed ingredients. The oven meshes everything together to be like other cakes.
Your main goal in audio mastering is to replicate the sonic qualities of a well professionally mastered commercial song, in the same genre and style as the song mix you are working on.
Yes, everyone has their own slight preference adjustments like a little more bass, brightness, etc., but overall you want to be at least 80% similar to the current industry standard. The only exception is if a client specifically requests an old school master. If that's the case, then you're going to have to replicate the sonic qualities of songs from a past era (specified by the client).
Once every couple months, a client tells me they don't want their songs to sound like songs on the radio, because they don't listen to the radio. That's a good reason. Ha! Then they give me a few crazy mastering requests like "Make my song's volume level -8db below industry standard, or keep the song real muffled, etc."
My two favorite requests happened while writing this book:
Genre Hip-Hop, "I want my CD to sound soft and analog." Ok, you want me to master the first soft analog Hip Hop CD? I talk more about this at the end of this article.
Genre Heavy Metal, "Can you make my CD soft and warm." That's like saying, "I want an ice coffee, but can you make it hot?" Or, "I'm buying a Ferrari because I like to drive real slow."
When this happens, I pretty much refuse these requests. Here's why.
Any song I master is at some point going to be played along with other professionally mastered commercial songs. If a song is very poorly mastered and way off industry standard, it will be painfully obvious to any listener when played right after a professionally mastered commercial song.
When I first started in the mastering business, I did whatever crazy request a client gave me, they approved the masters and paid the balance. Job well done. Or was it? Note - This is also why the customer isn't always right when it comes to audio mastering.
The problems came weeks later after their family and friends listened to these ridiculously poor masters. That's when I got a nasty "You don't know what you're doing" email and a demand for a full refund! Even though I gave them exactly what they asked for.
My Point Proven - While writing this book, a guy uploads 20 hip hop songs. I master an initial preview (like I have 10,000 other hip hop songs) and upload it for him. He tells me him and his producer want the songs warm and analog sounding. I tell him no one has ever requested warm analog hip hop songs in my 17 year career (which should mean something). They don't care. They know more than I do about audio mastering.
So, I send him another preview with the bass up and brightness cut, a nice warm hip hop song. Also, I noted this is wrong for hip hop. He tells me its great, that's exactly what he's looking for! I proceed to master all 20 songs this way (which I told you not to do in the previous paragraph). Ha!
Update - The guy got all 20 warm analog hip hop masters, but I didn't hear from him for about two months. Then I get an email requesting a refund of his 50% deposit, because him and his producer don't like the warm analog hip hop songs. Really? I'm so surprised they didn't like songs that have the OPPOSITE sonic qualities for their genre! Shocking!! Since the client went past the 30 day money back guarantee, his 50% was kept as a non-refundable labor fee.
Just another example of why you don't go against the standard sonic qualities of a genre.
The general public is used to, and expects, the sonic qualities of today's music. This is why your goal is to try and replicate it. If you don't, the general public will know it. PERIOD!
In music mixing, you're "mixing together" multiple audio tracks to make a single audio file song. Different tracks like the lead vocal, bass line, guitars, drums, etc. are being combined together. Then proper effects (like EQ, reverb, delay) are added to each track, along with panning and volume adjustments. In the final step, all tracks are exported simultaneously to create a song in the form of a single stereo interleaved .wav or .aiff file.
In audio mastering (as mentioned in the previous section) the entire song is affected by effects processes, not individual tracks.
At least once a week, someone uploads a song .wav file and says they want it mixed and mastered. Well, you can't mix one file. The word "mixing" is a verb and you need at least two tracks (files) to be able to mix them together. You need at least two of anything to be able to mix it together!
A music DJ is a good example. If he had only one record, he wouldn't be doing any mixing. He could throw some scratches in, but that's it.
I've seen a lot of different answers on the Internet to this simple question. Some were pretty technical and confusing.
A lot of people think audio mastering is only making all the songs on a CD a comparable volume level. Yes, this is done in mastering, but it's only one of many processes, not the only process.
The simple answer – Audio mastering is applying effects to a full song mix (on the stereo/main out bus), in efforts to replicate the sonic qualities of a well mastered industry standard commercial song.
In mastering, you're adding effects to the entire song as a whole. Effects such as compression, spectral enhancement, EQ, etc.
An example of a mastering process would be adding bass to a song you're listening to on your car stereo. When you add bass, the entire song gets it. You can't add bass to only the vocal track. This is comparable to a mastering EQ process because it affects the entire song.
I love the saying, "If you give a man a fish he eats for a day, but if you teach a man how to fish he eats for a lifetime!"
Well, from this book you will learn how to professionally master audio for a lifetime! Then you can properly master your entire CD, your friend's CD, even open your own audio mastering business. If you're already commercially mastering audio at your own recording studio, I'm sure you will still learn a lot from this book.
This book is a learning guide, filled with in-depth information. I wrote it from the perspective of a recording studio owner who's worked with over 7,500 satisfied clients. One reason I did this is because I wanted to cover only typical situations and scenarios you will experience while audio mastering, not a hundred extra pages of theory and worthless topics you'll never use. I included only the information you need to know.
Audio mastering is a highly technical field. There are 1,000's of different effects combinations and sonic scenarios. And when you first start out in audio mastering, you'll trial and error your way through hundreds of combinations for each song, that will take you forever! It's very easy to get lost in technology.
In this book, I simplify the entire audio mastering process down to a handful of basic concepts and effects combinations. Only the ones you need to properly master music.
Also, this book was first released in 2017. It covers current mastering techniques using newer gear. Books written around 2007 or earlier are primarily analog gear using old school mastering techniques, since 90% of the current software plugins weren't available at that time.
In this book, I explain:
What your mastering goals are.
How to use the processors involved in mastering.
When to use them.
Why you are using them.
I start out with basic terms, audio mastering laws and procedures before moving on to advanced sonic adjustment techniques and detailed step-by-step instructions. I not only use pictures, but also incorporate a few online sound and video references. Everything you need to become a great audio mastering engineer!
Important Note - Please read this book in its entirety. I try to repeat the most important concepts and tips, but sometimes I mention very important information only once. If you read only 75% of this book (or less), you will miss out on a lot of great stuff!