At last, you, too, can achieve great mastering.

Mastering – a step by step guide to good sound by monolake

Sadly, as Robert Henke concedes:

i still think it needs to be louder and it lacks dynamics and punch. I STILL THINK IT NEEDS TO BE LOUDER AND IT LACKS DYNAMICS AND PUNCH!

It’s like banging your head against a brick wall.

No further comment at this time.

  • jengel

    This is brilliant. Added bonus, soundcloud lets you see the waveform as he takes it from something with dynamics and character and turns it into a giant black brick.

  • Robert Halvarsson


  • BirdsUseStars

    Now talk through a guitar distortion pedal to prove that distortion pedals are bad. 

    • dumafuji

      really good point. i think the audio example is brilliantly made. but to me, the point is not that "mastering" is bad, it's that you need to understand and listen well to what you are doing to the signal to do it well. blindly piling a bunch of processing at the end of the chain isn't going to get you a good result.

      making the waveform fat like a sausage can sound great earlier on in the process with certain sounds, but on the whole mix, you are just losing dynamics by making too much (less important) sound too prominent and too loud. the reverb and white noise distortion in the clip did a nice job of that.

    • Polite_Society

      I don't think that the point was mastering was bad, it's just having a dig at the typical mastering techniques that music seems to use these days.

  • regend

    I know some people are going to be against my opinion but why are we even attempting to Master? Just because we have neat mastering plug-ins shouldn't give people the green light to Master and release their own material. I still firmly believe that if you're producing demos in the box…leave the mastering to the pros until you're ready to step up to a nice mix down studio and then…at that point…send it to the mastering house leave mastering to the pros.
    That's the problem with music these days…there isn't any quality control anymore. I'm sure that's a discussion for another day.

  • datalus

    cool story. comment popups kinda fuck it up though.

    • lionelvaldellon

      You can turn off the comments by clicking the word balloon in the bottom right corner of the soundcloud widget.

  • Dr. U

    haha so true. in the last 10 yrs people have found a whole bunch of buzzwords, exactly like louder, dynamic, warm, punchy, etc etc. my favorite is analog!

  • Transit161

    This is funny.

  • Paul

    Funny? It is cringeworthy to be honest. I mean, ok, this guy has a point to make about mastering. But let us not forget, it is a point he has already made some time ago. I think perhaps he is labouring the point some now.
    Its not that I disagree with the point about shoddy mastering, and the over use of compression (On the contrary, I quite agree). But christ, Simon Cowell has done more harm to modern music than shoddy mastering ever did. If bad mastering and the compression obsession was all we had to worry about with music these days, we'd be laughing.
    Fact of the matter is, much of the time, nigh on every stage that comes before mastering often sucks too.

  • Tiago Morais Morgado

    rather than following certain procedures, mastering is most about listening, and you cannot do it just by compressing, eq, and limiting, adding some sub bass.. you have to listen to it, and evaluate the aesthetic context of the music… you don't want to master autechre, apparat, or monolake.. the way as you would master Dillinger Escape plan, Meshuggah, Mastodon or The Architects.. or a recording by Berliner Philarmoniker, etc. there are a common certain procedures specific for each genre (which tend to develop over the course of time as anything in music), but mostly it's about using years in a meaningful way

  • salamanderanagram

    i'd be more interested if he actually used the techniques he's talking about in a way that made sense, and in the end it actually sounded a little better. overdoing every part of the processing chain obviously sounds like shit, i certainly don't need that spelled out for me.

  • zeroreference

    "The louder something is, the more loudness it has."


  • peterkirn

    Well, it's concise, though. The answer to how to make mastering *effective* is to … not do this. 😉

  • Bob

    You guys are crazy. Leave mastering to the priest class elite? Why ate we even making music then? Buy a cd. Leave it to the pros. Electronicusic is all about having total control and no limit to your vision. Must be working mastering guys posting here today. 

  • Barry Wood

    Excellent point. Even if you are going to master yourself, at least print an unmastered mix first so you have an archive for potential remastering in the future. As a mastering engineer, I can tell you that it's nearly impossible to remaster a mix that's already been compressed and limited.

  • allthingsmercurial

    Couldn't agree more. The whole concept of mastering at home ignores the history, craft and artistry of great mastering engineers and is fundamentally misguided. Leave it to the professionals.

  • Aaron Zilch

    I agree completely. I don't even really think artists should do the final mix on their own material. It's a matter of perspective. You lose it over the course of working on a track. How can you properly see the forest when you've spent countless hours hand painting leaves? That synth sound you lovingly programmed, that may have even inspired the whole track to begin with, could be the element that just refuses to sit properly in the mix. Unless you're able to ruthlessly "kill your darlings" you might not be able to see that. 

    I do think DIY mastering has it's uses. If you want to try a new track out at a club, a huge volume drop isn't going to help in your evaluation of it's effectiveness, and knowledge of the processes involved can definitely inform your creative workflow so you get the most out of mastering when you send it off.

    We just need to remember that just because we have the technology to wear so many hats, it's far too easy to end up looking ridiculous with all them piled up on our heads. 

  • Nick Lewis

    I think you hit the nail on the head there – splitting the production process into stages and between different people (producer, mix engineer, mastering engineer) is as much about perspective as anything else.

    It's very difficult to take the kind of pragmatic problem solving approach to your own music that comes naturally working on someone else's.