how does one become a mastering engineer

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by doulos21, May 29, 2003.

  1. doulos21

    doulos21 Member

    Im curious since some of the gear for pro mastering say an avalon eq the cheap one is 12 thosand dollars, and not in any pro sumer magazine and all the gear seems to be high dollar and un available to the public how does one becomea mastering engineer? Not just text book time is gonna help here im sure there are schools but how in the world do you train your ears to hear eq changes as slight as 1/3 1/6 an 1/8 of a db? and second how long are those schools programs 1,2 or 4 years? all my info was based off of pro recordings last book the mastering engineers hand book
  2. basper

    basper Guest

    >how does one become a mastering engineer?

    One knows ones $*^t! :)
  3. Don Grossinger

    Don Grossinger Distinguished past mastering moderator Active Member

    1) Listen to lots of ALL types of music.
    1a) Even music you don't especially "like".
    2) Check out as many live performances as possible. See how things sound for real before recording & processing.
    3) Apprentice at a mastering studio & learn from the engineers there. Put in long hours getting the hang of the equipment. Ask questions. Then ask more questions & practice more.
    4) Practice lots on your own work or that of friends. Listen to your masters on different systems to see if you're on the right track. Try to envision in your head how you would like your music to sound, then figure out how to get it there.
    5) If you have software at home practice there too & listen to the results in other listening enviornments.
    6) I don't even know of any "mastering schools". I learned on the job, so can you.
  4. Pez

    Pez Active Member

    This is the way most people do it.

    1. Buy a computer, the cheaper the better.
    2. Go to Radio Shack and get some bookshelf speakers. Put some of those cool vinyl flower decals on them.
    3. Find a spare bedroom with lots of nasty reflections. Remove the "echo" with egg crates and Farah Faucet posters.
    4. Get T-Racks.
    5. Congratulations! you're an instant mastering engineer! ;)
  5. Doug Milton

    Doug Milton Active Member

    I recognize sarcasm….

    …but since your questions seem sincere, Don’s advice is sound. Time and experience are the best teachers. Copious practice and experimentation will help you find your own creative style. If you can find someone to mentor you, it will save you having to reinvent the wheel.
  6. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Unfortunately, many people have taken the route laid out by John, sarcasm aside. IMO there is far too much of this bedroom bullsh*t mastering occurring. It gives the biz a bad rep and turns many people who really could use the services of a good mastering facility off to the benefits of the craft.
  7. Don Grossinger

    Don Grossinger Distinguished past mastering moderator Active Member


    You are absolutely correct. I don't know how to beat that dead horse anymore. Buying "mastering software" does NOT make you a mastering engineer. Period.

    And use spell check, please. Communication skills allow you to translate your clients wishes to good finished masters. With all respect!
  8. falkon2

    falkon2 Well-Known Member

    Haha.. I can just imagine Disney getting their latest soundtrack back from a really reputable mastering house with the note:

    "LOL heres ur trackz iv increase the bass punch n stuff oh and also pls pay up i need the moneys to eat LOL j/k. NJOY!"
  9. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Ok Ok!! Geez, I skip the spell check once and I get a raft! :D hee-hee-hee sorry! BTW I fixed it.
  10. realdynamix

    realdynamix Well-Known Member

    And Disney replies "Head up! got da wav flamin givn it a kick oer 2 4 xra boom /peaze out--Laney
    pe es $? 90daze..aways dat way :D

  11. Alécio Costa - Brazil

    Alécio Costa - Brazil Well-Known Member

    a tip: go to and buy Bob katz Mastering Audio book. It is much better than the MEH by Bob Owsinski.
  12. Jon Best

    Jon Best Active Member

    Except that I probably got more out of Bobby Owinski's interviews in terms of overall mastering-life-lessons.

    Being a mastering engineer is weird, and has very little bearing on gear, except that the monitoring chain and room are of paramount importance, and the rest (of the gear) will fall in line after that. It's also important to be flexible, easy to work with, and willing to set your ego on the shelf when you go to work.

    That plus your chops, which usually require learing from someone good, and always require time.
  13. Definately seek out work with a mastering house.
    BUT, if you interview at a regular studio, never tell them you want to be a mastering engineer. They roll their eyes while thinking, "Oh great, another anti-social type who likes to sit in the dark alone and listen (really listen)to music." Interview over, "Next please."
    Been there. :c:
  14. MANTIK

    MANTIK Guest

    This is for captain_analog only:

    "Oh great, another anti-social type who likes to sit in the dark alone and listen (really listen)to music." Interview over, "Next please."

    It's something for you to think about.
    It's about something that was going on at full throttle in junior high and a little in high school. It's about something that continues to go on when you leave there and try to join into other groups as an adult. It's about the so called "in crowd" which is what I think that you are alluding to in your comment above. In this case the "in crowd" is the guys all ready working at a mastering engineer facility.

    Article- Why are nerds unpopular?

    My apologies to the others in this string of postings. I didn't mean to derail the topic of conversation. Please ignore this specific posting as it was just meant to communicate something directly to captain_analog.
  15. falkon2

    falkon2 Well-Known Member

    Just for the record, RO's ubb has a feature called "Private Message" which is akin to email. Very neat feature, almost standard issue in any online message board.
  16. Rod Gervais

    Rod Gervais Active Member

    All kidding aside, I own a home studio and am in the process of "creating" my bands cd. I came to the realization quite a while ago that although I may have the ability to produce a decent quality cd mix - I don't - in any way shape or manner - possess the talent to master the product. It takes a particular type of human being to do this - and I (unfortunately) do not fit into this mold. Good luck in your endevors - I strongly endorse the suggestion that you find a studio that will consider taking you under their wing as it were......... some studios do still have programs for internships........

  17. gelman

    gelman Guest

    In vehement defense of the mastering b.s. bedroom engineers out there I have to say that our bands can't stand the pro mastering price tag per hour so perhaps we could discuss the costs of studio time and the folks who are willing to come down in price for the bands who want great mastering but are'nt famous.P.S.Maybe it's just me but costs at major studios are cloaked in secrecy which is the oldest trick in the book for keeping costs too high and impossible to compare with any ease.
  18. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Pro mastering costs what it does, because it is worth it. Don't expect these people to lower their prices to accommodate your lack of funds. If they were to do that they would soon be out of business. I assure you they structure their prices as low as possible. Years of experience, listening environments that are very expensive to construct, equipment that constantly needs upgrading (especially in the case of the digital gear) all play into the costs. You don't get something for nothing.

    If you do not plan to release your material in the commercial marketplace then you probably don't need professional mastering. But if you are going to release, take a hint from the major labels.. get a pro mastering house to help you make the most of your recordings. But as far as the BS bedroom mastering guy, fuggedaboudit!
  19. Rod Gervais

    Rod Gervais Active Member

    I understand the concern about cost - but if what you want is a truly professional product - you really can't do without it.

    There are quite a few sites out there that master at what i consider a reasonable fee- and their fees are posted.

    Do what i am doing and try a google search for mastering firms. Check them out before doing business - but you'll find that you can get some real decent deals out their without the need to sell your soul to the devil.

    For the record - one of the resons that people who master can charge what they do - it's a specialty that only a few ever really get right.

    Not much different than doctors - you pay less for a Doctor in a family practice - but i wouldn't want him operating on a tumor in my brain.

    Good luck in your search.

  20. mercenary

    mercenary Guest


    I have to agree that the best way to learn mastering is from an "experienced" mastering engineer. While a quality monitoring system (with proper A/Bing capability) is of paramount importance, your ears and the knowledge that you have gained from the work that you've done are the most important pieces of the mastering chain.

    If you're just starting out don't worry about super high-end components, buy quality gear that fits your budget. Learn proper wiring standards to put it all together and then practice, learn to get the most out of the gear you do have. In time as you develop your skill, and your client list, you will be able to afford the high-end boxes the "A" guys use.

    As for hearing the subtle changes often used in mastering, that will follow as you gain experience working in your mastering room. To me that is so important, a good mastering engineer has an intimate relationship with his room and has learned to hear the slightest changes that are being made.

    Finally don't get discouraged, not every record needs the "Midas" touch of an "A" list mastering guru. Find and internship, work on your chops and listen listen listen. Oh, and try to have fun.


Share This Page