Mastering Your Music – Should You?

So you have the basics of music theory down. It’s time, you’ve finished your mix down and you’re ready for that final polish. Mastering your own mix is an empowering and rewarding process that allows you to have full control over the final master of your music. While mastering can be a complex task, with the right techniques (we provide in our other articles), you can achieve professional-sounding results. There is however a lot more to know about mastering before you just jump in. There are so many options out there, some that make mastering accessible and cheap, platforms like LANDR – which while their output can be dull and lifeless (generic) it can be a huge step up from mix down thats a little flat. But here’s the question…

Should I Master My Own Music?

Yes and no. There are benefits to both and we will explain why. Hiring a professional mastering engineer can provide not only an experienced set of ears, but also feedback on mix downs (obviously there is a cost involved). However, mastering your own music also has its advantages, especially if you have a good understanding of the technical aspects and are willing to invest time in learning.

When mastering your own music, you retain creative control and can fine-tune the sound to meet your personal vision. Whereas a mastering studio can sometimes squash an element you really want to stand out. This has happened to me on multiple times and can be quite frustrating. You can experiment with different techniques and tailor the mastering process specifically to your music. Additionally, mastering your own music can be cost-effective, especially if you’re working on a tight budget.

We mentioned mastering services above that can take your final mix down and polish it with a simple AI mastering chain. While this process has progessed in the past few years its not something we would recommend doing if you’re looking to release your own music directly to say Spotify or Apple Music. Here’s why.

Most artists and producers will get a pretty good mix down (not all but most). The benefit of having another set of ears in the chain means you will get feedback on what needs adjusting. Maybe theres a little muddiness in the low end or the vocals are drowned out from a piano. Whatever the reason maybe a new set of ears can bring your mix to life and prepare it for that final polish in mastering.

Let’s say you prepare an amazing mixdown you have a reference track that you work against and have each individual element of your track in its on EQ space. Now in that situation you probably could get away with mastering yourself or using a platform for that final touch. It really comes down to where your track is going and what you want from it. Record labels will want their own mastering engineer to ensure uniformity. So as long as you are happy and listeners can enjoy it on all different devices then have at it.

Six Quick Mastering Tips


Balanced EQ: Achieve tonal balance.


Dynamic Control: Control dynamics.


Stereo Imaging: Widen soundstage.


Harmonic Excitement: Enhance richness.


Transparent Compression: Smooth dynamics.


Final Limiting: Ensure loudness.

How Long Does It Take to Master a Mix?

Each track is unique, with a different sound landscape and elements. Which is why each track can take a different amount of time to master. It’s important to allocate sufficient time for the mastering process to ensure a thorough and meticulous approach. Like anything trying to master a track in a hurry can and will lead to problems. Take your time and remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Understand that each DAW has its own built-in mastering tools, Ableton Live offers a range of powerful built-in mastering tools that enable producers to shape and enhance the final mix as does Logic and Pro Tools. But each of them require a different approach.

A simple mix with few elements and minimal processing may take a few hours to master, while more intricate and heavily processed mixes could take several sessions spanning over days or weeks. It’s crucial to approach mastering with patience and an ear for detail, allowing yourself enough time to make critical listening decisions and refine the mix until it reaches its full potential.

What is the Best Mix Level for Mastering?

Before diving into the mastering process, it’s essential to ensure that your mix is properly balanced and at an optimal level for mastering. The ideal mix level for mastering typically falls between -6 dBFS and -3 dBFS, with peaks occasionally reaching 0 dBFS. This headroom provides enough space for the mastering engineer or yourself to apply dynamic processing, equalization, and other mastering techniques without introducing unwanted distortion or artifacts.

By leaving adequate headroom in your mix, you allow the mastering stage to enhance the overall sound without clipping or digital overs. It’s crucial to avoid excessive loudness or pushing the mix to its maximum level during the mixing stage. Instead, aim for a balanced and dynamic mix that leaves room for the mastering process to add the final polish.

Levels My Master Has To Be for Spotify & Physical Media

The digital era has had an impact on music mastering in a number of ways. The main being changes to output and peak levels. When preparing your master for different distribution platforms, such as Spotify or CD, it’s important to consider the specific loudness standards and guidelines set by these platforms.

Streaming services like Spotify use loudness normalization algorithms that aim to provide a consistent listening experience across different tracks. For Spotify, the recommended loudness level is around -14 LUFS (Loudness Units Full Scale), with a true peak level below -1 dBTP (decibels True Peak).

For CD releases, the loudness levels are typically more flexible, but it’s still important to ensure that your master complies with industry standards. It’s advisable to aim for a peak level below 0 dBFS and a loudness level that suits the genre and sonic characteristics of your music.

Vinyl has physical limitations that affect the way audio is reproduced. Unlike digital formats, which can handle higher peak levels without distortion, vinyl has limited headroom and can suffer from distortion or even skip if the peaks are too high. Length and dynamics of the music also play a factor in the mastering process of Vinyl. However, a commonly recommended peak level range for vinyl mastering is around -1 dBFS (decibels Full Scale) to -3 dBFS. It’s important to note that these values refer to the digital peak level before the audio is cut onto the vinyl record.

When preparing your master for different platforms, consider using a dedicated loudness metering tool to measure and adjust the loudness levels accurately. This will help you achieve the desired loudness while ensuring your music meets the requirements of the specific distribution platform.

In conclusion, mastering your own mix is a rewarding endeavor that requires technical knowledge, critical listening skills, and dedication to the craft. By following the proper steps, investing time in learning, and utilizing the right tools, you can achieve professional-quality results. Whether you decide to master your own music or work with a professional mastering engineer, the ultimate goal is to present your music in the best possible light and make it sound its absolute best across different playback systems and platforms.

We cover a number of music production tips and tools to help you on your music production careers. Whether you’re starting out or a seasoned veteran. The team and I are always here to help! 

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