An Introduction to CD Mastering
While many people think that the mixing of the separate audio tracks is the final step, a recording must be mastered well in order to sound good. CD mastering is the last chance for creative input when creating a compact disc. After a disc is mastered, it can be printed, reproduced, and sold.
The process of mastering a CD includes several steps. The first step is putting the songs, called tracks at this point, in order. Next, the volume is leveled for all of the songs. The length of time between songs is also adjusted, and any editing on the intros and ends of the songs (such as fades and crossfades, etc.). Also, any unlisted, secret songs, usually known as hidden tracks, are added at this point.
There are several ways to master a CD. First, the mix can be sent to a professional CD mastering engineer, which is what professional musicians with major recording contracts usually do. These mastering engineers often work in their own mastering facilities, which are different from standard recording studios, in that they have much less gear and are designed for the best playback of the mix as possible in order to fix any slight discrepancies.
Aside from professional CD mastering engineers, CDs can be mastered at home using computer software. This option is usually more realistic for unsigned artists or musicians who are just starting out. Depending on the quality of the software and the skill of the person doing the mastering, the CD may sound great or it may sound muddy and unprofessional.
Online CD mastering is another option. CDs mastered online can be a great time-time, in that, instead of sending a mix to a mastering engineer, the mix is sent over the Internet. This option requires a high-speed Internet connection.
Free CD mastering is obviously the cheapest way to master a CD. Artists may want to use free mastering programs on demos or other early recordings that artists use to send to record labels to generate interest. Many CD burning programs included on many computers can be used to do basic but necessary mastering functions.
The difference between a professional sounding CD and an amateurish recording is often found in the mastering. All of the songs played on the radio are extensively mastered in order to sound slicker and more listenable.
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