Making the Record, Part 3: Mastering

Previous: Part 2: Overdubs and Mixing

By early June, 2012, we’d finally finished mixing the 10 tunes that we decided were essential for the album, 8 original tunes and 2 covers. Everything was sounding as good as I personally felt I could make it sound. It was time to turn it over to a professional.

Mastering is one of the more controversial parts of the recording process. On one hand, there are those who hold mastering engineers as the highest of the high priests of the audio cult, and that we mere mortals are blessed by their magical powers. On the other, virtually anybody with a computer, decent CD burning software and a few plugins can claim to be a mastering engineer. As usual, the truth is somewhere in between.

Mastering means making the record as a whole work together, and making the record sound good across as many listening environments as possible. In today’s world, where you are trying to get your music heard on everything from earbuds to audiophile home systems, it seems more important than ever.

We chose to take the record to Ryan Foster in Portland, OR. Ryan has worked on a number of my projects, and has always produced terrific results, regardless of the style of music. This was important to us, because our record covers a lot of stylistic territory. Ryan has great gear (I mean, really really great gear, I lust after some of the pieces in his rack. Yes, that does sound kind of wierd), a great listening environment, and, most importantly, great ears, and many years of experience. Ryan doesn’t seem to have a specific sound, he really works to serve the music. Plus, he’s a great guy, with a really sick sense of humor, just the kind of guy you want to be trapped in a small dark room with for hours.

I talked to Ryan a few times before the session, and let him know that we’d be mastering the record for both vinyl and digital release. I haven’t released anything on vinyl since the early 90’s, and I wanted to make sure that this record would sound as good as possible.

JD and I drove to Portland one fine summer morning, met with Ryan at his new location in SE. We spent most of the day there, Ryan working his magic on the mixes. By the end of the day, stuff was sounding great! JD and I had a celebratory dinner at Pambiche (an amazing Cuban restaurant) and headed back to Corvallis.

Next: Part 4: Making Records

Switch to our mobile site