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Q: "I have $1000 to spend on mastering. What should I spend it on?"

A Record-Producer.com visitor has decided NOT to master his own album, but to seek professional help. So how do you set about finding a mastering engineer?

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Question from a Audio Masterclass visitor...

"I am nearing completion of my album and am at the stage where I am just at of just tweaking the final mixes to make sure I am happy with them. I have set myself a two-week deadline otherwise it will never be complete.

"When this is complete I will be looking to master the album - I wonder if you could give some advice, given the budget of $1000, to get the album mastered by a professional, which I hope will add another dimension and complete my hard work into something that I can market and sell.

"Any advice or pointers would be much appreciated."

You know, a lot of people would say, "Why don't you spend that $1000 on some mastering plug-ins and do it yourself? You can use them on all your future projects too."

But the odd thing is that most product that sells in large quantities has been mastered by a specialist mastering engineer. That really must be saying something.

One interesting point is why don't you go the whole way and get a professional mix engineer to mix your album for you? The answer to that is that it is likely to cost $1000 per track or more. And a real pro wouldn't be interested unless you had major label backing or an existing background of success.

But $1000 is a perfectly practical budget to hire a professional mastering engineer for an album. Someone who really knows what he or she is doing. Yes, some will charge more, but you shouldn't have any problems finding someone at the $1000 level, or less if you can negotiate a better rate.

So how do you find a mastering engineer?

Answer - you look at the credits on CDs you like. If a CD sounds good to you, then clearly the mastering has contributed to that. Give their studio a call and ask what else they have worked on. Buy a couple more CDs just to be sure.

OK, so that's the first stage done. But there is more to mastering than finding the right person to do it. Next installment coming soon...

By David Mellor Thursday November 30, 2006
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