a classical musician needs to know about mastering

This is actually everything a musician needs to know about mastering, but hey, we’re Mill Media Co., so this is for all you classical wizards.

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If you’re planning to record with us for CD or digital audio release, you need your recordings to be mastered. Mastering is the final creative and technical process during the production of a recording before being sent to the client or record label for distribution. Without it, your recording may not be at the appropriate playback volume and will not have any metadata. Read on, you’ll be thankful that you did.

The Album Production Process

Firstly, let’s take a quick overview of the album production process.

  • Step 1: have a dream about recording a CD which will be your big career defining break.
  • Step 2: have another dream realising you need to do it with Mill Media Co.
  • Step 3: pre-production:
      • confirm your repertoire
      • confirm copyright for that repertoire 
      • figure out what your budget needs to be 
      • confirm venue 
      • get a producer on board. We strongly recommend you hire a colleague, teacher or professional producer who knows the repertoire and your playing well to help you through this process. Recording an album can become a very stressful and overwhelming experience when done alone.
      • organise logistics with the record label (if you are working with one)
      • organise any logistics with printing physical CDs (this is where mastering plays a part)
      • book the venue, audio engineer, producer and anything else ready to record
  • Step 4: record the album!
  • Step 5: post-production
      • editing and any balancing / mixing of the tracks to get the best sound possible
      • mastering – and here is where the confusion lies. Everything has been done at this point, so what an Earth is mastering?!

What is Mastering?

As I mention before, mastering is the final creative and technical process during the production of a recording before being sent to the client or record label for distribution.

It’s not just about the sonic range either. It is the mastering engineer who will provide the correct files suitable for digital and physical release. Though they will sound exactly the same, there are actually different file types that need to be submitted to iTunes and Spotify (as two examples), and a different file again for CD burning.

If you want to print physical CDs, duplication companies will require a DDP file. This is a digital file which contains the recordings, but also the metadata associate with that recording. What’s the metadata? I’m glad you asked…

What is Metadata?

No one enjoys loading a CD into iTunes to see every track as part of “untitled album” performed by “unknown artist” with no album artwork. It’s not professional, and a label won’t allow it. Actually, your label or distributor (CD Baby or Tunecore, for example) will give you ISRC (International Standard Recording Code) codes for the album and each track. You get these when you sign up to release the work. It’s not just the track titles showing up in iTunes, it’s also how your copyright is enforced and royalties are collected.

If you’re having your mastering done by Mill Media Co., we’ll give you explicit instructions on how to get the right info and hold your hand through-out the process, whether you have a label or you’re doing it yourself. We have the industry standard software to master your recordings and have worked with labels in the UK and USA multiple times.

Wrapping up, if your recording is for a film for Youtube or other social media, you don’t need “full” mastering. You want your recording to be sonically excellent (we’ll make sure it’s just right for purpose) but it won’t need the metadata. If you have any questions, just chat with us and we’ll make sure you get what you need.

Ben Sharpe


Ben trained at Futureworks and attended RNCM giving him the perfect set of skills and background needed to create a company exclusively aimed at helping classical musicians showcase their performances creatively.

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