Mastering a track is the critical final stage in music production before release. The purpose of mastering is to make sure your song sounds as good as possible across a whole host of different systems and media formats (radio, CD, MP3, vinyl, etc.).
Album mastering makes sure the different tracks in an album sound sonically similar and provides consistency.
Mastering is often confused with mixing – which is the balancing of the different elements of the song – but it's actually a completely separate (and subtle) process. You're song should sound GREAT before you even get to the mastering stage (check out some mixing tips here). It's the final polish and sheen that's added when the mix is done; like baking the cake after the ingredients have been properly mixed!
In this video I'll walk you through the 5 different stages of mastering a track, using only the stock plugins that came with Ableton Live (plus one free 3rd party plugin). This is to show that you don't need to spend hundreds of dollars on fancy plugins to get great results!
If you don't use Ableton, it's no problem at all; every DAW has comparable plugins included.
Once you've watched it, try it out on one of your own tracks! Let me know how you get on in the comments 🙂
(The track in this video is "Take Control", which I wrote with Ron Carroll and J-Lyn. You can buy the finished song here).