Mastering is a bit of a black art, as far as I’m concerned. Mixing makes sense to me – I’m no mix ninja by any means, but I’ve done a bit here and there – it’s at least reasonably straightforward. But I always imagine mastering is done in a dark cave where your CD master is lowered ceremoniously into a giant bubbling cauldron while a lone witch or wizard intones ancient magic words and sprinkles herbs into it until POOF! it sounds much better and the wizard takes your money.
So when I called Maor Appelbaum to master an album I did a number of years ago, I’m sure my ignorance was readily apparent. I knew that mastering was not something you want to get wrong – it’d be like fumbling it in the endzone – but I didn’t know a whole lot else. You can take a perfectly good mix and ruin it if you’re not careful. Luckily, Maor was very patient with me, even giving me a second pass and some solid advice on how to prepare the songs for mastering when my initial mix wasn’t quite there, and then he drastically improved what I gave him.
This is a pretty cool interview and studio tour, courtesy of Warren Huart, and reveals that in fact, my theories about how mastering is done were just a tad off base. It also gives us a pretty thorough look at the gear he’s using in there.