The Mystery of Mastering

Vortex Music Magazine

Fortunately, Portland has plenty of skilled engineers with various stylistic strengths that’ll match your music.

Telegraph Mastering: Photo by Jason QuigleyTelegraph Mastering: Photo by Jason QuigleyThere’s an old saying that making a good record is easy and making a bad record is hard. While obviously making a good record is no piece of cake, there is some truth to that statement. If you get all the right people together and put everyone in the right role, the record-making process consists of nothing more than everyone doing what comes naturally to them. The drummer gets to drum, the singer gets to sing, the producer gets to produce, and the engineer gets to make sure the various sounds are being captured appropriately.

For those unfamiliar with the process, some of the most mysterious roles associated with making records are those that come into the picture after all of the performances have been captured—that of the mixing and mastering engineer. The task of mixing is the easier to explain of the two, as it basically comes down to balancing the sounds of the instruments in terms of volume and tone. Once that is done, the mixed tracks are sent off to get mastered.

If the instruments are already balanced in terms of volume and tone, though, why is mastering important? This is a question many non-musicians and musicians who are less experienced with record-making often ask. Essentially, mastering is a process that ensures the recordings will play back at the appropriate volume and faithfully on a wide variety of speaker systems—from your iPhone to hi-fi stereo. On a more artistic level, mastering can change the overall tone of the record, making it darker, brighter, mellower or harsher as desired.

Portland has a variety of skilled mastering engineers, each of whom have their particular stylistic strengths. If you’re ever in need of mastering services, check them out—and pay close attention to their portfolios: Find the one who suits your music and you’ll be well on your way to making a good record.

Portland Mastering Studios and Notable Clients:

Audiosiege: The Obsessed, Poison Idea, P.R.O.B.L.E.M.S., Windhand, YOB

Foster Mastering: Cool Nutz, Eddie Vedder, Fishbone, Floater, Josh Homme, Laryssa Birdseye, Mel Brown, Pink Martini, Tech N9ne

Interlace Audio: Dance Gavin Dance, Icarus The Owl, Issues, Red Fang

Jeff Stuart Saltzman: Fernando, Lewi Longmire, Loch Lomond, Lost Lander, Menomena, Richmond Fontaine

Nettleingham Audio: David J, M. Ward, Norman Sylvester, Oregon Symphony, Rebecca Kilgore, Tyler Stenson

Sky Onion Mastering: Aminé, Blue Cranes, Divers, Nurses, Nu Shooz, Typhoon, Wild Ones

Specialized Mastering: Coco Columbia, Farnell Newton, Jimmy Eat World, Korgy & Bass, Martin Sexton, Nahko

Stereophonic Mastering: Chromatics, The Dandy Warhols, Dead Moon, Liz Vice, Michael Hurley, YACHT

Telegraph Mastering: Elliott Smith, Myke Bogan, Peter Buck, Radiation City, Rogue Wave, Shy Girls, Sufjan Stevens, Y La Bamba

Tone Proper Mastering: Brian McKnight, Emancipator, Gino Vannelli, Jennifer Batten, Liv Warfield

Explore the economics behind running a studio in a changing city while reading about notable spaces, producers and engineers who span all genres of the local scene in our Recording Issue.

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