Mastering is the last step in your recording process. It’s the final polish, the time to add sparkle to the highs, tame the lows, and make sure it will stand up comparably in quality and loudness to commercially released music. So it’s very important that you send the mastering engineer the best quality file you can. I have seen a lot of different formats sent in for mastering over the years. I think the worst was a mono mp3. The only time you want to use an mp3 file in the recording process is after mastering. MP3s degrade and compress audio so they can be made smaller. WAV and AIFF files are the best format to use. I personally record at 24bit with a sample rate of 44.1k or 96k on occasion. If it’s hip-hop, dance music, or any other electronic-based music genre I think 44.1k is fine. If you’re using live instruments with intimate sections it might be worth using 96k. On most recording DAW’s you can now choose 32bit, but as of right now most converters are still 24bit. Choosing this bit depth has a few minor advantages, but doubling your file size doesn’t seem to be worth it in my opinion.
When you are ready to send your songs in for mastering there are a few things to consider. If your mix is super loud and hitting the red on the master fader your not going to give your mastering engineer much headroom to work with. The best way to solve this is to bring all the faders down equally until your master fader is hovering around -10db. The other thing you want to take into consideration is the plugins you have on your master fader. If you are using bus compression, and know what you’re doing, I think it’s o.k. to leave it on. If you don’t really know what you’re doing I suggest you take it off. Limiters should be removed as well. Once your levels are set you can then bounce down as a 24bit WAV file. Make sure to check the video below for step-by-step instructions, and if you need your songs mastered you can contact me here.