Juan's World

Guitarist, Composer, Writer, Publisher

Mastering at Airshow

Mastering is the final step in the professional recording process—before manufacturing, that is. You might call it the icing on the cake—if your music is the recipe, recording your music the baking, mixing might be akin to letting things cool and assembling the cake into layers or shapes, and finally mastering takes that nice, chocolate cake and turns it into a delectable German-chocolate cake with the addition of dark chocolate ganache, walnuts and coconut. (OK, I’m hungry now.)

In mastering, the final mixes are sweetened and balanced, the flow and sequencing of the album is perfected, the space between tracks is determined and the relative volume levels between songs is made consistent.

 Randy LeRoy at the mastering board in Suite A, Airshow Mastering, Takoma Park

Randy LeRoy at the mastering board in Suite A, Airshow Mastering, Takoma Park

Airshow Mastering in Takoma Park is where I worked with engineer-extraordinaire Don Godwin on recording my new album, and of course I worked with Airshow, which is nationally and internationally known for the quality of their mastering. Airshow mastering projects have won numerous Grammy awards and more than 100 Grammy nominations. Randy LeRoy, who earned his chops in Nashville, assembled the mix in Mastering Suite A. Later that day, I came in and sat in the pilot’s seat of Mastering Suite B and listened to the album from start to finish. I wish I had a pair of those Lipinski Grand speakers, around $18,000 a pair, in my living room. I don’t even know how much the trio of Duntech Sovereigns in Suite A cost.

 Checking out the mix

Checking out the mix

 "I wonder if I should have gotten a degree in sound engineering."

"I wonder if I should have gotten a degree in sound engineering."

 Mastered tracks for   Serenata de la Sirena

Mastered tracks for Serenata de la Sirena

As Airshow mentions, mastering is both a communication process as well as a technical one. I’d listened to the mixes dozens of times, testing the flow of different track lists and ensuring that I liked the sound. I provided Airshow with a detailed mastering sheet with my notes and final track list. Then I let Randy get to work. Listening to the final masters in the suite was a treat; then I took a reference CD home to listen a few more times, in the car, on my iPhone, on my home stereo, which sadly lacks a pair of Lipinski Grands. All good—I gave Randy the OK and it’s a wrap!

 Don, John, and Randy— It's a wrap!

Don, John, and Randy— It's a wrap!

Next step, manufacturing, distribution, etc. The CD Release for Serenata de la Sirena should be at the end of March or early April. I’ll be performing at the reception of the OSI 2016 conference—which I am co-organizing with an amazing team from National Science Communication Institute and George Mason University, and playing a house concert in DC—date and location to be announced soon.