Can Mastering Fix a Bad Mix?


No. Sorry. No can do, see you in another life, case closed. Goodbye. Why? To understand why we have to understand what mastering affects.

Mastering deals with a song’s mix at the macro-level. What is the macro-level you ask? It is the big picture, it is what happens after the song is already mixed and put together.

Technically speaking, mastering is the last step in the creation process to make the song as a whole sound more cohesive, powerful, clear, and at a particular volume suitable for streaming services and radio.

Mastering can fix issues at certain frequencies, say making the low-end frequencies louder, but it cannot adjust individual elements within a song without affecting all elements within those frequencies.

For example, mastering can’t add delays to just your vocal track. Mastering can add delays to the whole song but that would sound crazy and maybe be a whole new genre of music called “delay music”.

So no, mastering can’t fix a bad mix and/or a bad recording.

However, mastering can help your mix in another important way.

How Mastering Can Help You

Getting your song mastered can and usually does expose the flaws in your mix, which you can correct in the mix session and have your song re-mastered (with us at no extra charge via our 30 Day Guarantee..I know cheap plug).

It does this because when you get your song mastered, you usually hear it in a completely new way.

You’ll hear it as you would hear a song on the radio or how songs sound from major label artists.

This allows you to more accurately judge your mix as you have a similar reference point for things like how the drums, bass, and vocals should sound.

Mastering will not only expose the flaws in your mix but also expose everything about your song from your songwriting to performance to production.

It’ll also become clear that your recording set-up needs work.

Mastering Can Break an Artist’s Heart

Whenever I master a song that’s straight-up trash I feel a little bad for the artist because this is likely going to be their wake-up call that their music isn’t cutting it.

At the same time, it’s also incredibly helpful (if the artist so chooses to see it that way) because the artist can use this as a lesson on where to improve as they’ve most likely never received any constructive feedback ever.

I’ve seen artists go from complete trash to perfectly decent just by getting the little things right (i.e. Getting proper production and of course getting their songs mixed and mastered by someone whose put those 10,000 hours in).

Mastering Gets You On The Playing Field

I cannot stress how powerful this is. I think of this as the first time you hear of some rapper and then slowly you keep hearing their name until one day you wake up and are singing their song in the bathroom mirror into your wife’s hairdryer (Okay maybe that’s just me).

If you didn’t get all that, it’s basically the idea of getting into the arena.

If you’re unfamiliar with “the arena” it was the place back during the Roman empire where gladiators would fight each other. The goal for any up-and-coming gladiator would be to get into the arena and live to fight another day.

They didn’t care if they won or lost (unless it was a death-match) they just cared about being able to play the game.

And that’s exactly how you should approach your music career.

It doesn’t matter if you’re not signed or have a small fan base, what matters is can you still record songs at a level comparable to major label artists, and are you aware enough to hear your stuff and consciously improve.

Getting your songs mixed and mastered right is one thing you can do to help speed up this process.

Your Mastering Questions Answered

FAQ: Understanding Mastering in Music Production

1. What is mastering in music production?

Mastering is the final step in the music production process, where the final mix of a song is prepared and processed to achieve a cohesive, powerful, and clear sound. It involves adjusting the overall tonal balance, enhancing dynamics, and ensuring the audio is at an appropriate volume level for distribution on streaming services and radio.

2.  Can mastering fix a bad mix or recording?

No, mastering cannot fix a bad mix or recording. It can enhance the overall sound of a well-mixed and well-recorded song, but it cannot correct individual elements within a mix without affecting the entire mix.

3. How can mastering help improve a mix?

Mastering can help expose flaws in a mix by presenting the song in a new light, similar to how it would sound on radio or from major label artists. This allows the artist to identify and correct any issues in the mix before finalizing the master.

4.  Can mastering help artists improve their music?

Yes, mastering can help artists improve their music by providing constructive feedback on the mix and overall production quality. It can also serve as a wake-up call for artists to improve their songwriting, performance, and production skills.

5.  How important is mastering for emerging artists?

Mastering is crucial for emerging artists as it helps them achieve a professional sound that is competitive with major label artists. It allows them to enter the music industry “arena” and be taken seriously, regardless of their current level of fame or fan base.



Andre is the head audio engineer at ADG Mastering, which he helped found in 2012. For the last 10 years, he has made it his mission to empower aspiring artists and musicians from around the world. You can see more of Andre's writings on our Blog.

One Comment

  1. Thanks for the review, Andre. I’d like to pick your brain a little more though, if that’s alright with you. I’m a music composer looking for the right path. Thanks in advance!

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