In the audio engineering and music production field, certain steps must be taken to become a mastering engineer. Mastering is the concluding step in the recording process before manufacturing playable media types — including digital music files, compact discs and vinyl records — that will then be distributed to the mass market. It is the mastering engineer's task to deliver a final, palatable sound, which the producer and artist had envisioned being heard by the public. To become a mastering engineer, an individual must obtain a set of skills born out of the knowledge of music, sound theory and audio engineering, along with experience in the overall recording process.
An individual who would like to become a mastering engineer should first examine his or her knowledge of music and an understanding of a musical arrangement. Learning to identify each instrument and vocal part, determining the differences between the verse, bridge and chorus, and hearing the dynamic changes within the performance is an important aspect of this craft. This may help to prepare an individual for a traditional education in sound theory and audio engineering, which can all be the next steps in following this career.
There are many schools and universities that offer courses, which may be sufficient to help retain the technical knowledge to become a mastering, engineer. When choosing a course or an organization, it would be beneficial to investigate the instructor's background and accomplishments as well as the institution so the quality of education will not affect the work done in the future. After some detailed instruction and hands-on experience working with the equipment used to measure, analyze, and process audio correctly and efficiently, the individual must gain real world experience to become a mastering engineer.
A person can be full of desire and acquire all required knowledge of a discipline, but still not be prepared to master a craft. Beyond all of this, to become a mastering engineer with a successful career requires experience not only in using the physical tools of the trade, but developing unique, creative strengths that cannot be taught in a classroom. Developing the art of listening beyond the music is something that takes time with each mastering engineer. Once all the components of this discipline have fallen into place, its products may be viewed by some as art and those who choose to become a mastering engineer may then become a part of the artist's work.