Every song needs good mastering.

It’s the essential music production process that puts the finishing touches on your work and prepares it for release.

But mastering is much more than that. It’s a complicated technical feat that does more than you might think.

That’s why top mastering engineers charge enormous rates to work on a project.

With so much riding on this difficult and expensive process, it’s tempting to take matters into your own hands.

But can you master your own music? It’s possible with the right approach, but doing your own mastering can often do more harm than good.

In this article I’ll explain the top 5 mistakes beginner and intermediate producers make when they master their own music.

Let’s get started.

1. You make it too quiet

Loudness is a big deal in mastering.

The music you produce has to be loud enough to compete with pro releases on Spotify and Apple Music.

Big-budget labels use highly skilled mastering engineers to make their releases sound loud, punchy and sophisticated.

It’s one reason well-produced tracks rule the airwaves and perform on playlists.

But if you’re working on your own, how do you know how loud to go? Do you even know how to properly boost a track to release levels?

Big-budget labels use highly skilled mastering engineers to make their releases sound loud, punchy and sophisticated.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, you might be confused about what you’re aiming for and how to measure it.

Often, that confusion means you’ll fall short of the mark.

If your mastered track is too quiet, it won’t have the same boldness and authority that professionally mastered songs command—and it won’t hold its own on a playlist.

2. You make it too loud

If you’re worried about making your master too quiet, it’s likely you’ll go too far in the wrong direction.

A master that’s too loud is just as bad as one that’s too quiet.

Loudness is a delicate balance. Push it too far, and you introduce all kinds of problems into your release.

The most dangerous one is called clipping. This occurs when the audio levels of your song go above the maximum available limit.


The loudest parts of the waveform will get abruptly cut off at the limit no matter what. Any audio information your waveform had in these areas will be thrown away.

Loudness is a delicate balance. Push it too far, and you introduce all kinds of problems into your release.

Once that detail is lost due to clipping, you’ll never get it back—even if you turn down your speakers all the way.

When it comes to mastering, avoiding it isn’t exactly straightforward. When you bring your levels close to the max, it’s easy to miss issues that can cause clipping.

You could be watching your meters carefully only to accidentally create inter-sample peaks that only show up on export.

3. You crush the life out of it

If you know your music production techniques you probably have an idea of how to deal with loudness and dynamic range.

And if you’ve ever tried to master your own music you’ve probably experimented with limiters.

Compressors and limiters are the main tools engineers use to reduce dynamic range and bring mastering levels to release volume.

The basics of reducing dynamic range seem simple enough, but when it comes to mastering, it’s a subtle art.

The amount of compression required for a loud master is enormous. Applying it tastefully so that your song still sounds lively and musical is easier said than done.


If you’re just getting started with compression, or you don’t fully understand it yet, it’s not likely that you’ll be able to reduce the gain enough to get a loud master without causing damage.

The basics of reducing dynamic range seem simple enough, but when it comes to mastering, it’s a subtle art.

An overly compressed master sounds flat, lifeless and boring. Even if you do successfully bring your song up to a healthy mastering level, you may have crushed the life out of it in the process.

Poorly applied compression is one of the most glaring signs that a song has been mastered by an inexperienced engineer.

4. You make it sound boxy

Compression is important, but EQ is an essential component of any mixing or mastering chain.

The EQ used in mastering is different from the EQ you’ll apply during your mix. When you add processing to your entire signal chain, it affects every single element of your mix.

Using EQ in broad strokes like this is hard to get right. Go too far in one direction and you can completely throw off the balance of the mix.

Pro mastering engineers use some of the most expensive gear out there to evaluate the frequencies of entire mixes.

I’m talking about speakers that cost as much as a new car and listening rooms tuned to acoustic perfection by expert acousticians.

This is how they’re able to get the incredible extension in the highs and lows that you hear in the most well-produced tracks.

When you add processing to your entire signal chain, it affects every single element of your mix.

You can try to use your EQ plugins to do the same thing, but achieving it without making the mix sound shrill or boomy is extremely difficult.

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On top of that, changing the EQ like this will affect the other processing in your mastering chain in ways you might not be able to predict.

For example, even a gentle boost in the low end can change the way your gain reduction reacts and throw off your headroom at the master bus.

With all this working against you, a master that you do yourself is much more likely to be boxy and midrange-focused with harsh upper mids and highs that don’t extend.

5. You mess up the stereo image

Everyone wants a track that sounds wide, deep and immersive.

Getting the broad and detailed stereo image you need to accomplish it isn’t easy—especially at the mastering stage.

The stereo information in your mix plays a major role in how well it will translate to multiple listening environments.

Think about some of the different places your listeners will experience your music.

They might be listening on headphones, a car stereo, a Bluetooth speaker, or even their phone.

Each listening environment puts different demands on your master. How can you make sure your track sounds as big and compelling on iPhone speakers as it does on a nice pair of headphones?


Stereo imaging is one piece of the puzzle. Any speaker system that has its left and right channels positioned close together—like a laptop or bluetooth speaker—naturally suffers from a narrow stereo field.

If the information at the left and right extremes of your mix is clashing, it can cause destructive interference on these narrow playback systems.

Think about some of the different places your listeners will experience your music.

This can happen when you’ve gone overboard with stereo sources or effects like chorusing or widening.

Treat this delicate stereo information wrong and your master will collapse in on itself—ruining a critical opportunity to capture a listener’s attention on these types of listening systems.

How to master your own music

With all those challenges to overcome, it may seem impossible to get a great sounding master on your own.

Fortunately, one of the best solutions is to try AI-powered mastering online. LANDR mastering takes care of all the complicated technical details and delivers a working master every single time—with no guesswork.

With intensities, mastering styles and reference mastering you get all the customization you need without any of the hassles of complicated proprietary plugins.

On top of that, LANDR’s drag and drop workflow means you get instant results and infinite remasters.

If you’re struggling with any of the five mistakes I just explained, LANDR mastering will help you avoid these common issues and stay focused on what matters—making music.