Let me start by saying it is the opinion of this engineer that “Music Mastering” is an artistically defining process that is determined by the mastering engineer based on the musical properties and characteristics of each piece of music. Many times the conflicting process of “Mastering” is normally a quick optimization of perceived volume usually accomplished by reducing the dynamic range of the music file to an unnatural level. It is likely accompanied by larger amounts of equalization to help mask the damage/loss resulting from excessive dynamic compressing/limiting and digital clipping. Additionally many times this “Mastering” process will increase the out of phase content to give the perception of a wider image! The results of widening the image is a topic for an entire other Blog so I’ll publish that one separately. Unnaturally widening the image is in the same class as “Making It Louder” by reducing the dynamic range, both prove to be disconnecting for your listeners.
This “Mastering” process leaves it’s process definition up to the one who is engineering but keep in mind that in many cases the quicker it is to do will likely not be the best process for the music’s sake. Remember your music will retain these process’s and the resulting changes and artifacts whether they are good or bad for connecting to your listeners.
The noun “Mastering” is the name of a process that has absolutely no fixed defining perimeters and what it is is determined by the person or program controlling the process. Nowadays in some bazaar cases we are even seeing it established by the software/plugin’s in place of a human being. Obviously software generally has no sensitivity to the emotions or feelings that are captured by good recording practices and sense software hasn’t a heart, a soul or a spirit by which it can make musical determinations it ends up being a disconnect. Software making musical/emotional decisions as you can imagine is very likely not going to be best idea.
In most all cases this “Music Mastering” engineer is convinced that music is intended for human consumption and that these type of decisions are better left to a human audio engineer that loves music and understands how it connects to other human beings.