Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Who, What and Where is Shirty Mastering?

Josh “Shirty” Shirt is a mastering engineer, music producer and recording artist with over 17 years professional studio experience.

Josh founded Shirty Mastering in 2019 in Fort Collins, Colorado, USA. We meet with clients in person in Northern Colorado, and we offer our services internationally through our online store.

Josh is an expert at taking vague ideas and turning them into fully produced and mastered tracks. His in-depth knowledge of audio production means he can help artists focus on where and how to improve their sound.

Originally from the UK, Josh has had his music blogged, played on BBC Radio and used on numerous commercials.

Can I see reviews of your work?

Yes, here on Google.

How do I work with you?

Email josh@shirtymastering.com. We will be in touch to outline next steps or to provide a free, no obligation quotation for your project.

What is a final mix?

A final mix is an audio file (mp3 / WAV / AIFF) containing your mixed* song as you envision it. It could be an audio recording of your song, usually taken from the master output of a mixing desk and containing all instruments (band members) and FX needed to recreate your song. If you are working in a DAW, exporting all channels into a single stereo audio file will create your final mix. More info here.

*Mixed in this context means well balanced – the levels of the instruments and sounds have been deliberately set (using faders on a mixing desk) to create a balance that is pleasing to you. If you need help mixing your music, we can do it for you or we can help you improve your mixing skills through our Feedback on your Final Mix service or Music Production Lessons (online or in person).

What are stems?

See our guide: How do I make stems from my song?.

Should I use processing on my mixes? (e.g. Should I use a de-esser on my vocals? Should I compress my drum bus? Should I add mastering processing to my master channel?)

We encourage artists to really listen to the music they make. There is no right or wrong, just see what sounds good and what doesn’t. If you like the sound of your song with a certain processing plugin, leave it switched on. On the other hand, if you have used a plugin because it was advised on YouTube etc then we recommend performing a blind test – close your eyes and compare the plugin when switched ON, to the sound of your song with the plugin OFF. Trust your ear. As a rule of thumb, only use plugins that improve your sound in ways that are pleasing to you.

What are reference tracks / mastering reference tracks?

If we ask you for a reference track, try to find a song recorded by an artist that you love, which you would like your song to fit well into a playlist with.

For example, all of these songs go well together. Most obviously, they have similar instruments and a similar energetic rock mood/vibe.

Ask yourself, which other song(s) or artist(s) would compliment your song if it was placed in a playlist. Whichever song(s) these are, send us links (YouTube / Spotify) to them at josh@shirtymastering.com.

How do you use my reference track(s)?

Reference tracks help us to get into the ballpark of the sound and vibe that you probably want your song to convey. It helps us learn more about your taste in music and the tonality of the music that you like to listen to (and create). Once we are in this ballpark, we enhance your unique sound as we work on your music.

What file format and specs should I use when sending my music for mastering or mixing?

For mastering, send us a WAV or AIFF file (these are lossless) at 48kHz, 32bit (with no dithering).

If this isn’t possible just send us what you have. If it is not suitable we will tell you and try to help you export a better, higher quality, version.

For our mixing and mastering package

Send us stems of your song. Full details about stems, including file format information are here.

How do I send my music to you?

Email us a link to your music (on Google Drive, or send it via www.wetransfer.com) to josh@shirtymastering.com.

What is your mastering process, step by step?

  1. Send us your song by Google Drive or WeTransfer
  2. Also, email us a link to a reference track (to josh@shirtymastering.com)
  3. (After we have given mix feedback – optional) We master your song and email it to you
  4. Email us your feedback on the master. In the event that you want revisions:
  5. We make revisions based on your feedback for no extra charge
  6. We send the second version of your master to you (if required)

Is the mastering process different for EPs / Albums?

Yes. Mastering multiple songs as part of a compilation album or EP requires extra attention to detail. It’s important that all of the tracks have some degree of cohesion and that the louder tracks really do feel louder within the context of the album. After we have mastered your album or EP, we play it from front to back to make sure that every track, in terms of loudness, compliments the track before and after, and that it compliments the mood & vibe of the release.

I’m unsure which service is best for me, can you help?

Yes, just send an email to josh@shirtymastering.com and we’ll be happy to help.

Do you do audio restoration work?

Yes, we will rise to the challenge of restoring any audio recording that you have. Perhaps you have an album that was recorded in a less than ideal way or maybe you have a live recording of a band captured on a phone. We will aim to take any audio recording that you have and restore / enhance and remaster the sound. For audio restoration work we charge $50 per hour. Please share your recording with us by email for a free, no obligation quotation.

Can you help me build a home studio?

Yes, we have put together many home recording studios and have achieved a great sound.
We can recommend microphones, gear, interfaces and DIY acoustic treatment so that you can start recording a professional sound, at home. See our home studio consultation page.

I need artwork for my album, can you make it?

Yes, we are experienced in designing and supplying artwork for music EPs and albums. For album or EP artwork (consisting of a front and rear design, and inlay) we charge $250. We begin the process by asking you what you want. Next, we create sketches of a few options. Once you have picked your favorite, we go on to complete the design and then send you the high-resolution print-ready album art. Contact us for more details.

Can you prepare my CD baby CD duplication order?

Yes we can. We often complete the information needed by CD BABY on behalf of our clients, who want to order physical CDs of their music. We can upload your music and finalize all details of the release so all that you have to do is pay CD BABY and wait for your CDs to arrive. Just contact us for a quote.

Can I amend my final mix after you have mastered my song, and ask for a revision?

Yes you can. We charge $20 for each new mix that we run through your unique mastering processing.

How much feedback does your mastering with mix advice service give?

The feedback is concise, usually two or three sentences which aim to get you a better final mix before mastering. If you want to receive in depth feedback and/or talk with us about your track, our “Feedback on your Final Mix” service is for you.

What is the difference between your services: “Mastering with Mix Advice” and “Feedback on your Final Mix”?

“Mastering with Mix Advice” provides a few, relevant notes that we write as we listen to your track from start to finish.

“Feedback on your Final Mix” is a more in depth service. We spend an hour listening to your song and offering constructive feedback on different aspects of music composition, arrangement, mixing and production in a considerable email (usually 3 – 5 paragraphs) that we send back to you.

We can also provide this service over the phone so that you can ask specific questions about your track after we have listened.

What if I don’t like the master you provide?

Because we get used to way our music sounds as we compose it, changes can sometimes feel strange at first, so please sleep on it to begin with and compare it to other tracks that you like. If you still have concerns, please let us know by emailing us.

Mastering is often a discussion between an engineer and an artist and we want nothing more than for you to be happy with how your music sounds. If you would like changes to your master we will create a second version for you, taking your feedback into account, completely free of charge.

What is it like to work with you?

We are passionate about music and give our all to every project. Most of our jobs create long and productive email threads as we work on our customers’ music, discuss our progress and invite feedback – folding it back into the mix. You can see reviews of our work here.

What do you offer that I can’t get elsewhere?

Pleas see why choose us for mastering.

How do I pay?

We accept payment by Venmo or PayPal. We will share our details when you get in touch.

I’m working with you for the first time, can you offer me any reassurance ?


  • Please see our reviews here
  • As your sound is shaped, we work through a series of steps and make a series of decisions. Your feedback is taken into account at every step until your project is finished.
  • We offer a “new client payment option” where you pay 50% upfront, and the final 50% when the job is complete and you are satisfied.

Should I remove any master channel processing / mastering from my final mix before sending it for mastering?

It depends. If you have added processing to make the song sound “mastered” then please remove it because we will be adding our own. On the other hand, if you have processing on your master channel which is adding tone or character that is important to the emotion, mood or vibe of the track, then leave it in place.

If you are still unsure, please send two versions of your final mix, one with and one without the processing in question. This way, we can decide which is the most suitable for mastering.

How long does it take for you to master a song?

On weekdays, we complete most mastering jobs in 24 – 48 hours. And, if your timeframe isn’t as tight, let us know, it’s always nice for us to have the option of an an extra day or two for mastering.

How long does it take for you to mix a song?

It depends on how many stems you have and therefore, how complicated the mixing process is. That said, on average, most mixing projects are completed within 5 working days.

Can you help me to promote my music once you’ve finished working on it?

Yes, we can share some tips that have seen us get results before. Just ask!

I still have questions, can you help?

Just email us at josh@shirtymastering.com