Updated: Nov 10, 2022
If you're a musician, you've obviously heard about mixing and mastering your recordings. You might still be a little fuzzy on what it exactly is, though. The main thing to keep in mind is that mixing and mastering are absolutely essential parts of the recording process. Here is a quick rundown on what professional mixing and mastering really are, and why it brings out the best in your music.
Mixing your music
Mixing takes the audio tracks that you have recorded and puts them all together. This can be attempted in a home studio, or you can invest in a professional mixing job. During the mixing process, the audio is tinkered with in many ways. This is where you add your effects such as EQ, reverb, and compression, as well as put all the elements of your song in the proper place. Good mixing is essential because mastering cannot always fix a bad mix.
Start with the right recording software
If you're going to try mixing yourself, the first thing you'll need to do is choose a DAW, or Digital Audio Workstation. There is an incredible amount to choose from, and several free DAW options to check out. Once you've chosen your software, you're ready to start recording tracks. If you choose a professional, they will have already invested in a high-quality DAW system.
Why it's smart to hire a professional mixing engineer
Although it might be tempting to mix your tracks yourself, it is always a good idea to hire a professional. Not only do you get an outside and experienced ear, but they have also put many years of hard work into honing their craft. It is especially helpful to get an outside opinion on vocal tracks to know exactly where they should be in the mix.
The benefits of a great music mix
Your song will benefit from a great mix in many ways. Here are just a few.
Professionalism - Let's face it, if you have real goals to succeed in the music business, your tracks have got to sound professional. People listening to your music are not just your fans. DJs, record reps, bloggers, local music reporters, and fellow musicians are just a few of the many people who will be listening to your song as it works its way to the top.
Clarity and Balance - The mix should have a balance between level, stereo-image, depth, and frequency. It should have clarity both at high and low volumes, and vocals should come through loud and clear.
Sales - A high-quality mix will increase the sales of your track or album. It is a long road of songwriting, gigging, social medial posts, and recording to get you to the mixing stage. Now you want to make money off your music. A great mix means your song is poised to be commercially released, and it is a good feeling as a musician to know you are putting out the very best you've got.
The final mix
In the end, a mix will have combined all of your audio tracks down into one. This is part of the post-production process and will be either a stereo or mono track. EQ will clean up the low end, help with muddiness in the middle range, and add more presence to your high frequencies. Compression helps tighten up the track. Delay, reverb, and chorus create depth in a mix. It all comes together in a final mix that is ready for mastering.
Mastering your music
The next part of the process is mastering. This will completely optimize your sound, making the song the best it can be. It is often called the "sparkle" on a recording because it enhances what is already there. Mastering is also a multi-phased project, and it truly takes the right ear to do it properly. This is why it is almost always the best idea to hire a professional to master your tracks.
Adding the sparkle
When you compare two versions of the same song before and after mastering, the difference is noticeable. The song "pops" with a brighter overall tone and clarity. This is all based on the artist's personal style and preference, and of course the style of the engineer. He or she will also adjust the dynamic range and loudness, which will depend very much on which genre you are working in.
Getting a unified sound
Mastering helps an album sound cohesive from start to finish. It is important for each song to flow into the next with the same levels and overall sound. In addition to focusing on the sound of each individual song, the mastering engineer zooms out to look at the big picture, and make sure all the songs hang together as one great-sounding unit.
Using the best audio equipment
A professional studio engineer is running a business. That means not only do they have years of experience, but they also have the best equipment. There is no way to emphasize enough how important the best quality gear in the business can make in your recording. A professional studio will have a dizzying combination of audio interfaces, equalizers, multi-band compressors, limiters, monitors, speakers, and more. All this results in the most high-quality mastering possible.
Preparing the song for distribution
One of the main important functions of mastering is that it prepares your song for its release into the real world. This means it is perfectly prepared for the duplication process, or to be released as a download. For example, CDs need to be converted to 16-bit/44.1kHz, set up with track indexes, and other things that are exclusive to CD release. Releasing a song digitally, such as on Apple Music, Spotify, or Soundcloud also has its specific challenges.
Remember, no matter how awesome your recording is, nothing takes the place of professional mixing and mastering services for a quality finished product. This final step gives your songs the perfect polish you need in a professional environment. Get the details here and contact us with any questions you may have.