Producing your own music involves a whole of different techniques and methods, but mixing and mastering are fundamental to understanding the creation of your masterpiece.
When it comes to the art of being a professional DJ, the creation of songs is probably one of the most challenging process.
Each song goes through three phases: recording, mixing and mastering, and always in that order. We can all imagine what recording is like, but the line between mixing and mastering seems very thin.
Mixing and mastering have often been used indistinctively in the past, but in recent years it has become obvious how different they really are. Although they have similar attributes, they have different functions, and both are important in their own right.
What is the difference between mixing and mastering? Below, we will describe each process in its simplest form.
What is mixing?
Mixing is the beginning of the post-production process. Once you have written, recorded and produced your music, it’s time for mixing.
A mix engineer is in charge of balancing the various tracks in your session so they sound nice and cohesive when played together. They reduce the clash between instruments, vocals and different elements of the song.
A mix will also have several different tracks, between the different instrumental layers, digital instruments, a microphone, a keyboard, etc., a session can easily contain more than 30 tracks.
In general, most mix engineers start their process by organizing and labeling each component, for example, placing all the drum tracks in the same color and area of their workspace, synthesizers, etc.
During mixing, many adjustments are made to each section to fine tune and create the desired sound.
Mixing is about creating a balance between all aspects of the song, whether it is volume, frequency, placement or dynamics. This process is about enhancing the artist’s vision and making sure the original intent of the song shines through. Sometimes there are several mixes before both the artist and producer are ready for the song to go to mastering.
What is mastering?
When the mix is finished, it is ready to go to mastering. Mastering is the last stage of the production process, the final step your music receives before it heads to distribution.
Mastering engineers also aim to achieve an overall balance, but unlike mixing, they do so across a broader spectrum throughout the song and the entire album.
The goal of mastering is to polish the mix to the best possible sound and make your song(s) sound like other professional songs heard on streaming platforms, on the radio, in movies…
- The goal is to make the track louder.
- Sound better.
- More compatible with different types of speakers, usually by adjusting aspects such as equalization, compression, limiting and stereo enhancement.
Is mastering harder than mixing?
A mastering engineer is the last person in the creative process who is responsible for catching mistakes, changing the sound and putting the finishing touches on it.
If there’s a sound that shouldn’t be there (whether it’s outside traffic, a conversation, etc.), the mastering engineer has to be very attentive and focused to catch those small but vital mistakes.
It’s helpful to have someone else master your project, as it’s easier for them to catch mistakes or hear unwanted sounds because they haven’t been mixing the song for hours.
As you can see, order is extremely important when it comes to production. Forget about mastering until you have a good mix!
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