The final sound of a song after recording is 90% mixing, and 10% mastering. But what is mixing and mastering? Mixing and mastering are two essential components of recording music for release. If you want people to listen to your music it’s a good idea to invest in a mixing and mastering engineer to accomplish your goals.
First, mixing a well-recorded song will balance out each instrument in your song – bringing out the best qualities in each. Then, mastering takes that mix and brings out the best qualities of the song as a whole. These two processes are an artform to master, but together they are used to get a radio-ready sound that becomes larger than life.
What is Mixing?
You have a song, and a song is made up of many small parts. Drums, bass, guitars… and it’s more than that. In a drumkit, you have a kick drum, snare, toms, cymbals… You don’t just have one guitar. You have rhythm, lead, and solo guitar tracks – each representing a layer of sound. Putting all of these layers together to make one balanced, and cohesive sound, is what you would refer to as, a mix.
Mixing is a big job, it isn’t simply compiling layers of sound together. Each track needs to be processed individually in order to bring out the best qualities of that instrument. For example, you have a well-recorded rhythm guitar track: in mixing you might use compression, EQ, or add reverb and delay effects to make the guitar as perfect as it can be; to achieve a desired sound. This process is just as technical as it is creative.
What is Mastering?
Sometimes referred to as “black magic”, mastering is that last 10% that makes a song “pop!”; it makes your song sound radio-ready. Mastering is the process of taking a mix and optimizing that single track to sound it’s best. Many of the same types of tools in mixing apply to mastering – EQ, compression, saturation, stereo enhancement, etc., but with a broader viewpoint.
Mastering also encompasses the process of creating a flow between songs in an album in a way that pleases the listener. A mastering engineer will balance the volume of each track in an album to be relative to one another and create a cohesive sound.
Mastering is truly an artform. There are only a select group of professionals in the entire world who are truly masters of the subject, however achieving a satisfying master can be done by many experienced professionals.
You can’t have a mix without a master, or vice versa. These two go hand-in-hand and if you’re making music to be heard by your fans, you’ll want to invest in an experienced engineer who will help bring out the best in your songs.