The difference between mixing and mastering can be somewhat confusing. Many new artists may not know the difference and why both are approached separately. Sometimes song’s are not ready for mastering because the song was not mixed or mixed well. Ultimately the end goal of both mixing and mastering is the best sonic representation of your composition. A basic understanding of the two will allow the artist to fully execute their songs vision with clarity. Let’s look into the two elements and why they are needed.

Mixing

   Mixing is the process of blending your song’s individual tracks.  This allows unique access to each element in the song. You will put your drums, bass, synths, pianos, vocals etc. on their individual tracks in the mixing engineers DAW. With control of the sounds, the engineer will be able to blend and pan your tracks together using things like equalizers, compressors, reverbs and delays ultimately mixing your song. This also can be a very creative situation that will help the overall feel of the song. Once the final mix is achieved, it is then bounced or exported into a stereo file. It is this stereo file that will is sent to mastering.

Mastering

   Mastering is the continued process of mixing your stereo print. The practice of mastering, while shrouded in mystery is rather straightforward. A mastering engineer will usually work with stereo files of your mix on one track in their workstation. While your mastering engineers ears may vary, the end goal is polish, clarity, and loudness of your creative mix. At the least a mastering engineer will help your song by eq’ing, compressing and limiting.

If the high’s in your mix need a little boost or maybe your low end could need a bit more strength, your mastering engineer will make it happen from your stereo blend. Additionally, this process will add loudness to your mix and get your song to compete with other song’s out there whether they are online, streamed or played on the radio. Lastly when considering mastering if there are multiple mixing engineers on the project a mastering engineer will be able to bring all of there mixing styles into one cohesive sonic piece.

   While the two are just as important as the other, it is safe to assume if you are serious about your music you should be serious about mastering as well as mixing. Also, keep in mind there is also stem mastering. This option will afford your mastering engineer a bit more control over your final mix. The mixing engineer will ultimately help the momentum of the song with effects and compression and eq’ing while the mastering engineer is polishing that vision to perfection. Mixing gets your song to where you want it and mastering makes it sound like that wherever it may be played!

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT

Hey. It’s Matty Harris at mixandmastermysong.com. Today, I’m gonna go over the difference between mixing and mastering. I’ve had a lot of clients hit me up over the years and saying, “Hey, I just need my song mastered.”, but then, they’ve come to find out that it’s not even mixed yet. So, it’s really important to understand the differences between the two processes.

Now, we’ll go over a little bit on the screen so you can see kind of what’s happening in the two different processes, but basically, mixing is taking all the different elements of your song and that’s including the kick, the snare, the high hat, the keyboards, the guitar and then, your vocals. Your verse, your chorus, all those different stems or tracks … people call them both the same … and blending them together to make the song sound the best it can. And that can entail EQing the separate elements, EQing the kick, EQing the snare, compression, reverbs and delays and other modulation effects, and basic levels and panning and making everything fit together in the best way it can.

Now, after than, you bounce the track and you have a stereo beat, which is your mix, your final mix. And that goes off to mastering, where mastering takes your mix and brings up the overall levels, so it can compete with other levels of other songs and puts the final touches, whether it needs to be [inaudible 00:01:34] a little bit or the low end needs a little more strength or you have a little too much mid range. That gets all adjusted in the mastering process. And also, mastering’s even more important when you have the whole album together and maybe you had one guy mix one song and another guy mix the other six songs and one more guy mix three songs and they all might have different styles and sounds, so mastering is when you put all the songs together of the album, all the different mixes, and the mastering engineer will go through and will EQ the different songs so that they all sound like one piece when a listener plays it back.

So, that’s kinda the gist of what mixing and mastering is. I’m just gonna go through a mix with you guys so you can kinda see what happens and then, we’ll talk about the master too. So, let’s check it out right here.

So, this the mix for a song I mixed already, actually, for an artist named [inaudible 00:02:35] and it’s called New York Bangers that’s a song off his new album and it’s pretty dope and he’s just kind of a real kind of free style hard rap solo.

So, you can see everything’s separated and maybe if I made this bigger so you guys can see everything. Everything he sent me was separated, so you have the kick here by itself, then the snare, and the kick and the snare and the high hat and everything. Tambourine, tom tom crash. So then now, I got all my drums. And by sending it that way, I can go and EQ each element separately, so here’s our kick. I compressed it a bit and then, I compressed it some more. Well, actually, I EQ’d it a bit with this [inaudible 00:03:29] compressor and maybe used a little bit of compression. And then, I used another compressor here and then, the [inaudible 00:03:36] EQ.

Now, knowing me, what I probably did here was, which you can do in Studio One, is split it. So, I had the parallel compression on the kick drum and then, just basic EQ on the kick drum here. So, there’s two. It takes the kick and splits it into two channels.

So, that makes it so that I can EQ and make every single sound the best it can. And then, as we move on, I have the keyboards here, different effects, it’s a pretty simple sample type beat, so just a sample, the baseline and then, the vocals, which I can EQ separately as well. You can hear those. So, when I mute the whole song … so now, you got everything there and the whole song was blended together with the different levels. You can see how [inaudible 00:04:37] different levels and the panning was pretty much all set. Didn’t need to do a whole lot in the panning. But, all the levels are changed and it comes together as one full song.

So, after we were done that and mixing it all together, then it gets bound and it becomes a stereo track. And then, if you’re using Studio One or whatever, I tend to use for mastering and I started using New Project … and we can just call this anything, click OK … and then, it comes up as a two-track editor, which is a great feature. So now, you have this two-track editor and we’ll just take any audio file just for examples … [inaudible 00:05:28] find something really quick … and then, you would put … so here is the final mix, just like we finished [inaudible 00:05:35] song and now, it’s here. This looks like it’s already mastered, but your levels would usually be a bit lower.

And here, now we can do our final compression, maybe boost the EQ a little bit if it wasn’t enough in the mix and add some of the outboard EQ, which always sounds great and the outboard limiters and stuff and bring it to a higher level and make it really punch through so that when you go and sit in your car and you’re playing a Drake record and then, the next record’s the [inaudible 00:06:07] record, it sounds the same level-wise. It’s not like this huge drop or anything like that.

So, that’s basically the difference. Hopefully, that can help you guys understand maybe what you’re needs are. If you just need mixing or you need mixing and mastering or you just need mastering, will help you kinda figure out what stage of the process that your recording is in.

So, I hope that helped. Let me know if you got any questions and hit us up on mixandmastermysong.com. Thanks.

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