Mixing and Mastering: The Basics
A few weeks back we discussed home recording and gave some tips on how to sound like a pro from the comfort of your own work space. In this article we’re going to take some time to discuss the basics of mixing and mastering. Having this skill set can be really beneficial for artists and musicians alike. Being able to discuss the “sonics” of your song with your engineer(s), can really get the most out of a record.
Mixing and Mastering Defined
So, what exactly is mixing and mastering? Mixing is the process of combining multiple, individual tracks together to combine one track. Mastering is the process that is used to make your songs louder, wider, and radio ready. While these processes may seem similar on the surface – they are entirely two different processes and often require two different engineers.
Diving a bit deeper into the mixing process, you’re going to want to learn about: volume, panning, and equalization. Effects can and should be used as well but the basics are all about getting your levels right. In theory you are essentially mixing “to taste,” however there are some guide lines that you should follow. Learning audio engineering terminology such as warm, bright, muddy, and dry can help as well.
Looking at mastering beyond the surface you will see that it is based more on effects. Equalization, compression, limiting, stereo widening, can all be used in the mastering process. The idea behind mastering is that you want to get your song as loud as possible and in line with your other songs without distorting the audio.
Tools and Tips
As we near 2018, it’s safe to say that there are certainly tons of tools out there to use for mixing and mastering. DAWs like Pro Tools, Cubase, Ableton, and Logic are very common in most studios. Get familiar with their interfaces – while they all may seem different, knowing one may be universal in learning the others. In regard to effects, you should thoroughly learn the fundamentals like EQ, Compression, Delay, and Reverb. Use your meters and make sure you leave enough “head room” in your tracks before you master. If you feel like you can’t get the sound you want, keep working on it, but if you can’t get it – find a mixing and mastering engineer that can get you the sound that you desire.