What is mixing and mastering in music?
If you are trying to learn music production, you must have heard of the terms called ‘mixing’ and ‘mastering’. Mixing and mastering are two very important elements of music production because, without proper mixing and mastering, you cannot create a good music album. So, it is essential that you learn the differences between them and know when to apply them in a music production project.
Mastering music has changed a lot since the old ages. Modern DAW software has changed the idea behind mixing and mastering drastically but there are still some fundamental differences between mixing and master a song.
Read below to know about the differences between mixing and mastering a song.
Mixing refers to the process of blending different audio tracks together to create the best sounding combination or to enhance a music track to make it sound better. This step is done before mastering the song.
A mixing engineer will analyze all the individual tracks of a song and organize them into similar labels. Then he will normalize the whole song to eliminate any differences in the volume levels of the tracks. After normalizing the song, all of the tracks are equalized. Equalising brings out the best tone in each instrument. This is done by using a high pass and a low pass filter to remove unnecessary frequencies. Doing so will bring more clarity to the song and make each instrument more distinguishable.
Then the tracks are panned to get a wider soundstage. The sound of the instruments can be enhanced further by adding compression, delay, reverb or other processes. Finally, the mixing engineer forwards his track to the mastering engineer.
While a mixing engineer works on blending the tracks of a particular song, a mastering engineer focuses on adjusting all the songs of an album as a whole. So, essentially a mastering engineer works by focusing on the big picture. He analyzes all the songs of an album and makes sure they feel like a part of the same album.
The mastering engineer balances the volume level of all the songs in an album so that there is no disparity between their volume levels. He adjusts the compression level, reverb, equalization, and stereo level to make sure all the songs feel cohesive. He arranges the songs in a sequence that captures the theme of the album in the best possible way.
Aside from doing all of this, a mastering engineer adds the fade ins and fade outs between the songs and also applies some final touches based on his experience and the vision of the artist.
Overall, the work of a mastering engineer can be very subjective depending on their knowledge and experience.
While both a mixing engineer and a mastering engineer is responsible for tweaking and making songs sound better, their focus is completely different. The songs of an album are mixed separately, to polish them individually and make each song sound the best version of themselves. The songs of an album are mastered collectively while keeping the theme of the album in mind.
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