Transform Your Song – Mixing and Mastering – The Basics to an Awesome track – 5 minute read
The Challenges of Mixing and Mastering and How To Get Started
Let’s say you recorded a song and you need a way to make it sound better. That’s where mixing and mastering comes in, but what is mixing and mastering?
Sometimes a song you’ve made can sound muddy or under the weather. A studio engineer can improve this with mixing and mastering your track, but if you want to make music in a bedroom studio setting, achieving this part of music can benefit you in the long run.
Mixing and mastering can be a challenge to tell apart, but they are quite different, and here’s why:
Mixing always comes before mastering
Mixing is the process you start focusing on what tools you can use to remedy your song. Mastering focuses more on how to get any last adjustments in the track to cover anything an audience may hear at the last stage to make it sound better right there at the end.
Well, you still need to know what tools to start with. I have been mixing and mastering for about two years, and it has been a learning experience. Learning to mix and master can be challenging, but fun if you keep your patience. I’ll get started with the basics and then move onto the lesson.
This is where you get the levels of your recording set.
A simple definition of mixing is the time in recording a process that is used to adjust elements in a song. Mixing is not something professional engineers use to make songs sound “different” or to change their original performance. The mix is a cleaning stage. The song is passed down to mixing engineers to adjust the elements of individual tracks with EQs, compression, faders, and panning to fit into a genre. Grasping your tools in your mix is important because you cannot move forward into mastering if the mix is incomplete.
This is the process of finishing your song to be released and audible on all mediums, it will make it so your song can be played in the studio, clubs, headphones and the car, always sounding good!
Not all songs are mastered, but you really should, especially if your goals are to get plays on the radio. The best way is to have your songs mastered by an experienced engineer.
Mastering involves one file of the song being updated into a better version of the mix. Basically what mastering is, is the fine-tuned adjustments that are made like loudness, eq, and “tone” or “place” of the track. You don’t want to master ever in your mix, using the Master channel and that’s where a lot of learners kind of go south.
Ideally, you would not Master your own track, as to get the best results it is good to have a fresh set of ears. Mastering can be a tricky thing to wrap your head around, but I am going to share a little insight later in the article.
Breaking Down Mixing Elements
There are certain ideas you need to keep in mind before you start a mixing process. Try to imagine the track as an orchestra performance, and each instrument has an assigned seat. That’s also how mixing works. You don’t want certain elements in the back, and you don’t want certain elements too far in the front in your mixing process.
If you are just getting started with mixing, allow yourself room for growth, and the mindset that each sound and section of your song can get pulled under, and it’s your job to bring out elements using your daw’s mixing studio. A lot of mixing can be generated for you or you can mix freely manually in your bedroom.
The elucidation of each sound you hear in a track is crucial. Not everything you make will be the same, and it is required that you win a clear playback each time.
It is not impossible to get the correct mix in your bedroom, but there will be techniques that you must apply for clarity.
Mixing can be a challenging task at first, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be overcome.
I want to simplify some tools that every DAW has.
There are a lot of ways you can get a mix to do exactly what you need.
If you need something in the background, try reverb and if you want something brought to the front, you can add an eq and less reverb.
Realize that you can use panning or mono tracks to pull in a sound or a stereo track to expand your sound. Also, reverb and delay are some special effects that you can add to your tracks to keep it interesting, but weren’t there initially. Keep in mind that a mix is the ONLY time you get to perfect any mistakes in a song.
EQ is a good tool that can fix a lot of mistakes in a recording. A big difference EQs can bring is eliminating the low end. Low end is a rumble of heavy bass that can easily way down any mix. Low end is extremely difficult to hear unless you know how to use an EQ.
For example, the picture below demonstrates how an EQ looks when you cut out the low end in a guitar channel. Notice how on the left end, the frequency visualizer is brought down either manually or robotically to attach closer to the sound wave in the middle.
Volume and Panning
Now, you want to focus on the volume. Every section needs its volume level. Keep in mind, when mixing, you can adjust volume levels on separate tracks.
Lead synthesizers and vocals tend to be brought out and emphasized in front while drums can blend into your back. Be careful with drums, because you don’t want to exclude them completely. I commonly use automation within the daw to lure loudness and volume along with panning to bring out each snare and hi-hat. One thing that I would point out is a lot of songs tend to sound bad because the low end wasn’t helping in with drums and bass, so it’s okay to add some breathing room for a drum track, in my opinion.
Mastering is the 1 percent left before your release. A good example of mastering is the overall hearing of an album. How will the song sound by all of the other songs on the album? Are the volumes levels the same? Does a couple of songs render any stereo issues? You want to make sure your panning and tracks are set to your liking in a mix.
In mastering, the goal is to mix your songs in one setting to get a finished product. You are allowed to work with any mix, and it is better to work with all mixes in one mastering session. By that, each track should a single track and ready to be passed through for a final master. There are a lot of great mastering tools out there for anyone ready to learn!
Ozone has a great selection of mastering tools for free and for sale. Every link I reference in this article uses Ozone to cut out any confusion of what to use!
Limiting is a way you can adjust the volume to the overall track. If you have noticed that your track is soft or too quiet, limiting can help there. But you don’t want to go heavy on it because it will distort any kicks or snares you’ve previously cared for in your mix.
I want to share with you someone I found on YouTube that shares a lot of mastering software and tips to help you get started even more!
Here’s what he posted about volumes peaks:
Ceiling – Set at least -1.0dB True Peak. Potentially up to -2dB True Peak Ensure you select “True Peak” – This is essential. Average LUFS – Hit at least -14 to avoid Spotify limiting and then push it louder to your own preferences.In The Mix from YouTube
If you have never used a multiband compressor before, it looks very strange when you open one up for the first time. A Multiband compressor is known for a 4-split screen to independently edit transients and achieve adequate hi-end and low end. Multiband compression can be a daunting subject even for me! There are several tricks you can apply in your master that cut out any unwanted noises in your track with multiband compressors and EQs. EQs do not always get the job done, and that’s where a multiband compressor can save the day.
Check out this great multiband video here.
Hopefully, you have learned something about mixing and mastering today and what they are. Mixing and mastering can be a fun experience if you need to take your music needs to the next level.
Most songs you hear on the radio or watch on TV have had professionals help with the Mixing and Mastering process.
If you need help, be sure to check out our Mixing and Mastering service providers.
For Mixing engineers click here
For Mastering engineers click here