Mixing and Mastering Music: Understanding the Differences

Mixing and mastering music is different; however, they are equally important parts of the audio production process. They can usually become blurred and difficult to differentiate. Mixing is basically the step before mastering that includes adjusting and combining tracks to form a stereo audio file after a mixdown. The file is then mastered that makes sure the different songs are clearly polished and create a cohesive whole on an album. If you are planning to record music at the Songmill recording studio, it can help to understand the differences between mixing and mastering.

How to Mix Music

After recording all the individual song tracks, a mixing engineer works their magic. They label and organise the tracks into their similar groups. Usually, the song is normalised to make sure the tracks are at similar volume levels and no tracks peak. Then, the engineers will EQ every track to get the best tones out of the instruments and utilise high and low pass filters to eradicate unnecessary frequencies. Generally, EQing is meant to make important adjustments that let all tracks inhabit their own frequency areas. This makes the song clear and every instrument distinguishable.

This is also applicable in terms of panning the tracks to get a full, wide sound. Delay, reverb, and compression can be added to every track to obtain the desired tones for the instrument. Automating effects and fades throughout the songs can help engineers control the song’s emotion sonically. Many engineers switch between the studio reference monitor and headphone to achieve a consistent sound for their mix on different sources. The mixing process ends when the song sounds as best as they possibly can. 

How to Master Music

This starts with the mastering engineer getting the stereo track, together with some notes and reference songs from the artist or mixing engineer. This will help them understand the sound they will go for. Also, this will ensure the mix is not modified in areas intended to sound a certain way. The next step the mastering process includes adding the finishing touches to the song by making slight adjustments mainly to the EQ, limiting, stereo enhancement, and compression. The beginning and ending of a song is added with spacing and fades.  Usually, audio mastering engineers provide sequencing services for albums to put songs in the desired order, encode the tracks, and label track names. Their main goal is to offer a high-fidelity, professional, and high-clarity sound that listeners can enjoy on any source.