Updated: Dec 10, 2021
Unless you’re a mixing or mastering engineer, you may not know the difference between the two. Mixing and Mastering have similar techniques and use similar tools, but they are both quite different, so here is our quick-read article of the differences.
Mixing is all about balancing the sound and creating a solid sound by blending and combining the recorded tracks in your session.
This is the stage where you can manage the emotion in your music, create a sound that holds the listener’s attention while also objectively listening to your track to avoid a muddy, messy sound. It’s about making the song sound presentable and creating that sense of space and hyper-realism in a track, depending on the genre you are working on.
Subtlety is key
You do this through small subtle movements using tools to even out the sound, such as EQ, volume, panning, reverb etc.
Listen and then listen some more
You need to be regularly checking your mixes on different systems, like speakers, studio monitors, in-ear headphones and even the car radio! This will ensure that your mix is consistent and is sounding as good as possible in different environments and on different gear.
Be aware of other’s equipment
Your listeners won’t have a kick ass studio to listen to it, so you need to make sure the mix is as versatile as possible. Remember, you can’t fix a bad mix in the mastering stage, so make sure you spend time on your mix!
Mixing TOP TIPS
Stop trying to apply every method and every plugin to your track
Make sure you know what you are trying to achieve
Don't put reverb on EVERY track
Catch yourself if you're working on a solo track for too long
When it comes to mastering, it’s the last line of defence or the polishing of the sound. You want to focus on optimising the overall quality of the track, ready for playback on everything from a pair of earbuds to an enormous club sound system.
Don’t master with worn out ears
Critical listening is essential at this stage and having a fresh pair of ears is a must, so if you can't get someone else in for the mastering then make sure you give yourself enough time in between the mixing and mastering stage to ensure you don’t have ear fatigue.
Get the balance right
Mastering is knowing what is required, what subtle changes are needed to tweak the sounds to perfection.It can involve making the track louder, but it’s about balancing the tone of the track.
Most mastering engineers are looking to ensure the track can translate to different speakers and environments, and sound like other songs on the market. Mastering can also involve purging problems on an artifact level using tools - ticks, pops, plosives, distortions, or spectral anomalies.
Be mindful of your environment
I will always argue the environment where you record and work is just as important as the gear you use—if not more. With mastering, it becomes crucial. Your listening environment needs to be as neutral as possible so that you can create a clean track that will sound consistent on different gear.
Now different genres require different work, but it’s all about being consistent in your sound and presentation. Everyone has their own sound, so embrace your unique ears!
Mastering TOP TIPS
ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS MASTER
Don’t always trust free plugin presets
Don’t overdo it - you can still be creative while being subtle
Check your work on lots of different gear! Keep checking it
What does your mixing and mastering process look like? Tells us below in the comments