There is a lot that goes into producing a single music track, all of which requires a lot of talent, technical ability and attention to detail, the two most important steps in producing music are mixing and mastering, both of which play a monumental role in deciding whether a track will sound good or bad. However, many people often end up getting confused about these two process, thinking that they are pretty much the exact same thing and muddling up the difference between mixing and mastering, let’s take a look at both these processes and figure out what makes them different.
In the most basic terms; mixing involves a mixing engineer taking different individual tracks and then combining them to produce the final track, the process starts once every individual audio track has been recorded. The mixing engineer takes every track, labels and categorises it and then begins the process of combining it with every other track, in order to make things easier for the mixer, the tracks are often brought down to the same volume at first. Next comes the part where every track gets EQed, adjustments, and tweaks are made in order to get all the right tones out of every track and allow every track to integrate with the other tracks smoothly.
The hardest part in mixing is to make sure that every track is in perfect sync with the other, every tone produced by every instrument in the final track should be distinguishable, but at the same time, no tone or beat should become too dominating. During the mixing process, a lot of effort goes into getting the vocals to sound right, precision and timing is incredibly important here since vocals are often more easily distinguishable. After various tweaking and testing, once the mixing engineer is completely sure that everything is in order, the time comes to master the final track.
The process of mastering involves polishing the final track and smoothing out any kinks that might have been left behind, this is carried out by a mastering engineer whose job is to make further adjustments in order to make all the final tracks in an album cohesive. At this point, reference material is used to make sure that the mastering engineer does not make changes that might affect the track’s intended sound.
The end result of mastering is to produce music that can be enjoyed without any hiccups on any source, ensuring a professional sounding final piece. Track names, labels, ISRC encoding and other finishing touches are also added at this point.
Knowing the difference between mastering and mixing is really important for anyone who is into producing audio tracks, being able to differentiate between the two and carrying them out effectively ensures that your work comes out cleaner and sounds more professional. One does not need high-end equipment to carry out these steps, all they need is to focus on the little things and develop a sense of their work.