Mixing vs Mastering: Know These Things First

Mixing music is one of the first things musicians need to get the hang of. If you’ve taken up the hobby of mastering music, you’ve probably come across these terms.

And mixing vs mastering is a massive debate in the music industry. As a new producer, you might be struggling to tell the difference between the two, or even figure out which one is better. So stay tuned, and let’s figure out these two key terms of music composition.

mixing vs mastering

Mixing and Mastering in Music Production

It is a long, multi-step process. The basic steps in the production process are as follows. Before you go into the details, it helps to know the basics.

  1. Songwriting
  2. Arranging
  3. Tracking
  4. Editing
  5. Mixing
  6. Mastering

The Two Processes of Mixing and Mastering

Both mixing and mastering are end-stage processes. After musicians are done with recording, they need to put together individual recorded tracks and refine them. Musicians even go on to hire professional mastering engineers and mix engineers to get the job done right.

Here’s a guide to all the dos and don’ts of the mixing process and mastering process.

Step 1 – The Post-production Mixing Stage

If you’re wondering about mixing engineering, you’re not alone. The simplest way to put it is this. You sit in a DAW session, take all the recorded tracks, and combine and blend them into one masterpiece.

All you need to be careful about is the frequency spectrum. All the frequencies of individual tracks need to match so that you can hear the dynamic range of every track.

The Tools Mixing Engineers Use

Mixing is a complicated audio production step. However, some specific software and tools help a musician make his song. Here are the most common tools you’ll find at the studio.

  1. EQ or Sound Equalizer
  2. Reverb
  3. Compression

These tools work great for songs with different frequency ranges. They let you balance the range of each track and merge them into one.

Step 2 – The Post-production Mastering Stage

A professional mastering engineer is the core of modern music. The track you hear on your radio wouldn’t be possible without these mastering engineers. But what do these masterminds do?

The mastering stage comes after the mixing stage. A track is made playback ready for different playback systems. Without this step, the song won’t be compatible with all devices.

Mixing Engineer vs. Mastering Engineer

Both these professionals work in the final stages of production. But there is a noticeable difference.

Mixing engineers have to make sure all the songs work together in complete sync. First, however, a mastering engineer makes the track fit for playback.

  • Job Description: Professional Mixing Engineers

A mix engineer works in the initial stages of post-production. All the fine-tuning and the minor tweaks to bring all the components of the song together are done at this stage.

Every beat drop that needs to be emphasized every high and every low note is adjusted here. But the work isn’t complete here.

  • Job Description: Professional Mastering Engineer

No matter how hard a team works, there are always some things that you overlook. This is where a mastering engineer has his work cut out for him.

The mastering engineer takes the finished mix and has the final chance to catch mistakes before the song goes live. The song you hear over YouTube, Spotify, or other third-party apps is the version the mixing and mastering engineer has put finishing touches on.

Things You Should Know: Mixing and Mastering Process

There is a lot of misinformation around the post-production process. But don’t worry; in this article, we’ll help you figure out the terminology artists use. You’ll be a pro in no time.

  1. Music Composition

Music composition is the first step an artist takes towards creating a new song. The original piece of music played over an instrument, or simple vocals make up the composition phase.

This initial tune played over an instrument is then recorded in multiple tracks and has vocals and lyrics added to it. Finally, after making final adjustments, it reaches post-production before being released.

  1. Stereo Mix/Stereo File

Stereo file or stereo mix is what mix engineers send over to the post-production mastering team. The mastering engineers work together to improve.

The final mastered file makes it to our radios.

  1. Stereo Enhancement

This is a critical part of the master process. But, first, you need to know the proper techniques. Using too many irrelevant plug-ins can turn the entire mix into a disaster in a matter of minutes.

  1. Dynamic Range

The simple description is the quietest and the loudest song sounds you hear on instruments. Everything else that falls between this entire frequency spectrum is the dynamic range.

Don’t confuse this term with the frequency spectrum; there are just some minor fundamental differences between the two.

  1. Frequency Spectrum

The audio spectrum humans have ever heard falls in the range of 20Hz-20,000Hz. Therefore, the music we hear is also within this range so we can enjoy it.

  1. Reverb

Reverbing sound is an excellent way to emphasize some parts of your song. There’s not much that goes wrong with reverbing your mix. The final product will sound great if the techniques are done right.

  1. Different Playback Systems

How you access individual songs is through software. This is a playback system, and for every user, this might be a different interface. The mix phase and master phase ensure the compatibility of a song to all possible music players.

Mixing vs Mastering: Final Thoughts

All those chasing a mix engineer or mastering engineer career need to know the key differences between these technical terms. Knowing every little detail that improves the overall balance of the song Will be the difference between a good job and a total disaster.

Through this article, we’ve established all the effort that goes into making a song sound perfect. Every minor tweak that goes behind an individual track on studio monitors right up to the final stage of production makes a difference.

There’s a lot of teamwork required to release one song, let alone a full album. So it is needless to say that the people making all this happen up to the final step go highly underappreciated.

A huge shout out to all the mix and master engineers out there.