What can you expect from a mix or a mastering?
At first glance, mixing may seem simple, but it's not enough to sit in front of your computer and click on a few plugins to get a professional mix. This requires experience, talent, and sometimes specific equipment. The mixing stage is of crucial importance for the final rendering, don't forget it! Even an excellent mastering will not be able to catch up with an average mix, because it does not allow you to do the same thing...
During mixing, the audio engineer usually has separate tracks (one track for the kick, one track for the snare, one track for the bass, etc.). His work therefore consists in applying different sound treatments on each track in order to give them coherence, and to go in the direction of the emotions that the song carries.
The treatments available to the audio engineer are varied, but they can be grouped into 4 main categories:
- - dynamic treatments (compressor, gate, expander, etc.)
- - frquency treatments (different kind of equalizer : band-pass, shelves, paramétrics, etc.)
- - time treatments (reverb, delay, echo, flanger, etc.)
- - "special" treatments (tape emulators, saturators, harmonics generators, etc.)
During a mix, there is therefore an immense latitude to make sound modifications on a track without impacting the others. For example, you can influence the "punch" of the snare, the presence of the voice, the dimension that a violin will take when it reaches the chorus, add roundness to the bass, etc. The possibilities are almost limitless.
These last examples are adjustments that can be requested from a audio engineer during a review, at the mixing stage.
In mastering, the audio engineer has the result of the mixing, most often in the music industry, a stereo track. His work consists of a finalising the sound rendering of the song, by applying audio treatments to all the elements that compose it.
The treatments used are the same as for mixing, but generally applied in a much finer way.
The working latitude is very different from the mixing stage. For example, you can influence the fact that the track lacks bass in general, whether its final volume is too high or too low, the rendering more or less compressed, to spatialize slightly more, or even to act on its homogeneity with other tracks if it is within the mastering of an EP or an album.
Thanks to well mastered processing, it is sometimes possible to put more emphasis on certain instruments or the voice, but this remains limited. It is therefore necessary to realize the limited working latitude that is offered by mastering (even if the before/after difference seems sometimes huge - especially due to the volume that often gains many decibels), and not to expect the audio engineer to make settings impossible to apply (ex: make the kick more percussive but keep the bass as it is, add spatialization only on the voice, etc.).
Mixing and mastering are therefore two essential steps to obtain a good quality final result for your music. Each has its own particularities, possibilities, specificities, and it is important to understand them to know what to expect when you launch a project on Moja-audio.