Mixing and mastering are two significant procedures, which polishes a track and prepares it for a launch in the commercial market. Being extensive, tedious and time-consuming; both these processes need dedication, patience, hard work, competence and utmost professionalism. It is due to this reason that artists are often advised to send their tracks to experienced audio engineers, where they can get mixed and mastered.
But, a large number of contemporary musicians in an attempt to save money disregarded this instruction and indulged in the procedures on their own. They did suffer because the tracks never turned out to be seamless and pleasing. What could be the reason behind this? Do you think that they lacked the basic expertise? But isn’t it possible to cultivate the necessary skills through practice? So, is there any other reason? Of course. The professional audio engineers make use of advanced paraphernalia in an acoustically treated studio for the job that plays a significant role in churning out success.
In the following discussion, I am going to talk about some of the essential tools that reputed sound engineers use for mixing and mastering. Let us take a look at them as they are mentioned below in brief:
- The foremost goal of mixing and professional audio mastering is to make a record ready so that it can keep its quality on all the devices it is played, starting from music systems to earphones. Well, to achieve this feat, you would require monitors that show poorly done stereo imaging, an uneven frequency response and other kinds of issues in details so that they can be got rid of.
- The most critical equipment to be used in the processes is an EQ (equalisation) device. It is primarily used to end all sorts of phase distortions, which are generally caused by time delays between each track or at the beginning and at the end of the track. EQ is noted for maintaining the transients and waveforms in a song quite accurately.
- Compressors are mainly used for regulating the groove in the track. The entire process of compression is aimed to either smoothen out or emphasise the basic punches kicks, and pumps in the song. You must choose a compressor carefully for there are some that go well with faster tracks while there are others that are ideal for slow songs.
- The multiband dynamics are tools that are utilised to compress as well as limit different frequency levels in a song. This equipment is essential for it can amend a bad mix by controlling the bass, reducing the harshness, highlighting the vocals and fixing other impediments.
Apart from the aforementioned four, one would need signal analysers, processor and a variety of other stereo tools for getting done with affordable mixing and mastering services. These are key facets that offer a record with the necessary sparkle and make it melodious and sweet-sounding.
A large number of musicians in the modern era tend to make some common mistakes while mixing and mastering their recorded tracks. They must realise that the two mentioned procedures are extremely significant and hence not performing them properly would most surely affect your work and that too in the adverse ways.
If you desire your music album to please the listeners and do remarkable business in the commercial market, you need to choose an audio engineer carefully and avoid the slip-ups mentioned below in brief.
The Don’ts of Mixing and Mastering
- Hiring your friend for the process of online mixing and mastering is not at all a viable solution. If he does not have the proper experience and tools, he is most certainly going to destroy your records. It is significant to contact someone professional, who understands the necessary changes that are to be made so that the records sound great when launched in the market.
- If you think that you would be able to indulge in the process on your own, you are surely wrong. Just because you have recorded the songs and instruments properly does not mean that you would be able to mix and master it. There are many examples, where an artist has generated disastrous results while mixing and mastering a song on his own. A professional audio engineer is trained in the process. He has the necessary skills, gears, a proper studio to prepare the songs for the market.
- Choosing a random engineer would be a blunder. You should conduct a thorough research, in order to detect the capabilities of varied experts out there. An ideal engineer would have certain samples on their site so that you can form an opinion about their work. You could also visit the testimonial section to view the customer reviews. Taking help from a veteran musician is also a good idea. He would be able to offer some valuable advice on hiring a mixing and mastering professional.
- Hiring an audio engineer just because he is offering affordable mixing and mastering services would be unwise. Things that come with a low price tag catch our attention readily. However, before making the purchase, we ought to give a thought about the quality of the products. The same rule applies while you look for the services of an audio engineer. You wouldn’t want to comprise the standard of the tracks only to save some money, would you? That would be the perfect example of ‘penny wise, pound foolish.’
So, keep the aforementioned points in mind and try to avoid them while getting your songs mixed and mastered.
The sternest challenge for an independent artist arrives when their work has to compete with big-budget music albums of eminent performers. Although fabricating a track seem like a simple task, making the sound quality of that particular song as good and reliable as the other releases are not that easy. This difficult endeavour is successfully managed by competent sound engineers through certain exceptional techniques. In the following discussion, we would explore a few of those methods in details.
- Frequencies- A song is just not made of one component. Several elements work together to form a particular track. Thus, it could be said that each one of them is significant and you cannot offer undue prominence to any one. Competent audio engineers make use of professional mixing and mastering to offer all the tracks with unified frequencies. This means each component of the arrangement is given its suitable space. Make sure that there is no fight of frequencies for it can make the tracks messy. For example, your song comprises two major instruments- keyboards and guitars. If the guitars occupy much of the low-mids, then make sure to push the keyboards towards the higher notes. You must create a hierarchy and clearly state how much audible spectrum would be covered by each instrument.
- Balance- As a musician, you must have a clear understanding of the sound of all your tracks. You could sharpen your comprehension skills by listening to other songs of the same genre. Try to evaluate their balance: how loud are the guitars, drums and keyboards? Are they on the same level with the vocals? Once you have analysed a few of the reference materials, start assessing your own track: how much space does the sound of each instrument occupy? Are they overlapping one another? Are the vocals too quiet? Try to find answers to all these relevant questions and then arrive at a final decision. You need to arrange all the components in such a way that the music album acquires a definite balance. It is not necessary to adhere to the set rules but make sure to do things with acute precision, so that your album could create a buzz in the commercial market.
- Bottom End-The low or bottom end plays a significant part in most of the songs because it is where the entire credibility of a track lies. A song that sounds frail at the end would not be able to compete with the contemporary tracks that make use of online mixing and mastering services. Unless you are into experimental music, every normal song at the low end must have enough clarity so that the kick and bass could have a free movement but any other instrument should not meddle that range. Remove the frequencies of pads, guitars, percussions and any other element that was in the arrangement. Work on kick and bass by reinforcing them and adjusting the EQ.
- Sound Effects- Use the effects much wisely because an excess of it can destroy your entire track. Do not keep on adding reverbs wherever you can. Effects are used to make a stereo mix large. Equalise, filter, tweak and widen them so that they do not make your track sound cheap. At first, learn to control them and then use them in the track subtly.
The aforementioned techniques could make your songs sound professional and allow them to hit the music market with a bang. By following the above methods, your tracks would appeal listeners and sound exceptionally well through all devices starting from loudspeakers to earphones.
Mastering continues to be one of the tantalizing pursuits on which musicians want to be dexterous. With decades and development of technology, the mastering procedure has been the subject to colossal changes that made it further impossible to delineate out a precise learning method. Yes, you can enroll in music mastering course or scour the internet to learn about the steps before mastering your own album but the professionals have spelled out the importance of ‘experience’ in mastering. Without extensive practice, it’s virtually impossible to master the processes, moreover, innate creativity is another prerequisite.
It is truly said mastering is the concoction of science and creativity, technology irrefutably plays an important role but the artistic feel, taste of the person is also crucial. While music is a pure art form, the way instruments resonate and the right application of compression, equalization techniques are deeply rooted in science or better say the understanding and knowledge of these technical forces. Being an enthusiastic musician, you must be eager to explore the art of mastering process but before you start investing your time, it’s important to weigh up the viability of hiring professional mixing and mastering service and learning the skill. As its mentioned earlier music mastering process has undergone myriad of changes let’s have a basic glimpse on them-
Evolution of Audio Mastering
Though the basic work remains the same that is to prep up the album but the methods, related technology and tools have undergone transition. Initially audio mastering was designed to ensure a set of mixes would work impeccably on the vinyl format and in addition to that the music of the album was sometimes be tweaked to make it compatible for radio broadcast that was crucial for the promotion of the artists and the record albums.
In the era of vinyl records, owing to the two sides of the vinyl disc the song order was a cautiously weighted decision. It was important to determine whether the song would belong to side A or B and the total running time, the sequence of the song was decided in several ways specifically considering certain vibe or feeling.
Nowadays, the final mixes need to be sent via a hard drive, data storage device or FTP, no matter whichever media you have chosen be sure it must be on a format on which the mastering engineer can work unhindered. A clearly perceptible sound will help them to discern the flaws existed in the mix. You must be wondering how people in earlier days brought the mix to the mastering studio before the invention of such advanced data transfer procedure, prior the advancement and widespread use of computer, analogue tape was the medium to record and store the final mix. In the era of 80, digital tape took its place; the final mixes were recorded in digital tape in Reel-to-Reel format. The transfer process has been simplified over the decades, a greater part of the final mixes is now sent as digital audio files storing a hard drive and this has significantly eliminated the necessity of analogue to digital conversion. The most remarkable change in mastering technology came with the launch of compact disc in the year 1982; it completely changed the customary mastering techniques. Now with the commence of mastering music online it’s better to discuss with the mastering engineer about his preferred medium or simply follow the instructions mentioned on their website before you send the mix.
Mastering the recorded music is regarded to be the best thing one can perform to enhance the quality of the audio album, it’s the ultimate stage and literary the last opportunity to refine and polish the recording before duplication. The better your album will sound, the better chance it will obtain to gain acclamation from the music critics and aficionados. It’s the fine line between the success and failure of your album; if you are novice this will determine your future in this highly competitive music industry. Mastering denotes to the very procedure that ensures your album will sound clear and consistent in every existing music system.
An Elaborate Study on Music Mastering
The often-misunderstood supposition regarding mastering is the purpose is to make it louder while the true intent of music mastering is to achieve the best possible tonal balance and quality for the album. Contemplate mastering as the process of adding sparkle to your music to make it shine; it ensures that the first song doesn’t blow out the speakers with sudden upsurge while the second song of the album is hardly audible, the level of each song will be same and a general sense of cohesiveness will prevail throughout the recording. Besides rectifying the perceptible differences in volume, mastering is a subjective process.
Mastering was previously referred to the process where the record was being cut by the lathe for copying into vinyl. Online audio mastering service process still entails this procedure but now most of the recordings are replicated on CD or for internet publication. The span of the procedure has also expanded and now it has included several other methods like equalization, compression for balancing tone and stereo enhancement. With the main aim of improving the sonic quality of your album at this step, the level of each song or relative volume is modified, the spectral balance for each cut and overall album is also administered and the dynamic range of the songs is enhanced. Reverb is done to the final mix to render it three-dimensional feeling and correct the mere flat sounding record.Why Trust on a Professional Audio Mastering Engineer?
Why Trust on a Professional Audio Mastering Engineer?
Hopefully, this is enough to make you understand that audio mastering requires exhaustive knowledge and years of experience in this niche. Thanks to the introduction of online affordable music and mastering services, now even the aspiring musicians working with a constricted budget can also have the blissful touch of mastering. Owing to your delinquency or lack of aptitude in the art of mastering, the sound each song may belie and consequentially you may fail to deliver euphonious sound. Thus instead of relying on your little knowledge entitle the responsibility of mastering to professional mixing and mastering services. However, in the search of affordable service don’t settle down for an inexperienced, amateurish mastering engineer. Remember, an incompetent mastering engineer will boost the volume in name of mastering as, to our ear a louder sounding record while playing simultaneously with the original one seems to be more perfect.
Mastering is apparently the optimum and ultimate step to improve mix; it has been rightly acclaimed as the final polish for a song to prepare it for mass consumption. Mixing and mastering both are the basic components of record producing. Mixing being the intermediate step between recording and mastering needs to be executed with utter proficiency. However, the difference between mixing and mastering often remains incomprehensible to the greenhorns.
A Brief Study on Mixing
Mixing denotes the very process where multiple layers of the recorded audio are put together to produce the final track, it also refers to the stage of modifying the existing track. It entails combining and adjusting the individual tracks and producing a stereo audio file. While mixing the recorded song, the mixing engineer tinkers with every component you have recorded like adjusting fader, EQ the tracks, put the drop in effects and so on. It’s all about putting together the recorded parts, ensuring everything is hanged together and putting some finishing touch to refine the songs. To ease the hassles of working with mixing and mastering engineers separately some of the best online mastering service offers both of these services.
It starts by labelling and sorting out the tracks into analogous groups. The song is then normalized to ensure all the tracks are at a similar volume, afterward, each of the songs will be equalized to bring out the finest tones and high and low pass filters will be used to remove any unwanted frequencies. The goal of equalizing is to introduce modifications that enable the tracks to inhabit in their particular frequency areas and make the song clear and each instrument is distinguishable. Moreover, manipulating the fades and effects all through the songs makes it possible to deal with the emotion sonically.
Let’s Have a Quick Glimpse on Mastering
On the other hand, mastering is all about optimizing the overall sound; the process involves optimizing each track of the album or individual track by compressing, making stereo enhancements, equalizing and adjusting the echo or reverberation effect. The primary goal of mastering is to impart a high fidelity, professional sound with high clarity that can be thoroughly enjoyed by the audiences on any source.
Although different programs are out there to make you learn the mastering process but paying for professional mastering service is certainly a good investment, indubitably conducive when you plan to release the recording. The emergence of online mixing and mastering services makes it possible to get the advantage of having professional service within means.
At Red Mastering Studio, we audio master a lot of hip hop music.
Please listen to all the samples below. enjoy!