If you are into sound recording and engineering, you would probably have already realized how important it is to mix and master music. Without these techniques, the very best songs would be hard to listen to and would not have the same effect.
But there are music creators who may not realize the importance of professionally mixing and mastering music, and that it is no simple feat. It requires professionally-trained audio engineers who know how to tweak multi-tracks so the resulting sound is harmonious and enhances the tone and message of the complete piece of music. Below are some details to help you better understand mixing and mastering music and why it is important.
What does it mean to Mix and Master Music?
The main goal of mixing and mastering music professionally is to bring out the best in your multi-track recordings. The concept of multi-tracking revolutionized the music industry when it was introduced in the 1950s by Ross Snyder of the company Ampex and popularized by electric guitar pioneer Les Paul. It involves recording each instrument separately then combining the individual tracks (also called stems) to create one uniform piece of music.
Before that, to record a song, all the musicians and vocalists had to be in the same room together for the entire composition to be captured at once. As you can imagine, this was often impractical and required all the musicians to be near-perfect every time when playing their instruments.
With multi-track recordings, different musicians such as guitarists, pianists, drummers and vocalists, could record their part at their own convenience, then send it to the studio to be combined with other parts to create a single recording. This is where the mixing part comes in. Because the individual tracks are recorded under different conditions, the quality, tone, timbre, etc. of each might be out of sync. As a result, mixing engineers are tasked with putting the individual tracks together (mixing) and adjusting the volumes of each so they are in harmony. This is how all popular music is created nowadays.
Of course, the process is not as simple as that. There are many other techniques that are included in mixing, such as: Panning: A balancing act that determines where on the stereo spectrum (left or right) an instrument sound will be placed. Adding effects: Sound features such as reverb, compression, and delay are added to tracks to make them sound more full and compelling, bringing the sounds to life. EQing: Another balancing act that is necessary to prevent a "muddy" sound when individual tracks are layered onto each other. It involves placing each instrument track on their correct audio frequency, so lows, highs, and mids are represented accordingly while maintaining clarity. Automating: A programming technique that ensures certain effects and sound features appear where they are supposed to each time the recording is played back.
And that’s not all there is to mixing. You could easily fill an entire book on the topic. That is why it is not recommended to mix your own songs if you are not a trained audio engineer. It is best to leave it up to the professionals at a reputable music production source. With that said, if you are looking to create a song with a clean, professional sound, you may consider contacting Tunedly for a free consultation.
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Once tracks are combined into a decent mix-down, the next step is to master your music. The mix-down is nothing but the final mix that you get after you perform a multi-track recording and mix the stems into one audio file as described above.
When it comes onto mastering, this is where the sound profile of the complete mixed track gets polished. Mastering is a highly important final step and involves tweaking equalized levels and compressing tracks to deliver the cleanest listening experience, regardless of what device the listener will be using to play the track. A mix that is not mastered properly, or at all, may sound great coming through computer speakers but crappy when played back through a stereo player. Additionally, if you are a songwriter who is looking to pitch songs to artists or publishers, a song that is not mastered will not be able to compete against others that are, even if it has better lyrics. So, mastering is all about giving the piece of music a clean, appealing sound.
Again, it is better to get in touch with pro audio engineers to mix and master your music if you plan to create music for public consumption. However, if you still want to try out mixing your music yourself, here are some basic tips to keep in mind:
- Pick the right software
There are hundreds of DAW (digital audio workstations) available on the market today and they are not all created equal. Choosing a DAW with which you are comfortable is very important, so it is a good idea to try out several before settling. Many offer free trials for just this purpose. Experts in the sound engineering field usually figure out the one they are most comfortable with and stick to that one particular DAW. They then study it extensively over the years and, ultimately, go on to understand the software completely and how to get the best results.
- Set up an audio mixing session
Not sure how to get started with mixing music? There are plenty of templates available in most DAWs that you can use for experimental sessions. If you want to set up a customized session, be sure to color code tracks by type of instrument, vocals and so forth. Keep instruments which depend heavily on each other in close proximity to each other; e.g. bass guitar with drums, or lead vocals with background vocals.
- The channel name is very important
Even though this sounds very simple, it is very important. Never name your tracks using phrases such as "Audio track 10," for instance. After a few months, you will forget what the audio file was about. If you want to remix your song or make changes to a particular instrument track, you're stuck with having to play each channel to find out where the instrument you are looking for is located. To prevent this, always give your stems meaningful titles such as "Lead Vox 1," "Left Acoustic Guitar," etc.
Regardless of the quality and clarity of your recording equipment, a music track simply won’t sound as astounding as it should without proper mixing and mastering of your music. Here, at Tunedly, we are able to connect you with trained and qualified mixing and mastering pros who will help you to create songs that are of industry quality.
WE ARE MORE THAN A MUSIC PRODUCTION SOURCE. TUNEDLY ALSO OFFERS PUBLISHING OPPORTUNITIES, AND MORE. SIGN UP NOW TO DISCOVER ALL OUR BENEFITS.