What is the Difference Between Mixing and Mastering?

You ’ ve been woodshedding for what seems like everlastingly. You ’ ve written a battalion of songs. You ’ re feel inspired and you want to create and produce your own music. so, where do you start ? After all, audio production is a complicated action. There is a countless of bantam steps involved that can seem intimidating to the uninitiate. That said, it can be broken down into three primary phases : chase, blend, and mastering .

  • Tracking (the technical term for recording) involves capturing sound into your DAW.
  • Mixing involves adjusting and combining individual tracks into a stereo or multichannel format, a.k.a. the mix.
  • Mastering involves processing your mix into its final form so that it’s ready for distribution, which may include transitioning and sequencing the songs.

chase is pretty straightforward, but the line between mixing and mastering frequently becomes blurred. In this article, we ’ re going to clarify that wrinkle .

What Is Mixing?

After you ’ ve finished recording your individual tracks, your undertaking is quick to be mix. While every mix engineer ’ mho work flow is different, a smart first gear step is to organize your tracks. Start by giving each track an enlightening mention. “ Ld Vox ” makes a bunch more sense than something like “ audio_track_14.wav. ” Instantiate profit plug-ins on each track to ensure that they ’ re not excessively forte, not besides easy, and about the same volume. Use your DAW ’ s faders to roughly approximate levels for each path. then, pan each track to create a balance soundstage, while besides giving each element its own spatial placement. Done ? Congratulations ! You ’ ve now created what is known as a approximate mix .
next, use highpass filters, lowpass filters, and EQ to the tracks to carve out space for each element and to establish a tonally poise mix. This game of sonic Tetris ensures that every chase can be heard and that there ’ s an appropriate distribution of energy across the audio spectrum when the tracks are played together. Compressors are employed to manipulate and contain each track ’ s active stove. Additional EQ and compression, vitamin a well as reverb, delay, modulation, saturation, and early creative effects are besides applied to each track ( and can besides be applied to the entire mix, depending on your taste and preferences ).

Throughout the blend process, you ’ ll be editing, adjusting pitch and time, manipulating fades, tweaking track levels, and applying automation when you want your adjustments to occur in substantial meter during playback. It ’ s important that your mix sounds equally capital on a wide crop of playback systems, otherwise it ’ ll sound like gold in your studio apartment but like nails on a blackboard everywhere else. That ’ south why it ’ mho important to audition your blend on headphones, earbuds, and alternate speakers ( your car works great for this ) .
When you ’ ve got everything sounding the way you want, you ’ re officially finished with your mix .

Recommended Mixing Software:


FabFilter Pro-Q 3 EQ and filter circuit board

Waves Renaissance Maxx circuit board pile

solid State Logic SSL Native Essentials circuit board bundle

iZotope Neutron 3 Standard mix suite

What Is Mastering?

When your mix is finished, that ’ s the fourth dimension to shift gears into mastering — the final work that your music undergoes before distribution. Its primary bearing is to polish your blend to its finest display and prepare it for distribution on four hundred, vinyl, or the internet. During mastering, you use linear-phase EQs, compressors, brickwall limiters, and vibe-enhancing effects like character EQs, stereo wideners, and tape impregnation to give your shuffle a radio-friendly strait. sufficient meter is besides critical. Mastering is all about subtlety. If your blend needs to be drastically transformed to make it sound right, you should credibly go back to the mix phase and visualize out what went wrong. Mastering shouldn ’ thymine be about fixing a bad desegregate — quite, it should enhance a good mix !

many engineers like to put mastering effects or processing on their 2-bus while they ’ rhenium desegregate. This is a legitimate way to work, but it ’ s not mastering. Mastering is a separate march with a wholly different goal goal from mixing. When you use 2-bus work while mixing, it ’ s not a separate process ; rather, it ’ second plainly mixing with extra plug-ins on your 2-bus .
away from providing sonic sweeten, dominate is the stage where an album is assembled — putting the songs in the desire club. Adjust the volume of each individual song to achieve a cohesive run. Add spacing and fades to the beginnings and endings of the songs — two seconds is the standard ( but not compulsory ). ultimately, label song names, add UPC/EAN codes, CD Text, and ISRCs .
We normally recommend that you wait for a while after your mix is finished before starting the mastering process — a long as possible. This helps you to regain the perspective and objectivity you ’ ve undoubtedly lost while you were slaving over your blend. Having person else victor your mix is an evening better estimate. even if the person mastering your mix is at the lapp skill grade as you, having that second set of ears is invaluable. That said, we ’ d never tell you not to master your own music !
Want to learn more about mastering ? The subject is explored in more contingent here .

Recommended Mastering Software:


Steinberg WaveLab Elements 10 mastering software

FabFilter Pro-L 2 brickwall limiter circuit board

iZotope Ozone 9 Standard mastering cortege


iZotope Insight 2 Essential meter suite

6 Important Differences Between Mixing and Mastering

  1. Mixing creates a balance between individual elements. It transforms them into a cohesive whole. Mastering takes that whole and gives it a final polish. Consequently, you can create a mix without mastering it, but you can’t master a recording without mixing it first.
  2. Mixing gives you access to every instrument in a song. Need more lead vocal? No problem. While mastering, you only have access to the final mix. This makes altering the balance between individual elements much more difficult.
  3. At both the mixing and mastering stages, you’re striving to achieve balance. The difference is that during mixing you’re balancing individual instruments. During mastering, you’re balancing complete songs and spectral content. Simply put, mixing makes instruments sound good together; mastering makes songs sound good together.
  4. Mixing sessions can be huge. A simple rock or pop arrangement can easily contain 32+ tracks, while complex projects can have track counts in the hundreds. Mastering sessions, on the other hand, typically consist of one stereo or multitrack file per song, or possibly multiple stems.
  5. While mixing, you make lots of adjustments — some quite heavy-handed — to each track. After all, your tweaks only affect that particular element. Mastering is the complete opposite — it uses subtle broad strokes that affect the entire song.
  6. The mixing process is about enhancing the artist’s vision, making sure that the original emotional intent is conveyed. Mastering, on the other hand, is focused on sound quality. It ensures that the song sounds just as good (or better) than everybody else’s.

In Conclusion

Both mix and mastering are complex subjects — in fact, there are entire books devoted to each one ! This article is intended as a fuse for beginners. If you want to learn more about how to mix or master your music, give your Sales Engineer a cry at (800) 222-4700. They will be glad to plowshare their cognition with you, offer informed gear recommendations, and get you on the road to success !