Mixing And Mastering
This is audio engineering. When a recording is made, each element will be recorded as its own individual part. These parts will then need ‘balancing’ correctly, individually and collectively to make the final product. This is known as mixing or mix down. Not to be confused with what DJ’s refer to as mixing, which is blending two finished tracks together seamlessly during their live performances. To balance the parts together, a combination of EQ (tone adjustments), audio compression (dynamic adjustment), volume and other effects are used to achieve this. Mixing in this way is fundamental to creating the finished product.
The amount of time spent on a mix will come down to four things
• The number and type of instruments recorded (including layered parts).
• How many songs have been recorded.
• How polished the final results need to be.
• How much professional editing and added production is required to achieve the desired results.
The number and type of instruments recorded
Obviously the more instruments there are, the more balancing and time will be required.
How many songs have been recorded
The first track will take the longest to mix as all the instruments need to be set up and balanced. Further tracks will take less time, as they will have similar settings if recorded at the same time.
How polished the final results need to be.
This really comes down to budget, style of music and what the song is for. Commercially released music has many layers of instruments recorded that are mixed in the background at low levels to give the track a fuller, fatter, wider and warmer sound. All these layers need mixing if they’ve been recorded. It’s a production decision that the artist will have already made, mainly during the recording phase.
A rock band may have very little of these extra recordings (or not), where as a commercial pop track may have many more (or not). If you want your band to sound like it does live, then not much layering will have been recorded. If you want to compete with tracks in the charts, then these layers may be substantial.
How much professional editing and added production is required
Professional editing techniques can be used, and are used in all commercial tracks, to make the recording as near to perfect as required. During the mixing phase, all the professional editing techniques are employed where needed. Tracks that are released commercially have had many hours or even days spent employing these techniques to get them to sound like they do.
Typical mixing times (for a 4 minute track) can be from as little as 60 minutes for a decent mix of a four piece band or as long two days for a very complex, perfectly edited and polished commercial track.
In the studio you record one song at a time, resulting in songs that all peak at different levels and have different tone balances. Mastering can unify your album with skillful use of EQ, gain, and compression to give it a consistent sound from track to track. This process also allows the overall volume of the album or track to pump up, so it’s as hot as required and make it sound unbelievable on all speaker systems.
Mastering is a fundamental engineering procedure applied to the entire track after final mix down. It will:
- Raise the overall level to match other commercially released tracks.
- Even out song levels and EQ individual tracks for cohesion together on an album.
- Correct minor mix deficiencies with equalization and compression.
- Enhance flow by changing the space between tracks.
- Eliminate noises between tracks.
- Make your music sound great on any sound system and headphones.
- Add your ISRC codes.
Typical mastering times are 30 to 120 minutes per track.