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How to Make Good Music

Mastering Vs Mixing What Is the Difference?

man mastering production music - Mastering vs mixing
man mastering production music - Mastering vs mixing
man mastering production music - Mastering vs mixing

June 26th, 2024

Arib Khan

Are you struggling to create music that sounds polished and professional? Mastering vs Mixing is a critical aspect of music production that can make or break your songs. Learning the differences between mastering and mixing is essential to creating great music. We will teach you how to make good music.

Table Of Contents


What is Mixing? 



Imagine you are a chef preparing a complex dish with various ingredients. Each ingredient contributes unique flavor, texture, and aroma to the final creation. However, the true magic lies in blending these components in precise proportions to create a harmonious and delightful dish. The same concept applies to mixing in music production.

Mixing is the art of shaping individual recorded tracks (instruments, vocals) to create a cohesive and balanced overall sound within a song. Each track is like an ingredient in a recipe, and mixing involves combining them in the right proportions and with the right techniques to achieve a harmonious result. Just as a chef balances salt, sweet, sour, and umami flavors in a dish, a mixing engineer balances volume, tonal characteristics, spatial positioning, and effects in a mix.

How Mixing Engineers Achieve Balance


Let’s explore how mixing engineers achieve balance in a mix through various techniques. 

1. Level Control


Adjusting the volume of each track to create a hierarchy of prominence, such as putting lead vocals upfront and letting drums provide a solid foundation.   

2. EQ (Equalization)


Sculpting the tonal characteristics of each track to avoid unwanted frequencies clashing and ensure clarity, such as reducing muddiness in the low-end of guitars or boosting the high frequencies of vocals for more presence.

3. Panning


Instruments should be placed within the stereo field (left to right) to create a sense of space and separation. For example, a drummer should be panned slightly left and a guitarist slightly right for a wider soundstage.

4. Effects Processing


Using tools like reverb, delay, and chorus to add depth, dimension, and creative flair to individual tracks.

Step-by-Step Guide to Mixing


Let's break down the mixing process into a series of manageable steps, elaborating on each one:

1. Importing and Organizing All Recorded Tracks


Label tracks clearly, color-code them for easy identification, and organize them logically within your Digital Audio Workstation (DAW).

2. Setting Levels and Panning Instruments for Initial Placement


Start with a rough balance by adjusting the volume of each track and using panning to create a basic stereo image.

3. Using EQ to Sculpt the Tonal Balance of Each Track


Use EQs surgically to address specific frequencies in each instrument. For example, taming harshness in a cymbal or adding warmth to a bass guitar.

4. Employing Compression to Control Dynamics


Compressors help manage the dynamic range of a track, preventing sudden volume spikes and bringing quieter sections forward for a more consistent sound.

5. Adding Effects for Creative Enhancement


Experiment with effects like reverb, delay, and chorus to add depth, space, and texture to individual tracks.

6. Automating Effects and Parameters


Automation allows you to create dynamic changes within the mix. For instance, you can
gradually increase the reverb on vocals during a chorus section for added impact.

7. A/B Referencing Your Mix with Professional Tracks


Regularly compare your mix to professionally mixed and mastered songs in various genres to identify areas for improvement and ensure your mix translates well.

8. Making Final Adjustments


Make subtle tweaks based on your A/B referencing and listening fatigue to achieve a clear, balanced, and emotionally impactful final mix.

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What is Mastering?


woman editing on computer - Mastering vs mixing


Mastering is the final stage of audio preparation before distribution. It focuses on refining the overall sound quality of a complete mix, ensuring consistency across an album or collection of songs, and preparing the audio for playback on various platforms. Mastering engineers typically work with a stereo file, the final mix, rather than individual tracks. 

Step-by-Step Guide to Mastering

Importing the final mix


Begin by importing the completed mix into your mastering software or DAW. This step sets the stage for the rest of the mastering process. 

Using EQ to address tonal imbalances


Use EQ subtly to address any major tonal issues in the overall mix. Adjustments can include reducing excessive brightness or adding a presence in the low end. 

Employing compression subtly


Mastering compression is used carefully to gently increase the overall level of the track without introducing distortion. Compression is also utilized to control dynamics effectively. 

Utilizing a limiter for final-level optimization


A limiter serves as a safety net, preventing the audio from exceeding digital limits and causing clipping, which leads to unpleasant distortion. 

Applying stereo imaging processors


While optional, stereo imaging processors can enhance the perceived width of the stereo image. It is crucial to use these processors cautiously to avoid creating an unnatural sound. 

Mastering is the final touch in the music production process. Mastering engineers work with a complete mix to improve sound quality, ensure consistency across tracks, and prepare the audio for distribution. While mastering is optional, it can significantly enhance the overall listening experience of your music.

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Key Differences Between Mixing and Mastering


person working hard - Mastering vs mixing


In the world of audio production, the key distinctions between mixing and mastering revolve around their processing focus. When mixing a track, the primary objective is to enhance the tonal characteristics of individual elements of the song. This is achieved using tools like EQ, compression, and effects processors such as reverb, delay, and chorus. 

The goal is to ensure every instrument has space within the mix and harmoniously contributes to the overall sonic picture. 

On the other hand, mastering is all about polishing the overall sound quality of the completed mix. The mastering process involves subtle adjustments using EQ and compression to address broad tonal issues or dynamic inconsistencies across the mix. While mixing delves into the details of individual tracks to shape their tonal characteristics, mastering focuses on ensuring the entire mix sounds balanced and translates well across various listening environments.

Stage in Production: Mixing vs Mastering


Another important point of differentiation is the stage at which mixing and mastering occur. Mixing typically occurs after recording and editing a song's individual tracks. During this stage, the elements of the song are brought together, and the mix is sculpted to work as a cohesive unit. 

Mastering is the final step before music distribution. Once the mix is finalized and the artist is satisfied, the track is sent for mastering to ensure it sounds professional and competitive alongside other commercially released music.

Tools and Techniques: Mixing vs. Mastering


The tools and techniques of mixing and mastering also distinguish the two processes. Mixing utilizes tools like EQ, compressor, reverb, delay, chorus, and panning to shape individual tracks' tonal characteristics and spatial placement. 

Mastering involves subtle EQ adjustments, careful compression application, the use of a limiter to prevent clipping, and optional stereo imaging processors to enhance the perceived width of the stereo image.

Overall Goals: Mixing vs. Mastering


The goals of mixing and mastering are also distinct. Mixing aims to achieve a clear, balanced, and emotionally impactful final mix where each instrument has its space and seamlessly contributes to the sonic experience. 

Mastering focuses on polishing the overall sound quality of the mix, ensuring consistency across an album or collection of songs, and preparing the audio for successful distribution on various platforms.

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Musicfy’s AI Music generator. The tool enables you to create your own voice clone; you can create AI music with AI voices so that your song is free from being copyrighted - with zero royalties (Musicfy uses a custom AI model that combines two different voices to create a completely unique voice that no other human has. 

This protects Musicfy users from copyright laws). Musicfy also has a flagship feature that allows you to create the sound of an instrument with your voice (voice to instrument - create the sound of a guitar and get the exact guitar sound created for you in seconds)

The biggest feature is text-to-music. It enables you to describe a style of music and instrumentals and use AI to create the entire song in seconds - from voice to beat to everything that makes up a song! Musicfy uses an AI voice generator to create the sound of an instrument with your voice. Use Musicfy's AI voice generator for free today!

Benefits of Professional Mixing and Mastering


man in his home studio - Mastering vs mixing


Experienced Ears


Professional mixing and mastering engineers possess trained ears and extensive experience achieving a polished, commercially viable sound. Their discerning ears can pick up on subtle imperfections that may go unnoticed by untrained listeners.

Sound Balance


These experts excel at balancing the various elements of a track, ensuring that vocals, instruments, and effects complement each other harmoniously.

Problem Detection


Experienced engineers can swiftly identify and correct issues such as phase problems, frequency clashes, and undesirable noise, which could detract from the overall sound quality.

Genre-Specific Knowledge


Understanding the sonic characteristics expected in different genres enables professional engineers to tailor the mixing and mastering process to meet specific industry standards and listener expectations. 

High-Quality Equipment


Utilizing high-quality studio equipment and calibrated monitoring systems helps ensure accurate decisions during the mixing and mastering process. This includes state-of-the-art audio interfaces, analog and digital processors, and high-end software plugins.

Precise Mixing and Mastering


Studio engineers rely on meticulously calibrated monitors in acoustically treated rooms to make precise decisions during the mixing and mastering. This provides an unbiased listening environment crucial for achieving top-quality outcomes.

Superior Equipment


Their equipment comprises exclusive hardware like compressors, equalizers, and reverb units that enable them to produce intricate and multidimensional sounds beyond what can be achieved with standard consumer-grade gear.

Specialized Techniques


Professionals possess advanced skills and techniques for maximizing the sonic potential of your music, ensuring it translates well across different listening environments. Their expertise can distinguish between a good mix and a great one.

Mixing and Mastering for Different Platforms


man playing new and modern music - Mastering vs mixing


Streaming Services


When mixing and mastering audio for streaming platforms, it's crucial to consider the specific loudness normalization standards each service may have in place. This ensures that your music doesn't sound excessively loud or quiet compared to other tracks on the platform. By working with a mastering engineer familiar with these standards, you can achieve a balanced and consistent sound across various streaming services. 

Vinyl Records


Mastering audio for vinyl records requires a different approach due to the format's physical limitations. Vinyl has a narrower dynamic range than digital formats, so mastering engineers must carefully optimize the audio to fit these constraints. This includes managing the overall levels, frequencies, and stereo image to prevent issues like skipping or distortion during playback. 

Musicfy’s AI Voice Generator


Musicfy’s AI Music generator. The tool enables you to create your own voice clone. You can create AI music with AI voices so that your song is free from copyright—with zero royalties. Musicfy uses a custom AI model combining two different voices to create a unique voice that no other human has. 

This protects Musicfy users from copyright laws and discusses the biggest feature: text-to-music. It enables you to describe a style of music and instrumentals and use AI to create the entire song in seconds, from voice to beat to everything that makes up a song! 

Musicfy also has a flagship feature that allows you to create the sound of an instrument with your voice (instrument voice - create the sound of a guitar and get the exact guitar sound created for you in seconds). Use Musicfy’s AI voice generator for free today!

Finding the Right Mixing and Mastering Engineer


mixing engineer working with new music - Mastering vs mixing


Experience and genre expertise


Look for engineers with experience in your specific genre of music. Their familiarity with its sonic characteristics will ensure they can achieve a sound that aligns with your musical vision.

Portfolio


Listen to the engineer's portfolio of past work. This will give you a sense of their style, sonic preferences, and overall quality of their work.

Budget: 

Mixing and mastering services can cost differently depending on the engineer's experience and the complexity of your project. Determine your budget beforehand and find an engineer who meets your needs.

Client testimonials


Review reviews and testimonials from previous clients to understand the engineer's work
ethic, communication style, and overall client satisfaction.

Online platforms and communities


Consider online platforms and communities where you can connect with audio professionals. Many freelance websites and music production forums allow you to browse profiles, contact engineers directly, and potentially negotiate project rates.

Create Viral Music In Seconds For Free with Musicfy's AI Music Generator


Musicfy’s enhanced AI music generator transforms the landscape of music creation. With Musicfy, you have the power to create your own voice clone, enabling you to generate AI music with AI voices and ensuring that your song is free from being copyrighted - with zero royalties. 

This cutting-edge tool uses a custom AI model combining two different voices to create a unique voice that no other human has. This unique feature protects Musicfy users from the complexities of copyright laws, giving them the freedom to create without constraints.

Voice to Instrument: Create the Sound of an Instrument with Your Voice


One of Musicfy's flagship features is the ability to create the sound of an instrument with your voice. You can get the exact guitar or any other instrumental sound created in seconds by transforming your voice into various musical instrument sounds. This enhanced feature allows artists to experiment with different instrument sounds without the need for actual instruments, opening up a realm of possibilities for musical creativity.

Text-to-Music: Describe a Style of Music and Instrumentals to Create the Entire Song in Seconds


The most groundbreaking feature of Musicfy is the text-to-music function. This feature allows you to describe a style of music and instrumentals and use AI to create the entire song in seconds. 

Musicfy's text-to-music feature streamlines the music creation process like never before, from voice to beat to everything that makes up a song. With this cutting-edge technology, artists can bring their musical visions to life with unparalleled speed and efficiency.

Musicfy's AI music generator is a game-changer for musicians and creators looking to navigate the complexities of the music industry. With features like voice cloning, voice-to-instrument, and text-to-music, Musicfy empowers artists to unleash their creativity and produce high-quality, original music without the hassle of copyright restrictions. 

Embark on your music creation journey with Musicfy's AI voice generator for free today and experience the future of music production firsthand.

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Arib Khan

Author

Arib Khan, Founder of Musicfy

Arib Khan has been featured on Business Insider, VICE, and more. His passion and drive to help musicians is unbounded. He is on a mission to help anyone, from all walks of life, to create music with ease using AI.

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Use AI to create music with your voice and Leverage the latest in AI technology to supercharge your music.

Use AI to create music with your voice and Leverage the latest in AI technology to supercharge your music.

Use AI to create music with your voice and Leverage the latest in AI technology to supercharge your music.

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