First things first. No amount of studio mixing and mastering, no matter how great the genius and the controls can substitute the heart, soul and passion that you pour into your music and the unique feeling that such ingredients can evoke. That part is and always will be, down to you. However, what is often misunderstood is the vital role that the correct mixing and mastering of the recorded material can play in ensuring that any given track shines in all the right places.
What is the difference between mixing and mastering?
Mixing involves the blending of multiple audio layers to result in a final track. Essentially the job of the person doing the mixing is to ensure that all components sound good together (i.e. bass, guitar, drums, vocals). This is achieved through a variety of techniques including:
• Adjusting frequencies
• Balancing levels
• Panning the position of instruments in stereo
Mastering involves taking a mixed track or album and preparing it as a finished product. It is mostly about creating the overall sound of the song or album, balancing and enhancing certain components to augment and enhance the overall feel.
Why is professional mixing and mastering so important?
If you want professional sounding music then mixing and mastering, carried out by a professional is arguably 50% of the work in creating a finished product. The first 50% involves writing, learning and recording the material – the rest is achieved by mixing and mastering in the studio. The massive impact of equalizing, panning, drum and vocal compression, stereo imaging/widening and adding effects like delay, reverb and distortion can have on what the song or album sounds like is undeniable. Through the mechanisms of mixing and mastering you will also ensure that your music can be enjoyed fully on all manner of devices, platforms, media formats and speakers.
As people’s attention spans have narrowed it has become increasingly important to grab the attention of the listener before they swipe, click or eject and your art is forgotten. A poorly mixed and mastered song will feel jarring and awkward and this will not be tolerated. The competition for listening time is intense and to beat the competition, or at least join them, you will need to have a finished product that benefits from the myriad techniques deployed by a studio engineer.
Mixing and mastering in the context of Covid-19
With the cycle of lockdown and restrictions that have become part of our daily lives and look set to continue for at least the short term, it is worth noting that remote online mixing and mastering is absolutely possible and the material sent in for this service will benefit from the same techniques, dedication and expertise as if you were in the studio in person. You can simply export and upload your tracks to be sent online for the attention of a studio engineer. Obviously you will want to discuss your budget and vision for your sound, all of which will be taken into account.