How to Mix and Mastering?

How to Mix and Mastering?

Mixing and Mastering are two essential components of professional production. Do you have a home studio and want to record your own instruments like guitar, piano or drums to make a great piece? This article gives you all the information about mixing and mastering you need to produce your own piece!

Why is Good Mixing and Mastering Necessary?

First of all, let's start by explaining what exactly you mean by mixing and mastering. The first term is mixing; It means the process of bringing together multiple layers of sound to form a final piece, or musically editing an existing piece. The second term refers to the process of optimizing the final track using a wide variety of different mastering elements such as mastering, compression, equalization, stereo enhancement and others.

In this article, we'll spend a little more time mastering and explain the various mastering processes such as compression and EQ. Now, let's take as an example a friend who is into music, he is recording a piece in his home studio. He records guitar, piano and drums using the digital condenser USB microphone on different tracks in my sequencer software Cubase.

When I simply stacked the tracks and played the song, the sound was flat and definitely not dynamic. What he can do now is mix. For example, it can change the volume of the sound track at a certain point to make the guitar stand out much more clearly at a given moment. This means mixing the track, layering the sound, and determining the volume. At the same time, unwanted noise and clicks are eliminated during the mixing stage.

Now, the song will sound much better, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Now it's time for mastering. With the mastering of the piece, indeed, a piece can be brought to life and tone color joins. You can make the drums much more dynamic, the guitar sound more or less sharp, and the piano much softer, and if there is no bass you may want to raise the bass frequencies of the piano a little higher.

How is mixing and mastering done?

Compression and Compression Techniques

Most of you probably already know what compression is. However, most of you are probably not using it properly. Voice Agency Compression of the dynamic range of sound is a common thing and is used quite a lot in every modern piece of music. Compression ensures that the sound is not interrupted: it ensures that the sound does not exceed the decibel limits, thus ensuring that the sound, in its simplest form, is not too loud.

Now, how it works can be explained as follows: if the recorded sound is too loud and exceeds the decibel limits, the compressor takes the extremes of the sound and compresses it so that it does not stay within the limits and therefore not too loud. But, on the other hand, it also picks up the softest parts of a piece and amplifies the frequencies. As a result, you have an average waveform part, with the soft parts amplified and the loud parts reduced in both frequency and volume.

The problem with compression is that a lot of people these days don't really know how to work with it. If someone simply places the compressor on the part, everything will stay within the volume decibel limits. However, it will indeed thicken the sound and destroy the spirit and dynamics of the music.

For example, if someone is playing a really emotional part on the guitar and then has a louder part at the end, the compressor will make the first part louder so that everything is at the common average decibel level. This will take away the feeling inside the sound and therefore the compression needs to be reduced. In modern music, many albums are quite loud and not dynamic: it's called the Noise War. These days, it seems like more and more people are trying to put as many decibels in dynamic range as they can. This often results in the appearance of insensitive, non-dynamic parts.   

There are many different types of compressors, both physical and virtual compressors. Virtual compressors are becoming more and more popular these days because they are much more flexible and do not need the physical space inside a studio. It is also much more dynamic to work with them as they are much faster. Different compressors have different characteristics of musical sounds and different timbres. Examples of the most famous compressors are the VC 76 FET compressor, which produces a powerful sound, and the VC 2A Electro optical compressor, which produces a very soft and warm sound.  Compressor selection is personal and fortunately there are many compressors available today that serve different purposes..

Now that you know a little about the compressor, let's take a look at some compression techniques. In fact, there is a session right here on Audiotuts+ about compression techniques. This incredibly useful session presents a number of different techniques on how to efficiently add compression to your piece. Also, be sure to find as many resources as possible, such as (e-)books and other websites, to gain more experience with compression.

Equalization

Equalization is to amplify the specific frequencies of a sound. Two examples of EQ interfaces in Cubase are:

You can amplify a custom frequency using a slider in the first image. In the second image you get a virtual representation of all frequencies. Now, EQ is much easier to understand. For example, when you record a track with a bass drum, you don't want a very thin sound and you want it to have relatively more base frequencies. With EQ you can amplify the bass frequencies, mostly between 100 and 300 Hz for the bass drum, so you can get the sound you want. EQ lets you get the perfect sound for an instrument, and often all instruments are equalized during recording.

Additional Effects

Apart from the two most important aspects of compression and equalization, there are many more effects that will add color to your piece and make the most of the sound. Here are some effects to get you started.

Stereo Boost

Stereo amplification is pretty straightforward. Normally, music or sound is played through two or more speakers. Most computer speakers and all headphones have speakers and they are stereo. The stereo amplifier simply distributes the sound to the two speakers so that no more sound comes from one side. This gives the piece a natural effect, like humans have two ears.

There are also stereo amplifiers that allow amplification for 5.1 surround sound. You can play with different settings such as width, delay and color.

Reverb (Depth)

Echo is simply echo. When you apply an echo to an audio track, an echo occurs. This results in a much more realistic sound. Especially test models made with virtual instruments make extensive use of reverb, because a virtual instrument often sounds rather dry.

However, echoes can also be applied to live recorded tracks. This will add a warmer and more natural feel to the piece, but still, as with the other topics we talk about in this article, you really need to know how to work with echo and make sure you don't apply too much. On the other hand, different instruments need different echo times.

Additional Additional Effects

Now, I'm not going to talk about all the additional effects right now because there are TOO MUCH. The main ones are sound suppressors, amplifiers (usually for guitars), tuners, and others. Just go through the software's list of effects and you'll see there are plenty of effects to spice up your track.

Result: Mastering the Mix

Finally, I want to talk about the essence of mixing and mastering. Composition is a specialized subject of producing music, as are instrumentation and notation. Just like composing and notating music, mixing and mastering requires extensive knowledge and experience.

Although a bit of it sounds pretty right from the start after placing the elements, many people make the mistake of not making any improvements from now on. In fact, there are quite a few improvements you can make with effects such as compression, EQ, reverb, and add-on effects. Just make sure you don't reproduce the track until you get the final sound you want.

Thank you for reading this article and we really hope we inspired you to get creative with mixing and mastering.

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