Mixing and Mastering takes your beat to the next level.
It’s all about taking advantage of the full frequency spectrum, as that’s what we’re restricted to as audio engineers, beatmakers, mixing engineers, or mastering engineers.
The full frequency spectrum means 20Hz to 20,000Hz. Lower numbers are lower frequencies, higher numbers are higher frequencies (pitch).
What is Mixing Music?
Mixing can also be termed audio mixing. (As mixing can also mean baking cookies 😁).
Mixing audio is kind of similar to baking, because we combine all of our sounds (ingredients), and we want just the right amount of effects to get a professional mix.
Mixing is when we work on the individual sounds in a song.
In the mixing process, we usually start with volume balancing.
This means adjusting each sound’s volume up or down to get a nice balance of the overall song.
LEARN: How to Use Compression
Best practices of mixing is routing each sound to its own mixer insert, as it gives us FULL CONTROL over a sound.
During the mixing process, mix engineers are often AGGRESSIVE on their settings to get the sound they want. It’s not uncommon to see big cuts and boosts in mixing, like 6dB or more!
When it comes to mastering, settings are VERY different. Mastering is VERY GENTLE, as we are just “fixing” and “enhancing” the song.
Mixing is doing whatever it takes to make the song sound good.
When we talk about mixing plugins, these are audio tools like EQs, Compressors, Reverb, Distortion, and Delays.
Let’s now tackle mastering. If you’re wondering how mixing differs from mastering, it’s a common question brand-new producers have.
To recap – Mixing is working on the individual sounds of a song. If you had a piano, guitar, and a clap, those all get routed to their own mixer insert, where we can adjust volume, or apply effects onto those sounds individually for the MOST CONTROL!
What is Mastering Music?
Mastering audio is the final stage of the song.
Mastering happens on the 2-Bus, other known as the MASTER.
In FL Studio, if you look at the master, you’ll see you have tons of Inserts, but only 1 MASTER channel.
The reason the MASTER is called your 2-Bus (2-Channel) is because it has your LEFT and RIGHT Channels of all audio summed into it!
Again, when in the mixing stage where we’d work on an individual sound like a guitar, we can actually be quite aggressive on plugin settings without it sounding weird (and it often sounds good!)
But because all audio is routed to the MASTER Channel, it’s very easy to wreck our mix if too aggressive on mastering settings!!
For example, a 2dB boost or cut on an EQ is A LOT in mastering. A movement of 0.5dB is getting into medium adjustment territory!
We also use audio tools like EQ, Compression, and Distortion, in mastering music, but the keyword is subtle.
LEARN: Different Mastering Tools
One of the most common questions when it comes to mastering is what is the best mastering chain.
A Mastering Chain is simply the order your plugins are in.
In addition to finding the “best mastering chain”, people often seek for the best vocal chain, too..
If you follow my best practices of a mastering chain, you’ll learn that a Limiter should always be last.
There’s a couple goals of mastering in the real world:
- Increase Overall Song Loudness
- Compare the Song to Reference Tracks to Make Sure the Song has Similar Loudness and Frequency Balance
- Add ISRC Codes and Meta Data
- Add Song Intro and Outro Fades and Silence Between Tracks
There’s a lot more that goes into mastering a song than what’s usually shown on YouTube, where they just show you how to make the song loud before you release it.
Learn mastering in 10 Steps to Become an FL Studio Pro course.
Conclusion: Mixing vs. Mastering for Beatmaking
Mixing and Mastering are two very different steps of the music production process.
Not every producer knows how to do each audio step well..
However, YOU AS THE PRODUCER, if you can learn to make the beat, mix the song, and mastering the track, you will become untouchable in this industry!
You’ll save tons of money, and truly know how to get the exact sound you’re looking for, and become a better producer!
I hope you enjoyed the video and article about an overview of Mixing compared to Mastering a song.
New to making beats? Listen to my music production podcast!
You can also listen to my own music here.