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-   -   Amateur question: Mixing vs. Mastering (https://www.propellerheads.se/forum/showthread.php?t=52923)

gerti 2002-08-08 08:41

Amateur question: Mixing vs. Mastering
 
Hi,

I have always been interested in the technical aspect of music production. Many years ago back in Germany I mixed a cover band for quite some time, using a Peavey 24 channel mixer. I always loved to play around with the synths, samplers and other equipment (built a few things too), it all came pretty natural (well, the FM based synths required a little more to wrap my head around).

Even though I do not play an instrument (I used to call the mixer 'my' instrument), when I saw Reason I knew I had to have it... I'll be taking Piano lessons now. Amazing bit of software, loads of fun.

Anyhow, to my question: What exactly is the difference between mixing and mastering? From what I read in the various threads about mastering and avoiding a 'thin' sound with Reason I gather that mastering involves equalizing, compressing etc. But doing that means changing the mix!

So am I guessing right that the mixing process is the artist's idea of how the sources should be combined, and in the mastering process someone with a more technical background takes that 'rough cut', cleans it up and 'fine tunes' it?

Thanks

Gerd

ontheone 2002-08-08 09:40

Re: Amateur question: Mixing vs. Mastering
 

:So am I guessing right that the mixing process is the artist's idea of how the sources should be combined, and in the mastering process someone with a more technical background takes that 'rough cut', cleans it up and 'fine tunes' it?
:
Pretty much.

But maybe not quite how you envisage it

The Mix will go through a process where the track is analysed as a whole (by various devices including spectographs and professional ears). The overall waveform is then tinkered with.

Individual trcks can be messed with but generally only with some very expensive EQ devices

amitopia 2002-08-08 09:41

Re: Amateur question: Mixing vs. Mastering
 
: I gather that mastering involves equalizing, compressing etc.
: But doing that means changing the mix!

Yes, basically, that's it. Also, preparing the tracks for different media, and getting different tracks on an album to similar levels. I'm not an expert, but I've read *a lot* about it, and you'll get dozens of opinions. There are "professionals" who do this and charge big bucks. There are various tools, software and hardware, and a lot of it comes down to the subjective judgment of the person doing it.

Does it change the sound of the mix? Yes. In fact, I just read an interesting interview with the engineer from Motown, who worked there when they put out all the hits in the 60's. He said about Motown's experience with "Mastering" they "had learned early on that if you didn't get it right (in the mix) you really couldn't do anything about it. ... They were very, very concerned that things not be particularly modified in the transfer. (to vinyl). They'd rather do a new mix than try and fix anything in mastering."

Trust your ears...

ell

ontheone 2002-08-08 09:41

Re: Amateur question: Mixing vs. Mastering
 
:
:So am I guessing right that the mixing process is the artist's idea of how the sources should be combined, and in the mastering process someone with a more technical background takes that 'rough cut', cleans it up and 'fine tunes' it?
:
Pretty much.

But maybe not quite how you envisage it

The Mix will go through a process where the track is analysed as a whole (by various devices including spectographs and professional ears). The overall waveform is then tinkered with, Eq'd, compression applied etc.

Individual trcks can be messed with but generally only with some very expensive EQ devices

troniqfusion 2011-06-02 19:09

Quote:

Originally Posted by ontheone (Post 291328)
:So am I guessing right that the mixing process is the artist's idea of how the sources should be combined, and in the mastering process someone with a more technical background takes that 'rough cut', cleans it up and 'fine tunes' it?
:
Pretty much.

But maybe not quite how you envisage it

The Mix will go through a process where the track is analysed as a whole (by various devices including spectographs and professional ears). The overall waveform is then tinkered with.

Individual trcks can be messed with but generally only with some very expensive EQ devices

this therefore means without the expensive equipment and the right ears its very hard to produce quality studio sound. I usually get thin sound after exporting a track and always thought it could be corrected by a plug-in or something. Still cant figure it out.

selig 2011-06-02 22:35

Quote:

Originally Posted by gerti (Post 291319)
Hi,

I have always been interested in the technical aspect of music production. Many years ago back in Germany I mixed a cover band for quite some time, using a Peavey 24 channel mixer. I always loved to play around with the synths, samplers and other equipment (built a few things too), it all came pretty natural (well, the FM based synths required a little more to wrap my head around).

Even though I do not play an instrument (I used to call the mixer 'my' instrument), when I saw Reason I knew I had to have it... I'll be taking Piano lessons now. Amazing bit of software, loads of fun.

Anyhow, to my question: What exactly is the difference between mixing and mastering? From what I read in the various threads about mastering and avoiding a 'thin' sound with Reason I gather that mastering involves equalizing, compressing etc. But doing that means changing the mix!

So am I guessing right that the mixing process is the artist's idea of how the sources should be combined, and in the mastering process someone with a more technical background takes that 'rough cut', cleans it up and 'fine tunes' it?

Thanks

Gerd

Quite simply, mixing is done using the individual tracks recorded for a song (or live), while mastering is done to the finished mix. The mix is more often the producer and/or engineer's idea of how the sources should be combined, taking into account the artist's vision/style/direction and with full involvement of the artist. Mastering is exactly the same, except now you have one more person in the loop. Is this what you're asking?

zillis 2011-06-04 01:59

One of the most important things about mixing, I suppose it's the most important thing, is a solid understanding of equalization, compression, reverb, etc.
Being able to carve and mold each instrument or sound into it's own "sonic space" is crucial to a pleasing mix.

Mastering does not involve mixing. It's the process of applying effects (compression, eq, reverb, etc.) to a finished track - which is an export (mixdown was an old analog term I used to hear) of a pleasing mix.
The term Mastering is kind of what it suggests - you'd have to develope a mastery-level understanding of eq, etc. to be in a position to master an already pleasing mix.
Note that the idea of mastering only comes into play when a mix is pleasing to the ear to begin with - you know, a good mix. You'll hear about how mastering can't save a bad mix, simply because it's too far gone to begin with - you'd have to start from the begining - the mix itself.

Get it?

I was obsessed with the idea of mastering for a while myself. Then I realized I can't mix very well to begin with - so I'm still working hard to understand how to use eq, compression, reverb, etc. - to be a good mixer.
I'll worry about mastering when I can mix really well :)

LeopoldStotch 2011-06-04 02:42

Quote:

Originally Posted by selig (Post 871448)
Quite simply, mixing is done using the individual tracks recorded for a song (or live), while mastering is done to the finished mix. The mix is more often the producer and/or engineer's idea of how the sources should be combined, taking into account the artist's vision/style/direction and with full involvement of the artist. Mastering is exactly the same, except now you have one more person in the loop Who is told by the record company to make everything louder than everything else. Is this what you're asking?

Added some notes above in bold.

selig 2011-06-04 03:10

Quote:

Originally Posted by zillis (Post 871658)
One of the most important things about mixing, I suppose it's the most important thing, is a solid understanding of equalization, compression, reverb, etc.
Being able to carve and mold each instrument or sound into it's own "sonic space" is crucial to a pleasing mix.

There's an exception to everything, and this is true about what you just said as well. Yes, there are mix engineers who know EQ etc forwards and backwards, but I've also worked with some folks that are just amazing at simply balancing a track. They don't give a crap about the EQ, compression, FX etc., but man, can they take your rough mix, pull the faders down, and put them back in a way that simply defies logic! And without any understanding of EQ, Compression, or FX at all. And there are plenty of folks 'in between' who have a rudimentary understanding (at best) of these things but can mix the crap out of a track!

But one skill they ALL share is the ability to take only the faders and combine them in a way that is simply magic. For folks like that, they can always 'lean' on presets for EQ and Compression and FX, but there are no presets for faders!

So while it's important to understand EQ, compression, and FX, if you don't have a knack for 'balancing' multiple tracks, then you're not a mixer. The 'mixing' skill is actually more a 'listening' skill than an 'executing' skill. It's easy to push faders around, but it's not easy to know when to stop pushing those faders around!

So that would lead me to say that it is an intimate understanding of how to balance multiple tracks to work together as a whole, rather than an understanding of the 'outboard' sculpting concepts of audio, that is the most important aspect of mixing. Not every mix needs extensive EQ/Compression/FX, but EVERY mix needs balancing. So that leaves 'mixing/balancing' as the most important skill for a mixer to have, IMHO.

Bottom line: for ME, the most importing thing about mixing is MIXING. :-)

selig 2011-06-04 03:13

Quote:
Originally Posted by selig
Quite simply, mixing is done using the individual tracks recorded for a song (or live), while mastering is done to the finished mix. The mix is more often the producer and/or engineer's idea of how the sources should be combined, taking into account the artist's vision/style/direction and with full involvement of the artist. Mastering is exactly the same, except now you have one more person in the loop Who is told by the record company to make everything louder than everything else. Is this what you're asking?

Quote:

Originally Posted by LeopoldStotch (Post 871660)
Added some notes above in bold.

LOL!!! In most cases it's the label directing the loudness wars. At least that's what the mastering engineer's tell me! ;-)


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