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Difference between Mixing/Mastering

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MatrixGravity
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Difference between Mixing/Mastering Nov. 9th, 2012 @ 03:16 PM Reply

Hello everyone.. I've been producing for 3 years but I still don't even know what the difference is between Mixing & Mastering and how they work respectively.. Any good information you can provide for me?

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Response to Difference between Mixing/Mastering Nov. 9th, 2012 @ 03:21 PM Reply

If I recall correctly, mixing means adding special effects and various effects to the tracks.
Mastering is in a more general way the final part of the production. Like where you make sure everything is correct, the level of volume, all the tracks are ok, etc.

Wait for a more detailed answer btw


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Response to Difference between Mixing/Mastering Nov. 9th, 2012 @ 03:52 PM Reply

They are used a bit interchangeably (many people mistake mastering for mixing) so you'll usually have to look at the context to see what people mean by the two terms.

But you know you're still doing the mixing when you're still adjusting the individual tracks. That means making sure they sound the way you want them to sound, that they are in balance with each other, that the frequency and stereo spectra are acceptable, and that the whole song has a coherent and cohesive sound overall. It's the final stage of the production.

Mastering is what you do when you're done with that, so you could call it post-production. When you're mastering audio you are making sure it sounds good when played back in the intended context. If you're mastering a film soundtrack you will have different concerns than if you're mastering a set of songs for an album, if you're preparing a single for radio playback.

There is some overlap - when you're applying equalization and adjusting the dynamics of an entire mix. That could be considered part of either process


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Response to Difference between Mixing/Mastering Nov. 9th, 2012 @ 04:46 PM Reply

Mixing= Engineering
Structure, design, flow, melody, etc.

Mastering = Testing
Headphones, studio speakers, volume levels, etc.

Yes, Compression & EQing (and other things) can play a part in both. From what I understand anyway.


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Response to Difference between Mixing/Mastering Nov. 9th, 2012 @ 06:54 PM Reply

About.com has good and user-friendly definitions for both.


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Response to Difference between Mixing/Mastering Nov. 10th, 2012 @ 05:44 AM Reply

At 11/9/12 06:54 PM, dem0lecule wrote: About.com has good and user-friendly definitions for both.

The lines are blurred nowadays with this kind of thing. Mixing typically now just points to pure production and creative/artistic song building and fx processing.

Mastering would be taking something that sounds "complete" from an artistic standpoint and applying processes (viz. eq, stereo-width tricks, compression, harmonic distortion/saturation, emulative processors of analog gear, limiting/clipping) that allow the song to translate as best as possible to the widest variety of systems. True "mastering" is really only done on a full-range (20hz to 20khz+ max 3db deviation) reference system in a large tuned room that utilizes (normally) both extensive RTA room correction (digitally or otherwise) and broadband diffusion/absorption and minimizes the level of early reflections. These types of goals make very accurate referencing prohibitive for most people that don't have 100k to dump into a dedicated room with high-end mastering equipment.

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Response to Difference between Mixing/Mastering Nov. 10th, 2012 @ 06:33 AM Reply

I actually find it helpful to split up the creative process in:

Production
Mixing
Mastering

Even if the three can well be thought of as part of the same process, for me it's different mind-sets. Quick breakdown:

Production
- Creating the song not giving a shit about EQ'ing, compressing the dynamics or whatever. I tweak volumes only because I want to hear what I'm creating, not because it's supposed to clear up or whatever. Of course a lot of important decisions are being made during production, and picking/creating the right samples are crucial if you want a good sound at the end of the project. A lot of the "what to pick?" part comes with experience.

Mixing
- This is when the more technical listening hat comes on. This part of the process is when I take what I got and try not to tweak the song anymore, unless I've planned to add specific effects in the mixing process, f.ex. effect filtering on a group/the whole track or whatever. Other than that, this is where take all the pieces and literally mix them together. Tweaking volumes, applying EQ wherever needed and dynamic compression on separate channels, or possibly groups. It all depends on the project in quiestion. It's not forbidden to add compression/EQ/whatever on the master bus, again this depends.

Mastering
- When the mixing is done, the mastering prepares the track for the final medium. If it's for a loq-quality web-game, you'll want to master it one way, if it's for cinema another, if it's for "average home listener" a third etc. What can be done differs a lot, but generally you're talking about applying small and well thought/listened parts of copmression, mulitband compression, EQ, perhaps wash the track through some amps to get a small touch of whatever nice and small artifacts that amp ads (which of course can be done in either production or mixing phase too - it all depends on what you're after...)...

...Then again I haven't made music in a long time, and when I have I've only tinkered a little in Reason, so all in all I have no idea what I'm talking about lol


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Response to Difference between Mixing/Mastering Nov. 10th, 2012 @ 06:35 AM Reply

At 11/9/12 04:46 PM, Ectohelix wrote: Mixing= Engineering
Structure, design, flow, melody, etc.

Mastering = Testing
Headphones, studio speakers, volume levels, etc.

Yes, Compression & EQing (and other things) can play a part in both. From what I understand anyway.

Sorry mate but I'm going to have to just adjust that a bit, in all friendliness of course. :) Mixing has nothing to do with structure design, flow and melody, that's composition. Mixing is EQ, reverb, and all other kinds of effects. It's the process of creating the sound you want for your song.

Mastering, as joshhunsaker is trying to say in a way that very few will actually understand, is a very refined process that tends to only change small details in the overall sound rather than individual sounds. Generally, when you master, you can do it to a .wav of your project after you render it.
For the more experienced guys: Mastering involves sweetening the mix. This can involve tweaking the over all EQ so it's more suitable for different situations (locations/room acoustics etc), adding sparkle or shine (high frequencies, makes it have a more defined sound) often achieved with distortion and of course controlling the over all loudness of the track as a whole so it isn't louder or quieter than songs before/after it - compression and limiting (generally done with a maximiser).


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Response to Difference between Mixing/Mastering Nov. 10th, 2012 @ 06:36 AM Reply

also, if you're doing everything yourself, a very good way of getting things sound good at the end is to let the song rest a couple of days here and there. WOrk on somehting else in the meantime, just to get some perspective on what you've done. i find this especially good if i am to produce, mix and master the song myself


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Response to Difference between Mixing/Mastering Nov. 10th, 2012 @ 06:58 AM Reply

Simply put, mixing is the process of making all instruments compliment each other.

Mastering is the final process of an audio production, and it consists of making a mixed track ready for radio-play (or whatever it is intended for).

Keep it simple.

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Response to Difference between Mixing/Mastering Nov. 10th, 2012 @ 07:32 AM Reply

At 11/10/12 06:36 AM, Rucklo wrote:

; if i am to produce, mix and master the song myself

Why do you use the term "produce" in this case? The correct term here is compose as production encompasses mixing and mastering, not the creation of the song itself. I find lots of people using the term "produce" instead of "compose" and they call themselves "producers" too, but a producer is someone who produces an album, one might hire a producer to mix and master their album for them, but not to write songs...

I'm curious more than anything.


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Rucklo
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Response to Difference between Mixing/Mastering Nov. 10th, 2012 @ 07:44 AM Reply

At 11/10/12 07:32 AM, MetalRenard wrote:
At 11/10/12 06:36 AM, Rucklo wrote:
; if i am to produce, mix and master the song myself

Why do you use the term "produce" in this case? The correct term here is compose as production encompasses mixing and mastering, not the creation of the song itself. I find lots of people using the term "produce" instead of "compose" and they call themselves "producers" too, but a producer is someone who produces an album, one might hire a producer to mix and master their album for them, but not to write songs...

I'm curious more than anything.

because like you say people use that term when it comes to making music, that's why. here's an example of a music producer.

if it's correct according to whatever old or contemporary saying i don't really care about, when i talk or post on a forum i try to get my message across. people understand that a "music producer" in many cases mean that the producer creates the music, but doesn't necessarily perform the pieces themselves.

someone who mix and/or master music you'd usually not refer to as a producer, but an audio- or sound engineer.


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Response to Difference between Mixing/Mastering Nov. 10th, 2012 @ 07:56 AM Reply

At 11/10/12 07:44 AM, Rucklo wrote: someone who mix and/or master music you'd usually not refer to as a producer, but an audio- or sound engineer.

Mixing engineers are also referred to as producers, however, mastering engineers are only labeled as audio/sound/mastering engineers.

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Response to Difference between Mixing/Mastering Nov. 10th, 2012 @ 09:40 AM Reply

Normally when you aren't talking about an electronic producer, the audio engineer doing the mixdown is the guy handling all the instrumental wavs and doing all the preliminary .db leveling, EQing, sfx work and basic compression.

The guy mastering the track is doing the polishing after the end product is a single wav file and is basically preparing the track to be equivalent in level and sound perception to every other track on a CD release.

Mixdown - working with multiple wav files and sfx vsts in order to finalize the track to the best form possible for a mastering engineer to - work with a single wav file.

A producer can of course send a mastering engineer multiple wav files much like he would send someone for a mixdown but that really falls on the artist to handle, when talking about electronic producers.


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Response to Difference between Mixing/Mastering Nov. 10th, 2012 @ 11:18 AM Reply

At 11/10/12 07:44 AM, Rucklo wrote: people understand that a "music producer" in many cases mean that the producer creates the music, but doesn't necessarily perform the pieces themselves.

someone who mix and/or master music you'd usually not refer to as a producer, but an audio- or sound engineer.

No, that's my point, a producer does not create the music. The composer creates the music, the performer performs the music, the audio engineer records the music and produces it. Audio Engineer and producer are almost interchangeable when it comes to recording music (but "audio engineer" covers a much wider range of jobs).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audio_engineering#Practitioners


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Response to Difference between Mixing/Mastering Nov. 10th, 2012 @ 02:37 PM Reply

I've always referred to them like this;

Composition - encompasses everything that has to do with making the music, such as choosing the instruments/sounds, dynamics, melodies, harmonies, structures, transitions, etc...

Production - turning your composition into a product that is presentable to be distributed to the public in a given medium (in our case Newgrounds). This can be broken down into mixing and mastering.

Mixing - making the individual instruments sound good and work with each other to create a good song. Includes reverb, EQ, adjusting individual volume levels, panning, etc...

Mastering - turning that mixed result into a final, refined result. Over here sounds are not being treated individually but the track is approached as a whole. Includes compression, limiting, etc...

I also believe that EQing is part of the mixing process mainly but it's part of the mastering process when it's being done on the whole song and not on individual instruments, and I believe that compression can fall under mixing when it's done on individual instruments.

But that's just my uneducated opinion on the matter. Frankly there's such a large grey area between mixing and mastering that you shouldn't worry about the specifics.


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Response to Difference between Mixing/Mastering Nov. 10th, 2012 @ 03:04 PM Reply

Actually you have it spot on Step. :)


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Response to Difference between Mixing/Mastering Nov. 12th, 2012 @ 06:04 PM Reply

Thanks for all the great feedback. Can any of you guys recommend me some books that will teach me about all these steps in production that teaches about EQ, compression, mixing, mastering, VSTs, all the technical stuff. I would like to jump in and learn all of it as much as I can.

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Response to Difference between Mixing/Mastering Nov. 12th, 2012 @ 06:12 PM Reply

At 11/12/12 06:04 PM, MatrixGravity wrote: Thanks for all the great feedback. Can any of you guys recommend me some books that will teach me about all these steps in production that teaches about EQ, compression, mixing, mastering, VSTs, all the technical stuff. I would like to jump in and learn all of it as much as I can.

http://www.amazon.com/Mixing-Audio-Concepts-Practices-Tools/
dp/0240520688

http://books.google.com.au/books/about/Mixing_Secrets.html?i d=69ssLE3UwD8C&redir_esc=y

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Response to Difference between Mixing/Mastering Nov. 12th, 2012 @ 06:26 PM Reply

Good initiative, I hope it holds up and that it continues to be a big part of your life. The better you get at it the more rewarding it becomes, so never give up, it only gets better. /hippy off

You could also try reading a lot online, that's how I learnt. I read a thousand and one blogs, forums and more, then I tried everything I learnt and chose what suited me and my ideas most.


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Response to Difference between Mixing/Mastering Nov. 12th, 2012 @ 06:39 PM Reply

At 11/10/12 11:18 AM, MetalRenard wrote: No, that's my point, a producer does not create the music. The composer creates the music, the performer performs the music, the audio engineer records the music and produces it. Audio Engineer and producer are almost interchangeable when it comes to recording music (but "audio engineer" covers a much wider range of jobs).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audio_engineering#Practitioners

lol, um Timbaland? Dr. Luke? Jay Z? Maybe you haven't heard of these guys before. They are "producers".

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Response to Difference between Mixing/Mastering Nov. 12th, 2012 @ 07:41 PM Reply

At 11/12/12 06:39 PM, joshhunsaker wrote: lol, um Timbaland? Dr. Luke? Jay Z? Maybe you haven't heard of these guys before. They are "producers".

They are music writers AND producers, the two are not mutually exclusive.


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MatrixGravity
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Response to Difference between Mixing/Mastering Nov. 12th, 2012 @ 07:50 PM Reply

At 11/12/12 06:12 PM, The-iMortal wrote:
At 11/12/12 06:04 PM, MatrixGravity wrote: Thanks for all the great feedback. Can any of you guys recommend me some books that will teach me about all these steps in production that teaches about EQ, compression, mixing, mastering, VSTs, all the technical stuff. I would like to jump in and learn all of it as much as I can.
http://www.amazon.com/Mixing-Audio-Concepts-Practices-Tools/
dp/0240520688

http://books.google.com.au/books/about/Mixing_Secrets.html?i d=69ssLE3UwD8C&redir_esc=y

Incredible! Thanks! Will these books apply even if I use FL Studio as my DAW? Or does it not make a difference? :) Thanks

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Response to Difference between Mixing/Mastering Nov. 12th, 2012 @ 07:53 PM Reply

At 11/12/12 06:26 PM, MetalRenard wrote: Good initiative, I hope it holds up and that it continues to be a big part of your life. The better you get at it the more rewarding it becomes, so never give up, it only gets better. /hippy off

You could also try reading a lot online, that's how I learnt. I read a thousand and one blogs, forums and more, then I tried everything I learnt and chose what suited me and my ideas most.

Thanks for the motivation! I appreciate it. I hope so as well! All of my friends and people I know are all good at something that they excel at. Whether it be Writing, Drawing, Designing, etc, and I just want music to be my forte in life. Something that I stand out with. Something that will make people say "wow!". Just anything to really set my path straight in life. If I can commit to this I know it will yield a lot of benefits. I want to just keep trying you know? I have come too far to quit and lose motivation. I just don't want to be a quitter.. I have given up everything else and this I just refuse too..

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Response to Difference between Mixing/Mastering Nov. 12th, 2012 @ 07:56 PM Reply

Mixing is panning, editing, and adding effects to recordings within a single track.

Album mastering was making sure everything fit nicely on a CD: similar dB peaks, similar perceived loudness, and tiny tweaks on very sensitive equipment: did you know what altering by 1/10th of a decibel outside the range of human hearing can radically affect how something sounds?

These days, mastering is almost more like an extension of mixing: there are so many singles being released, that albums are somewhat obsolete; and why would an independent musician pay extra for album mastering if the mixing sounds "good enough"?

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Response to Difference between Mixing/Mastering Nov. 12th, 2012 @ 09:12 PM Reply

At 11/12/12 07:50 PM, MatrixGravity wrote: Incredible! Thanks! Will these books apply even if I use FL Studio as my DAW? Or does it not make a difference? :) Thanks

No worries. And it does not make a difference.

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Response to Difference between Mixing/Mastering Nov. 13th, 2012 @ 08:02 AM Reply

At 11/9/12 03:16 PM, MatrixGravity wrote: Hello everyone.. I've been producing for 3 years but I still don't even know what the difference is between Mixing & Mastering and how they work respectively.. Any good information you can provide for me?

Hi MatrixGravity,
In modern rock/pop tracks, there are generally four stages: Recording, Producing, Mixing, Mastering. The recording stage spells itself out quite simply - audio capture in a multitrack form by microphone or DI. Producing is then taking those sounds and applying effects - sculpting the instruments. This blends into mixing over a grey area, which usually comprises of levels and panning, and may also include sidechain compression and such like, however its places like this that can cross over between production and mixing. Mastering comes at the end: EQ, compression, spatial enhancement, limiting, sometimes bouncing through an analog unit for that "warmth" people talk about. But it can also include more technical, virtually inaudible processes such as resampling and dithering - if the project was recorded at 96kHz 24bit, then for it to go to CD, it needs to be converted to 44.1kHz 16bit. Thus different dithering options (the same idea as antialising images when you resize them) are available for that process. Mastering can also go so far as to the actual order of tracks in an album, and final preparation for burn. With new media such as the iTunes AAC and YouTube MP4 videos, different mastering techniques need to be used. A mastering engineer may, if requested, provide different audio files for different mediums. This is especially so for videos going on YouTube - it's more than likely that all the VEVO videos and professionally mastered tracks have more than meets the eye to combat the Dynamic Range Compression and downsampling of the YouTube encoder.

You can also take a look at some of the SoundOnSound articles on audio mastering, that go into more depth about the actual limiting, EQ, dithering etc. processes, how they work and why.

One thing to note is that in electronic music production, the mixing is almost always tied into the production, and both wil be going on at the same time.

And greetings from London everyone!

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Response to Difference between Mixing/Mastering Nov. 13th, 2012 @ 12:20 PM Reply

At 11/13/12 08:02 AM, XMaramena wrote:
At 11/9/12 03:16 PM, MatrixGravity wrote:

Hi MatrixGravity,
In modern rock/pop tracks, there are generally four stages: Recording, Producing, Mixing, Mastering.

That's amazing... How do you know so much? How can I learn as much as you know?..

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Response to Difference between Mixing/Mastering Nov. 13th, 2012 @ 04:39 PM Reply

At 11/13/12 12:20 PM, MatrixGravity wrote:
At 11/13/12 08:02 AM, XMaramena wrote:
At 11/9/12 03:16 PM, MatrixGravity wrote:

Hi MatrixGravity,
In modern rock/pop tracks, there are generally four stages: Recording, Producing, Mixing, Mastering.
That's amazing... How do you know so much? How can I learn as much as you know?..

While I have a classical background, I've been producing EDM commercially for a few years and I'm currently studying a degree in Audio Production at SAE. I'm more than happy to help if you ever need any advice - feel free to PM.