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carol m

What's the Difference between Mixing and Mastering?

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carol m    64

Maybe it's a silly question but I've been using these terms randomly to mean the same thing, but now I'm wondering if they are 2 different processes. If they are different, can someone give a not-too-complicated explanation?

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scotty_b    16

Hey Carol

In simple terms, mixing would be getting the levels right between the instruments in a song; mastering is getting the song ready to play on various speaker systems.

It is more complex than that, but that is somewhere to start.

Hope that helps

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Dewy    0

Ever hear the way to tell a boat from a ship? A Boat carries people, a Ship has people and lifeBOATs on it.

Mixing is done anytime you have multiple levels of sound coming to you, and you adjust the levels to suit your ear.

Mastering includes mixing... but it is primarily about recording the mixed product.

Production is the process where the "Depth" and ambiance are created... thru various "engineering" tricks and gadgets... or these days, in software.

Often Producers, Engineers and Artists work together to create tracks which are "Mastered" at a later date. The same way film footage is edited together to create the final movie that is presented to the public.

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I do home recording and think of mastering as the final polishing of your songs before they go onto that recording that you are ready to share with the world. I like to pull up my songs (several at one time in my software program - I use Sony Soundforge, so I can compare back and forth) and listen to them to get a good idea of what they need - how to adjust levels to adjust EQ, etc.

You could even compare your songs to a popular song out there to compare it back and forth to get a good reference of where to set the EQ and levels. Which reminds me - it's also helpful to have a good set of reference monitors to dot this with - they will help you be able to get a true audio representation of what you have on your recording - that way you won't be unpleasantly surprised when you play your song on another audio system and the levels sound way out of whack.

Hope this helps a little.

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carol m    64

Thankyou friends, that was really useful. EQing is still a mystery to me at the moment, but it's time will come!

And ships and boats is a great way to look at it, Dewy, thanks.

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Ever hear the way to tell a boat from a ship? A Boat carries people, a Ship has people and lifeBOATs on it.

.

So thats why a submarine is called a boat!

..and now I know.:yeahhh:

Ps. Sorry to go off-thread.

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Tekker    1
to me they're the same - i don't think there's a specific rule!

Well, there kind of is an important distinction between the two.

Mixing = works with individual tracks (guitar, vocals, bass, drums, etc.)

Mastering = works with a two track mixdown (left and right)

For the home studio engineer who is mixing and mastering their own music, one way to think of it is mixing is making all of the instruments sound good together within the song. While mastering is making all of the songs sound good together on the final CD. In other words, the final product from mixing is an individual "song" and the final product from mastering is a full "CD" with many songs.

How I go about mastering, is after finishing the mixing on each song, I export all of them as wave files and then load them all into a new project with each song on its own track. Then I set levels, fades, pause times in between songs, CD track markers, etc. If your recording program can burn a CD then this is the best way to go about it as it'll burn the CD just the way you lay it out in your project.

If your recording program cannot burn a CD from within the program, then this is still a good idea to get a ball park idea of how your songs will fit together, but then you'll have to go back to each individual song and adjust levels, fades, and set pause times at the end of each song. Then you can use use a burning program (like Nero) to actually put all the songs on a CD.

So that's how I look at the two from a home studio point of view. If you're going to be sending the files off to a mastering house to have a professional master your songs, then that's a whole different story and mastering takes on a whole new definition there. :D

-tkr

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scotty_b    16
to me they're the same - i don't think there's a specific rule!

To add a few points to Tekker's comments. mastering involves preparing the album for commercial release. A mix on one set of speakers may be acceptable, but may be too bassy, not enough bass, not enough stereo width, reveal inconsistent volume between tracks; and then there are other factors such as final editing, track order, perhaps the use of some sort of maximiser (especially if it is a commercial release) and perhaps noise reduction/removal of the stereo track.

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Tekker    1
To add a few points to Tekker's comments. mastering involves preparing the album for commercial release. A mix on one set of speakers may be acceptable, but may be too bassy, not enough bass, not enough stereo width, reveal inconsistent volume between tracks; and then there are other factors such as final editing, track order, perhaps the use of some sort of maximiser (especially if it is a commercial release) and perhaps noise reduction/removal of the stereo track.

Yes, the "preparing an album for commercial release" definition goes more along the lines of having a professional master your music.

For a home studio-ist, I think these kinds of changes (to bassy, not enough stereo width, etc) should be done in the mixing phase where you have more control over the individual tracks. Where if the mix is to bassy, you can just turn the bass guitar track down instead of throwing an EQ over the whole mix to try to fix it. Since there is nothing a home studio user can do on a two track mix that they can't do in the mixing process, why limit yourself to only two tracks?

But if your having a professional master your music, then that is a whole different thing as they WILL be able to do things that you can't do in your mixing process. They have have gear where one unit is probably 10,000 x more expensive than our whole studio, perfect room acoustics, and not to mention "golden ears" that comes from years and years of experience.

The only thing I do in my mastering process is set relative levels, fades, pause time, and minor EQ changes. If are any moderate/drastic changes that need to be made, I go back and fix it in the mix. :)

-tkr

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