The beginning of the journey - Part 6. Basics of mixing and mastering.

    Here, with a sin in half, we got to the final article. She will be about mixing and mastering. First of all, I will explain how mixing is different from mastering, I’ll tell you a little about such a thing as SideChain and a couple of tricks. In the end - a small table that still helps me with equalization.


    Mixing is the process of creating a final record from individual recorded tracks, the next stage after creating an audio recording. Mixing is not a purely technical process of combining various tracks into a single whole, it is rather a creative activity, on which the sound of the result depends.

    This is taken from Wikipedia .

    Some people think that mastering and mixing are the same thing, others think that these are two different things. I want to explain right away how I think - mixing, this is the process of creating the final recording from individual tracks, which pays attention to such aspects as volume balance, panning, sound density and arranging effects, and mastering - equalization and compression, bringing the sound of the mix to the required level. So, mixing.

    The mixing process poses two tasks for us - firstly, we need to combine a multitude of audio tracks into a single whole, and secondly, try to get rid of the "computer" sound, so that it plays as dynamically and beautifully as possible.

    Here are some tips before we get started:
    • You should not weigh tracks with effects like delay, reverb, and even more so the compressor to the stage of mixing. In 90% of cases, you will redo them. Of the effects, you should add only those that emphasize or change the sound of the instrument, such as a flanger, chorus, all kinds of distortions (although here you need to be more careful), etc.
    • Do not change the panorama before the stage of mixing. In 90% of cases you will have to redo it.
    • Do not change the volume before the mixing stage. In 90% of cases you will have to redo it.
    • It is not necessary without special need to export tracks from the sequencer to an audio editor. Modern sequencers allow you to mix at a high level, especially since it will not be too late to change anything. By “special need” I mean the use of “heavy” plug-ins and sound banks in a sequencer that does not support “freezing” tracks, or it’s just more convenient for you to mix them in an audio editor.
    • Keep in mind that different genres require different mixing techniques, and before starting to mix, it is advisable to read / listen to how others mix, otherwise there is a risk of getting complete nonsense at the output. Checked by yourself.
    • The creation of music, like any other kind of creative activity, is subject to a terrible scourge, better known as the “pursuit of the ideal”, this is especially noticeable at the stage of information. Set a goal for yourself, a kind of “quality bar” that you can reach and stop reducing once it is achieved. Otherwise, there is a risk of spoiling everything and getting absolute nonsense on the way out or reducing it to the end of life. Checked by yourself.

    So, the first step is to connect the tracks into a single whole. If we did not record any instruments from outside and everything that we wrote was done in one program, this paragraph can be skipped, otherwise we will read further. Let's say from the external tracks we have a guitar recorded live. To begin with, I want to note that writing such things is better in an audio editor, because in most cases, you will have to remove the “left” noises, if any (it’s better to do this in the audio editor), and adjust the volume, you can do the rest later in the sequencer, having the rest of the tracks on hand, or connect the sequencer and editor through ReWire, if the PC power allows, because CPU and memory load will be rather big. Or you can whip up the beat and bass section (in the case of guitars), export to wav and add it as a separate track to the audio editor.metronome .

    Stage Two. I want to note right away that what I’m writing here is not an instruction, it’s just a description of the process “in my opinion” and not a fact that it will be more convenient for you to summarize that way. The first question is where to start, with effects, volume, or panorama? I prefer to start with the arrangement of effects, primarily with reverb. The fact is that in most cases after applying this effect, the volume of the instrument drops noticeably, and if before that we indulged in volume, we would have to redo everything. By the way, reverb will help you achieve a more “live” sound of the instrument, the main thing is not to overdo it. Also for these purposes, you can use the chorus (again very carefully) and the Stereo-Enhancer to expand the stereo signal. At the same stage, we add the delay where necessary, by the way it can also reduce the volume of the instrument. To add "density" you can add a little compression. After adding all the necessary effects, go to the ... panorama. Yes, it’s to the panorama, and not to the volume. The fact is that if we first adjust the volume, and then the panorama, there is a chance that on one channel there will be instruments with the same (or vice versa too different) volume, as a result, you will get rubbish and everything will have to be redone. Therefore, first we make a general panorama, and then we adjust the volume of the instruments. At first glance, everything seems to be, the mix sounds more or less decent. By the way, many people use sidechain at the mixing stage, for vocals or percussion, I advise you to do this at the mastering stage, because there is a possibility that after the equalization, the need for a sidechain will disappear. For example, I also like to indulge with a panorama somewhere in the middle of the track, such an artistic technique when the sound of an instrument smoothly flows from one channel to another, you can also play with volume. In general, when mixing, you can diversify your track quite well and make it sound truly beautiful, so do not ignore this process.

    Tools used for information:
    • Reverb.
    • Horus.
    • Delay.

    A description of the effects is in my previous post about terminology .


    Mastering (English master) - originally the production of a reference medium, a copy of which is a consumer audio recording medium (CD, vinyl record, tape cassette). Subsequently, the process of preparing the final mix began to be called mastering.

    This is taken from Wikipedia .

    To begin with, a small excursion into history. Once upon a time, when vinyl reigned on the musical Olympus, the process of recording tracks onto records was called mastering. The process is quite complicated and expensive, for the “slicing” a special machine was used, which not all recording studios could afford. Then there were audio tapes and CDs, but the meaning of mastering has not changed, only the quality requirements imposed by the specifics of the medium have changed.

    After many, many years, the process of preparing the final mix began to be called mastering. Today we will talk about “modern” mastering.

    The mastering process is “in my opinion”.

    Hmm, maybe the title wasn’t the most successful, but oh well. Now I’ll tell you how the mastering process is going on with me, it will be much more obvious than stuffing the minds of novice musicians with meaningless terms and numbers (although I’ll stuff it later, be sure).

    So, the mix is ​​ready, all the instruments are recorded, the volume levels and the panorama are adjusted, in general, the “mixing” stage is successfully completed, mastering begins. At this point, the mix still consists of a bunch of tracks and sounds something like it's intended. First of all, save each track in a separate file and shove it into our favorite editor. Then, using the equalizer, the sound of the main instrument and the beat (if any) is honed, if there is vocals in the track, then we work with it. Then the bass sound is adjusted, if necessary (for example, the bass prevents the drum in the drums) we use sidechain. We listen several times to a piece of the track in which all the instruments (or most) are involved, we think how well done we are, and we correct the jambs that were discovered. Listening again. We listen on good headphones, then on bad ones, on monitors and ordinary speakers, in general, we listen to everything at hand. Now the saddest and most difficult thing is, if we want our creation to sound the same for almost everyone, we need to cut the frequency range to such a level that the average speakers / headphones normally play our track, so that all the instruments can be heard, that the rest would hear the mix as you intended. As soon as this stage is completed, once again we check everything one hundred rows and, if successful, we render the track. All. once again, we check everything a hundred rows and, if successful, “render” the track. All. once again, we check everything a hundred rows and, if successful, “render” the track. All.

    In fact, this is a very shortened description, the mastering process can take a very long time, you will redo everything several times (especially at the last stage), spend hours looking at the spectral analysis graphs and worsening the quality of the mix with tears in your eyes.

    In general, special people are engaged in mastering - sound engineers, it seems. But for us, musicians, it’s useful to know what it is and what to do about it.

    Basic tools for mastering:
    1. Equalizer.
    2. Compressor.
    3. Maximizer.

    Tricks and tips.

    SideChain is a kind of sound effect. Instruments are added (such as a kick and bass) to the chain, which is controlled by the compressor. And at the time of the sound of the barrel, the bass goes by the wayside, freeing up the barrel space, or vice versa. This effect, by the way, is closely related to club music, house. There is even a whole genre built on this effect - pumping house .

    Multi-band stereo delay - it is known that in order for the sound to go to the right, you need to strengthen the right channel. But there is another factor - the delay. Sound on the right reaches the right ear faster than the left. If you create this delay artificially, you can more accurately arrange the sound in space.

    General Equalization Tips:
    • Try to “tidy up” the frequencies, but do not bully.
    • Use the minimum number of bands in the equalizer.
    • Cut frequencies below 30Hz to avoid hum and noise.

    • Experiment with Attack and Release — there are no general rules.
    • Air and breathing are at frequencies above 10 kHz, the compressor can be used to suppress noise and hiss

    General tips:
    • The stereo base is better to expand at high frequencies.
    • The main problem of "home-made" music - insufficient volume - can easily be solved with the help of a maximizer. Thanks to him, we will not only increase the volume of the mix, but also add density to the sound.

    Equalization table.

    UPDATED 03/17/09 10:47 PM
    Thank you, comrade cyberbobs for the typos indicated. Everything is fixed.

    Also popular now: