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  • Writer's pictureMichael 'Presto' Preston

Mixing vs. Mastering Music: What Every Artist Needs to Know

When you're diving into the world of music production, two terms you'll often hear are "mixing" and "mastering." While they may sound like they can be used interchangeably, they serve distinct purposes in the music production process. Let's unpack the differences and highlight why they're both vital in getting that polished track you're after.

The art of mixing is all about balance. When we refer to mixing music, we're talking about blending all the individual tracks in a song into a cohesive whole. Think of each instrument, vocal, or sound as a piece of a puzzle. Mixing is about making sure each piece fits perfectly, ensuring no sound overshadows another, unless intentionally. It's a meticulous process, and an experienced audio engineer can truly bring out the best in your track.

Whenever an artist sends me stems for mixing, I always recommend providing both "wet" and "dry" versions. The "wet" stem is the one with all the processing and effects, essentially how the artist initially envisioned the sound. On the other hand, the "dry" stem is the pure, untouched version. By having both, it grants me the flexibility to either utilize the unique flavor from the artist's demo or to start afresh, crafting a sound that might be more fitting or impactful.

After the mixing process, we move to mastering. Think of mastering as the final polish. It's about ensuring that the song sounds the best it can across all platforms, whether it's on a massive festival speaker or your earbuds. The process also ensures that the song is optimized for playback across all systems and media formats. In simpler terms, mastering gives your track the final boost in clarity, depth, and loudness, making sure it's radio-ready.

Always remember to send songs for mixing and mastering at the same bit depth and sample rate that you started in. For instance, if you began recording your track at 48kHz, stick to that when sending it for post-production. Upgrading to 98kHz in the hopes of achieving a better sound can often be counterproductive. Consistency is key!

While both mixing and mastering play pivotal roles in the final sound of a track, they serve different purposes. Mixing is about balancing and blending, while mastering is the final touch that ensures your track stands out, regardless of where it's played. Whether you're an emerging artist or a seasoned musician, understanding the distinction can significantly enhance the quality of your music.

Remember, every song is a journey. From composition to recording and through mixing and mastering, each step is essential to bring your musical vision to life.

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