Imagine a good book with the last 30 pages ripped out. A joke with no punchline. An idea with no conclusion. A song without a mix and master is an unfinished work of art. One of my favorite sayings is "rushed music will always sound rushed". Moving to the next song before you have these steps done to your current one might not be the best move. I believe mixing and mastering is a crucial part of the song becoming all it can be. Remember you want quality over quantity if you want to stand out.
What is a Mix and Master? Well first I'll explain what a mix is. After the recording (tracking) is completed the next step is getting your song mixed. Basically, mixing is the blending of all the seperate tracks together. Common tasks while mixing are balancing volumes, EQ'ing frequencies, compressing, and making the necessary edits to bring the song to life. Very rarely will a song just recorded magically blend together naturally. Even presets will fall short. It needs to be mixed.
Now let's talk about mastering. Mastering is the final step of the process. It is very different from mixing. When mixing you are blending the separate tracks. When mastering you are adding the final effects to the stereo mix as a whole. So instead of a large session with multiple tracks we are dealing with a 2 track WAV file of the mix. The goal of mastering is to get that mixed file to be sonically sound and ready to play on all media formats. Once this step is complete your song should be ready to be released to the world.
In my experience there is a misconception that if the rough draft created during the recording session sounds decent that it is ready to be released. As an audio engineer I would have to respectfully disagree to that statement. That song is missing two major steps. In the music industry, mixing and mastering are common knowledge. In larger studios the song is rarely recorded, mixed, and mastered by the same person. My point is these are three separate steps. All three of these steps are vital to the song.
Too often my only time to mix are the last ten minutes of recording session or during the tracking while artists are recording. This is frowned upon by most professional engineers. It is definitely not an ideal time for me to be making major changes to your song. "Rushed music will always sound rushed." When I'm mixing quickly I tend to be more reactive then creative. When rushing the engineer you are gonna get alot of presets and comfortable moves. There is no time to try anything new or cool. We gotta do what works quickly when we are put on a time table like that, thus cutting off us from the creativity we are trying to tap into. I 've also heard it said that the hourly rate is the cause for the rushed atmosphere. I don't believe this either because the main problem is that artists are trying to get to the next song too fast. I would ask them are 10 decents songs really better than 5 great songs? My advice would be take your time and finish the songs you started before moving to the next one. This is not a scheme for us engineers to make more money off you. Are goal is for our clients to be releasing finished music that we can be proud of when credits are given. With that in mind, giving the engineer time to make risky moves or really zero in on certain aspects of the song can change the outcome completely. If your budget is making mixing and mastering tough ask your engineer for a project price and see if they will work with you.
In conclusion, these steps are a game changer and not something you wanna skip over. Whether you are just starting or have been making music for years I hope this is a helpful message. I will continue my efforts in trying to get the music culture around me steered more towards the industry standard. I've had alot of great local mentors and many far away that I have never met, but they are all saying the same thing. Get your recorded songs mixed, mastered, and then release your masterpiece to the world! Be great! #the180way