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Mixing with mastering in mind

From: Audio Mastering Techniques

Video: Mixing with mastering in mind

Whether you are going to master your music yourself or decide to hire a mastering engineer, here are some mixing tips to help you get the most out of your mastering session. Don't over-EQ when mixing. A mix is over-EQ'd when it has big spikes in the frequency response as a result of trying to make one or more instruments fit better together. This might make the mix tear your head off, because it's too bright or has a huge and unnatural sounding bottom. Listen to an example of a mix where the cymbals are way too bright, so it makes the entire mix sound bright as a result.

Mixing with mastering in mind

Whether you are going to master your music yourself or decide to hire a mastering engineer, here are some mixing tips to help you get the most out of your mastering session. Don't over-EQ when mixing. A mix is over-EQ'd when it has big spikes in the frequency response as a result of trying to make one or more instruments fit better together. This might make the mix tear your head off, because it's too bright or has a huge and unnatural sounding bottom. Listen to an example of a mix where the cymbals are way too bright, so it makes the entire mix sound bright as a result.

(music playing) In general, mastering engineers can do a better job for you if your mix is on the dull side rather than too bright. Listen to this example of a dull mix. (music playing) Now listen to the same mix after it's been brightened.

(music playing) Likewise, it's better to be light on the bottom end than to have too much. Don't over-compress when mixing. Over-compression means that you have added so much mix-bus compression that the mix has robbed off of all of its life. You can tell that a mix has been over compressed not only by its sound, but by the way its waveform is flat lined on the digital audio workstation timeline.

You might as well not enough master if you squash the recording too much already in the mix, since an over compressed mix deprives the mastering engineer of one of his major abilities to help your project. Squash it for your friends and squash it for your clients, but leave some dynamics for your mastering engineer. Here's an example of a mix that's been over compressed. (music playing) Here is a mix that hasn't been over compressed and will give the mastering engineer more flexibility.

Take notice when the level is a lot lower. (music playing) Check your phase when mixing. It can be a real shock when you begin to master only to find out that the lead singer disappears from the mix because something is out of phase when you listen in mono. Even though this was more of a problem in the days of Vinyl and AM Radio, it's still an important point.

Since many so-called stereo sources such as television broadcast or FM radio are either pseudo-stereo or stereo only part of the time. Check it and fix it if necessary before you get there. Here is an example of a mix that's out of phase in stereo. (music playing) And this is what it sounds like in mono. (music playing) If you are making a vinyl record or CD, know the song sequence.

Sequencing, or the tune order on the CD or the Vinyl record, is especially important and making this list before hand will save you money and mastering time. Many engineers and producers have the mistaken impression that once the final mix is finished, it's off to the mastering studio. There needs to be one additional session known as a sequencing session, where you do any additional editing that's required and listen to the various sequence possibilities. This is really important if you were releasing in multiple formats such as CD and vinyl in different countries or territories, since they may require a different song order due to the two sides of the record.

Having the levels match between songs is not important. Matching levels between songs is one of the main reasons you master your mixes. Just make you mixes sound great and the difference between the levels and songs will be fixed during the mastering process. Getting hot mix levels is not important. Print your mixes at slightly lower overall levels, and leave it to the mastering engineer to get the hot levels. A good practice is to print the mixes as with peaks reaching -10 dB or so. Having some headroom will allow you to make up the gain in the mastering process using better sounding compressors and limiters.

Here is a before and after example of the differences between level in a mix and a master. (music playing) Watch your fades. If you trim the heads and tails of your track too tightly, you might discover that you've trimmed a reverb tail or essential attack or breath.

Leave a little room and perfected in mastering where you'll probably hear things better. Here is an example of a fade that's been cut too tight, so it cuts off the reverb tail. (music playing) Try using a fade that sound something more like this. (music playing) Alternate mixes can be your friend. A vocal up, vocal down, or instrument only mix can be a lifesaver when mastering.

Things that aren't apparent while mixing sometimes jump right out during mastering and having an alternate mix available can sometimes provide a quick fix and keep you from having to remix. You can master from those alternate versions or even edit between the versions if necessary. For instance, editing the courses from the vocal up mix into the original mix if you find that the course vocals where mixed too low originally. Make sure you document things properly with through notes for your mastering engineer with the clear file naming convention. You can always ask the person doing your mastering what file naming conventions he or she prefers.

We'll look deeper into alternate mixes in an upcoming video. In order to get the most out of mastering, it's important to always keep mastering in mind during the mixing process. Following these points will result in a better product and make your mastering session run a lot smoother.

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This video is part of

Image for Audio Mastering Techniques
Audio Mastering Techniques

56 video lessons · 10802 viewers

Bobby Owsinski
Author

 
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  1. 1m 39s
    1. Welcome
      1m 39s
  2. 7m 7s
    1. Introducing mastering
      1m 22s
    2. The history of audio mastering
      3m 30s
    3. Mastering professionally versus doing it yourself
      2m 15s
  3. 10m 10s
    1. Mixing with mastering in mind
      6m 41s
    2. Mastering session documentation
      53s
    3. Printing alternative mixes
      2m 36s
  4. 6m 21s
    1. Evaluating your listening environment
      1m 33s
    2. Beginning with the basic listening technique
      3m 19s
    3. Deciding between monitors and headphones
      1m 29s
  5. 18m 13s
    1. Overview of mastering tools
      22s
    2. Exploring the dynamic ranges of different music genres
      2m 40s
    3. Understanding compression
      3m 20s
    4. Understanding limiting
      1m 25s
    5. Understanding equalization (EQ)
      1m 44s
    6. Using a de-esser
      1m 14s
    7. Metering while mastering
      3m 57s
    8. Exploring the mastering signal path
      1m 11s
    9. Listening in your digital audio workstation (DAW) using the A/B method
      2m 20s
  6. 33m 10s
    1. Making a loud master
      3m 7s
    2. Compression tips and tricks
      2m 4s
    3. Achieving competitive level
      2m 2s
    4. Understanding the pitfalls of hypercompression
      2m 10s
    5. Balancing frequencies
      3m 20s
    6. Reducing sibilance with a de-esser
      2m 2s
    7. Inserting fades
      1m 37s
    8. Eliminating noise and distortion
      43s
    9. Using multiband limiting
      4m 23s
    10. Adjusting the stereo image
      3m 24s
    11. Bringing out specific elements in a mix
      8m 18s
  7. 8m 17s
    1. Using dither
      1m 40s
    2. Using the appropriate workstation
      1m 27s
    3. Adjusting the spreads
      1m 28s
    4. Using International Standard Recording Codes (ISRC)
      1m 14s
    5. Using Universal Product Codes (UPC)
      1m 10s
    6. Creating CD-text discs
      33s
    7. Delivering or receiving a DDP master
      45s
  8. 12m 44s
    1. Encoding using the MP3 format
      3m 43s
    2. Understanding MP3 metadata
      1m 44s
    3. Creating a great-sounding MP3
      2m 46s
    4. Generating a FLAC file
      1m 18s
    5. Submitting music to online stores and services
      48s
    6. Submitting music to online song databases
      2m 25s
  9. 17m 23s
    1. Understanding AAC, the iTunes file format
      2m 28s
    2. Mastering for iTunes tips and tricks
      1m 36s
    3. The Mastered for iTunes format
      1m 29s
    4. The Mastered for iTunes tool package
      54s
    5. Using the iTunes Plus tools: iTunes Droplet
      1m 51s
    6. Using the Mastered for iTunes Audio To WAVE Droplet
      49s
    7. Using the Mastered for iTunes AURoundTripAAC Audio Unit tool
      6m 48s
    8. Using The Mastered for iTunes tools Test Pressing Feature
      1m 28s
  10. 3m 30s
    1. Mastering for high resolution
      1m 36s
    2. Mastering for television
      1m 54s
  11. 1m 19s
    1. Delivering the master to the replicator
      28s
    2. Archiving the project
      51s
  12. 50s
    1. Next steps
      50s

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