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What is the difference between Mastering and Mixing? – 5 steps for a successful song

 

With the development of home studios and self-production, more and more artists perform their music independently without the help of anyone. And although there are hundreds of ways to produce a title, certain steps are essential for a song to have a clean, professional rendering.
 
What are the mandatory steps to make a title suitable for all media?
What are the differences between Mixing and Mastering?
 
Here are the 5 key phases to produce a successful song 👇

 

1 – Composition and Arrangements

At the base of any process of musical creation, composition is the foundation of your music. It is during this stage that you will create melodies for your song. Armed with a MIDI keyboard, or just a music software, this step is crucial and lays the foundation for your song. It’s up to you to decide the chords, the instruments and the rhythm of this first phase. As a result of your composition, you will probably make some arrangements. Whether partially reworking the melody by modifying measures, or adding atmospheres through effects, this complementary step seems rather natural within the creative process. To conclude, the arrangement comes to refine the color of your composition according to your artistic desires.

 

2 – The Record

Whether for instruments or voice recordings, the recording represents the logical continuation of the composition. It is during this stage that you will record your voice, those of potential partners or even your latest instruments. In order to produce an optimal result, it is advisable to benefit from a quality material according to what you want to record. It’s about capturing the best of your voice or instruments to showcase them as you wish. Finally, do not neglect the acoustics of the room in which you record, as well as any plug-in to enjoy an optimal sound.

Note that following this step, it is possible to arrange your voice, which is also more and more in the music industry. You can then choose to mitigate imperfections as well as change drastically with voice modification methods. Accuracy, tempo, vibrato, … everything can still be changed after recording.

 

3 – The Mix

Once your compositions and recordings made, you now have different tracks superimposed. You must then harmonize them so that the overall result is as audible as possible. This is the mixing stage.

Depending on the color you want to give to your title, you will give more importance to one track than another. You can thus favor a voice rather than a guitar by modifying the harmony of the tracks.

More concretely, you need to create a balance in the frequencies and placement of the sounds of your different tracks. For smooth mixing, the level of each instrument, whether it is Audio, or MIDI, is required. Subsequently, you can use special effects, such as reverb, delay, or echo. Always in order to give depth to your song, it is finally advisable to use filters like the equalizer (equalizer or EQ).

The mixing stage can be done by yourself, although it is always good to have an outside opinion on the final rendering of your music. For a mix to be successful, it is advisable to change the listening support, in order to have a concrete overview of your music from different angles.

At the end of this stage, your song must appear to you complete, the listening must be pleasant, and each element must be audible.

 

4 – The Mastering

Just like a layer of varnish on your painting, the mastering stage comes last in order to sublimate your production. The mastering should not mitigate the errors of the mix but add depth, and especially make it audible in good quality on all types of media: radio, TV, streaming, CD, vinyl, nightclub…

Even the best mixes can not replace a mastering done by a sound professional with experience. Mastering, also called “pre-mastering”, must also harmonize the titles of a project. It should not be that too great disparities are heard between the different titles of the same album.

But how to master a sound?

It is not possible for everyone to be able to master music. First of all, this requires a professional equipment with a perfectly designed room for acoustics and speakers at more than 5000 € per unit. You must also have good ears, as well as a consistent experience. So this is an art, which is unfortunately not for everyone.

You still have several solutions:

  1. You stick to a mix of good qualities if you do not want to exploit your project on a large scale.
  2. Outsource the mastering stage to a recognized professional. You can also do this remotely by sending all the tracks of your project. However, the cost of this service is very expensive (count more than 100 euros per title for a complete mastering of quality).
  3. Use an on-line mastering service like Landr or Moja (e-mastering). Of much less good quality, services like Landr offer an economic alternative to the mastering realized by professionals of the sound. Achieved by artificial intelligence, this may represent a happy medium for an amateur artist lacking resources.

5 – The Distribution

After these different steps and once your mastering in your pocket, now it’s time to distribute your title! Digital distribution in streaming, CD or vinyl pressing, radio airplays, TV or in sound locations, … the choice is yours.

This decision must however be taken according to the mode of listening favored by your audience. Namely, if your listeners consumes music rather physically or digitally, and what places or platforms online they frequent.

With the advent of streaming, especially characterized by inexpensive distribution costs unlike CDs, it is now relevant to offer your music on platforms like Deezer, Spotify or Apple Music. For this, many distributors can meet your needs at variable costs.

Check out here how to choose the best music distribution, and our comparative of them!

 
 

Article from CMC Studio

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