Mastering Won’t Fix a Bad Mix!


Author: Mehrzad Mehrabanpour
Audio mastering is the final step in music production. In order to achieve the best result; “A great sounding song”, every step of the way must be taken carefully and with optimum precision. 

If you have a bad sounding guitar, no matter how hard you try or how great your recording equipment are, you can’t record a good guitar track. Or if you have the best guitar and a bad guitar player still you won’t get a good recording.

 

If you have done an ok job in recording, you can’t expect a good sounding mix, no matter how good your mixing engineer is or how great the gear.

But still many people leave some of their work for the next guy, this is certainly a bad habit and affects the end result in a destructive way. Mastering improves the way a song sounds, but that doesn’t mean that mastering engineers are miracle workers.

These are some useful tips to achieve better mixes for mastering:

     

  • Make as much contrast as you can between different elements of your mix, this way nothing gets lost in your mix and everything will be defined. This is done by EQ, reverb and panning.
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  • Make sure you don’t brighten your vocals more than the hi-hats, cymbals or rides.Those elements are mainly responsible for high frequency detail, boosting the high frequencies in mastering affects the whole mix and if the vocals are brighter than they should be, they will start Essing.
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  • Don’t use a lot of reverb in an up-tempo song. Using a lot of reverb specially for the singer in a fast song harms the beat’s rigidity and kills the punch.
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  • The kick drum is one of the most important elements in making your song sound punchy or even ruin the dynamics of your song. It is also the loudest part in a stereo mix file that’s going for mastering. so be careful with it, first get the best sound out of it, adjust the bass till you get a good sound and a distinctive sound in relation to the bass guitar, adjust the attack (should be in the mid-range or high mid’s), compress it and make sure it has the loudest sound with the lowest possible peak and it doesn’t lose its punch while compressing.After that mix the rest of the tracks one by one. If you mix everything before the kick, you will need to make the kick drum louder and louder and you don’t have enough headroom, then you need to bring everything down and run into numerous problems.

And again, never assume that the next guy will correct your errors.

 

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