Is Mixing and Mastering Necessary | Decibel Peak

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I used to ask myself the same question, “is mixing and mastering necessary”. For the longest time, I believed that it would make my music sound overly-processed and unnatural. However, realizing that DIGITAL music wasn’t the same as ACOUSTIC music is what got me on track.

So, is mixing and mastering necessary or is it just a waste of time/money? In this article, I’ll be explaining why mixing and mastering is essential to the success of your music. Whether you decide to learn how to do that yourself or find yourself an excellent mixing and mastering engineer, you’ll need to understand and even HEAR the difference it makes (examples to come). I’ll also be explaining why tracks that have been mastered are more likely to be listened to. All of this (and more) is coming up, so stay tuned!

Is mixing necessary for your music’s success?

To be completely honest, I’ve never heard a track that wasn’t mixed. At its most essential, mixing involves adjusting each individual track’s volume so that they sound balanced.

However, this is only ONE of the important elements of mixing.

Unless you’re working with a solo performance or even a duo, you’ll encounter problems as you begin to add more tracks to the mix. We’re basically trying to fit a bunch of different sounds down a very narrow tube (your speakers), so information is bound to get lost in translation.

Here are some of these issues:

  • Certain frequencies may get lost in the mix
  • Quieter dynamics may get lost in the mix
  • Different tracks (recorded at different times/places) may sound out of place

In their respective order, these are the basic tools we use to correct these issues:

  • EQ (Linear, Parametric, Graphic)
  • Compressor (Multiressor, Expander, Limiter, Noise Gate)
  • Reverb (Delay, Echo)

Adjusting volumes is just the tip of the iceberg. To get your tracks sounding as “complete” as possible, someone’s going to have to get in there and be selective.

That’s right, mixing is really a process of elimination and of bringing out the important elements of each track to create SPACE. Un-mixed projects often sound “clogged up” and/or muddy because each track is fighting for its space in the mix.

Mixing is necessary if you want to adhere to the industry standard.

Is mastering necessary for your music’s success?

On the other hand, I’ve heard many tracks that weren’t mastered. I only began mastering my own tracks once there was actually a need for it.

Distributing your music to streaming platforms, music libraries and beyond REQUIRES them to be mixed and especially mastered.

At the surface level, the mastering process is all about getting your tracks LOUD enough to adhere to the current industry standard. If you fail to provide the essentials, your tracks will most likely be rejected (not because they’re not good though).

There’s also some psychological law that states that we generally perceive louder music to be better when we place them side-by-side.

However, there are more steps to mastering than you might think:

  • Alternate-mixes (alt-mixes)
  • Metadata
  • File format (mp3, wav, etc…)
  • Bit-depth/sample rate (ex.: 24-bit/48 KHz)

Unlike mixing, mastering involves more technical knowledge and although it still remains subjective as an art form, there’s more margin for error.

What I mean by that is that it’s more difficult than it sounds to get your tracks as loud as possible without sounding terrible. Indirectly, mixing is just as important (if not more) because I learned the hard way that using the plugins in the previous section was OBLIGATORY.

Everything is amplified during the mastering stage, so small imperfections become quite noticeable.

Failing to clean up your mix using the essential tools will make it impossible for anybody to master your project to its fullest potential.

Is it necessary to have your projects mixed and mastered professionally?

One of the biggest misconceptions in the music industry is that your tracks need to be mixed and mastered by someone entirely different. Most music producers are quite able to render that service, but it seems like some artists like to divide the task.

There’s nothing wrong with getting another pair of ears involved, but it’s not obligatory.

For starters, the mixing phase is highly subjective. As long as you know the basics, even the most inexperienced musician could pull it off. I actually prefer mixing my own music simply for the fact that I hear it better than anyone else ever could.

However, you may simply dislike the process or lack the proper setup.

In that case, you’d most likely be better off checking an online mixing and mastering service.

That goes double for the mastering phase.

Some musicians who can mix their music with ease still have difficulty when it comes to mastering. Since the process is much more technical, it usually turns most people off.

The learning curve is also a lot steeper, so if you don’t have time… I highly recommend working with a professional, at least for the time being.

However, I DO encourage you to learn to do it yourself at some point (to save money).

It also really depends how frequently you release music and if it falls within your budget.

Either way, I recommend that everyone learn to mix their own music since it’s really not that complicated and it’ll come out better since it’s YOUR song. On the other hand, professional mastering is generally much more affordable and might save you some stress.

Is it better to mix and master your own tracks?

If you’re interested in learning how to mix and master your own music, you’ve come to the right place. I firmly believe that mixing and mastering your own music is better both on an artistic level and of course, for your budget.

If you’re creating approximately 3-5 tracks per week, it can save you LOTS of money.

That being said, you’ll also be learning an invaluable skill that you could potentially use to serve others as well! If you’re willing to put in the time (and make mistakes), you’ll get much more benefit out of mixing and mastering your own tracks.

I personally love the process and can’t get enough of it!

But, some people would much rather delegate this essential task.

My philosophy is if you can afford to delegate, go for it! However, it’s really difficult to get your career started if your expenses outweigh your income.

If you’d like to know more about my process, I suggest starting with this article.

Mixing and mastering is necessary for your success

You’d most likely wear something nice to your job interview, right? Well, mixing and mastering is like getting your music dressed up for the occasion because it represents YOU.

Everything you hear on streaming services, the radio, television and beyond has been mixed and mastered (sometimes specifically) for the selected medium.

If your projects aren’t adhering to the current industry standard, it won’t be listened to at best and completely rejected at the worst. You’ve worked hard on the songwriting/composition phase, so the last thing you’d want to do is put all that work to waste.

In other words, mixing and mastering is like the package you use to deliver your music.

However, if it’s done correctly your music WON’T sound over-processed. You could go that direction if your genre calls for it, but it’s possible to achieve natural sounding mixes even though we’re technically modifying the initial product.

I’m talking about Jazz and Classical music in particular.

I don’t believe these genres should be delivered “as is” because by nature, the music loses its “purity” the moment it enters the digital world. We’re simply looking for solutions to make it sound its best given the circumstances.

On that note, I’ll be leaving you with my personal recommendation for online mixing and mastering as well as an article that’ll help you get started if you want to do it on your own.

Is mixing and mastering necessary? If you’re just making demos in your mom’s basement, you might not see the use right now but trust me, it’s obligatory in the real world. If you’re asking yourself this question to save yourself some time/money, just keep in mind that you could achieve the same by learning how to mix and master your own tracks. In that case, I highly recommend signing up to my weekly newsletter because you’ll always be up to date with my latest content. I talk a lot about mixing and mastering at Decibel Peak because we’re focused on learning to do everything on our own so we can take control of our musical lifestyle! I hope you enjoyed, thanks for reading.

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