Production music has these 5 stages – composing, arrangement, recording, mixing and mastering.
Everyone knows a lot about the first three stages, but still have questions about mixing and mastering.
When you are finished composing, arrangement and recording your song – you will have a multitrack session. It’s every single track recorded for your song separately.
So now you can start the mixing process.
Mixing is a process working with a multitrack session. Mixing engineers balance each track, do processing on every track (compression, eq, reverbs, etc), remove frequency conflicts between each element of a song, create depth and space of the song.
But the main thing that a mixing engineer creates is a picture. He works with feelings, emotions of the song, and keeps the listener’s attention on some elements. Also, he helps to create a sound that the musician wants and keeps world quality standards.
After mixing you will have just one stereo file.
Now it’s time to do mastering.
Mastering is a process of standardization of the whole stereo track for world standards (loudness, frequency response, dynamic range).
Mastering engineers also can give some advice for the mix, cause he has fresh ears and he can listen clearly to some things that a mixing engineer can’t hear cause of tired ears and lost perception caused from long hours working on one song.
Generally, a mastering engineer is like a colorist in video production.
Also a mastering engineer works with albums. Usually, everybody has an issue with different sounding/mixed tracks. So now the mastering engineer can create the right balance between different tracks on the album.
The last thing I can tell you about is Stem Mastering.
It’s when the mastering engineer works with already mixed buss stems. For example – Drums, Bass,Keys, FX, Vocals. It gives mastering more possibilities to fix mixing issues without touching the whole audio. It could really help mixing engineers without perfect control room, etc.