Any song or produced track that you may hear on the radio or on a music streaming app is the product of hours of work. Not everyone understands the level of difficulty of producing a high-quality track, as this is a niche skill only individuals in the music production industry possess. Typically, the artist works with some combination of audio engineers, DJ’s, and producers to create a track. The producer must record each element, typically consisting of some combination of instrumentals and singing/rapping, in the song separately, then combine all these sounds seamlessly into one unified track. This complex process thus culminates in a perfectly-crafted song that can be streamed and listened to by many. To delve deeper into this process, I will elaborate on two methods of music production, mixing and mastering, before reflecting on their general importance to the piece.
In sound recording, mixing is the process of combining all the different recordings of the elements into a single product. Talented audio engineers must understand the nuances of each recording when combining them together, choosing which sounds to emphasize at which times. This aspect of mixing is called panning.
Mixing also includes panning, EQ, Effects, and Automation. Without getting too bogged down in the technicalities, EQ and Effects are ways to make layered sounds more distinct and clear to make a recording more lively and lush. These engineers and master mixers must have a well-trained ear in order to EQ all sounds so that they take up the same audio frequency, while also adding and tweaking effects to enhance the song. Because volume levels, panning, and a slew of multiple effects occur many times throughout the song, they must also be automated by the audio engineer. It is no understatement that mixing is a difficult task best left to industry professionals; Mixing involves a delicate balance of many pieces, and a badly mixed song can often sound chaotic and messy.
Music mastering, on the other hand, ensures that a song will maintain the same quality across all listening platforms. After the song is mixed properly, mastering is the next, and final step. It is done using tools such as equalization, compression, limiting, and stereo enhancement, which are all final touches to the mixed audio. Music mastering is important because it optimizes the experience of listening to music for the consumer, whether they are listening on vinyls, phone speakers, or through streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music, and Soundcloud. In sum, mastering allows for small mistakes in sound to be removed, improving uniformity and overall quality of the audio.
The Importance of Both
It should go without saying that both mixing and mastering are extremely vital to producing a high quality audio in an artists’ song or album. As mentioned before, music mixing is important for most music styles because it brings all different components of a song together cohesively. Because audio mixing techniques and approaches vary from person to person, it also allows artists to insert their own unique touches into their music. Mastering can be thought of as the final polish on the entire production process, and is important especially because music nowadays is consumed on dozens of different platforms.
Quality mixing and mastering lends to quality audio that is capable of reaching more people. This is because a properly mixed and mastered song has a quality that is on par with major label songs, a listener is less likely to skip the song. Consequently, it is harder to correctly market and position songs that are poorly mixed and mastered. At PlaylistStreams, we understand the nuances in the music industry and want to help promote these songs that are well-made, professional, but might not be gaining the exposure they deserve. A lot of hard work goes into creating a song or album, and with our campaigns, we can help bring real listeners to artists of a variety of genres.