Part art, part science, mixing is the process of finely balancing the elements of a song to achieve sonic gold. Mixing and arrangement are closely linked in that song structure effects which audio frequencies are in play and when they overlap. A good mix can really make a difference to a good song and vice versa.
Mixing can be broken into 6 easily understandable concepts:
Working intricately with individual levels to make sure each element can be perceived. Finding the essence of track, be it the vocal, bass, drums, guitars and working the other sounds around it.
Fashioning the harmonic content of individual sounds within the context of the whole song using equalisers and tonal effects such as distortion.
Working with the quiet and loud elements of individual sounds we can allow a mix to breath and have impact where needed. Is that sound punchy or smooth? With the use of compressors and automation, we can sculpt the shape of each individual sound.
Giving each mix element its own position between left and right speaker. Using clever delay techniques to increase perceived stereo width and working with mono elements to get the perfect centre and side balance.
Adding effects such as reverb and delay to create the feeling of depth by placing certain sounds close (short delays & reverbs) and others far away (long delays and reverbs).
Less is more (usually!) Sometimes taking away elements can achieve better results in a mix.
Mastering Audio is to achieve the best possible sound translation on all playback systems. In terms of album mastering special attention is paid to tone and loudness between tracks. Mastering relies heavily on an accurate listening environment as well as an accurate set of speakers, a deep understanding of sound from a scientific angle and a well developed pair of ears which have clocked a lot of sound! Abstract Source provide various types of mastering service: single track mastering, album and EP mastering and stem mastering.
Mastering can be broken down into the following:
Usually subtractive and performed with a surgical EQ. Dealing with any tonal abnormalities in the music due to frequency buildups where instruments sit on top of each other in the mix. Removing sharpness or boxiness.
Enhancing a track by boosting certain frequency ranges with an analog equaliser. Adding depth to a track by manipulating subharmonics or making a track sweeter by adding ‘Air’ in the high end.
Working with the quiet and loud parts of a track to either enhance them or reduce them. Glueing a mix together & treating various frequency ranges with compression in order to, for example, tighten up bass or take the sharpness out of an acoustic guitar.
Working on a select set of stereo parts/stems for example: drums, bass, vocals, guitars has the benefit of having much more control over the final product.
*A note on loudness: We can do ‘LOUD’ if required but in most cases would recommend a quieter, more dynamic master
The use of analog circuitry (hardware) to sweeten up, thicken or fatten a track.
Sometimes referred to as MOJO. Also boosts perceived loudness when working with the midrange and helps bring out certain elements of the track.
Working with the centre and side frequencies to achieve a stereo image which works best for the track. Testing in mono to make sure it will translate well when played in mono. Adding more centre to make a track more upfront and narrow or adding width to fix a narrow stereo field.
Increasing the volume of the entire track while maintaining dynamics by gently squeezing the range between the loudest and quiets sounds in the track.
Working with the client to arrange the track order. Adjusting the silence between songs and making sure the fade ins & outs are consistent.