Mixing vs mastering

Simply put, mixing is the process of mixing multiple audio recordings together. Mastering, on the other hand, is the final check to ensure that audio material is ready for playback and distribution.

(Mixing vs Mastering – music production blog)

Let’s compare the goals of mixing and mastering as taught in top music production academy in India.


Setting levels and stereo panning of individual recordings;

Sound processing for each recording;

Mixing a multi-track project to sound balanced.



Adjust overall volume. ie, loudness of the track. 
Presenting parts and whole songs in the best way. 
Preparing music to sound good on different systems and media. 

Mixing involves processing tracks to present them in the best possible way, setting levels and blending instruments harmoniously.

Mastering includes the final quality check, setting the volume for the track, and preparing the music for distribution so that it sounds right on the devices the consumer will listen to it on.

Consider the analogy of producing a song and preparing a book for publication.

A music artist is an author, while a mixing engineer is a literary editor who helps the author translate his ideas into the best possible form that is enjoyable to read. Finally, the mastering engineer is the copy editor who performs the final technical reviews of the writing and creates the final layout to fit the manuscript into the various book editions.

To understand the differences, listen to the video above where you can hear the same unmixed, mixed and mastered track played back to back.

(Mixing vs Mastering – music production blog)

What is Mixing?

Once you’ve recorded all the parts of the song and applied basic effects to them (like placing an amp sim on a DI guitar part), then the mixing begins.

The mixing engineer aims to present the parts and the composition as a whole in the best and most coherent way possible to the listener.

To achieve this, they will use tools such as panning, EQ, compression, reverb and possibly other effects such as delay, modulation and saturation, among many other options.

During the mixing process, the mixing engineer will also set levels for the parts that the above tools can help with. For example, compression can be used to move an audio track forward in the mix, while reverb can be used to settle a part a bit.

At the end of the mixing process, the track will be complete in its basic form, with all levels, effects, and sounds set in place.

(Mixing vs Mastering – music production blog)

What is Mastering?

A mastering engineer will usually take the single stereo track generated at the end of the mixing stage and do the final polishing to make it ready for release. Tools commonly used in mastering include EQ, compression and limiting.

With the benefit of a new set of ears, the mastering engineer will perform final quality checks and address any technical issues the mixer may have missed.

It sets the song’s volume to a level comparable to other commercial releases, so it doesn’t sound out of place when played back-to-back with other music. They will also create consistency in level and sound between different tracks on a release.

Another job of mastering is to prepare the track to sound as good as possible on whatever system the consumer is using, whether it’s cheap headphones, car stereos or studio monitors.

A mastering engineer will also make the necessary tweaks to prepare the track for whatever medium it will be published on. For best results, engineers usually create separate masters optimized for different media, such as digital formats (CD and download) and analog (vinyl).

(Mixing vs Mastering – music production blog)

What is Mastering?

Perhaps the best mastering advice you’ll ever get is to use a new set of ears for mastering. It is better to have mixing and mastering done by different engineers and, if possible, leave the mastering to professionals.

That’s because one of the main points of mastering is double-checking quality control and looking for things the mixer may have missed while immersed in the project. With this in mind, mastering should ideally be done by a professional who was not involved in the mixing stage and who has access to an acoustically conditioned room for mastering purposes.

Not to mention that mastering is a special area where technical knowledge, experience and professional attitude go a long way.

Options if you can’t afford professional mastering

Mastering is not that expensive compared to outsourcing mixing or tracking. That said, if your music production budget doesn’t stretch that far, you can definitely do it yourself if you’re willing to put in the time and effort.

Using online mastering services is the best option if you don’t have the budget to visit a mastering studio in person. Many websites offer online mastering, and chances are you can find a mastering service that fits your budget.

AI mastering is another option, but our experience is that the quality is not comparable to that of a proper mastering engineer.

Remember to separate mixing and mastering.

It is important to remember that composing, recording, mixing and mastering are separate stages of music production and should not overlap.

Don’t waste time trying to do the blender’s work while tracking the parts. Don’t worry about applying reverb and going crazy with the EQing stuff. Without all the recordings, it’s impossible to make these tweaks accurately, so you’ll have to redo them anyway.

Likewise, when mixing, it’s counterproductive to start trying to turn up the volume or worry about tasks that should be left to the mastering stage.

Music production courses in India and sound engineering course in India(Mixing vs Mastering – music production blog)

Get in touch!

If you guys have another other questions you would like to shoot at me, just shoot me a mail at ronak@gray-spark.com.

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