Discuss here mixing and mastering

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They are mysterious.

Dan I. (Dan I.), Sunday, 23 October 2005 02:36 (seventeen years ago) link

Uh, yea, except when they're not.

Alex H (Alex Henreid), Sunday, 23 October 2005 03:44 (seventeen years ago) link

oh yeah totally you got that right; when they're not mysterious they're not mysterious, yep. OTM, big time. Nice one.

Dan I. (Dan I.), Sunday, 23 October 2005 05:04 (seventeen years ago) link

most simplified answer...mixing is about the relative levels of tracks, turn the bass up, the vocals down, etc. pick your levels and mix the multiple tracks down to stereo. Mastering has to do with a final eq and dynamics processing of the 2trk stereo master.

Dan Selzer (Dan Selzer), Sunday, 23 October 2005 06:22 (seventeen years ago) link


cross check your mix against a record/s in a similar genre that you admire. use this frequently and have your refernce up on stereo channels for quick A/B-ing. you don't have to make it sound exactly the same just know that your level and frequency balance is good.

understand frequency - cut don't boost! if you need something to cut through in a busy mix dig an eq 'trough'(at 1k for example) then cut the freqs around 1k on your target track leaving a 1k peak and float it up into the hole - magic! create the space then plug it - don't keep boosting everything, you'll end up with a mess that doesn't kick ass at all. if frequencies are fighting against one another make sure you know about it and it's there for a reason - nothing wrong with the odd ecstatic mush.

shit i could bore on for days and i don't even think this was the question.

john clarkson, Sunday, 23 October 2005 09:31 (seventeen years ago) link

No, do go on, if you feel like it!

Dan I. (Dan I.), Sunday, 23 October 2005 17:33 (seventeen years ago) link

No don't! Please don't spoil the mystery!!!

Alex H (Alex Henreid), Monday, 24 October 2005 02:29 (seventeen years ago) link

i like this article a lot:


vacuum cleaner (electricsound), Monday, 24 October 2005 05:38 (seventeen years ago) link

Mixing is a pain in the ass, but generally straightforward.

Mastering, however, is an arcane and strange process that possibly involves Freemasonic rituals and "The Voibe".

Paranoid Spice (kate), Monday, 24 October 2005 07:00 (seventeen years ago) link

please pass along any mastering info -- i have to go get our compilation mastered in a few weeks and would like it to not sound like ass. all i know right now is to make sure the bands on the comp arent using limiting.

maria tessa sciarrino (theoreticalgirl), Monday, 24 October 2005 08:21 (seventeen years ago) link


tissp! (the impossible shortest specia), Monday, 24 October 2005 08:31 (seventeen years ago) link

And don't overcompress.

But see above.

tissp! (the impossible shortest specia), Monday, 24 October 2005 08:31 (seventeen years ago) link

No don't! Please don't spoil the mystery!!!

granted. this shit takes years to learn - someone could point you in the right direction on m/board like this, but you've got to get your hands dirty, put the hours in, read the experts (see link above) and make lots of mistakes (in the comfort of your own home) to get beyond the theory and BS and into an intuitive state with it. no one can really explain it to you.

i'm not gonna overrule the resident guitar tech (i need favours dammit) but as pointers:

1. frequency
2. dynamics
3. use your ears


john clarkson, Monday, 24 October 2005 08:46 (seventeen years ago) link

please pass along any mastering info -- i have to go get our compilation mastered in a few weeks and would like it to not sound like ass. all i know right now is to make sure the bands on the comp arent using limiting.

The best advice regarding passing on something to be mastered is that the less you do to the mix, the better. Don't be tempted to start applying compression/expansion/whatever, just send the raw 2-track, even if it sounds shitty to your ears.

The idea is that mixing = assembling the structure of the sound and mastering = turning crappy but assembled sound into good and assembled sound.

tissp! (the impossible shortest specia), Monday, 24 October 2005 11:29 (seventeen years ago) link

"that the less you do to the mix, the better"

That is so true. People get so wacked out doing crazy EQ, compressor and limiter settings and trying to tweak every sound into nothing. All of the plug ins craze have only made this kind of problem worse, as people think they have to use something because they have so many options.

If it doesn't sound good when it is live in the room, it probably won't sound that good in a mix and no amount of trickery can really fix it is as easily as just improving the original sound.

Earl Nash (earlnash), Monday, 24 October 2005 12:45 (seventeen years ago) link

John OTM. Things I learned during the mixing of our last album (I didn't actually mix it, just sat there watching and approving):

1) EQ comes before levels. If you go through trying to even out the peaks of a track that's not properly EQ'd it'll take forever and sound like crap anyway. If you go through everything and take out the harsh-sounding frequencies and make sure there's a place for each track, balance is cake.

2) Compression is not always necessary.

3) My engineer's band mixed their radio-pop record with a radio-pop pro, and it sounded pretty interesting. Apparently after the EQ'ing was done and they were in front of the humungo mixing board, the dude bumped the snare way up but otherwise the levels of all the instrumental tracks were FLAT. The only thing they spent a lot of time doing volume automation and stuff for was the vocals. The end effect is that some of the layers and little instrumental stuff gets lost, but it does create this thick pop sheen that coats the vocals.

Jordan (Jordan), Monday, 24 October 2005 13:47 (seventeen years ago) link

yeah, i already had in the back of my mind to not do much to the tracks. overproduction is not in my blood.

keep posting away on this subject! i appreciate the advice.

maria tessa sciarrino (theoreticalgirl), Monday, 24 October 2005 14:20 (seventeen years ago) link

five months pass...
We've just recorded and mixed a three-track demo, and were wondering whether it to get it properly mastered. Bearing in mind that it's not intended for commercial release, but to send out in the hope of getting gigs/reviews/maybe the odd radio play etc., would it be worth the expense?

The tracks are on our Myspace here.

Ben Dot (1977), Wednesday, 5 April 2006 10:11 (sixteen years ago) link

two years pass...

n.a., are you the person in fake fictions? the band i'm in is looking at different mastering people and i noticed that the fake fictions used carl saff. were you satisfied w/ the results? any beefs?


6335, Friday, 11 July 2008 21:13 (fourteen years ago) link

Carl Saff - mastering, chicago

St3ve Go1db3rg, Friday, 11 July 2008 23:34 (fourteen years ago) link

nice, much thanks steve

6335, Saturday, 12 July 2008 06:06 (fourteen years ago) link

one month passes...

we ended up going w/ SAE mastering in phoenix. it was way too expensive but the before/after difference was amazing. if anyone is interested, i can post a song

6335, Monday, 18 August 2008 05:26 (fourteen years ago) link

nice choice

electricsound, Monday, 18 August 2008 05:40 (fourteen years ago) link

i'm interested. how was the $$$?

Jordan, Monday, 18 August 2008 14:51 (fourteen years ago) link

the original quote was for about $800, but then we asked him to go back over the whole thing and bring the vocals out a little more and tone down some of the harshness in the high end. which to be fair to him, was totally on us - we had some nasty trebley tones in our mix we sent him. it took him about an hour or so to churn out the 2nd try, so our total came to about $900. it was pretty remarkable how well he was able to bring out the vocals, considering that we mixed them a bit low in the first place. anyway, we're all pretty stoked on the end result.
i'll post before and after mixes when i get a chance

6335, Monday, 18 August 2008 17:06 (fourteen years ago) link

eight months pass...

anyone have experience with including a video on a cd? i'm guessing it would need to be added at the mastering stage? i have no idea how this affects the possible length of the album, and i'm a little concerned that it can cause problems ripping and/or the cd.

Ømår Littel (Jordan), Wednesday, 13 May 2009 16:03 (thirteen years ago) link

We're released 2 commercial CDs with video on them. Length is as you'd guess. If the video is 10 megs, that's room for one less song or whatever. I forget how much space songs take. The real issue is choosing a size and a compression codec that's suitable. In the mastering stage, you can define exactly where the window will open up and what will be shown. You can create some kind of flash application or internal website to frame the video, or just make it a quicktime clip (or WMV?) with a nice title page. The first clip we included was of Glenn Branca playing guitar on the Ascension CD. It's all over youtube now.

dan selzer, Thursday, 14 May 2009 15:02 (thirteen years ago) link

one year passes...

'spread' - anyone got any tips. I'm starting to get into the nitty gritty of equalising my tracks in order to retain a place for them in the mix. Should I get deep into panning and stuff or should I concentrate on the audibility of separate instruments with levels/dynamics/EQ? It's all really heavily layered pop stuff often with various drum kits (actually have one with a 707, 808 and a 909 lol I'm making this hard for myself) and I want to at least attempt for a large/wide clean sound.

proper producer 'man this mix is shitty, it's going to take me so long to fix it'
me 'nah nah, you're missing the point. It's RAW, it has HEART, I'm breaking industry held traditions to forge my own sound'
(I can't keep this lie up)

owenf, Wednesday, 22 September 2010 00:27 (twelve years ago) link

panning is essential for giving things space, esp if the mix is busy. eq can only do so much if the arrangement isn't already giving space to everything imo

i'm quite into hard LCR panning occasionally putting one or two things in between..

do you have an example we can hear?

deep-fried cigarette (electricsound), Wednesday, 22 September 2010 00:34 (twelve years ago) link

I'm doing most of my mixing on headphones (sadly) so I find it really hit and miss with hard panning. I think I have a problem with overcompression too and am in the process of going through everything removing as much as I can (this track is pre decompression drive) and trying to dense it up in mastering rather than worrying about it right now.

here's an example of a track that I'd like to give more space to.


ignore the adhd synth in the chorus, that's gone now i just can't be bothered to bounce it with the replacement.

owenf, Wednesday, 22 September 2010 00:47 (twelve years ago) link

problem with overcompression too

i know the feeling, i used to compress & eq everything out of sheer habit, these days i barely do much of either and the results are vastly better

deep-fried cigarette (electricsound), Wednesday, 22 September 2010 00:51 (twelve years ago) link

haha, god you'll hate that track. There's so much it's painful.

owenf, Wednesday, 22 September 2010 00:52 (twelve years ago) link

i don't think the mix is bad at all - it does feel like it could be a bit wider, i wouldn't be scared to hard pan particular instruments, leave the C for drums/bass/vocals and pan or hard pan everything else. no need for synth and guitar to be sitting in the same area for example..

sounds like something that would fit right in on the moshi moshi singles club!

deep-fried cigarette (electricsound), Wednesday, 22 September 2010 00:55 (twelve years ago) link

actually this a better example with a more specific need. I'd really love those disco string stabs to really pierce the mix but they always end up sounding a bit weak.

But yeah the wideness is something to be addressed at the mastering stage correct? For some reason I have this strange voice in my mind telling me that if I concentrate on making a track wider in the mix it'll render it less punchy dunno why.

Maybe I'll have a go at some hard panning and post my results. Thanks so much for the advice. Don't really have a go person I can use, thank god for ilxor.

Hah, think I've tried approaching moshi moshi in previous guises.

owenf, Wednesday, 22 September 2010 01:03 (twelve years ago) link

the wideness is something to be addressed at the mastering stage correct?

most of the 'width' is going to come out of having more unique elements in L vs R, but yeah some additional widening can be done in mastering with the purpose-built tools.

shouldn't necessarily take away from the punchiness if you've got the drums and bass up the guts.

deep-fried cigarette (electricsound), Wednesday, 22 September 2010 01:08 (twelve years ago) link

two weeks pass...

bypassed all this hassle and got a really cool producer in a fancy studio doing some work with me. One of the london miloco ones. Very cool. Although when I go in I know i'm going to be fazed by all the gear and end up going 'yeah, do that' a lot.

owenf, Friday, 8 October 2010 17:36 (twelve years ago) link

eight months pass...

limiters are just killing my mixes. I tend to have to send out a lot of bounces with minor things tweaked and the requisite is that it's limited (otherwise the person on the receiving end will inevitably say 'can you make it a bit louder'). The norm is to smash the shit out of a mix on the L2 but I'm increasingly finding it to be shit. Prefer the Oxford but for certain mixes it just doesn't seem to work

but what limiters do people use?

owenf, Wednesday, 8 June 2011 12:27 (eleven years ago) link

i really dislike both L2 and oxford. i think limiting technology has come a long way since those.

i've used a bunch of limiters, until recently my preference was PSP xenon but i've switched over to fabfilter pro-l which i think is awesome. things can get a lot louder without getting crumbly.

*plop* crimes (electricsound), Wednesday, 8 June 2011 22:49 (eleven years ago) link

I'll have to check out the fabfilter. Is it au? I'd go with the Massey if I used protools more often. Wonder if hardware limiters are a good investment? I get the impression they're overly musical/colouring for my needs.

owenf, Thursday, 9 June 2011 13:04 (eleven years ago) link

yeah FF do AU. i am a huge fan of fabfilter stuff, i haven't used their EQ or compressor but have everything else.

hardware limiters seem a bit pointless to me - they're digital by definition so i don't see how they could be better than a plugin. you'd be better off with a hardware compressor then come back itb for the limiting..

*plop* crimes (electricsound), Thursday, 9 June 2011 22:47 (eleven years ago) link

one year passes...

whoa, aams.

queeple qua queeple (Jordan), Monday, 18 February 2013 02:10 (nine years ago) link

sounds 10x better than my sad diy mastering attempts.

queeple qua queeple (Jordan), Monday, 18 February 2013 02:11 (nine years ago) link

oh dear

flaccid archives (electricsound), Monday, 18 February 2013 02:13 (nine years ago) link

don't get me wrong, i know how important a good mastering engineer is and would never use it for a 'real' release. but i hate + am terrible at mastering my own tracks, so this will be a big help for sending out demos or throwing up a freebie on soundcloud.

queeple qua queeple (Jordan), Monday, 18 February 2013 02:18 (nine years ago) link

maybe i should try this thing out

flaccid archives (electricsound), Monday, 18 February 2013 02:20 (nine years ago) link

it's certainly not perfect, like the kick on this track i just tried is distorting/clipping out periodically, but def better than i expected.

queeple qua queeple (Jordan), Monday, 18 February 2013 02:26 (nine years ago) link

ok i'm over it, did 6 tracks without a problem but now it errors out every time i try to use it on anything.

queeple qua queeple (Jordan), Monday, 18 February 2013 13:25 (nine years ago) link

why did it take me so long to embrace the joys of M/S processing

rave revue (electricsound), Sunday, 24 February 2013 03:08 (nine years ago) link

three years pass...


purports to instantly master your tracks for cheap
i'm trying it out as a test with one track
but it can't possibly be good, right?

Immediate Follower (NA), Thursday, 26 May 2016 15:39 (six years ago) link

i don't really have the ears to assess how "good" a job they do. it's louder for sure.

Immediate Follower (NA), Thursday, 26 May 2016 15:39 (six years ago) link

show us the before & after graphs & spectrograms?

El Tomboto, Friday, 27 May 2016 03:03 (six years ago) link

Deeply skeptical

Οὖτις, Friday, 27 May 2016 03:12 (six years ago) link

mixing is the part that frustrates me the most about making music. i just want whatever goodass ideas i have to sound better. ive gotten a lot better about using stereo space, and making instruments sound distinct from one another, but theres still a lot of mush. i'll listen to professional stuff and be like WHAT AM I DOING WRONG and then i remember i have a full-time job and a family and slither away.

6 god none the richer (m bison), Friday, 27 May 2016 03:42 (six years ago) link

I don't know much about mastering but I imagine there isn't much that online service does thats much better than turning on a mastering plug-in to whatever preset seems suitable.

dan selzer, Friday, 27 May 2016 14:48 (six years ago) link

I'll probably take these down in a day or two but
here's the unmastered version: https://soundcloud.com/scarequotes-1/shredded-sun-say-my-name
here's the mastered by LANDR version: https://soundcloud.com/scarequotes-1/landr-shredded-sun-say-my-name
that's the free lo-res MP3 of the master, I'm not ready to pay for it yet, and you can really hear it in the loud parts of the song - has that very obnoxious lo-res watery sound. I'm guessing paying for the hi-res MP3s or WAVs would get rid of that

Immediate Follower (NA), Friday, 27 May 2016 16:28 (six years ago) link

you can pick how aggressive you want the dynamics to be too - this is the most aggressive (ie most squashed) mode - probably the loud parts would sound better with a more dynamic mode

Immediate Follower (NA), Friday, 27 May 2016 16:31 (six years ago) link

four years pass...

Ugggh, I hate mastering. I'm trying to get better with Ozone (Elements), but my attempts always sound both not as loud and more squashed than everything I compare them to.

Yes, it's always better to pay a mastering engineer and I have no problem doing so for 'real' releases, but I'd also like to put out some more informal releases on Bandcamp. And I'd rather not pay even $100 for mastering an EP that is likely going to make $100 or less.

That said, here's a cool panel on mixing & mastering with a bunch of cool people: https://www.twitch.tv/videos/785681589

change display name (Jordan), Friday, 30 October 2020 16:02 (two years ago) link

So what do we think of the mastering service on Soundcloud? I've not actually paid to use it but you can hear a wee sample of what your tracks would sound like post-mastering and to my untrained ear they do sound better.

paolo, Monday, 2 November 2020 07:48 (two years ago) link

Haven't tested it but I've only seen people clowning on it, it's probably better than nothing though.

So I've made some improvements by 1) adding more things to the mastering chain than just ozone, which probably isn't necessary but I guess this is 'serial compression'? and mostly 2) downloading this Youlean mastering meter plugin, which I may have found through that above panel: https://youlean.co/youlean-loudness-meter/

It's great to have an objective measure of loudness, to A/B against reference tracks. What I also learned from this (and the panel) was that I can ignore the whole 'master for Spotify' and their -14 LUFs thing. Most of my reference tracks are louder than that, and it's ok to go loud and know that streaming services will just pull it down a few db (and apparently there's a way to turn that off when listening??).

My main concern is making dubs that will sound good in a DJ mix anyway, and mastering for Bandcamp downloads.

change display name (Jordan), Thursday, 5 November 2020 18:37 (two years ago) link

two years pass...

I've become a full-on mix nerd in the process of mixing this (algorithmic) guitar & (live) drums record I'm working on. I'm talking getting into different EQs and compressors, watching youtube tutorials, endless revisions and car tests, etc. I feel like this is the first 'real' mixing I've done, both in terms of taking full responsibility for it and in not doing as part of the production/arrangement (although some problems I'm definitely solving with arrangement changes too).

Learning so much as I go along, it's making me feel bad about all my previous mixdowns. It's nice when you come across a tip or trick that you arrived at intuitively. For example, I was worried that I was doing too much surgical notch EQ by sweeping around and dipping resonant frequencies, and was thinning out the guitars too much. So I added analog-style EQs after the subtractive ones to gently boost frequency ranges back in and warm things up again.

Mostly what I'm learning is that every track is its own problem to solve and there are no formulas, not even on the same record. But it's also good to have a bag full of tricks to try and solve problems.

Luckily I'm not doing the final master, I still don't feel very skilled when it comes to limiting and gain at the master stage, especially for music that's a little more dynamic.

change display name (Jordan), Tuesday, 24 January 2023 18:49 (two weeks ago) link

Btw FabFilter's youtube channel has some really fab tutorials.

change display name (Jordan), Tuesday, 24 January 2023 18:55 (two weeks ago) link

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