Mixing for Mastering

This blog is going to make mastering engineers around the world very happy with me. It’s about leaving them some room so they can all keep their day jobs. With today’s tools and technology it’s very easy for us to maximize our final mixes to the point where they sound like a finished product, which neccessarily isn’t a bad thing, unless of course you plan on sending it off to be mastered.

Mastering can encompass many different things, but mainly it’s where the final compression/limiting, and EQ’ing will take place. What this means to our final mixes is that they may sound quieter, less punchy, and duller than it’s mastered counterpart. Our gut tells us to make it sound like the latest U2 single particularly if we’ve been A/B’ing our mix with a mastered record. Our client is asking why he/she has to turn up the volume and bass in their car to make it sound better, and why doesn’t it have that same sheen as their Lady GaGa CD? Naturally we want to make everyone happy, so the best course of action is to make the mastering engineer happy first. How we do that is by leaving the final compression and EQ to him. He generally will have far better tools to do this. Also, he will have a different listening environment, and speakers to hear the mix through. And last, he will have a fresh set of objective ears to put on our work.

It seems counterintuitive to let our mixes go knowing we could make them sound better, but in the end the final product will sound better if we just let the mastering guy work his mojo. Most clients will get this when shown an example of an unmastered/mastered version of the same track, and understand why we show some restraint in our mixes. -Scott Smith, The Wood and Stone Room

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