Professional mixing mastering is probably the most incomprehensible and steeped in legends preparation stage of an audio for release. Everything is seemingly clear – this is a process of final music refinement, polishing and technical preparation audio for cutting into vinyl or CD. Exceptionally experienced rap vocals mixing engineers with trained hearing and proficient in audio processing are engaged at this stage. This factor brought about breeding grounds for speculations. Especially among novices at online mixing audio services who have trouble picturing what to expect at this stage and what undercurrents prevail here. However, today due to technological development mastering is not only preserved by miracle men from mainstream music studios, but also available for ordinary artists thanks to great variety of plugins which accurately emulate the work of professional music studio appliances and devices. Although there isn’t any plugin to replace mixing mastering engineers’ experience and knowledge, modern music technologies allow the engineer to make much headway without leaving his bedroom. At least home music mixing is quite a reasonable solution when it doesn’t come to a super important project and you have limited budget. Even standard set of audio effects included in any DAW can make short work of basic problems: dull sounding, insufficient music loudness and brightness. Yet for those who have chosen professional online mixing mastering as their main aim and basic life occupation, it will be helpful to study these processes in detail. Although it’s impossible to do within one article, we are trying to clarify basic moments and stages – I’m sure that it can be a good starting point for further development.
Stages of mastering
Professional audio mastering is traditionally considered to be final processing of music mixed beforehand and exported into a single stereo audio file to give a lot more sound purity and loudness. But this conception is one-sided as mastering tasks are in fact much wider and include both the masteringengineer’s innovative take to idea revelation put into the music by an artist and strictly technical moments: loudness control, artifacts elimination, giving sound of united album, compilation to separated tracks. Professional online mixing and mastering engineer’s tasks also include even track placement as a fixed order requires and putting careful Fade Ins and Fade Outs and a pause between songs. And we get music in a familiar form exactly from his hands. An equalizer and a compressor are far from the first with which all starts during work on an album. To begin with, the professional audio mastering engineer along with the producer puts tracks so that it can constantly heighten listener’s interest to music – for instance, songs create crescendo throughout the whole album. Or he can put tracks in the same tonality successively for more coherent perception of the entire album. And only after the overall picture of the album has been ready, the turn of mastering services in the conventional sense actually comes. It includes the following key stages: noise reduction, multi-band compression of an audio, stereo field shaping, surgical equalization and volume maximization. Since different engineers frequently work on album tracks, professional mastering services tasks involve giving them similar sound through tonal equalization and compression.
Work with a stereo file
So, after the overall picture of the album has been built up in compliance with the music producer’s idea and the label, at last the mixing engineer gets involved into detailed processing of each track while an audio is going through some basic stages. Let’s introduce them.
This stage is largely characteristic for pop music music mixing and mastering оf old music records as audio before the digital age would often bristle with noises, clicks and pops due to repeated transfer of material from a carrier to another one. These artifacts should have been removed before the professional online mixing services engineer will get absorbed in further audio processing. Noise suppression plugins, built-in Adobe Audition processing and the most developed sound restoration system iZotope RX 5 recognized by many engineers as the best complex remedy for audio artifacts – all this will help here out.
Low end filtration for the removal of an unnecessary Sub element which doesn’t contain any music information but only overloads audio systems is considered to be quite a standard step during home audio mixing and mastering. The professionalengineer can also apply fine equalization with extremely narrow bands to remove annoying resonances.
Compression is another but isn’t necessarily subsequent stage. Here, both dynamics control of separate frequency bands and compression for the sake of more loudness are available for the audio mixing mastering services engineer. Quite often is serial compression with gain reduction of every next compressor around 1–3 dB applied. This processing allows the mixing mastering engineer not only to achieve more subjective loudness of music but also to preserve transparency of compression.
Music multiband compression is especially popular thanks to its universality and control flexibility of separate track elements during EDM mixing and mastering. Do you deal with constantly jumping in music bass which is worth moderating a little without interfering in the work of drums? Do drums need more punch? These and many similar questions are solved by just multiband compression during home mixing and mastering; at some stage, it is considered to be the best solution rather than to simply keep on cutting annoying frequencies with an equalizer. The next stage is equalization audio again – here, the engineer can enhance, for instance, frequencies responsible for improvement of vocal readability of a song in the range of 2–5 kHz in Mid channel at his own discretion. It’s sometimes useful to cut out annoying resonances with extremely narrow bands. Constant music control on different audio systems during audio mixing and mastering at home will prompt what other changes should be made to preserve the song’s character regardless of a playback source. Mixing mastering engineers also use M–S equalization for the same purpose. With its help, they clean the Side channel of an audio from Sub Lows element – there is nothing there except indistinct muttering of low ends reverberation.
At this stage, the engineer achieves desired music loudness by applying (depending on the genre and his preferences) a limiter or a clipper. These devices are quite often used in a series one after another. Finally, the last stage of music mixing – dithering for conversion of the final track from high resolution 24 bit (or higher) audio into CD format without any distortions.