Between recording/editing your music and distributing it, there are two discrete processes that will be done to your recording: mixing and mastering.
Both mixing and mastering are highly specialized processes in music production. But, they are not the same.
Mixing involves (among other things):
Whereas mixing deals with working with each channel (instruments and voices), mastering deals with the overall sound, including:
As you can see, these two processes involve very different tasks. When done properly, they involve different software and tools. And - when you want high-quality, precise results - very different skills of the engineers.
That's why mixing and mastering for national recordings are usually done by separate people. Mixing and mastering each have their iconic engineers who are specialists in just the mixing or mastering segment. For example, Chris Lord Alge is one of the most well-respected mixing engineers. And Ted Jensen is equally legendary as a mastering engineer. Mixing icons don't dabble in mastering. Mastering icons don't dabble in mixing.
This is for two main reasons.
First, mixing and mastering are different specialties. The people who are great at one really know the intricate details of performing it from doing it - and nothing but it - day after day on a very high level.
Second, and perhaps most importantly, separating the two processes enables you to get the multiplied benefit of having not one - but two - music professionals contributing ideas, expertise and work to make your music sound the absolute best it can.
So, in summary, mixing and mastering are different. As you make decisions on choosing mixing and mastering engineers, it's helpful to be able to hear the difference that each process makes. Whether it's your own music or the music of a friend, listen to pre-mixed and mixed recordings back to back. Listen to pre-mastered and mastered recordings back to back.
Over time, you will understand the difference between the processes, the value of the processes, and which mixing engineers and mastering engineers can do the best job for you.
Despite the fact that national recordings are almost always mixed and mastered by separate people, you will see people on a local level - who aren't great at either mixing or mastering - offering both services. We're not definitively saying that this can't turn out OK for you. But, by having these two services performed by a single generalist, you are forgoing an opportunity to have the benefit of having two music production professionals teaming up to give your recording the most ideas and the best treatment possible.
Therefore, it's key to know what mixing and mastering processes are and how they can give your music the most enhancement for your money.
Of course, because Before and After Music Group specializes in mastering, we'd welcome the opportunity to be your mastering studio of choice! Contact us at 412-600-8241 or email@example.com to discuss your project and how we may be able to help your music sound as professional as possible.
Chip Dominick is the CEO and head mastering engineer for Before and After Music Group