A Checklist For Mixing And Mastering Music
Let’s assume that your software audio suite came through for you and you’ve edited a music track. Are you ready to release it to the masses and rock your way to fame? Here’s a checklist:
1. Save the original unedited copy. This is the most important thing. Mistakes discovered later can be undone this way. The software you’re using probably has a way to save the whole project, too. If so, save that, so you can undo steps back to the point you went wrong. You’d be surprised how many times music tracks get lost.
2. Is the bass clear and strong? One of the major reasons we mix and master audio is so the recording doesn’t sound weak. The bass should come through good and solid, and the vocals should be clearly distinguishable. If your song sounds weak and tinny, like it was recorded in a closet, it will sound ‘lo-fi’ and ‘indie’ – an effect you should only have if that’s exactly what you wanted.
3. Does the high end sound clear? One problem with audio is that the high frequencies tend to sound scratchy on certain playback gear – not everybody has a top-of-the-line stereo and speakers, after all. Give the cheap headphones a break and adjust the top end of those sound waves so they don’t distort.
4. Did you use the right compression? As a general rule of thumb, your whole track compression should be in a ratio somewhere between 1.5:1 and 3:1, and threshold of -20DB. This amounts to a ratio between one-and-one-half and three times, which should be plenty.
5. Did you set the EQ to a suitable point? Audio Equalization amounts to balancing the frequencies of the sound composition. Poor EQ can make the sound muddy, garbled, or dirty. The worst part is that bad EQ can make a track sound amateur. Setting the overall EQ to a level between 6 and 10 kHZ is usually the way to get the best result.
6. Are you applying special effects tastefully? As an artistic rule of thumb, if you’re doing mixing and mastering right, no one should notice your job. You shouldn’t be loading too many production effects into the track. Audio is fun; you’re tempted to play with it, but too much over-production distracts from the song.
Do remember that there is no hard and fast rule about mixing and mastering audio tracks. It depends on the style of the music, the artists’ preference, your intended audience, and what works best for each track.
If you got lost reading through this list, but you still want to become a master mixer, you might want to check out a teaching service like threepbeats.com. If, however, you made it through this checklist, save your track and distribute it. See you on YouTube!