If we treated mixing like we do mastering, we would never mix anything.
We would say that we need a massive console with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gear, computer, and plug-ins because “that is how the pros do it.”
We would say that because our rooms aren’t perfectly treated for mixing, we would never be able to get anything that sounds good.
But we don’t, do we? Otherwise, we wouldn’t be mixing. Here’s why you should treat mastering the same way:
Gear is important. We know that. But it isn’t the be-all and end-all.
We can make great music with a $400 laptop and a $200 interface. We can mix professional-level tracks on a $200 DAW and get killer results.
While it is true that mastering requires a great deal of expertise, so does everything we do. Writing music, recording it, and mixing it all require years of experience and thousands of hours of dedication to be able to do. Just because you don’t have those things yet doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to get there!
Let’s break mastering down into a few key goals. (This is a very simplified version, but it sheds perspective.)
The first goal is to create something that sounds good on multiple sets of speakers. This is basically done through EQ. Make sure there isn’t too much bass for car systems or too much treble for earbuds.
The second goal is to glue things together and make them sound even. This is especially important across an entire album. Make sure that it flows well from one track to the next, and that each song has a similar “sonic characteristic” to it. For example, you don’t want track one to have a ton of low end in it, then have track two with very little low end.
The third and final goal is to make it competitively loud. This doesn’t mean you have to squash it and kill the dynamics, but give it some level boost until you feel comfortable with it. That should do the trick.
You don’t even need fancy gear – some of our favorite plug-ins to use for mastering are featured in this week’s release – Mastering with T-Racks. Check it out or become a member to watch along!