When you set up a recording studio in your home, just having all the necessary equipment does not mean that you will end up with a sweet sounding audio recording of your music. Just like with your instruments, getting great audio takes a bit of work. And if you are completely new to sound mastering and mixing at home, then some of these tips can help point you in the right direction. So, if you are ready to lay down some tracks in that home studio, take a look at our audio mixing and mastering tips below to ensure that those beats sound as sick as you want them to once you’re done tweaking them.
What Is Audio Mixing and Mastering?
Those who are new to home recording studios, or just considering putting one together, may be wondering what, exactly, makes up audio mastering and mixing. Of the two, mixing is what always comes first. After you get the audio mixed, then you work on mastering it.
Mixing audio is when you put together multiple layers of audio into make one final track. Or, if you have an existing track that you want to work with, it refers to musically modifying that track.
Mastering audio is when you take the mixed track and optimize that final track by using all different sorts of mastering elements. Common mastering elements that you will work with include equalization, compression, stereo enhancement and more.
Do You Really Need To Worry About Getting Good Mastering and Mixing?
If you’re just starting to lay down your own music, then you might be wondering if mixing and mastering is even something that you need to concern yourself with at this point.
The truth is that if you just record your audio, layer the tracks and give it a listen, then you will likely not be impressed. That is because without mixing, it will sound flat and undynamic. Mixing gives you the ability to adjust the volume of individual tracks at any interval that you choose, which can result in things like a louder guitar during an important part of the song.
Mixing also gives you the opportunity to remove any unwanted noises from the audio, such as clicks. Once you have done a little mixing, you will notice that your audio sounds considerably better. That’s the good news. The even better news is that mastering gives you the ability to really improve that audio even more.
Mastering lets you do things like boost the bass frequencies under certain instruments, make certain instruments more dynamic and others softer.
Compression – What It Is
Compression acts as a way to ensure that the audio is not too loud. Pretty much any song that you hear on the radio uses compression techniques. The way that a compressor works is that it takes the sections of audio that are too loud and compresses it to stay within its decibel limits. When it does this, it also boosts the frequencies of the softer parts of the track.
Basically, you have an audio track where the peaks are reduced and the valleys are raised so that the waveform for the track doesn’t contain any audio extremes in terms of really loud or really quiet.
While this sounds like a good thing, and at its core – it is, compression also takes an audio track and flattens it so that it is not as dynamic as it once was before the compression. And, you don’t really want an audio track that is undynamic as your end result. So, knowing how to employ compression techniques with your audio tracks helps to solve the flat audio track that you get from the compressor. The following techniques will help remedy this flat, undynamic sound.
Equalization, or EQ, is when specific frequencies of a sound are boosted. Most people are familiar with EQ since it allows you to do things like boost the bass on a track with a drum. You’ve probably seen this area of a mixing board as you use sliders to change the EQ. It’s actually quite easy to do and gives you the perfect sounds for your instruments while keeping all the instrument sounds equal.
There isn’t really a rule in place when it comes to getting proper EQ on a track. It is more a thing of how is sounds to your ears. You’ll also want to ensure that your EQ tweaks match the feel of the song and matches the standard timbre and characteristics of the instrument sound that you’re tweaking.
To give your tracks a more realistic sound, you will want to add some reverb. If you’re not familiar with it, reverb is basically just echo. You will definitely need to employ the use of reverb if you’re using digital instruments as they often make a rather dry sound.
When you want to give the audio track a natural sound, that of one coming out of two speakers, then you should use stereo enhancement. The end result is a very natural effect. With some enhancers, you can optimize for 5.1 surround sound as well.
These are just some tips to get you started and by no means are all there is to learn about mixing and mastering your own audio. So, use these tips as a sort of primer if you’re not sure where to start, then familiarize yourself with more advanced techniques so that you can get the best audio track for your efforts.