Producing mixing and mastering

Hi all

Not sure how to ask this but I am not sure how to move between the steps of producing - mixing and mastering. Well from mixing to mastering I think is fine as I normally use a mastering engineer for that.

I normally produce and mix using midi instruments and tracks . Then I do an audio export and send for mastering. Now I see that many prefer to do the mixing with audio tracks. So I think i should start with that as well. (I also invested in some new plugins) But i think producing and mixing is somewhat tied together. I mean I saw that many prefer to reset all volumes and effects to go into the mixing session. This got me confused as I think sometimes effects and especially automation of them and volumes is part of the producing part.

So the question is. What do you think is part of the producing part and the mixing part? Of course I understand that both automation and effects can be added in both producing and mixing session but I wanted to know how you go about it?

Actually it’s not just about what you bring up but about language and the meaning of words. Words change over time.

In the past, back when we had record labels that were huge, the distinction was more clear. You had song writers, arrangers, musicians, artists, recording engineers, mix engineers and mastering engineers. The “producer” would oversee the production process, not fiddle around with synthesizers.

But over time several of those roles began to merge together, and a lot of people who started making their own music started calling themselves producers. They may have been mostly writers, or mostly musicians, but since they didn’t hire a producer it sounded nice so… and it wasn’t completely inaccurate either.

So anyway, I think that’s a roughly accurate description of the past use of that word.

As for your actual process, these days; “who cares?” Just do what is convenient and works for you. The benefits of you leaving things the way you like them is that then it’s the way you like it. Especially if you’re the one mixing it saves you time.

On the other hand the benefit of getting rid of some parameters is really more about starting with a more clean slate. So you sit down, listen to the song/recording for the “first” time, and then decide on a mix approach to bring out the best of the music/song. The more you commit to sounds and automation etc before the “mix session” the less freedom the mix engineer has.

It’s a double-edge sword. I’ve had mix sessions where I went down one path the artist didn’t expect and they loved it. In some other cases the opposite effect. I honestly don’t mix much music at all these days and I don’t miss it to be honest. To me music is close to my heart and once I feel strongly about a music mix it’s super-annoying to have to compromise… if I care about the music that is.

So anyway: If someone sends me music to mix I’ll simply talk to them ahead of time so everyone knows what to expect. If I get to do what I want then maybe I’ll use what’s there already, but maybe I won’t. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer to your question - it just ‘varies’.

Thanks for your reply MattiasNYC.

I know that there is no right or wrong way in this but I think it is nice to hear other people’s thoughts.

I guess time will tell how I will go about it but in the meantime it is nice to discuss with others. It is inspiring and I thank you for your inspiring post.

Even if music still is close to my heart I always had a geeky side. Or let’s say that I am more of a theoretical musician than a practical. So even if music is close to my heart I need tools to get to where I want. I mean I often know where I want to go with a song in my head but to get there in the end is the hard part for me.

Again thanks for your reply.

Nicely written Matthias. :slight_smile:

Great post, Mattias. Thanks for your insights – always helpful. I’ve been playing a little chess (badly), but when I approach a chess game, I think about my moves and, reading your comments, it occured to me that is kind of like mapping out an approach to a “mix” or just mixing in general. You sit and think, what kind of moves will we make in this game.

Not that we see artist (client, producer, friend) as an “opponent,” but you have viewpoints that have to reconcile in the mix. We hope that what the Mixer does and what the artists hoped to hear match or come close to matching. Win/Win is best, but sometimes we’ll take a Draw or even Resign (mix it they way they like it and we don’t) if we have to.

Your comments had me thinking back to a certain New York duplication house that, in the last decades of last century, was sending out miles and miles of 1/4 tape with the radio spots. They had a “mastering engineer” at this house, but ran the duplication room. (He may be part of the reason why those spots were so damn loud back then.)

To the OP. I was watching a video with Mandy Parnell and she’s asked. “What is a Mastering Engineer” After a good big of thought she says, “an objective set of ears.” You may take it from there. I haven’t watched this all, yet, myself. I’m sure it’s very good. She’s one of the best.

Good luck with your work.

I can only speak for myself. But believe me that you’re not the only one having ‘stuff in his head’ but unable to simply reproduce this. For starters you need the talent to be able to begin with and even then, the creative process takes a lot of energy. Over the years I’ve often wonder if it’s me that has issues with this? But at a certain point I’ve come to terms with it? Because I now realize creation is not suppose to be easy! You have to put in hard work to create ‘anything’! It’s forums like this that made me realize that I’m not the only one struggling with this. And that our struggle is just part of life and part of our creative process.

But let me try to chronologically illustrate this process to you so you may better understand what I’m talking about?

  1. It wasn’t easy for your mother to give birth to you. I’m sure it was hard for her. And she didn’t get any guarantee, but she did!
  2. It wasn’t easy for your parents you growing up and go trough school and all. I’m sure it was hard for them and you, without any promises. But they did.
  3. And it probably wasn’t easy for you to get to the life where you are now? But you clearly did!

So don’t expect it to be easy to create/compose/mix/produce a song. But if you really persist, you may succeed?

But even then…Don’t expect it to be over after one successful project! You’ll probably experience this every single time you start a new project?

That’s life! You either learn to live with this or you don’t? Some people can, some can’t? That’s really up to you!

  • If you can? - Find ways to better deal with this stress! One is to enjoy your victories but also put in time to learn from your failures!
  • If you really can’t? - Stop torturing yourself and go look for another profession!