Articles

Category :

Production/ Recording

A Mastering Engineer's Guide to Final Mixdown



A Mastering Engineer’s Guide to Final Mixdown
A Guest Post by Brian Hazard of Passive Promotion



“Garbage in, garbage out” is a common saying among mastering engineers. The quality of the source material limits the quality of the final product. Most of my clients have no problem following my simplepreparation instructions, but they stop there. They figure once each mix sounds as good as they can get it, they’re done. In fact, there’s a higher level of refinement that pays huge dividends. I’ll break it down in this mastering engineer’s guide to final mixdown.

1. Choose a reference. Find a major label track with the tonal balance you’re looking for – ideally something that hasn’t been totally decimated in mastering, since you’ll be comparing it to your unmastered tracks. If you followed my earlier advice on using a reference during the mixing process, you’ll want to use the same track here.

2. Load in your tracks. I’m assuming that you’ve already rendered all the tracks for your release as stereo 24-bit or higher .wav or AIFF files, with no processing on the master bus, and that they peak under 0 dB. If they hit 0 dB, that means they’re clipped. Lower the gain on the master bus by 6 dB and try again. Once you’ve got clean mixdowns, fire up your DAW and put each of them and your reference on separate channels, like so:

Final Mixdown: Load-In My reference track and six mixdowns

3. Trim each track down to a representative clip. We’re going to use the loudest section of each track as a stand-in for the entire mix. In most cases, this means trimming all but 15 seconds or so of the chorus. Be sure to solo each channel before you hit play so you don’t blow your ears out! In fact, turn down your reference track by 12 dB right off the bat, since it’s already mastered. You’ll end up with something like this:

Final Mixdown: Trimmed A representative 15 seconds of each track (note the timeline at the bottom)

4. Match volumes. Bounce between the reference and your mixdowns, adjusting volume levels until everything matches. Be sure to make the gain adjustment at the clip level, not on the channel, so you won’t lose your settings when we…

5. Line up all the clips onto a single channel. Alternate between reference and mixdown, like so:

Final Mixdown: The LineupReference, mixdown, reference, mixdown…

6. A/B compare your mixdowns and reference. Hit play and close your eyes. How does each mixdown sound immediately after the reference track? Bright? Dull? Muddy? Boomy? Take plenty of notes, and keep fine-tuning the volume of your clips.

7. Back to the drawing board. Use your notes to make adjustments to your mixes. Import your reference track into each of your projects if you haven’t already. If a mix is too bright, an easy fix is to lower the hi-hats. If a mix is too bassy, ensure the low end is rolled off of non-bass instruments and/or turn down the kick and bass (I detail the process here). If a mix is too muddy, look at cutting some 200-400 Hz, raising some rolloff frequencies, or thinning out the arrangement. Don’t forget to scan the entire track for consistency – not just the chorus.

8. Render, remix, repeat. Open back up our project, shuffle the clips around, take more notes, and keep adjusting your mixes. When they sound consistent, remove the internal reference track clips and shuffle them some more. Eventually you can eliminate the reference track completely. I can’t stress enough how important it is to take frequent breaks! Continue to fine tune your mixes until they match to the best of your abilities, preferably over the course of several days.

Final Mixdown: Continuous MixReference, mixdown, mixdown, mixdown…

You may be wondering, “Did I just master my album?” No, but you made your mastering engineer’s job a lot easier (easier still if you passed along the final volume levels of each of your clips). You minimized the amount of EQ your ME needs to use to create a consistent tonal balance, which means less phase coloration. It means that instead of correcting problems in your mixes, your ME can focus on finding the density and punch that best serves your music on a broad range of playback systems. It means no nasty surprises when you hear your mastered release for the first time, because your ME didn’t have to cut 10 dB off the highs to tame that hi-hat you couldn’t get enough of. It means better sound, and ultimately, better sales.

For more mixing advice, see my other articles:
Make Space for Tight Bass
Spectral Management

Keep Your Mixes Consistent by Using a Reference



Passive Promotion focuses on "set it and forget it" methods of music promotion, along with a few tips on mixing, brought to you by a mastering engineer and recording artist.




 
Live-Banner-General-Homepage.jpg



Signup Free

Post Comments


By: Anonymous on 8/6/2014 4:32:39 AM

I really enjoy the blog post. Really Cool.

By: Anonymous on 8/5/2014 12:31:09 AM

43kaXo Really appreciate you sharing this article post.Thanks Again. Keep writing.

By: Anonymous on 8/4/2014 11:11:32 AM

I truly appreciate this blog.Much thanks again. Will read on...

By: Anonymous on 8/4/2014 9:48:31 AM

Major thankies for the blog.Much thanks again.

By: Anonymous on 8/4/2014 8:27:03 AM

Looking forward to reading more. Great blog article.Really thank you! Great.

By: Anonymous on 8/4/2014 8:02:20 AM

Awesome post.Really thank you! Really Great.

By: Anonymous on 8/4/2014 6:39:33 AM

Really appreciate you sharing this blog article.Thanks Again. Great.

By: Anonymous on 8/4/2014 5:16:30 AM

Major thanks for the post.Much thanks again.

By: Anonymous on 8/4/2014 5:04:42 AM

I really liked your article post.Thanks Again.

By: Anonymous on 8/4/2014 3:51:57 AM

Thanks for the article.Much thanks again.

By: Anonymous on 8/4/2014 2:07:17 AM

Enjoyed every bit of your post.Really looking forward to read more. Much obliged.

By: Anonymous on 8/3/2014 11:34:39 PM

I value the post.Thanks Again. Much obliged.

By: Anonymous on 8/3/2014 10:53:11 PM

jJ6S72 Hey, thanks for the article.Really thank you! Cool.

By: Anonymous on 8/3/2014 10:48:27 PM

Fantastic blog post.Thanks Again. Cool.

By: Anonymous on 8/3/2014 10:32:50 PM

Fantastic article.Much thanks again. Fantastic.

By: Anonymous on 8/3/2014 3:55:06 PM

Great blog article.Thanks Again. Really Great.

By: Anonymous on 8/3/2014 12:49:26 PM

This is one awesome article.Really looking forward to read more. Really Great.

By: Anonymous on 8/3/2014 9:45:28 AM

Thank you for your article.Much thanks again. Awesome.

By: Anonymous on 8/3/2014 8:46:00 AM

Thanks for the article post.Really thank you! Want more.

By: Anonymous on 8/3/2014 6:38:34 AM

Very good post.Much thanks again. Fantastic.

By: Anonymous on 8/3/2014 6:29:05 AM

Thanks for the blog post. Keep writing.

By: Anonymous on 8/3/2014 5:22:03 AM

Enjoyed every bit of your blog article.Really looking forward to read more. Want more.

By: Anonymous on 8/3/2014 3:44:26 AM

Thanks for sharing, this is a fantastic blog article.Thanks Again. Much obliged.

By: Anonymous on 8/3/2014 3:31:12 AM

Looking forward to reading more. Great blog article.Really looking forward to read more. Keep writing.

By: Anonymous on 8/3/2014 2:17:27 AM

Muchos Gracias for your article post.Really looking forward to read more. Fantastic.

By: Anonymous on 8/3/2014 12:54:31 AM

Im grateful for the post.Really looking forward to read more. Awesome.

By: Anonymous on 8/3/2014 12:21:43 AM

Thanks again for the post.Thanks Again. Will read on...

By: Anonymous on 8/2/2014 9:17:25 PM

Looking forward to reading more. Great blog.Really looking forward to read more. Cool.

By: Anonymous on 8/2/2014 6:13:54 PM

Thank you ever so for you post.Really thank you! Keep writing.

By: Anonymous on 8/2/2014 4:08:08 PM

Thanks so much for the blog post.Really thank you!

By: Anonymous on 8/2/2014 3:10:50 PM

Im thankful for the article post.Much thanks again.

By: Anonymous on 8/2/2014 2:47:47 PM

Thanks for the blog post.Thanks Again. Fantastic.

By: Anonymous on 8/2/2014 1:24:19 PM

Thanks-a-mundo for the post.Much thanks again. Really Great.

By: Anonymous on 8/2/2014 12:08:21 PM

Im thankful for the article.Much thanks again. Awesome.

By: Anonymous on 8/2/2014 12:06:40 PM

Im grateful for the post. Keep writing.

By: Anonymous on 8/2/2014 10:45:46 AM

Thanks so much for the post. Fantastic.

By: Anonymous on 8/2/2014 9:24:36 AM

Great blog.Really looking forward to read more. Keep writing.

By: Anonymous on 8/2/2014 8:00:56 AM

I really liked your article.Much thanks again. Keep writing.

By: Anonymous on 8/2/2014 6:43:09 AM

Fantastic blog article.Really thank you! Really Cool.

By: Anonymous on 8/2/2014 5:25:56 AM

I really liked your blog.Really thank you! Really Great.

By: Anonymous on 8/2/2014 5:21:53 AM

wow, awesome blog post.Really thank you!

By: Anonymous on 8/2/2014 4:03:37 AM

wow, awesome article. Great.

By: Anonymous on 8/2/2014 2:44:05 AM

Thanks for sharing, this is a fantastic blog article.Really thank you! Really Great.

By: Anonymous on 8/2/2014 2:16:17 AM

I loved your blog post.Thanks Again. Awesome.

By: Anonymous on 8/2/2014 1:24:00 AM

Thanks again for the post. Much obliged.

By: Anonymous on 8/2/2014 12:04:37 AM

Looking forward to reading more. Great article post.Thanks Again. Really Great.

By: Anonymous on 8/1/2014 11:22:40 PM

kwGNSj Say, you got a nice blog.Really looking forward to read more. Will read on...

By: Anonymous on 8/1/2014 11:09:30 PM

Thank you for your post.Much thanks again. Keep writing.

By: Anonymous on 8/1/2014 8:10:42 PM

Wow, great blog post.Much thanks again. Want more.

By: Anonymous on 8/1/2014 5:07:21 PM

Im obliged for the blog.Much thanks again. Will read on...

By: Anonymous on 8/1/2014 2:18:51 PM

I appreciate you sharing this article post.Much thanks again. Fantastic.

By: Anonymous on 8/1/2014 2:04:37 PM

A big thank you for your article.Thanks Again. Really Great.

By: Anonymous on 8/1/2014 11:39:38 AM

Major thankies for the blog.Really thank you! Really Cool.

By: Anonymous on 8/1/2014 10:48:27 AM

Thank you for your blog.Really looking forward to read more. Great.

By: Anonymous on 8/1/2014 10:15:08 AM

Muchos Gracias for your blog post.Really looking forward to read more. Fantastic.

By: Anonymous on 8/1/2014 7:42:14 AM

I appreciate you sharing this blog.Really looking forward to read more. Will read on...

By: Anonymous on 8/1/2014 7:36:14 AM

Im thankful for the blog article.Much thanks again. Really Great.

By: Anonymous on 8/1/2014 6:16:16 AM

Thanks for the article.Really thank you! Awesome.

By: Anonymous on 8/1/2014 4:40:15 AM

Fantastic article.Really looking forward to read more.

By: Anonymous on 8/1/2014 3:23:06 AM

Awesome blog article.Really thank you!

By: Anonymous on 8/1/2014 1:36:29 AM

I really liked your article.Much thanks again. Keep writing.

By: Anonymous on 8/1/2014 12:51:45 AM

Thanks again for the article post.Much thanks again. Really Great.

By: Anonymous on 7/31/2014 11:18:30 PM

Fantastic article.Really looking forward to read more. Great.

By: Anonymous on 7/31/2014 6:22:15 PM

Thank you for your post.Thanks Again. Will read on...

By: Anonymous on 7/31/2014 6:19:20 PM

I am so grateful for your post.Really looking forward to read more. Great.

By: Anonymous on 7/31/2014 5:50:08 PM

Really appreciate you sharing this article post.Thanks Again. Keep writing.

By: Anonymous on 7/31/2014 12:18:23 PM

Really enjoyed this blog article.Really thank you! Cool.

By: Anonymous on 7/31/2014 12:14:55 PM

Hey, thanks for the article.Much thanks again. Much obliged.

By: Anonymous on 7/31/2014 10:54:54 AM

Very neat article post.Really looking forward to read more. Will read on...

By: Anonymous on 7/31/2014 10:51:42 AM

Appreciate you sharing, great blog article.Really thank you! Cool.

By: Anonymous on 7/31/2014 9:36:27 AM

Im thankful for the blog post.Thanks Again. Great.

By: Anonymous on 7/31/2014 9:32:05 AM

Thanks so much for the post.Really thank you! Really Great.

By: Anonymous on 7/31/2014 8:17:27 AM

Very informative article post.Really looking forward to read more. Want more.

By: Anonymous on 7/31/2014 8:10:57 AM

Im thankful for the blog.Thanks Again. Want more.

By: Anonymous on 7/31/2014 6:57:14 AM

Say, you got a nice blog post.Thanks Again. Much obliged.

By: Anonymous on 7/31/2014 6:49:31 AM

Major thankies for the blog article.Really looking forward to read more. Really Cool.

By: Anonymous on 7/31/2014 6:02:03 AM

Really appreciate you sharing this blog.Thanks Again. Much obliged.

By: Anonymous on 7/31/2014 5:35:10 AM

I really like and appreciate your blog. Much obliged.

By: Anonymous on 7/31/2014 5:32:24 AM

Fantastic article.Much thanks again. Awesome.

By: Anonymous on 7/31/2014 4:11:29 AM

I value the post. Really Cool.

By: Anonymous on 7/31/2014 4:10:46 AM

A big thank you for your article post.Much thanks again. Really Great.

By: Anonymous on 7/31/2014 3:01:49 AM

Muchos Gracias for your post.Thanks Again. Fantastic.

By: Anonymous on 7/31/2014 2:50:34 AM

Major thanks for the blog post.Thanks Again. Really Great.

By: Anonymous on 7/31/2014 2:47:18 AM

Great, thanks for sharing this article post.Much thanks again. Great.

By: Anonymous on 7/31/2014 1:42:59 AM

Say, you got a nice article post.Really looking forward to read more. Much obliged.

By: Anonymous on 7/31/2014 1:21:34 AM

Major thanks for the article post.Really looking forward to read more. Keep writing.

By: Anonymous on 7/30/2014 4:47:59 AM

I really enjoy the blog.Much thanks again. Really Great.

By: Anonymous on 7/30/2014 3:14:11 AM

Major thankies for the article.Really looking forward to read more. Much obliged.

By: Anonymous on 2/6/2013 8:58:34 AM

This is an interesting acrtile. In the past I've thought of this problem as your ears going blind ; at some point what you've produced and what still needs to be produced becomes invisible because you are overly-familiar with the sounds you've been working on. So, I also take a couple of non-visual options. Sometimes I simply turn the computer away from me to listen to the work. Other times I create a wav file that I listen to twice. The first listen focusses on the flow/sequence of ideas. Often we get so wrapped up in a section that lasts only a minute that we lose its context. During the second listen I take notes about what needs to be fixed. Pretty simple stuff I guess, but it helps.

By: Anonymous on 1/24/2013 2:31:56 PM

Thanks for the article! I'm getting prepared to mix down my first collection of songs and this sort of information is a Godsend to me. In Step 4, you say to make gain adjustments at "the clip level, not the channel". Can you explain what you mean by "clip level"? I'm not following you on how to make an adjustment that stays with the clip when you move it to another channel, unless you bounce all your clips, wich you are not doing. Sorry, I've got plenty to learn. Thanks!


Comments: