You're at home in your studio. You've just finished a track and you are about to start mixing. "Shouldn't be too hard" you say to yourself, "I know how it's supposed to sound."
So you mix, and mix, and tweak, and tweak. Then it gets dark outside. Then it's way past time to go to bed. So you sleep. In the morning you listen to what you've done...
It doesn't sound anything like you wanted it to. And it doesn't sound anywhere near professional in quality.
The are two major problems that you face...
The first problem is that you're not really sure that the individual tracks are recorded to a high enough standard. After all, even the best restaurant chef in the world couldn't make a great meal out of poor-quality ingredients.
The second problem is that the only experience you have is in mixing your own music. That's a bit like being alone in a room talking to yourself, rather than getting out into the world and mingling with others, exchanging thoughts and ideas.
So you make your mix, not knowing whether your original recordings are good enough. And when you have finished your mix, it is entirely based on what you have learned within the confines of your own studio, and your own musical and sonic ideas.
In short, you need to get out more! (Or bring the outside world to you...)
Let's say you have a recording of bass guitar. That's about the simplest instrument to record that there is (although not the simplest to play well, as any bass player will tell you...)
You might wonder whether it is bassy enough, or too bassy? Clean enough, or too clean and lacking in texture? Are the levels of the individual notes consistent enough, or do they need evening out? These are questions that don't really have answers, because everything depends on the context of the song you're mixing. And if you only ever mix your own work, there's no external frame of reference to tell you whether your recording is good enough. This applies to all of the other instruments and vocals.
The solution to this is to experience a variety of professionally-made multitrack recordings, so that you can hear the instruments individually, and then hear what the producer made from them in the mix.
Sometimes you'll find that an instrument that doesn't sound too good when played alone, sounds great in the context of the whole mix. This kind of awareness can only be developed through the experience of listening to other people's multitrack recordings, and their mixes. That's what would happen if somewhere in a parallel universe or alternate timeline you had been able to get a job in a professional recording studio and work your way up to assistant engineer. But you're stuck in your home studio with your DAW and you don't have any way of getting this variety of experience.
If you were lucky enough to work in a pro recording studio as an assistant engineer, you would take whatever opportunity you could to make your own mixes and develop your skills, working late nights or early mornings if you had to. And the studio manager would encourage you in this - they want their assistants to be as highly-skilled as possible and eventually graduate to become fully-fledged engineers.
But in your home studio, you don't have access to resources like this. You only have your own recordings to work with.
You could read a book, check out a web page or watch a video on YouTube. You can learn something about mixing that way. But mixing isn't a straightforward procedure where you can learn one thing, learn another, then another, then you've 'got it'.
Mixing is more about gathering experience. Through working with the faders, pans, EQs, compressors and reverbs on as wide a variety of material as possible you will gradually develop a whole universe of awareness of how the various pieces fit together. Or - more appropriately - all the different ways they can potentially fit together. Getting more and more experience is the only real way to learn mixing.
The Audio Masterclass Professional Mixing Course is the solution to both of the problems I have explained. Firstly, you get to hear original multitrack recordings and you can listen to each individual instrument and voice, and then see how they work in the original producer's own mix. You will understand very quickly and easily what makes a good bass guitar sound, for instance. You can also hear how things that don't sound all that good when played individually can be made to work well in a mix. If you only learned this from the course, then you would be able to achieve a lot. But there's much more...
The course consists of twelve modules, each with a different song to mix, ranging from pop, through light rock all the way to heavy rock. There is also a jazz song, and an optional electronic dance track. Each module has detailed notes, with audio examples, on how to set about working on the individual instruments, how to combine them into groups that work well together, and how to integrate the rhythm section, embellishment instruments, background vocals and lead vocals into a powerful, professional-sounding mix. Some of the songs are straightforward and a joy to mix. Others are more difficult, some very much so.
And when you have made your mix for each module, you can send it in to Audio Masterclass for our detailed, constructive criticism and comments. We'll tell you where you're going wrong technically, and give you our subjective opinion on what works, what doesn't work, and how you can improve. You can send in your improvements for each module until you have reached the limit of the song's potential.
Over the course of the twelve modules you will greatly expand your awareness of the sounds and textures of instruments and vocals, how they can fit together, and how to achieve a standard that would be accepted in the professional audio industry.
The word 'mastering' can have several different meanings...
It is the last application of mastering that has become extremely popular over the last few years. Someone, perhaps an A&R executive, says, "The mix needs more impact." So it goes to a mastering engineer who increases the drive, punch and power - and the excitement - of the sound, until the A&R executive is happy. A good master will make the original mix - however good - seem weak and lackluster in comparison.
Mixing and mastering are normally considered as two separate processes. Professionally, a mix engineer will get the very best mix he can using channel processing, and maybe a little EQ and compression in the master buss. The mix engineer works with dozens, perhaps even more than a hundred, individual instrument and vocal tracks and is an expert in blending them to perfection. The mastering engineer however works day-in-day-day-out improving stereo mixes to a standard that is good enough for release. So the mix engineer is expert in mixing, the mastering engineer is expert in mastering. That's the way it has traditionally worked.
In the home studio however you have to be both mix and mastering engineer. So when you have finished recording your track, you can spend a few hours or maybe even a day mixing it (pro mix engineers commonly spend a day mixing one track). Then, preferably on the next day so that your ears are fresh, you can take your stereo mix and put it through the various processes of mastering. Home studio equipment and software is so good these days that the end result has the potential to challenge anything the pros can do. All you need is knowledge of the techniques, skills in applying them, and a lot of practice.
The problem with home mastering however is that it is difficult to get a mix to actually sound better. In fact it often ends up sounding worse. The processes of mastering are very powerful, and unless you really know what you're doing you can very easily lose a lot of clarity and audio quality, and not gain much benefit in terms of drive, punch and power.
That is why I designed the Audio Masterclass Professional Mastering Course - to take you through all of the processes of mastering, stage by stage, so that you can apply these powerful techniques to your music and create a master that is every bit as good as a specialist mastering engineer can do. You'll have to put in the practice, but once you know the techniques and how to apply them, your level of skill will increase with every master that you make.
The Audio Masterclass Professional Mastering Course starts, as any mastering engineer would, by correcting the faults that are commonly found in mixes. Obviously if you're making the mix yourself, it should be without faults from the start. But once you start mastering for other people (which can become a significant source of income if you're good), you'll come across all kinds of faults including clicks, awkward and ugly fades, unwanted noise, uneven levels, many of which can be corrected during the first stage of mastering.
Following that, the course will give you practical projects in which you can learn the techniques of equalization, compression, limiting and look-ahead limiting, harmonic generation, soft clipping and multiband compression, all of which contribute to the mastering process. You don't need to have specialized mastering plug-ins - all of these techniques can be practised with the basic plug-ins that came with your DAW. And when you understand the techniques thoroughly, you will be able to get even better results from specialized mastering plug-ins.
There is more to the course though than techniques and skills. There is more to mastering itself than techniques and skills - in the end, it's all about artistry and musicality. You have probably heard a lot of recordings that are 'over mastered', to the extent that the track is quite unpleasant to listen to. There is a fine dividing line between achieving just the right amount of drive, punch and power, and going over the edge into outright distortion.
The Audio Masterclass Professional Mastering Course has twelve modules, each of which is entirely practical. Module by module you will be set tasks that you can carry out in your own home recording studio. You will send your work online to Audio Masterclass. We will listen carefully, tell you what you're doing right, what you're doing wrong, and what you can do to improve, module by module.
By the end of the course, you will have the confidence to master like a pro. And when you are sure of your mastering skills, your mixes will get better too, because you'll know what to do to create a great mix that's ready to be mastered.
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