Skip to main content

Where does mixing stop and mastering begin

OK, my project is low end, low budget. I am doing this for a buddy in exchange for his help on another project. This is the first thing I have recorded and engineered and mixed and I am doing it all in our new home studio. However, I want to do as good of a job as I can...

I mix what I have using as little EQ and Compression as I can. I worked to get good sounds during tracking and now I am just using effects to help clean up and even out the mix... When I am done, I feel like I am a little weak on low end.

If I jack up the kick, it overtakes the mix (or sometimes puts me 'over' (if that is the right word... ~my meters peak~)

If I put up the Bass (upright) it also makes me peak out.

I have resisted using compression on the bass and kick since the players were very even and played very well. The few places where a single kick or pluck drives the meters over I correct with a volume envelope.

So, do I just go in and eq/compress the bass and kick until the lowend comes together, or do I leave it like it is and let the mastering house (read: 'someone smarter and more experienced than me') fix it with higher quality EQ and Compression?

Or, perhaps, is it a little of both? My hesitance with the EQ and Compression is that, as a new user with limited experience, I could wind up doing more harm than good, and, for the most part the mixes sound pretty good to me...

I know mp3 is the not best way to hear this, but you CAN hear my problem here...

Bear in mind, if you really crank it up, it is all there, but in my mind, a good mix is one that sounds correct across a large sweep of volumes.

Here is a link to an example:

While ALL of the songs have the problem I think 'the fool' is the best example of my situation.

Thanks in advance for the help and direction.

Attached files


falkon2 Fri, 02/13/2004 - 20:00
I think the kick drum could do with a little more click. That could be your problem - the click, or skin sound will increase the perceived volume of the kick. You probably could get away with a little compression and/or limiting on the bass as well. Check out Peak Slammer - could really help for sharp attacks like in this case.

If you're happy with your results after mixing, you'll probably be a lot happier after mastering than if you sent them something you weren't really kickin' with.
Attached files

Thomas W. Bethel Sat, 02/14/2004 - 02:38

What you are asking is a very good question. Where does mixing stop and mastering begin? Sometimes it is hard to tell. A good mix should stand by itself. It should have everything well balanced and have depth and width and should be dynamic for the type of music you are mixing. It should not be over equalized nor over compressed unless you are using those elements as artistic decisions with in the mix. It should not have been though a Finalizer or other stereo bus compressor and should sound good. What mastering should do is make it sound better and put the polish on the project. It will also take songs that have been mixed over many months and maybe in different studios and make it sound cohesive. It will also attend to the structure of the album by spacing the songs and arranging them in the order you want them in. The mastering will be the final step between the recording and mixing and the mechanical process of replication. The mix coming into the mastering studio should sound good and when it leaves it should sound much better.

No one element of a mix should be overpowering. If it is then there is something wrong with the mix.

Many times when professionals send an album to a mastering facility they send three versions. One is vocal up one is vocal normal and one is vocal down. Many times when mastering the overall balance of the song changes and it is nice to have something already in your hands that has a different balance that will work after mastering.

One way to start into mixing an album is to start with the foundation. The bass and the kick. These should be panned center and sound good. Then add the guitars and higher percussion and finally add the vocals. You want to leave space (both in terms of frequency response and placement) for each instrument and the voices. Many people try and feature all the instruments by panning them into the center which creates a mess and has no width nor depth. You can use equalization and panning to delineate where the instruments are in the mix and then give them some depth with reverb. Listen to your mix in mono and stereo to see how it sounds. Try to do all the listening at about the same level and if you have access to an SPL meter try and do most of your listening at about 83 dBSPL. This is the level that the ear has the flattest frequency response and a level that will not tire your ears. For more information on monitoring levels go to

Hope this helps.


Your recently read content