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Mixing and Mastering
By Eu Jin Chan

You’ve taken all the steps to ensure your CD presentation package look professional, attractive and irresistible enough for an A&R person to give your music a listen. In most cases, you only have one shot at this. Is there anything else that you might be overlooking? What about the sonic quality of your music or CD? Even if the songs were well written, arranged and recorded, it may not sound its best if they were not professionally mixed and mastered. Again, pros will always judge your professionalism before they take you seriously. If your package feels great, SO SHOULD YOUR SOUND!

Is there a piercing hi-hat in the mix that would make your hair on end? Some background noises such as hiss or hum making your recording sound cheap or amateur? Is the kick drum too heavy on the speakers causing your song to sound muffled? Do your vocals sound buried? Are there sonic inconsistencies from song to song in your demo? These are few of the many common problems found in most demos.

It is so vital to showcase your songs/music recordings in its best possible light. If you look professional, you should sound like it. This brings me to introduce you to the urgency of getting your music recordings professionally mixed and mastered.

What is Mastering?

Mastering is the final touch after the recording and mixing process. This is a very technical stage that will bring your recordings up to par with the commercial industry-standard sound. The process of mastering will ensure your music to sound its ultimate excellence in all mediums, including all music systems ranging from bigger systems to smaller stereo systems/speakers. It will make your finished recordings sounds as loud and sonically balanced as the major-label released CDs you purchase from the store. The technical aspect is very detailed and I will not want to bore the average reader. Perhaps I will save this for another future article to come for those of you who are interested. A good mastering engineer is equipped with mainly experience, ears and the ability to effectively solve problems with the available tools at his disposal. His experience and critical attention to the finest details is absolute paramount.

Here’s the low-down. Can any music recording achieve great mastering results? The answer is no. There are no short cuts to great mastering results. It will significantly depend on the quality of your mix. A lot of people expect miracles in mastering from a poorly mixed recording.

A good mixing job is really the ultimate key that will lead your music recordings to exceptionally great mastering results. In other words, great professional mixes equal better mastering results. Consider it a sound investment to hire an experienced professional to mix your music as it will save you a lot of headaches and problems when it comes to the mastering phase. Get it right the first time. Take my advice for it and you can thank me later.


This is only one of the many examples of a poor mix. A mastering engineer may encounter a problematic mix where the rock guitar is drowning the lead vocal. This is commonly caused by the input signal of the rock guitar relatively stronger or louder than the vocals. Perhaps the EQ of the guitar contained too much mid-low frequency.

When the mastering engineer attempts to raise the dominance of the vocal, it will also raise the dominance of the rock guitar. So this is a dead end solution for the mastering engineer. The vocal remains buried. The only way to fix this problem effectively is to return to the mix and make the following adjustments such as lowering the volume of the guitar coupled with proper EQ and panning it slightly. This will yield the guitar more separation from the vocals. After doing this, the mastering engineer will have an easier task raising the highlight of the vocals thus allowing the average listener to grasp or hear the lyrics more clearly.

The Mixing Process

The mixing process is the most critical phase that will lead to a good finished mastered product. There are a lot more things to pay attention to in the mixing process simply because there are very many instruments to manage ranging from 16-24 tracks or more. A good mixing engineer will monitor every signal in his path and ensure that each instrument is carefully attended to and fine tuned. A good mix can only be delivered by someone with great experience and a good ear. Equipment is important but only a fraction to the solution.

I’m aware of many studio business owners who have the ability to record their clients but cannot perform a good mix. This is good for us because it leads them to sending us all their projects for mixing and mastering.

When you hire a good mixing engineer, you are mostly paying for his ears and experience to knock you out a great mix. Without this, even with all the tools at his disposal, he or she can not deliver a good quality mix. The tools and equipment do help but they are secondary in my opinion. One of the most important aspects of mixing is the equalizing and separation of all instruments or audio tracks. You have to own ears for this. This is not teachable but only comes through experience.

An experienced mixing engineer has the magic ability to make your mix sound broader. Imagine what a good mastering job can do to a great mix. Again, great professional mix equals greater mastering results!

The wonders of the internet have changed the world allowing us to share digital files regardless of geographic location. We recently mixed and mastered a band from Mexico called NIVEL3. This was done entirely online through broadband or high-speed internet. They uploaded or sent their entire mix project in the OMF format (300 to 400 megabytes per song). Our uploading interface was designed to effectively deliver or transfer large files.

The OMF format can be created or exported from newer Digital Audio Workstations including Pro Tools. The OMF file rendered all their audio tracks (Wave or AIFF) of their song including its detailed clip positioning and tempo info. For clients who cannot export to OMF, there is usually another option. They may upload a zip file containing individual audio tracks. If they use this method, all audio tracks must begin at the very first measure of the song.

As for the band NIVEL3, we performed mixing and mastering on their song and uploaded a sample for them to download. They either approved or requested a few adjustments. If there were adjustments made, we re-delivered another reference for their second or final approval. The entire album went on to be completely mixed and mastered. We are proud to say that NIVEL3 is now being sought by Universal Records of Mexico with a pending record deal.

Eu Jin Chan is the founder and CEO of Pappa E, a company which is an independent label that also specializes in providing world-class sound design and audio mastering services. His most recent success includes mastering Grammy Award artists, Earth Wind & Fire and Raphael Saadiq. For more information about Eu Jin Chan and the company Pappa E, please visit:


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