Once all the individual elements of a track have been recorded (or delivered in the case of a ‘stems mix for more info), it’s time to balance everything so it sounds like a finished song.
Other than just setting levels of the music/vocals etc. this stage is when the main polish to the track is done – for example, taking the ‘raw’ vocal recording and making it sound like something you would hear on the radio.
Depending on the complexity of the track, and how many elements (or stems) are to be mixed, this can take anything from 30 minutes to 3-4 hours.
For simple vocal and backing track recordings, the mix stage is usually part of the main session so no extra time would be needed to finish the track.
For more complex tracks (including band recordings and large stem mixes), time will need to be set aside before the end of the session to get the mixes done if additional mix time has not been booked.
If additional mix time is needed, this is charged at the usual studio rate and an amount of time would be agreed before the mix booking.
In either case, once the mix is done, and no more session or mix time is booked, minor tweaks to the mix can be done up to two weeks after, if needed. These might include small level adjustments, but not changes to the ‘performance’ or other major changes that might take a lot of time – if these kind of changes are needed, it is best to book additional time for an ‘attended mix’
The mixing stage can either be ‘attended’ (ie. you are in the studio during the mixing), ‘unattended’ (ie.the mix engineer produces the mix, sends it to you and you send notes about any changes needed) or a bit of both (ie. the mix engineer spends an hour or so organising and preparing the recordings/stems before you come in for the main part of the mix)
‘Mastering’ is the final stage of producing release-ready tracks, so that they sound like something you would hear on the radio or Spotify for example.
This stage ensures that the tonal quality, overall volume and dynamics of the track would sit well alongside other music of a similar genre.
Whereas the mixing stage is all about getting the balance and creative elements of the track right (and also generally getting the track as close as possible to comparable music in terms of tonal quality), Mastering adds the final gloss and ensures the track conforms with what is expected for the various streaming platforms.
At 3507, all mixes receive a ‘basic master’ so your track sounds comparable at the end of the mixing stage. To really give it that final polish though takes time, so this is a service that is optional – you may think the final mix is perfect for what you need, or you might want to make it as good as it can be – only you can decide what suits your needs. Mastering is charged separately per track (with discounts for multiple tracks)
Hopefully this has given you a good overview of what Mixing & Mastering entails so you know what to expect and how each stage benefits your track.
If you need any more info on this just let us know.