Do you want to create music? No problem! Grab a computer, buy Cubase, and off you go. The whole world of musical instruments is at your disposal. Today, programs such as Cubase, Logic Pro, or Pro Tools let you make music while sitting on the couch in your bedroom.
It is easy to buy a program, but to figure it out on your own is a task that requires incredible efforts. Having created your first composition, you understand what sounds better for others. It turns out that you also have to become a sound engineer, having mastered the techniques of offline and online mixing and mastering. How long will it take? Depends on the level you are aiming to achieve.
Skill levels in music mixing and mastering
As with any activity, there are two main levels of audio mixing and mastering in music processing – amateur and professional.
In order to learn how to process a recording at least at an amateur level, a novice sound engineer needs to master the appropriate technique and basic tools used for this. You have four main tools at your disposal:
- temporary processing devices.
However, before discussing the toolkit, let’s talk about the most important thing in sound processing – monitoring. It is about the process through which you perceive the entire world of sounds in your studio.
So, what exactly is the difference between low-quality monitoring and high-quality monitoring? The first is fidelity across the entire frequency range. That is, on inexpensive monitors, the frequency of 50 and 55 Hz or 4.5 and 5 kHz will sound the same, but on quality monitors there will be a difference. The second is the uniformity of the frequency response.
The third is the dynamic characteristics of monitors. If your monitors don’t hear the difference between the attack on the compressor in 2 and 8 ms (drum part), then you are probably wrong with the compression.
Now let’s move on to the toolbox.
- A compressor allows you to make the sound sharper or softer, more aggressive or tonal rich, longer or shorter. It can make a vocalist spit into the microphone or whisper in your ear, even out the difference between a verse and a chorus, between different vowel sounds, and so on.
- An equalizer can bring an object closer or further away, make it thin or bold, or simply eliminate frequency conflicts between instruments and correctly form a frequency balance.
- A paner allows you not only to move objects from left to right, but also to make them narrower or wider, large or small.
- Time processing devices make it possible to properly organize the virtual space, bring instruments closer and further away, placing them at different distances from the listener.
The final result depends on how you master the technique of working with these four tools.
To learn professional mixing and mastering, you need specific algorithms and a clear system that will allow you to take dusty tracks off the shelf and bring them to the perfect sound.
In special courses, you will go through all the stages of learning how to process music – from analyzing the finished recording to the final track, ready for release on labels or distribution. You will practice mixing tracks, disassembling and setting up many effects. The main feature of such courses is that they are not a set of lectures with a large amount of information that you would then have to deal with. This is a clear and effective approach to professional processing of music, which is expressed in concrete practice with a teacher and forms a stable skill of normal work. You listen to the track, make a decision, choose an instrument, tune it, get a result, consider options that might work better or worse in a given situation, and consolidate the result by doing your homework.
How long does it take to learn mixing?
Self-study of mixing at an amateur level (according to manuals, instructions and video tutorials downloaded from the Internet) can take from several days to several months, depending on the intensity of the study and the characteristics of the practice.
Intensive vocational training in relevant courses usually lasts less than a year.
How long does it take to learn mastering?
It takes months to study mastering on your own using materials from the Internet – if at all you can figure it out on your own. The same amount is required to master mastering with the help of courses, but in this case your knowledge will be much better and will allow you to carry out professional mastering. But it takes years of practice to reach the high level of a recognized specialist in this profession.
Role of recording
It should be remembered that even professional audio mixing and mastering has a limited scope. No sound engineer is able to bring a low-quality recording to an acceptable level. Also, gross defects in music and vocals cannot be corrected.