What the Heck: Tracking/Mixing/Mastering
Familiar Story: You're at an industry event, and you're in a conversation about someone's career. They start talking about something they're doing and you smile and nod, but in your head, you're actually thinking "what the heck is that?" Our new series looks at some of the things people expect you to know, but no one has ever explained.
Tracking is the part of the recording process that everyone knows. It’s the stuff you see in movies. The artist/band/session players are on the floor, cutting the songs. Generally working with a producer, this is the part of the process where the recordings are created.
We start recording the full band live off the floor (which means everyone is on the floor at the same time), then we move into overdubs, vocals, and any extra production (strings, horns, etc).
Mixing is often forgotten about because the artist isn’t usually as hands-on. Spencer calls it “black magic”. He pieces together everything that happened when the artist was tracking. He takes the best of every take, puts it into one track, and blends everything together.
Mixing is a science - you’re working so carefully and closely with each song to make room for every element. The mix has an incredible influence on the feel of the final recordings.
Mastering is the final step of the process. The mastering process takes your mix and makes sure that everyone hears your project the way you want it to be heard. A key part of mastering is balance - that is, making sure that the sound of the album is cohesive.