This article will tell you whether it is worth getting professional mixing or mastering today.
Suppose you started writing music in your bedroom. You’re good at composing songs, but on the other hand, you feel that something is missing to make your creations sound complete and of high quality. That’s because they have to be mixed and mastered. It’s desirable to have it done by a professional. And we’ll tell you why.
Should you get your song professionally mixed and mastered?
It really depends on if you are looking for a one-stop purchase or if you need tracks to be mixed & mastered on a regular basis. If you want to mix only a few tracks and you have zero knowledge in mixing & mastering and no equipment for it, we would recommend going with a service or mixing engineer.
However, if you want to mix & master music on regular basis, with plugins that are available today, consider doing it yourself. Learn how to make proper mixing & mastering, and you will not only save money in the long term but also learn the skill to your advantage. As a beginner, you can also start from scratch by using free plugins.
Anyway, if you really want to try out professional service, we would recommend you try for one month and see if it would work for you. You could master as many tracks as you wish, and then after a month, you can simply cancel the subscription. They also offer additional services that you can see here:
How much should I pay for mixing and mastering?
We will take the liberty to say that, in general, $200-300 per song is approximately the average price for mixing. more expensive, the better” applies here. Though, you can find a good mastering engineer for $20-30 per song. The more he charges, the higher his level of professionalism will be.
Here you can find variety of audio engineers on Fiverr that are charging from 15$ to 500$ for mixing & mastering services.
Engineers with more experience and well-known names in the portfolio will charge more. Most professional engineers can charge up to $1,000 or more for mixing one track. And this is quite normal because they do their work brilliantly and have a demand for their services.
Variety of Mixing and Mastering Engineers on Fiverr
As for mastering, it often costs less than mixing. And that makes sense since the engineer works with only one track, not dozens.
Where Can You Get professional mixing and mastering?
There are many places where you can find professional mixing and mastering engineers, from your local area to a variety of online platforms. The online services are getting more and more popular. Some of them are Fiverr, Upwork, SoundBetter, LANDR, eMastered, Cloudbounce, MajorDecibel and more.
Here are some of them:
- Professionals In The Local Area
Ask about the recording studios in your local area. It would be a good option because there may also be good recording engineers in addition to mixing and mastering professionals. It will be a plus for your future music, especially since you will personally communicate with these people, which is also good for the creative process. However, the prices in such places can be quite high and unaffordable for beginners. But understand that the cost is often fully justified by the professionalism of the people working in the recording studios.
Fiverr is an online marketplace for freelancers and those who need their services. Thousands of professionals are ready to provide various services remotely, among them also mixing, mastering engineers, and producers. A definite plus is that you can find a professional there at a fairly affordable price. Of course, you should listen to his portfolio and understand the level of work, but all this is often on the profiles of sellers. If you like live communication, this is not an option for you. Still, it’s a great opportunity to get professional services at a fraction of the cost.
UpWork is also an online platform with a lot of talented people. If you don’t want to pay one amount, you can set up an hourly rate there. However, from my own experience, I would say that there are more musical professionals on Fiverr, especially when it comes to genres like rock and metal.
While the previous two sites are more global, SoundBetter specializes exclusively in music. In addition to mixing and mastering engineers, you can hire session musicians, producers, and beatmakers. And if you want the highest quality, it’s a place to look. There are even Grammy award-winning professionals. But their prices are also reasonable. Other than that, you can still find services at affordable prices on SoundBetter.
Also, here we have reviewed online services LANDR vs eMastered vs Cloudbounce vs BandLab vs MajorDecibel head to head.
As you can see, there are plenty of places to find professional mixing and mastering engineers. As for the online sites, we named only the most popular ones. If you arm yourself with Google, you’ll find even more suitable options.
Can I get mixing and mastering for free?
Yes, you can indeed get mixing and mastering for free. A novice engineer who wants to gain experience and fill out his portfolio may agree. You can try looking for such people on Q&A sites like Quora and Reddit. We’re sure you’ll find plenty of guys who will be happy to mix and master your tracks for free.
But keep in mind that the quality of such work may not be so good. And this is not strange, since you will be dealing with not very experienced engineers. But on the other hand, maybe you will be lucky enough to find a talented novice who will surprise you with the result. So, you can do it at your own risk.
Why is mixing and mastering important?
A complete music composition implies balanced instruments, sound clarity, and sufficient volume – these are the tasks performed by mixing and mastering engineers. The music would sound like an unprofessional demo without all this, especially against other professional pieces.
The most important thing that professionals in mixing and mastering possess is critical listening. Because of their extensive experience, they know what they need to remove or add to make the song sound better. They have such a trained ear that decision-making is instantaneous.
We can compare a whole thing to an uncut diamond. If you’ve ever seen one, it doesn’t look very presentable. Nevertheless, it still has a price and great value. This gemstone acquired its unrivaled look and maximum aesthetic value only after being taken care of by a professional. It is the same with the song itself. Yes, it remains good at the raw mix stage. Nevertheless, it reveals its full potential only after a full-fledged mixing and mastering.
Mixing process / Photo by James Owen on Unsplash
What is the difference between mixing and mastering?
In short, mixing is the work on all the instruments separately, recorded as audio tracks or taken as samples. As for mastering, it takes the whole mix as one track and introduces the final manipulations to bring the musical work to its final state. But let’s break down these two crafts in more detail.
What does mixing mean?
Mixing can even be called balancing all the tracks by their volume level. But in fact, the process is much more extensive and involves many techniques, which can be applied either with analog gear or entirely in the digital realm – with the help of plugins. Here are a few of them:
Equalization is probably one of the most basic tools in mixing. In essence, it is a correction or modification of the frequency spectrum of individual instruments to make them all sound in harmony with each other.
Compression is another important technique that involves controlling the dynamics of the material. In vocals and other instruments, some notes sound quieter or louder than others. Compression balances them out and can give a certain character and, in some cases, coloration.
Saturation has become especially popular in digital music production. It is the artificial addition of audio harmonics and distortion that was common with analog gear. It makes the sound richer and more exciting.
- Use of Effects
Adding effects, including spatial ones, take a very large role. It helps the mix get depth and width and provides some exciting “ear candies.“ We’re talking mostly about effects like reverb, delay, chorus, flanger, etc.
Automation is “fader riding,” whereby the volume levels of certain instruments or effects change over the song, giving a lively effect. It is another technique that affects the professional sound of the material. In the old days, mixers did it manually. Now you can automate everything directly in your DAW.
These are just basic mixing techniques to give you a small idea of the amount of work a professional engineer does. There may be more. It all depends on the genre and the expert’s decisions about what to give the material. But remember, it takes most people years to master all the tools perfectly and provide the most effective results.
What is the meaning of mastering in music?
Mastering means working on the finished mix. An engineer listens to a piece of music and decides what they think needs to be done to make it sound even better. Essentially, that work is about bringing the song to a finished state. You can think of mastering as more of a technical process, but still, there’s a certain amount of creativity here.
The set of basic tools here is similar to what is used in mixing – EQ and compression. Also, in some cases, professionals use saturation and multiband compression. Again, it all depends on the genre and decisions of the engineer.
But besides that, perhaps the most important mastering tool is limiting. This is the use of a special compressor that brings the music to the desired volume.
Does mastering make the mix better?
It depends on the mix itself. If it sounds good and high quality, mastering can make it better. But the percentage of this “better” can be about 10% or a little more. It is always a minor manipulation to bring a track to its logical conclusion. On the other hand, mastering won’t be a “magic pill” to improve everything if your mix is bad.
Imagine that the instruments in your mix sound muffled because they weren’t recorded properly. Or they don’t sound right with each other. In that case, what is the point of improving something at the mastering stage with EQ and compression? The result will be just as bad.
What’s more important, mixing or mastering?
It would be a somewhat bold statement, but let us say that the more important one is mixing. It’s just that the point is that there is complete control over all the components of the music and, ultimately, the impact on the big picture. So if your mix is made badly, no mastering will help it.
Don’t get it wrong, mastering is an important process, too. It’s just that the core of the foundation that influences the professional sound of music lies earlier – in the stages of composition, recording, and mixing.
Home studio / Photo by Elijah Merrell on Unsplash
To summarize, let’s say that it’s worth getting professional mixing and mastering today, especially if you’re confident in the good quality of your sources and want your songs to sound up to industry standards. But on the other hand, if you’re not a bad mixing and mastering engineer yourself, go ahead – you can safely do it on your own.
Remember that mixing and mastering are different big crafts that take a lot of time and effort to master. The people who do it have the necessary equipment, knowledge, and experience. So it’s the kind of thing you shouldn’t feel bad about paying money for.
If you’re baffled about where to find a good mixing or mastering engineer, don’t worry – there are tons of options online at affordable prices. You can also try to find a professional in your area just by Google. And if you don’t have the money for it at all, you can find someone who gives such services for free – it could be a beginner who will agree to mix to get a song in his portfolio.
Keep going and do whatever will benefit your creativity. Good luck!
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Ilarion Ivanenko is a remote mixing and mastering engineer from Ukraine, a musician with more than 15 years of experience. Specializes in rock, metal, progressive and the other genres. He can’t imagine his life without music, as it is the biggest passion in his life