Why does my recording need editing, mixing and mastering?

When tracks are recorded they are usually captured as cleanly as possible, with little or no use of EQ or processing. This allows decisions regarding the tonal shaping of sounds and the application of effects to be taken freely in the mixing stage, enabling a wider choice of possibilities in creating the character of the final piece of music.

Editing involves taking the raw tracks from the recording session(s) and ‘cleaning’ them up. This typically means trimming unwanted bits of noise from individual parts and, where possible, fixing any performance errors. Ideally, parts would be performed to the required standard from the outset, but to a certain extent, monophonic tuning errors can be corrected (ideal for vocal ‘issues’!) and errant instrument hits or bum notes can be removed and replaced by copying and pasting suitably correct material, where available.

In addition to the general editing and mixing techniques, BLS can also offer further advanced processes such as drum replacement (the use of professional drum samples to replace or enhance live recorded drum parts) and guitar re-amping (the replaying of existing DI’ed guitar parts through in-studio amp/effect chains and the subsequent re-tracking, allowing flexible tailoring of guitar tones used in the final mix).

Mixing is the process of arranging the multiple, edited tracks into a coherent piece of music, treating them with EQ, dynamics and effects if desired, and ultimately mixing them down into a stereo format. At BLS, mixing is usually done over several unattended sessions once the client has completed recording the raw material for a project. This allows for a more objective viewpoint to be maintained throughout the project, and is more time-efficient for the client. Each individual track will be scrutinised and any unwanted noise will be removed before EQ-shaping and dynamics/effects processing are applied. Parts are then roughly balanced in level and panned in the stereo field before any changes are written into mix-automation and fine-tuned to create the finished mix.

Mastering is the final stage in creating a finished version of an audio project. Completed stereo mixdowns are treated to overall EQ, dynamics and effects processing and the lead-in/lead-out of tracks are managed. Global levels can be adjusted to equate with commercial releases (although the importance here is to ensure that a sense of dynamic range, relevant to the style of the piece, is maintained rather than simply ‘slamming’ the levels up to maximum!). If the project is an EP or full album, the gaps between tracks and the balance of their relative levels are carefully considered. Finished master tracks are ‘dithered’ down from the high resolution files used for recording and mixing, to the standard audio CD resolution of 16bits/44.1kHz. To ensure the highest standards of reliability and compatability, all master CD’s created at BLS are done so using high quality CD-R’s authored and error-checked on Plextor CD writers.