Mixing and mastering services are the most crucial part of any audio production-they can enhance or destroy the work of creativity originated from composition down to recording. And the difference between the most successful music and the unpopular ones have been traced to the quality of their mix and mastering. Known for its versatility and the industry’s standard when it comes to audio recording and production, Pro Tools is the cutting-edge audio production suite that is capable of producing high-definition audio that meets the world-class standard.
Mixing and mastering audio in Pro Tools is both an art and science due to a lot of intricacies involved. Although several types of gear and tools are required, that fact that Pro Tools provides the platform, the digital environment for carrying out the processes makes its learning curve desirable for high-quality audio to meet different output requirements.
Mixing and mastering require more profound or in-depth knowledge and experience than the standard “tracking” process. The procedures are different as well as their requirements. Over the years, it has always been said that you should not master the recording you mixed; but there is no way you can hone your mastering skill if you do not lay your hands on mastering even if you have learned the basics of mixing. Regardless, mixing and mastering in Pro Tools require specific steps or procedures for best results; here are some of them.
In a project with about 24 or more tracks of audio recorded comprising different types of instruments such as drums, guitar, vocals, and more. Arrange similar instruments or audios with similar frequency range in sequence for flexibility and convenience. For instance, arrange all drum and percussion tracks in a group; acoustic guitar and electric guitars in another group; hi-hat, ride cymbals, and crash cymbals in another group; and vocals in another group.
Having grouped similar audios, start recording according to the groups. For instance, when the drums’ group, mute the remaining groups in order to focus, regulate, and emphasize any aspect of the drums such as the kick, toms, and snare. After finishing a group, move to the next group muting the remaining groups. When you have finalized the group, integrate the group with the previously mixed groups until you finish. This would be useful for “stem mastering.” When carrying out Sub-Mixes, it is better to mix the tracks “dry” (without any effects such as EQ, Reverb, Delay, etc.)
This is where you have to treat each track by adding EQ to “roll off” unnecessary frequencies and enhance the most important ranges of the recorded audios. You will need to “cut” certain frequencies, pan certain track partially or completely for enhanced quality and clarity. Apply other effects such as “Reverb” effects and so on.
Regulate each audio track in according to your preference (the tracks you want to be a little bit more pronounced than the rest). Balance the entire tracks or session and listen with your headphones and studio monitors. Stop the music and take a break of about 10 minutes. You can go for a walk and listen to another song. Play the entire mix again and listen standing away from the monitors. Take note of aspects to adjust and correct them immediately.
Mastering aims at compensating for any deficiencies in the audio and optimizing the overall sound quality and level. It also involves matching different tracks regarding effects and level to fit together we’ll on an album. Besides, mastering consists in setting the gaps between tracks and/or applying crossfades. Finally and most importantly, mastering focuses on preparing the tracks for the medium onto which they will be downloaded or manufactured. So, here are the steps Involved.
To track and master in Pro Tools, you need to choose the format you want to output the final track into such as sampling rate and format as below:
a. CD master must be 16 bits and sampling rate 44.1 kHz.
b. The peak level should be higher than -2dB and within 2 dB of full scale.
c. MP3 and AAC can be made 256 kb per second or 128kb per second.
Zoom in to have a more unobstructed view of where your song should start. Pick the start point accurately.
Although each song requires different tools, have a starting point by setting up the chain for hip-hop mixing and mastering your audio or full track. You need EQ to Compressor to Limiter. You can rely on the built-in 7-band EQ of Pro Tools as well as the D3 Compressor/Limiter for subtle control.
While Compressor helps to turn up the gain level of the break to maximize the headroom, Limiter ensures that the few highest levels are kept in check to prevent clipping or stop any audio that may “peak” directly in the mix-down.
You may need additional plug-ins such as a multiband compressor to remove unwanted frequencies and Fade engine to fade in at the start or fade out at the end of the audio.
Bouncing your Pro Tools enables you to export the audio in diverse formats such as from 16 bit to 24 bit while Dithering will add some random noise to smooth over the quantization process applied to the audio and also reduce distortion in the low end of the sound spectrum.
Mastering requires different sets of speakers in addition to an acoustically treated environment and high-performance gear. Listen to the final master in the car, headphones, on computer speakers, and more. It is essential that the sounds good in all places it is played. Learn more about triomni studios.