Many times the two words get thrown around like they’re the same thing: they clearly not, and, in this article, we’ll try to explain what the difference between the two is.
Mixing is a process in the production of music when an audio engineer, a producer or a production lover takes the elements in a song and attempts to combine them into a mix. In fact, when you raise a volume fader to bring a noise up that’s being lost to the other instruments, or draft instruments to create stereo imaging, you’re essentially mixing.
Everything, from automation of effects to applying the effects themselves, is part of the mixing process. In simple terms, mixing is taking all the separate pieces and combines them into one.
There are 2 main objectives in a mastering:
It’s the last important step of a song’s journey: the mastering will put the last touches on the track to make it ready for distribution. Typically, that include some sound equalization and some form of dynamic range compression. While mastering you cannot correct a bad mix, but make slight adjustments to improve the sound without altering it too much.
One of the reasons that mixing and mastering get confused is that both processes share some common methods and tools: for example, dynamic range compression and sound equalization. The main difference is how the tools are used: while in the mixing it is necessary to use compression to affect the dynamics of individual parts of a song or musical piece, in the mastering is necessary to modify the dynamics of the entire mix.
The same goes for equalization: a mixing expert could apply strong equalization changes to a track, while an audio mastering expert will make slight equalization adjustments to the entire mix.