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Here at Range of Sounds, we have several articles on all aspects of the mixing and mastering process. From explaining the basics of mixing and mastering to helping guide you through various ways to practice mixing and mastering, and many topics in between.
However, one area we have yet to fully cover is whether your own music should be mixed and mastered.
With the right software and background knowledge, it is perfectly acceptable to be mixing and mastering your own music. However, many suggest that if you have the means to have your music mixed and mastered by a professional, this is often considered the optimal route to take.
It is well-established that mixing and mastering are vital pieces of music creation. It is just as important as the recording of the music in the first place because even good musicians will not sound nearly as good as they could if their music has been poorly mixed.
Although home music set-ups aren’t cheap, there are many options at various prices, making accessibility relatively high for the home musician to record, mix, and master their own music.
In this article, I will explore some factors to determine if your own music can be mixed and mastered or if you should have your music mixed and mastered by an outside source.
Can Your Own Music Be Mixed and Mastered?
Yes! You certainly can do this with your own music, and if it is something you enjoy doing, by all means, keep doing it!
Mixing and mastering my own music is one of my favorite parts of the whole music creation process. I get as much joy from this process as I do songwriting, playing, and recording.
For me, it is just another way to express my creativity. That said, I understand it is not for everyone, and if you do not enjoy it, that is okay too.
However, a basic understanding of what takes place during the mixing and mastering process can benefit any musician. Knowing how and why certain things can make your songs sound really good (or really bad) is important.
Let’s look at some factors that can better help us determine if your own music can be mixed and mastered.
Factor 1: Required Equipment
The first factor to consider is the equipment. Mixing and mastering your own music, no matter how much you may want to do so, is only possible with the appropriate equipment.
It should come as no surprise that music equipment, be it guitars, drum equipment, or any other music accessories, can quickly become an expensive investment.
This holds true in the realm of audio production as well. There are a few critical pieces of equipment/items, along with a computer, that you will need to accomplish this.
One of the essential items that you need to have is a Digital Audio Workstation, otherwise known as a DAW. A DAW is a software program that enables you to record and work on mixing and mastering music right on your home computer.
As you may have expected from the above paragraph, DAWs can be expensive, especially if you buy top-of-the-line packages with all the features. Whether you choose FL Studio, Pro Tools, Cubase, Ableton as I use, or one of the other numerous options, these top packages can be costly.
For example, Ableton’s premier package (Live Suite) is USD 750, Pro Tool’s top program is USD 600, and many other top competitors are in that price range. I currently use Ableton’s second-highest program (Live Standard), which is USD 450.
Thankfully, these companies offer several cheaper options. Better yet, there are many free DAWs available for download. Ableton offers Live Lite, which often comes packaged with products like audio interfaces.
The video below provides several examples of Free DAW options.
Beyond DAWs, equipment considerations such as microphones and instruments need to be addressed if you use physical instruments or plugins or if you are creating music exclusively within your DAW.
Of course, you can find good used and cheaper music gear and many free plugins, but in the end, there will likely be at least some monetary investment.
Factor 2: Music Knowledge
Background knowledge of basic music concepts, theory, and various mixing and mastering processes is helpful but not a required pre-requisite.
As stated above, mixing and mastering have become integral to my creative process. Before diving into music as much as I have in the last few years, I had some previous audio production experience from a couple of high school classes and with work on a podcast, but nothing beyond that.
So I had very little formal training in audio production before diving into home recording.
If I had waited until I amassed a bunch of knowledge, I likely would still be waiting to start. Part of the amazing music creation experience is learning as you go. Making mistakes is one of the best ways to improve at something, as long as you learn from those mistakes and use them to continually improve your skills.
I think one of the best ways to learn something like audio production (or anything music-related) is to do it. It is very hard with something like mixing and mastering to develop a significant skill set without actively doing it.
With that said, formal training is an ideal option (either in school or with a professional teacher). If you can develop a solid foundation of these audio production principles beforehand, it will only be to your advantage in your home recording.
However, apart from formal training, there are so many free (and paid) resources across multiple platforms like YouTube, Pinterest, books, podcasts, and many more that give you most of the tools needed to learn mixing and mastering as you go, which is precisely what I do.
One downside to the abundance of information is that not all sources are of equal value, and sometimes there is just too much information to know what to do with.
My advice if you are overwhelmed with the amount of information is to pick just a few specific topics, such as learning about EQ, and dive deep into those subjects.
Once you have spent some significant time with these topics, start to expand to other topics. Doing this can help limit your attention and increase your focus, which can help you not feel so overwhelmed.
Again, I am not saying that formal education is not important, and most (but not all) top-level audio and music producers will have at least a Bachelor’s degree.
Part of my typical daily routine is to spend time learning various aspects of music theory and concepts and mixing and mastering techniques. There is always something new or more to learn in music and audio production. It truly is a lifelong process, and it is never too late to start!
However, it will likely require a serious time commitment to become good at mixing and mastering. While you can learn the basics in a few days or weeks, learning and perfecting the craft may take months or even years.
It may take a while, but that long-time commitment shouldn’t scare you away but invigorate you that there is so much to learn!
I have been a music lover and musician for over fifteen years, but it has only been in the last five years that I have taken the next step and committed myself more to it, and I am only just scratching the surface of knowledge and possibilities.
Should You Be Mixing and Mastering Your Own Music?
We have established that you can perform mixing and mastering on your own music, but should you?
There is an argument that you should not engaging in mixing and mastering your own music. Many professional musicians do not do this with their own music (but there are several who do).
However, even those that do not directly perform mixing and mastering of their music are often still deeply involved in the entire process as it is their music, and they have a significant say as to what the final version will sound like.
Let’s look at some reasons why mixing and mastering your own music might not always be the best idea.
Factor 1: Great Skills Can Take Years To Develop
As I stated above, it can take months or even years to get to the point where you are mixing and mastering at a very high level. With any skill, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly how long it will take to become an expert, so I can’t give a definitive answer on how long this might take.
It may take some people months to get to the point where they are producing clear and well-done mixes, whereas, for some, it may take several years.
If you plan to perform mixing and mastering of your own music, be prepared to be patient as you develop your craft. There may be some significant time before you create mixes that are of very high quality.
However, that does not mean you shouldn’t with your own music, but it might mean you need to get help with the process or even hire somebody to do it for you in the meantime. The major downside to that, of course, is the potentially high cost.
Factor 2: Your Room Acoustics Might Not Be Great
This is one of my biggest issues. I haven’t invested in any soundproofing material, acoustic foam, etc., so I am susceptible to numerous unwanted noises. However, I have so much stuff on my walls and packed into my study/music room that it does a decent job of deadening the sound, but it is far from ideal.
A room with many bare walls, brick, high ceilings, etc., can significantly inhibit the sound quality of your recordings, making mixing and mastering difficult. A quality recording space is an integral part of mixing and mastering. If the initial recording isn’t great, creating a good mix can sometimes be challenging, no matter how talented you might be.
A home studio like the one in the video below might not be attainable for many of us, but it provides good insight into how we can set up our home recording spaces with available resources.
Factor 3: You Are Too Attached To Your Work
A big issue with mixing and mastering your own work is that you might become so attached to it that you neglect certain things that others who are more objective might notice and work to correct.
This is why turning your recordings over to someone who specializes in mixing, and mastering can be extremely beneficial, as they can objectively assess your music and tweak it so it sounds its best.
If you cannot afford to send your music to a professional, or you simply do not want to do this, having other people listen to your work and give you honest feedback is still a good idea.
I don’t mean having any random person or friend listen and tell you what they think, but rather other musicians or someone familiar with audio production, as they will better be able to give you constructive feedback.
This is not an easy thing to do. Receiving constructive criticism of your work can be a difficult thing. However, if you truly want to create the best possible music, letting go of your ego and allowing someone with music knowledge to give you feedback is important.
It is never easy to hear that your work can be better, but just like with writing, having an editor is crucial as it will make your work better in the long run.
There is no set answer as to whether you can (or should) engage in mixing and mastering your own music. Mixing and mastering your own music is acceptable and doable if you are willing to put in the time and effort to develop your skills.
On the flip side, you certainly do not have to do this to your own music, as there are many options to have your work professionally mixed and mastered.
Regardless of the route you take, I wish you the best of luck on your musical journey.
Until next time, keep on creating!
Hi everyone! I have been involved with music most of my life, beginning in grade school with the trumpet. I am a largely self-taught multi-instrumentalist (drums, guitar, bass, and starting the piano and violin). I currently play drums in two bands and write and produce many genres of music in my home recording studio. I am also an avid guitar and drum collector.