You Don't Need Mastering If Your Mix Sucks


This is probably the most controversial statement I’m going to say, “You don’t need mastering, if your mix sucks”. Why? Because like I said in my previous blog, What’s the Difference Between Mixing and Mastering?, “Mastering can’t fix a bad mix”. For instance, in the last 5 years I’ve been running ADG, I’ve noticed that the overwhelming amount of songs I receive for mastering, could actually be improved significantly if the mix was better. And while I do my best to offer clients feedback on their mix and as well even offer a mix consulting service, there’s only so much an artist who only mixes their stuff can do. Why?

10,000 Hour Rule

One of my favorite books!

One of my favorite books!

Shout out to Malcolm Gladwell for the 10,000 hour rule, which basically states in order to achieve world class expertise at something one must practice at it for about ten thousand hours. Think about that for a second? 10,000 hours is a long time to be practicing anything. It’s the equivalent of 416 days. Imagine how good you would get at something if you were practicing it straight for 416 days with no sleep (of course you would die before you made it to the end).

Realistically, it takes about 7 to 10 years to clock in those 10,000 hours. So there’s no way that someone who just started mixing their own music is going to compete with an audio engineer whose been mixing songs since they were a teenager and is now in their early 30s (Ahem I’m talking about myself here). And yes I realize that does kinda sound like I’m bragging (I am!) or I’m trying to sell you on our mixing and mastering services (Again I am). But it’s frustrating from my perspective knowing that your song could sound so much better, if it was just mixed better.

Every Great Artist Starts With a Great Engineer

Here's me coming up with slogans.

Here’s me coming up with slogans.

When I came up with our new motto, “Every great artist starts with a great engineer” to replace our old motto “Hear the Difference”, it was such an “aha moment”. Any artist that’s serious about making music their livelihood is not going to get their friend to mix and master their track (Unless their friend is an actual audio engineer with years of experience). Moreover, it’s such a freaking waste to mix your own songs. Why? Because I’ve heard enough songs from enough talented artists and producers to know that if they had just got someone who knows what they’re doing to mix their song it would be so much better and actually take them further career wise. I find this mostly the case with EDM producers who come to me with some amazing beats, I mean stuff I could never do, that just blows my mind, but the mix just sounds painfully amateur (Come on you guys don’t read our blog). I just want to smack them and say, “Why don’t you pay me to mix this!”. But I don’t like to go for the pushy sales routine, so I digress.

How Do I Know My Mix is Bad?

When in doubt play Drake.

When in doubt play Drake.

This is the next logical question and I’m going to give you a few pointers here on how to tell if your mix could use improvement.

1. You’ve bounced it into Mp3 and are asking mastering engineers to master your Mp3. Usually people that do this are at the very beginning of their music journey and literally have no idea what they’re doing and should have no business mixing their own songs.

2. You’re reading this article. If you’ve made it this far, you probably don’t fully know what you’re doing but on the bright side you’re mix isn’t as bad as the rappers who try to get me to master their MP3 (see above).

3. Considering it is actually kind of hard to put into words what makes a mix bad. As a reward for reading this far, I’ll review your song on Facebook, so just post on our Facebook wall with a link to your song asking for a mix review. I usually do them once or twice per month.

4. Probably the most tried and true way is to A/B it. Meaning play your song and then play a Drake song. Okay just kidding about playing a Drake song, but play a song within your genre from an artist you admire (and then compare your mix to a Drake song).



Andre is the head audio engineer at ADG Mastering, which he helped found in 2012. For the last 10 years, he has made it his mission to empower aspiring artists and musicians from around the world. You can see more of Andre's writings on our Blog.

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