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From Demo, to Mix, to Master


It’s not unusual for inexperienced producers try to make their song sound as loud as possible before they’ve actually mixed their song. But in their defense, it’s difficult to imagine how your song will sound after a proper mix and final mastering job. So, the instinct is to try and make the song sound like the finished product before it’s even mixed. However, while you’re producing the song your focus should be on your orchestration and arrangement, save the mixing and mastering for after you’ve written and sound designed all the parts. Once you’ve arranged your song and then produced a good clean mix with nicely balanced frequencies and levels, trust that the loudness will come in the final mastering stage.

Here’s a perfect example of how a song can evolve from the demo (the first 8 bars in the example below), to the final mix (the next 8 bars), and then the master (the last 8 bars). I first signed this song, “Funky Jellybeans”, to my label (Synchronized Music) as a demo. Then I mixed it directly in Reason using the artist’s (Soniferous) original session file. After we were happy with the mix, I mastered it in Pro Tools using the Waves Mastering plug-ins. You can hear how the mix goes from loud but muddy (the demo), to quite but clear (the mix), and then loud and clear (the master). In the SoundCloud thumbnail you can even see the song’s waveform evolve in the three versions (from top to bottom, demo, mix, and master). So remember to take each stage of the production process one step at a time, from the arrangement (writing and demo), to mixing, and mastering.


Erik Hawkins is a composer, producer, remixer, and author whose talents and technical expertise have leaders in the music industry calling him a “taste maker.” He has worked with and remixed a variety of top artists. His own progressive dance music tracks have been used by major television networks and film studios, His articles and columns have been published in Remix, Mix, Electronic Musician, MC2, Keyboard, and DigiZine. He has also written several books, including The Complete Guide to Remixing (Berklee Press), and Producing Drum Beats (Berklee Press). His Berklee Online course, Programming and Producing Drum Beats, won the UPCEA Best Online Course Award for 2011.
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