If you’ve been mixing for very long, you might have noticed that the balance of your mixes might come out a bit differently after the mastering process. Sometimes it’s subtle and sometimes it’s very noticeable. In the mastering process there is added compression, limiting and EQ done to the mix as per the individual mastering engineer and his/her preferences. This processing can and many times does affect your mix in ways you might not expect.
In my experience the lead vocal is one thing I’ve had to go back and adjust the most. As a limiter decreases dynamic range it leaves a much smaller spot in the mix for a vocal to sit. Without the limiter it might sound pretty good but if the vocal was just a bit low, it might be drowned out with the limiter in place. Conversely if it’s a bit too hot, it will sit too high in the mix once the limiter is placed.
I usually do all the mixing and mastering for projects that come to me so I have noticed this and developed a habit that helps me get my mixes where I want them in a quicker fashion. One thing that I do is throw a limiter on the master bus about 3/4 the way through the mix. I wont slam it but I’ll hit it with about 3 db of reduction and listen to my mix for a little while and see how the overall balance is affected. If everything is sounding great I’ll move on. If I feel I need to make some adjustments I’ll do that of course and move from there. I leave the limiter off for the remainder of the mix then I repeat the process and check levels and balances once more.
Since I started doing this I have noticed my mixes come together a bit quicker and when I begin mastering I know my mixes will not fall apart. The mastering process actually happens faster as well since I seldom need to go back and adjust a mix any more. Give it a try on your next mix and you might just start doing it every time. Have a great week and happy mixing!