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Mixing therefore does not necessarily include worrying about the final volume level, dynamic range, stereo image width, or any concerns about how it might sound on the many different playback systems listeners may be using. Those will all be taken care of in mastering, when we look at the song as a whole and how it will be presented to the world. Mastering is the set of processes aimed at the final combined stereo output after all the mixing work is finalized.

For example, a kick-driven house track needs to be shaped much differently than a lo-fi song with drum parts you want tucked somewhere in the background. Experiment with different EQs and compressors and resist the urge to lean too heavily on preset options. Purposefully muddling certain instruments in your kit while keeping others sharp and focused can also create an interesting contrast to build on.

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Blues guitar is often defined by its light, natural-sounding distorted crunch and a pleasant, round tone. You’ll also need to use the natural expressiveness of the guitar to be able to play both softly and loudly during a blues song, and so I always recommend blues musicians going for a tube amp. Set your gain right where you can play lightly for a nice, clean tone, but where you’ll also get some tasty, soulful distortion when you dig into a note. If you’re getting a tube amp, I’d recommend getting something with a lower wattage so you can crank the gain right on the amp and use its natural distortion settings (no need for fancy pedals in the blues).

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