What Is the Difference Between a Demo, a Final Mix and a Master?

By Josh Shirt, Mastering Engineer & Music Producer


When creating music it can be hard to know exactly where to improve your track to make it sound as good as other music you love.

In this post I explore my track ‘Wave Patterns’ and show you behind the scenes of the music production process.

At the end of this post you can hear the demo version, final mix and mastered version of ‘Wave Patterns’ back-to-back.

Demo

‘Wave Patterns’ began life as a short loop which had a repeating two-note bass line as a predominant theme. I decided to create a progressive electronic track from this loop, which I fleshed out with dreamy synths, reverb trails, and delayed guitars.

Eventually I had a rough demo that was around 4 minutes in length and I felt I was onto something special. Next to other music I liked however, it sounded muddy and dull, and possibly a little cluttered.

Final Mix

So I subjected my track to a good amount of music production.

When listening to the demo of ‘Wave Patterns’, the track gave me a calm feeling and I found myself imagining a time-lapse sunset. After consciously identifying the track’s laid-back vibe, my main aim throughout my music production was to enhance it.

A slower tempo performance and stripped-out mix helped this to happen, along with considered mix placement of synths and guitar so that no sounds competed. In some cases, I achieved this by changing the rhythm of certain melodies in order to achieve more cohesion and less chaos. In other cases, I made edits to the track’s stems to remove unnecessary instrumentation.

During production, the calm vibe of the track was always at the front of my mind. I watched sunset time-lapse videos to keep my mind in that place. I knew I was on the right track when the music really complemented the video.

I went on to create a well-balanced, spacious final mix through a process of listening at different times of the day and on different monitors. I was happy to call the mix finished when the track washed over me, with nothing jarring me out of its hushed ambience.

Master

I mastered the track with a fresh ear some months later.

The master takes the strength of the final mix and reinforces it. It sounds polished and complete. The ethereal synths that pan from left to right are clearer and bolder, the lead guitar is sharper and the crunchy bass is warmer, anchoring the listener in the music.

Demo vs Final Mix vs Master

Listen on the best sound system you have available to you:

Demo is 0 – 26 seconds
Final Mix is 27 – 56 seconds
Mastered version is 57 seconds to end of file

You can hear the completed track on Spotify and Soundcloud.


I hope you found this post useful. If you are looking to improve your music, through “Shirty Mastering” I offer: