What Is Audio Engineering - A Complete Beginner's Guide

Most people get confused when asked about audio engineering and music production. In this article, let us understand what is audio engineering.

What Is Audio Engineering?

Once the song's composition and arrangement are finalized, it is ready to be produced in a studio. In Audio engineering, audio/sound/music is recorded, adjusted and refined in terms of balance, dynamics, width, and timber in a studio. The purpose of engineering music is to make it sound smooth, well mixed, and refined. Audio engineering consists of four main stages i.e., tracking music, editing music, mixing music and mastering music.

what is audio engineering - infographic


Different Stages Of Audio Engineering

Audio engineering consists of four main stage

  1. Tracking Or Recording Audio
  2. Editing Audio
  3. Mixing Audio
  4. Mastering Audio

Tracking/Recording Audio

In the tracking phase, audio is recorded to a digital or analogue system using microphones and other recording mediums. Tracking is the process of recording the various instruments that are used to perform a song. In the tracking stage, all different instruments and sound sources are tracked/recorded separately on a separate medium or channel.

E.g., if a band consists of a vocalist, a bassist and a drummer. There will be a separate recording channel for vocals, bass and drums.

Tracking is the inception and most crucial aspect when it comes to engineering audio. A good tracked song will be easy to mix and always sound better. The person responsible for tracking or recording sessions is called a tracking engineer.

Editing Audio

In the editing stage, sounds are edited. Fixing mistakes and helping a performance. There is a limit to what you can do while still having it sound natural, and nothing beats having a superior performance/tracking, to begin with.

Editing is done as a last resort and not a necessary option. If the artist has performed well, and you have tracked it properly, editing might not be needed at all. Editing is done to polish and refine the recordings only. Editing can be done by a tracking engineer or mixing engineer, or there might be a person dedicated just to editing. It all depends on the studio workflow.

Mixing Audio

Once the sounds are tracked and edited, they are mixed. Mixing is the process of combining all the instruments you’ve recorded into a mono(emanating from one position), stereo 2-track mix (left-right) or surround(5.1 or similar) sound. Mixing is done to make different instruments or sound sources achieve balance, width and sound smoothness. A good mix will let you hear all the instruments and with detail. It will have depth and motion. It will sound good and support the intention of the music.

E.g., if a band was recorded, each instrument and vocals will be mixed so that no sound empowers others, the mix sounds wide, sound smooth and all sounds complement each other.

In mixing there are different stages like balancing, panning, equalization, dynamics adjustment and adding effects. Knowing how to mix well is an art form that takes years of learning and practice. The person responsible for mixing sessions is called a mixing engineer.

Mastering Audio

Mastering is the process of making all the songs sound coherent, part of the same album and industry-ready. When recording an album, artists sometimes use various studios, producers and engineers for different songs. The result is that each song will have its sound and characteristics. In the mastering stage, all these tracks are made to sound as part of an album and adjusted for loudness and accuracy. Mastering also ensures that the song sounds accurate when played on different streaming platforms or playback systems.

Since many bedrooms/home studios, musicians and producers record and release tracks individually. The role of the mastering engineer in such scenarios is just to make the final mix sound accurate and adjusted for loudness. Meaning it will translate the sound as intended on different playback systems and is at a loudness level as per industry standard or artist needs.

The person responsible for mastering music is known as a mastering engineer.

The terms' music, audio, and sound are often used interchangeably. This leads to confusion between audio engineering and sound engineering. Audio engineering and sound engineering are terms that are mostly used interchangeably.

Even though an audio engineer can work as a sound engineer and vice versa, these are two different terms.

In this article, you got to know what is Audio Engineering. In the next article, you will understand what is sound engineering.

If you wish to learn what is music production, checkout this post.

What Is Sound Engineering?

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Udeeksh Sood on

Udeeksh is an Audio Engineer. He loves to produce music, research music gear, play guitar, go on treks and road trips.