The Importance of Tonal Balance in Mastering Audio

The Importance of Tonal Balance in Mastering Audio

You know when you’ve heard a good piece of music when it just works. You can’t put your finger on why, but every part works to enhance the others.

Chances are, you’ve hit on a song with good tonal balance.

Some ideas about how music should sound come from early nineteenth-century classical music. Back then, music was all about tonal balance and symmetrical phrasing.

While we’ve lost some of the focus on phrasing, we still appreciate good tonal balance today.

Why is that? Read on to learn more.

What is Tonal Balance?

The tonal balance is the way energy, or the tone, is distributed across the audio spectrum. In other words, how the frequencies you can hear relate to each other.

Lots of artists and audio engineers will talk about a mix being ‘balanced’. Trouble is, the definition of tonal balance can be subjective. Different people interpret it in different ways.

Musicians have a different conception of tone because it depends on what instrument and style they play.

Engineers have a different approach because they have more individual factors to play with.

They have to balance the instrument, the acoustics of the recording space, and the technology used. The way they achieve tonal balance depends on the sound that’s required.

Why Do I Need It?

It all comes down to the required sound we just talked about.

The engineers need to walk a fine line between what the performance sounds like both live and recorded. Let’s take a guitarist as an example.

The engineer needs to balance the tone so the guitar sounds amazing on its own and alongside the rest of the band. Hitting the right tonal balance involves managing all the instruments so they sound good together.

This becomes even more pronounced during mixing. Here, the mixing engineer needs to be sure everything works together. No instrument can dominate or fight another for attention.

Achieving this balance will vary from one genre to another. That’s because people expect different sounds from certain types of music. It can even vary between artists of the same genre, depending on how they use instruments and song dynamics.

Without that tonal balance, the song will sound “off”.

How Do I Get a Good Tonal Balance?

You need to know what you want the song to sound like. Go into the recording phase with this in mind so you have the right tracks available.

Move into the mixing phase and listen for any parts of the mix that sound too soft or loud. If the mix sounds muddy, cut low frequencies or add high ones.

Make sure you use the same EQ settings on both channels. You don’t want to upset the stereo balance.

When you reach the mastering phase, try checking your mix against an existing song. Choose one from the same genre that you’re working with.

Run the existing song through a spectral analyzer. This lets you look at and understand its frequencies. Compare these to your own mix to see if you’ve achieved a similar tonal balance.

Nailing Tonal Balance

Now you know why tonal balance is so important when mixing and mastering audio. If a song is unbalanced, the listener won’t get the same enjoyment from the track.

Getting the tone balanced right will leave them with a pleasurable listening experience.

There are lots of elements involved in hitting the right balance. If you want expert help, get in touch and we’ll get you going.