Mastering overall sound
My friends often use the term, making the bed for the melody. I'll give you an example of which I think will visualize this concept best.
The melody being most important to a song, needs to be accompanied by the rest of the music. The melody can either be sung, or played by an instrument. Like a flute, a sax, or in my case a harmonica. The accompaniment being often done by instruments that can play multiple notes at the same time, like a piano or a guitar.
None of these sounds should interfere with the melody. Looking at the volumes, the melody should be just above the volume of the other instruments. Like a boat, floating on the water. The water underneath the boat can be smooth as silk, or heavily waving.
As long as the it's keeping it's head up. You don't want to drown the melody in the music. There isn't a software program which fixes this for you. You need to keep a sharp ear and listen critically.
Mastering individual channels/ instruments
For the individual sounds you have to make sure the overall sound level stays steady. You don't want people to put on your song and having to lower the volume in the middle of the song. Sure a whisper is softer than a shout, but you still have to hear it! It needs to be above the music at all times.
In my harmonica play I noticed a lot of peaks. Caused by the switch in drawing/ blowing on the instrument and the fast transitions. At my cars audio system those peaks even made a shrill sound.
Let me show you the example:
There's an option to normalize the whole track, but I wouldn't recommend that. You've barely got control over the normalization + it can bring up sounds you don't want.
I often use one of the following techniques.
1: The Draw Tool
You can just draw a line on the audio track, lowering the line brings the volume down.
2: Cut & Adjust
Shortcut: 3 and 1
I find this faster and more useful when it comes to instruments. If you got a voice it's harder because the notes are more connected and a good singer's got all the tonal attacks nailed.
But it works great on the harmonica and also on the base.
I use the cut tool to separate the notes I want to adjust and in the option bar lower the sound a few decibel.
To conclude this post, I like to give you a tiny preview of the song to come. Which I'll upload soon. (Update coming)