You’ve got mastering, which is the cooking, congealing, garnishing, and ultimate presentation of the meal.
You’ve got effects – and they’re applied to individual instruments. Like compression applied to a kick drum track. This is similar to needing to separately cook chicken before adding it to a soup. You don’t just drop raw chicken into soup; it must be prepared on the side. So sometimes adding (even lots of) compression to individual tracks is the right thing to do.
You’ve got the mixing of the individual tracks (the ingredients). Everything must be blended with the correct balance of flavors. Just as milk compliments a chocolate chip cookie, bass guitar with compression compliments a kick drum.
And lastly you’ve got specific details. Are the drum heads and guitar strings recently changed and precisely tuned? This is similar to, is the lettuce fresh? Is the tomato ripe? When you cut up the onion, did you use the knife in a sawing motion (better) or a crushing motion (not so much)? Was your mixing session done in 32-bit float (better) or 16-bit (not so much)?
Deductions and Derivatives:
If someone hands you a plate with a steak on it that was just roasted in the oven, you can’t turn around and throw it on the grill and hope to grill it to perfection. It’s already cooked! And it can’t be re-cooked. So we see it’s the process that makes the difference. Sure, the oven-roasted steak is indeed cooked, and edible, and not raw. But it could have been done better.
This is similar to when we receive audio that is too hot. Sometimes the amateur engineer will crank the master level during mixing because (it’s true) it can make it sound better right there in the moment. But essentially they’re cooking their steak instead of letting us handle it.
Although some mixing engineers unknowingly cook their steak, we are here to look out for what the general listener wants on their plate in the end. Sometimes this involves working with the engineer to “uncook” things.
We strive to specialize in exactly how every single ingredient needs to be handled. Just like when you’re perfecting a recipe, the specifics are paramount. Too much salt and the dish is ruined.
Experience brings attention to detail: You’re cooking a pork roast. Obviously it’s important to be able to know the internal temperature of the roast so that you take it off the heat at the right time. But, a master chef also understands and knows exactly what the internal temperature of the roast needs to be before it begins cooking.
Think about how much food means to world culture. The best recipes are the most desired. People are willing to pay a lot of money for a good meal.
Those who have the perseverance to perfect recipes are ultimately rewarded.