Every recording project has to begin somewhere. This is the time to set up the whole band, parts of the band, a large MIDI rig, an orchestra, or just a single musician with a single instrument. Sometimes called "basic tracks" or "rhythm tracks", it is this foundation on which the entire recording will be based.
After the initial tracking is complete, other musical "parts" may be needed. Usually these will include vocals, both main and backing parts, instrumental solos, or other more time consuming performances. Typically, these recordings are the finishing touches of the complete musical performance.
After the recording is complete, all of the elements must be blended or "mixed" into a final stereo or other multichannel form. At this point, most of the special effects are applied and relative volumes and equalization are set.
Mastering is a blanket name applied to the various processes used to prepare the final mixed product for manufacturing. These processes include sequencing and editing of songs into their final form, equalization and level adjustments for each song in order to even out large differences between various mixes, and preparation of mechanical parts necessary for delivering the entire product.