Preparing Your Songs for Mixing
So you’ve got your songs tracked and you’re ready to send them off for mixing. Before you send them off to the mix engineer, there are a few key things you can do to expedite the mix process and, consequently, help your tracks achieve their full potential.
While it may seem obvious, and I’ve touched on it in other parts of this document, naming tracks in a session or naming the actual audio files themselves if you’re not sending over a whole session, streamlines the mix process quite a bit. Hunting and labeling takes the mix engineer out of the creative process. Being able to start fresh and know what you’ve got helps the finished product quite a bit. Oh, and if you’re sending elements to busses for summing, make sure you name those busses too!
Hopefully, your song was tracked to a click. If so, there’s probably instances where you punched in a few parts that don’t start at the some point in the song as others. To assure the tracks line up the way they need to, make sure to consolidate your audio files in the session to a common start point. If you’ve edited a few different parts together, assure you’ve duplicated the playlist, added cross fades, and consolidate the files to a specific beat number and bar in grid mode to where everything starts at the same time, that way what you want mixed in the song is where you want it.
There’s been so many times that I’ve received sessions with “extra” audio that was left in the session file that I didn’t know what to do with. Sometimes, those files would end up in the mix only to be removed later because they were left in and the artist didn’t want them in there. Other times, I’ve had to go find audio that, somewhere in the tracking process was removed. All of that being said, make sure that the session or the audio files you send over are only the files that you want mixed. If you’ve done a separate guitar part, for example, that you don’t want in there, save a copy of the session and remove the files from the session.
Let’s say you’ve recorded a guitar direct and you’ve worked with a number of plugins like an amp modeler and additional time based effects to get the guitar sound that you really wanted. Print that processed signal to a separate track and send it over with the direct signal. Same thing goes with midi keyboard patches and sounds. If there’s a part of the sound that’s truly important and plugin based, don’t assume that the mix engineer has the same plugins. They may modify the sound slightly in post, but print the key elements of the sound. This will allow the mix engineer to either use the part as you intended or replicate easily because they have a reference.
After naming and organizing a session for mixing, the next thing that I usually do is going through the arduous task of removing all of the plugins present in the session file. Most mix engineers have a handful of “every mix” plugins that they prefer to use. There’s also a chance you may own certain plugins that the mix engineer does not have. So that the mix engineer can start fresh and move quickly to stay in the creative headspace, remove any of the plugins you’ve added to the channels
The biggest key to getting your sessions ready for mix is communicating the end vision. If you have reference tracks you’d like your song to send like, send those over with the audio or session files. If there are specific things you hear or want to hear in the track, make sure that those ideas are detailed and communicated. Like in so many other parts of life, communication here is key. Make sure you provide explicit instructions if you have them so that the mix engineer doesn’t wind up going down a path that you don’t like.
Keep in mind that the mix engineer is one of the last artists involved in the production of a song or album. You will have a specific vision for your music and so will they. Following these simply steps will help to align those visions and make sure you get the best results possible!