7 Essential Steps to Prep Mixes Like a Pro
Updated: May 27, 2022
You’re satisfied with your rough mix, and you’ve followed these 4 Tips to find a professional mixing or mastering engineer that you trust . Now, it’s time to deliver all of the files they’ll need to make your music sound incredible. You’ll need to perform a multitrack export, meaning that each instrument will be exported as one track.
Follow these steps to make the transition as smooth as possible:
1. Delete Anything Unnecessary
Remove anything that you don't want present in the final recording. If you recorded alternate takes, such as multiple guitar tones or vocal passes, make sure to commit your decisions before sending your files to eliminate confusion and guarantee that the files you choose are what end up in the final product.
2. Consolidate Tracks
Combine takes to create as few tracks as possible without overlaps. This simplifies your project, while giving the engineer maximum flexibility.
Notice how any overlapping takes are in separate lanes, which will allow the engineer to tune and edit vocals accordingly. Even though the lead vocal comprises many different takes, they can all be edited to fit neatly in two separate tracks; the engineer will be able to spend valuable time on important mix decisions rather than struggling to organize poorly prepped sessions.
3. Bypass Effects
As a rule of thumb, deactivate any effects that you’re not artistically committed to before bouncing. Time-based effects like reverb and delay will present problems while the engineer applies EQ, compression, and saturation to your files. If there are effects integral to your song (such as a guitar tone that you’ve specifically dialed in), you can include "wet" (with effects) and "dry" (without effects) versions of the tracks that you’d like your mix engineer to use as a reference when creating the final product.
A note about MIDI files: If your project includes MIDI (musical instrument digital interface) information, talk to your engineer about whether they'd like bounced audio files or MIDI files. I personally prefer both audio and MIDI, allowing the flexibility to edit timing and experiment with different virtual instruments, if necessary.
4. Check Tech Specs
Check with your engineer about their preferences for sample rate, bit depth, and file type. The widely accepted standard for professional audio is 44.1 kHz sample rate, and 24 bit depth (always a safe bet). Formats like .wav and .aiff are both lossless file types that most engineers can accept, but .wav is more commonly used.
Label your tracks clearly and consistently with:
Notice how in the above example, each track is clearly labeled in a way that any engineer could easily understand.
Nest all of your exported files in a folder labeled with:
This will make setting up your session a breeze, minimizing back and forth emails due to miscommunication, and ultimately getting you your final product faster.
7. Include a Rough Mix
Finally, make sure to include your rough mix! Listening to your rough mix will give your engineer valuable information about where the project is heading artistically to keep the final product in line with your vision and your goals for the mix. A good engineer understands that their goal isn't to change your work fundamentally, but to enhance it.
Remember: It’s in your best interest to make your files convenient to work with; your engineer will be able to get right to work, and love you for making their life easier. Plus, you’ll set a professional and efficient tone for the relationship going forward!
Interested in working together on your next project? I'd love to hear what you're working on, get in touch now!
Matt Villanueva is a producer and audio engineer living in Los Angeles. He spends any time outside of the studio shredding at the skatepark or kicking back with his bombshell girlfriend and heart-melting Chihuahua, Paco.