As a music producer, it is your duty to understand how to have your files ready for mixing.
Technology has made things pretty easy as far as collaboration goes. You don’t really need to travel to record a song with somebody. You can easily record in different places and exchange the files via email or any other virtual file storage service like google drive or Dropbox.
It takes some practice knowing how to prepare audio files for mixing and in my experience there are a lot of steps that have to be taken to make the mixing engineers job much easier. Because there’s really nothing more inconvenient than having to deal with poorly prepared files for mixing, that make it difficult to work with.
It can be both time consuming and irritating, therefore this post will discuss the various steps you need to take before you send out your audio files for mixing.
Keep reading as I share my knowledge.
Edit your Audio
When recording, there are a lot of things that go into play and the role of the producer is to coach the artist and ensure that they record to the best of their ability.
Once this is done, you’ll have various takes that you’re going to consider. Your job will be to pick the best takes as the ones you go with for the record.
This will meaning deleting the other takes, just be sure that the takes you pick as your finals are actually better than the others.
As you prepare to send out audio files, ensure that only your final takes are edited and prepared to be sent.
The stems of the final takes are the only ones that should be properly edited and comped to give the mixing engineer less work.
Clean Up the Audio
Another key thing that has to be done before you send your files off for mixing is making sure that you clean up the audio.
This includes using noise reduction tools to get rid of noise in your takes to ensure that they are as clean as possible.
Also making sure that you don’t have any unnecessary noises within the audio, any unnecessary tails etc.
Just ensure you clean up so you make the job easier for the engineer to simply load up your audio files and start mixing rather than have them start dealing with the mistakes, noise or any inconsistencies that should have been dealt with before the audio files were sent.
Tune and Correct Pitch
Ensure that your audio files are properly tuned and pitched so they are ready for mixing.
This part also includes time aligning your audio files so your mixing engineer can easily drag and drop the files without having to start guessing and figuring out where an audio file should start from and end .
The fact is, if you pay for mixing services, you’re simply paying for mixing and nothing more.
To avoid probably getting charged more for having audio files that are all over the place with no time indication or correct pitch. You’re better off preparing the right way.
Have dry and wet files
Another important aspect of preparing audio files for mixing is basically having the dry audio files and the wet audio files.
Dry audio files are simply audio without any processing or effects on them while wet files have some processing and effects that you may have applied.
The goal is to have options when mixing because it could turn out that the effects you use on the audio get in the way of mixing the audio properly.
When the dry stems are available, you allow for an engineer to have the option of using them and applying processing in a manner that they feel is right or is in line with their process.
Therefore have two seprate folders, one for your dry audio files and the other for the wet audio files.
Label your Audio
Nothing is more cumbersome that having to deal with audio files that are unlabeled when it comes to mixing. It is quite time consuming and can lead to errors.
This is why it’s important to take the time to label your tracks correctly, in a way that makes it easy to put them together for mixing.
When labeling, clearly indicate the intro audio file, chorus audio file, chorus-backing audio file, ad libs, verse 1, verse 2, bridge etc.
Labeling will really depend on what kind of a record you’re working on and the parts involved in making up the full record.
Always remember that correct labeling will save the mixing engineer the time to start going through your tracks and figuring out which is which.
Labeling will also keep your files orderly and will allow the mixing engineer to single out and process different sections easily.
Lastly, label your folders appropriately too, there’s no need to rush or get lazy to rename files that need renaming. It is part of the process and will help the mixing process.
Export the right way
Another important aspect of preparing audio files for mixing is ensuring that you carry out your export in a manner that will be easiest to work with.
This is why its advisable to track out all your audio and render or export them out as stems that have the same beginning point ( from the start of the track) to the ending point (the end of the track).
When you do this, all your audio files will have a similar length which is the total duration of the record.
You may wonder why this is so important. Well worry not keep reading as I explain.
The fact is this, all Digital Workstations differ from each other and it would be silly to think the mixing of your audio files will be carried out in the same DAW you used to prepare them.
To ensure that there is little confusion in time alignment and lining up, having your stem audio files rendered out in a consolidated manner will make it easier for the mixing engineer to simply drag and drop them into their DAW and work on them without having to worry about time alignment and lining up the audio.
Have a detailed Info PDF
There are some details that always have to be known when it comes to mixing and it’s very vital that you have them included.
This is why I always suggest writing down a sort of guide to the whole audio file folder that the mixing engineer can use as they work on the mixing.
Some of this information in the PDF could be the Tempo/BPM, Key, Settings applied, effects used etc.
The tempo or the BPM is very important because the mixing engineer has to set their session to it in order to have their effects follow this tempo.
For example, effects like delay are time effects that work with the tempo of the session. If the mixing engineer has the wrong BPM or tempo information, it is most likely their delay and other effects will be a bit off.
Secondly, you need to properly indicate and write down the key of the entire record. This is very important because it may help in mixing situations that would call for pitch correction, tuning or time stretching.
Thirdly, you can also include information about various settings that were applied in the preparation of the audio files.
The whole point is to basically include all information that would be helpful for the mixing process.
You have various options for sending, I personally prefer google drive because i find it convenient but others find WeTransfer effective.
Ensure that you use a sending method that you and the mixing engineer can agree on.
The basic steps are:
1. Record your Audio
2. Edit it
3. Clean the Audio
4. Arrange the audio the right way
5. Export it correctly.
6. Label the audio files
7. Have a detailed PDF or DOC detailing anything that would be of help to the mixing engineer.
8. Create a folder for the Dry Audio Files
9. Have a folder for your wet audio files too.