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Mix Prep Guide

How to prepare and deliver your files for mixing

I appreciate you reading this. I appreciate how busy you are and how you want to get this done as quickly as possible, but it’s important to get it right, especially for larger more complex tracks. We both want the mix to sound as good as possible and good mix prep gets us off to a flying start 🙂

Please note that if you are using Logic or Pro Tools and are not confident in your ability to provide bounced audio files for your songs, I may prefer to receive your whole project files and I will do the bouncing for you (by prior arrangement).

BEFORE YOU BOUNCE YOUR FILES
  1. Ensure all editing tasks are done before bouncing, unless we’ve agreed I will be editing as well as mixing. This includes:
    – Fixing out of time and out of tune playing and singing
    – Comps have clean and tidy edit points – using crossfades to smooth over cuts between takes — no pops and clicks please!
    – Removing breaths and noise between phrases
  2. Bounce out your rough mix with all plugins on before bouncing your tracks.
  3. Save a copy of your session.
  4. Take off any processing on your DAW’s mixbus/master bus (main output).
  5. Ensure there is no clipping (red light) on the channels that you are bouncing from. If there is channel clipping, bring down the fader or the output level using a trim plugin. Be careful – a clipping channel may not sound clipped in your mix if it is attenuated later on an Aux track or your Mix/Master bus that follows the channel, but if you bounce directly from the clipping channel you will hear clipping on the bounced file. So use the meters, not your ears!
NAMING YOUR FILES

The following may seem really fussy but there can be so many tracks in a mix, getting things clear and having a system helps speed my workflow up no end! It also helps communication during mixing – if the tracks are named how I like them, when we refer to a certain instrument or sound, we’ll use the same name because I won’t have changed it.

  1. Please use lower case. My system is lower case for audio tracks and upper case for aux tracks
  2. Please don’t use numbers at the start eg 1 Kick ; 2 Snare
  3. Follow this system – Instrument > Microphone/Mic Position* > Song section** > Part/Role** > DRY/WET*** eg. Acoustic U87/Close Chorus Lead DRY

*Only include mic or mic position when multiple mics are used – Eg Piano Close ; Piano Room
**Only include song section and part role when the part is used for a certain section and could be confused with another part. There’s no need if the part is throughout the song and couldn’t be confused with another part. Eg Piano Bridge Melody ; Piano Chorus Chords
***Only include DRY or WET at the end in capitals if you’re giving me both options.

SHOULD YOU BOUNCE DRY OR WET?

Dry means take plugins off – wet means keep plugins on. It can be tricky to know what’s best here – but if in doubt send me both dry and wet. But in general I suggest if you have used plugin processing as a production tool then bounce wet. If you’re processing as a mixing tool then bounce dry. It’s likely you’ll have channels that have both uses, so in these instances ask yourself what the purpose of each plugin is. If it has no clear purpose or benefit then remove it.

The more experienced you are the more you should trust your ears and instincts – if it sounds better with it on, leave it on. But if you are less than very experienced I would err on the side of caution and send both wet and dry.

Examples of processing that are production choices include obvious distortion, sidechain compression pumping, a customised delay or stylised reverb, a gated tremolo pattern, an obvious filter or prominent EQ.

Examples of processing that are mixing choices include any compression, limiting, saturation and distortion including multi-band processing other than extreme and deliberate uses, subtle EQ cuts and boosts, subtle delays, modulations and reverb choices.

Supply Dry AND Wet versions if:

  • you’re unsure whether to keep or remove processing
  • you’re really happy with the sound you’ve got, but you think I’ll have the tools to do a better job
  • you want to communicate how you want a particular thing to sound
BOUNCING YOUR FILES
  1. I require audio files so please don’t send your DAW sessions (unless by prior arrangement – see top of page)
  2. Unless you are bouncing a channel plus its send FX on a separate aux track, use the Bounce Track command in your DAW that renders plugin processing AND your volume/pan setting (more on this below) and preserves the mono status of your mono tracks. In Pro Tools and Logic the command is Bounce NOT Export. In Logic use ‘Bounce Track in Place’ NOT ‘Bounce Project’ and in Pro Tools use “Bounce Track” NOT “Bounce to Disk” – otherwise mono tracks are bounced out of the main stereo output and become stereo.
  3. Bounce/Export WAV/AIFF files at the sample rate (usually 44.1kHz or 48kHz) and bit depth (should be minimum 24bit) that your session is set to.
  4. One file per DAW track.
  5. Each file should include only one sound/instrument/part type
  6. All bounced files should start from Bar 1.
  7. Be careful to set the bounce endpoint so that FX tails that ring out after the audio region ends are NOT cut off.
  8. Track fader setting & automation – Don’t zero your faders – bounce keeping the position of your faders. If you’re using volume automation creatively for stylised effects such as stutter effects or pumping then keep this. If you’re using it subtly as part of your rough mix then remove the automation – I will reference your rough mix to hear your intended balance.
  9. Pan automation – if you’re using pan automation as a creative effect then keep this on, but remove subtle pan automation that you applied as part of your rough mix.
  10. If your DAW has a Normalize option in its bounce/export window, turn off / uncheck this box
  11. Import your bounced files into a session and check everything is in place, sounds right and is error free
CHECKLIST
  • Your music is in time and in tune

  • Comps and trims are faded – no pops and clicks

  • No unwanted breaths, noise and dead space

  • Unneeded plugins removed

  • No clipping on tracks

  • Mono tracks are mono

  • Stereo tracks are interleaved (not split mono)

  • Plugin processing and track volume is rendered

  • Every file is the same sample rate as your project and in 24bit resolution

  • Every track is bounced from bar one and every file lines up correctly

  • Normalize mode turned off (if applicable)

  • All bounced files are in time, sound right and are error free

How to send your music

CREATE, NAME AND ZIP UP YOUR FOLDER
  1. Once you’ve bounced out all your audio files, create a folder and call it the song’s name followed by the song’s BPM.
  2. Inside, create a folder called Audio Files and add all the bounced files into it.
  3. Create a folder called Reference Tracks and add your rough mix into it along with any commercial reference tracks you have been using. If audio files for these aren’t available, write the track names and artist names in a text document.
  4. If you’re using Pro Tools or Logic, add your most recent session file – I will import tempo, time signature and marker data (song sections) from this. Please add song section markers if you haven’t already done so.
  5. If you’re NOT using Pro Tools or Logic, include a text file with details of any tempo and time signature changes and also the names and bar number of all the sections in the song.
  6. Zip up your folder for sending over FTP. Repeat for other songs.
SENDING YOUR MUSIC

Once you have zip files for all your songs send them to hello@matthewcotterill.co.uk using WeTransfer which has a 2GB limit per transfer. Alternatively send me a link to your zip files if they’re uploaded to a Cloud service (Drive, Dropbox, Onedrive etc).

CHECKLIST
  • Files are named clearly using my preferred naming system

  • Audio files

  • Song BPM

  • Reference Tracks

  • Rough mix

  • Session file including song structure markers (Pro Tools or Logic only)

  • Tempo and time signature changes (if you don’t use Pro Tools or Logic)

  • Song Structure with bar numbers (if you don’t use Pro Tools or Logic)

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