10 Tips to Prepare Your Session for a Mix Engineer

A few easy tips on how to prepare your session for a mix engineer, and manage your project expectations.

1.  Manage expectations with your mix engineer.

Have a conversation over the phone, in email, or in person, about the direction of your song, what your expectations are, and if you have any specific “must have” needs as far as processing, or effects.  Discuss and agree upon the deliverables that you will be expecting from your mix engineer i.e. number and type of mixes, what file format, bit depth, sample rate, and max db peak that you will want for mastering.  It is good to finalize what you agree upon in an email so that it can be referred back to later.

Common mix deliverables are:

  • Master Mix  (The final mix that will go to mastering)
  • Vocal Up  (Almost the same as the master mix, but with the vocals .5db to 1db louder)
  • TV Track  (Everything but the lead vocals)
  • Instrumental
  • Lead Vox Acapella
  • Background Vox Acapella

You may not need or want all of these different mix types, or you may want something not on this list.  Let your mix engineer know at the beginning of the project.

2.  Delete any tracks and plugins you are not using.

Take some time and go through your session and clean up anything that is muted or bypassed.  If you are not using it, the mix engineer doesn’t need to see it.

3.  Consolidate as many tracks as you can into single mono or stereo files.

If you have five different tracks for a single guitar take you may want to bounce those down to a single track in mono, unless there was a specific reason to spread the instrument take across the stereo field.  In that case, then you could bounce it as a stereo track, but you may want to supply mono tracks with that just in case the mix engineer wants to change the panning.  Make sure that you zero out any panning that you may have applied to tracks before you export the files.  Ideally all the files will be mono, and panned center.

4.  Name your tracks logically.

Before exporting your project as stems, name all the tracks in a way that will help the mix engineer make sense of the session.  Kick, Snare, HH, Tom 1, Floor Tom, Bass, Rhythm Guitar, Lead Guitar, Moog Synth, Lead Vox, Back Vox, are all examples of good track naming.  If you have multiple mics of a single take make sure they are clearly identified.  Ideally you would have consolidated these down to one track, but if you must pass multiple tracks of a single take make sure each take can be identified.  RH1 sm57, RH1 direct, RH1 R121, RH2 sm57, RH2 direct, RH2 R121 would be examples of how to clearly identify two different takes of rhythm guitar with a multi mic set up.

5.  Finish the editing and clean up process.

Edit and align your drums if needed, and tune your vocal tracks as necessary. Consolidate all those different guitar takes into a single composite take. Check your tracks for pops, glitches, noise, and clean up those discrepancies.

Editing can take time, and you will save yourself a lot of money if you have this step done before handing it off to a mix engineer.  Many mix engineers will charge an hourly fee for editing tasks if there is still significant work to do.

6.  Double check your individual track levels.

Make sure that none of your individual track levels are clipping.  The best levels to hand over to a mix engineer are generally tracks with an RMS or integrated LUFS of -16db to -18db, and a maximum peak of -5db to -8db.  If you print tracks that are too hot with digital clipping, there is very little a mix engineer will be able to do for you, and most likely they will send the project back to you to fix.

If you don’t know what RMS or integrated LUFS are please Google or look it up on YouTube, as this information will save you tons of headaches in the future.

7.  Do your own rough mix of the song.

Put together a mix and export this for the mix engineer to listen to.  This will give them an idea of the direction you are going with the song.

8.  Export your tracks/stems.

Export or bounce all your individual tracks as files.  Most mix engineers can accept either .wav or .aiff files, but .wav is always the safe bet.  Print any effects that you are absolutely sure of, or are critical to the sound of the instrument, to the track as you export.  Reverb and delay that is not critical to the sound of a particular instrument should be bypassed.

9.  Note your critical session information.

Take note of the sample rate, bit depth, and tempo of your project.  Include this information with whatever documentation you supply to your mix engineer.

10.  Organize your files and info.

Package up all the track files in a folder with the “Artist Name – Song Title – Date” as the folder name.  Take a quick look at all the files inside and make sure that the naming is clear, and your mix engineer will be able to make sense of them.  You can zip this folder and send it to you mix engineer through WeTransfer.com, or Dropbox.com, or bring it in person on a flash drive or hard drive.  Just make sure that if you are bringing an external hard drive that it is compatible with both Apple and PC computers.

If you are looking for a mix engineer who can take your recorded tracks and give you the width, depth, and clarity of a professional mix contact me with the details of your project to get a price quote.

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Please comment below if you have any questions on preparing your session for a mix engineer that were not covered in this article.