A good mix prep enables Jonas to spend more time doing his magic, and less time examining and organising your material.
This Mix Prep Guide provides some great insight into how to prepare your Pro Tools session or audio stems before handing them off for mixing.
What should I deliver?
A Pro Tools session or exported audio files.
Option 1 – A Pro Tools session
Jonas works in Pro Tools. If you have recorded and produced your music in Pro Tools, it might make sense to deliver the Pro Tools session for mixing. That way, Jonas can continue where you left off.
In the next section you will see some general guidelines as well as some tips specifically for Pro Tools.
Continue to: How to prep my files?
Option 2 – Exported audio files
If you have recorded and produced your music in Logic, Cubase, Ableton Live or any another DAW, you will have to export audio files for mixing. The exported files could be individual tracks or groups of tracks mixed together, also known as stems.
In the next section you will see some general guidelines as well as some tips specifically for exporting audio files from other DAW’s.
Continue to: How to prep my files?
How to prep my files?
Step by step.
No matter how you plan to deliver your project – as a Pro Tools session or exported audio files – check out the following tips.
Click on the links to expand:
Sometimes we spend weeks or months writing and producing a song. During that time, it is not unusual to record more content than we actually need. In the end we might even feel a little numb, and we might struggle to decide which parts to keep. This happens to everyone from time to time.
In such cases, it can be tempting to leave the decisions to the mixing engineer.
However, it’s almost never a good idea.
If needed, take a few days off. Revisit the song later. It will help to hear the arrangement with fresh ears.
Sometimes you can leave a handful of decisions to the mixer, if you agree on it beforehand, and as long as you trust his judgement as an arranger. But make sure you do the heavy lifting yourself. Let the mixer mix, and the result will be better.
If you want to help Jonas save valuable mixing time, take a look at your audio levels.
As part of his workflow, Jonas will always make sure that audio levels average around 0 VU in a system calibrated to -18 dBFS. If you don’t know what that means, just try to make sure that most audio in your project peak around -12 dBFS, and you will be fine.
Remove unwanted background noise and silence in-between your audio events. Make sure to fade the clips in and out to avoid clicks.
It is almost always a good idea to keep breath noises in the lead vocal, but you can consider removing them in lead vocal dubs and backing vocals.
Trimmed and faded audio clips in Pro Tools.
If your drums need a pinch of quantizing or your vocals need some Melodyne, make it part of your production work. Especially if there are many vocal tracks — don’t leave all the pitch-correction work to the mixer. Jonas is a great Melodyner, but going through 30 vocal tracks is time-consuming and there will be less time left for actual mixing. If you are unsure, send one version of the lead vocal with Melodyne and one without. Same goes for Autotune.
Need a bit of editing to tighten up the timing of the instruments? Do it before sending your files off.
Melodyning a vocal in Pro Tools.
Pro Tools session
If you will be delivering a Pro Tools session, check out the following guidelines.
Click on the links to expand:
In the Save Copy In dialogue, Check ‘Audio Files’ under Items To Copy.
If your song has alternative takes stored in playlists and you know that these will not be needed, you can reduce the file size of the session by selecting ‘Main Playlist Only’. This may result in a faster upload.
Finally, select 24-bit, 48kHz WAV interleaved under Session Parameters. Press OK and save the duplicated session on your hard drive. Label it «Mix Prep».
Close this session, and open the duplicate.
The Save Copy In dialogue in Pro Tools.
Comping is the process of editing together the best parts of a performance.
If you have recorded several takes of a vocal or a guitar part, make sure you select and stitch together the parts that you want to use, and put away the rest. If you want to keep some of the takes for the mixer to use as a backup, make sure they are lined up with the correct timing in alternate playlists underneath the main track. Otherwise, delete the unused takes to reduce session file size.
Unless specifically asked to do so, you should never leave the comping up to the mixing engineer.
Clean up the duplicated session by deleting any unneccessary tracks and clips.
Reduce the file size of the session by clearing any unused clips. In the Edit Window, press Shift+Command+U followed by Shift+Command+B. In the dialogue that appears, hold the Option key while pressing ‘Delete’.
The Clear Unused Clips dialogue in Pro Tools.
You can order your tracks any way you like. However, please group similar tracks together so that all drums are next to each other, all guitars, all vocals and so on.
Jonas prefers the drums all the way to the left in the Mix View, basses next, then guitars, keyboards, synths and other instruments, sound effects and vocal effects, lead vocals, backing vocals and, to the far right, any reverb or delay returns.
Track order in Pro Tools.
Make sure that all tracks have clear labels. For example, Kick In, Kick Out, Snare Top, Snare Bottom, Rhythm Guitar Left, Distorted Piano, Bridge Vocal Dub, etc.
You can also use the comments sections to include information about microphones used or messages to the mixer, like «Melodyne printed to track», «please double-check the timing on this» or «not sure if this is needed».
Track labels and comments in Pro Tools.
If you intend to keep your plug-ins active, contact Jonas to check which plug-ins he owns. If you have used any plug-ins that Jonas do not own, you will have to print those tracks. Right-click on the last plug-in in the chain, select Commit, and keep the original track as a hidden copy for reference.
When it comes to the lead vocal, Jonas almost always prefers a dry track. As mentioned earlier, you are encouraged to print any pitch-correction, but it is recommended that you remove other processing, including reverbs and delays. Include a copy of the fully processed vocal track too, for reference.
Committing a series of plug-in instances in Pro Tools.
Exported audio files
If you will be delivering exported audio files or stems, check out the following guidelines.
Exported audio files should be rendered to the full length of the song. One continuous audio file per track. All files should start and end at the exact same point in time. Exported audio files could be individual tracks or groups of tracks mixed together, also known as stems.
This guide is being updated. Please check back later.
Other resources to include?
Rough mix and reference tracks.
1. Rough mix
There will almost always be a rough mix. Sometimes it is a quick and dirty bounce, sometimes it is a great mix that has been carefully crafted. Most of the time it is something in-between. Nevertheless, it is always a good idea to include the rough in your delivery.
Let Jonas know how you feel about the rough mix. What do you like about it? What don’t you like? Did you spend a lot of time working on it? Is everybody involved attached to it and used to hearing it? Then Jonas needs to know. A quick chat about the rough mix is important to ensure a successful mix.
2. Reference tracks
Some songs are written and produced with one or more specific reference tracks in mind. If this is the case it is important that you include these tracks when delivering your files for mixing. Spotify links are fine. Try to describe what it is about the reference tracks that you like.
If you don’t have any specific reference tracks, don’t sweat it. Sometimes simply describing the mix or the sound you are after is just as good.
How should I deliver?
3 ways of delivering your files.
1. Direct upload
You can upload your files directly to Jonas’ server.
2. File transfer or file sharing service
3. Drop by the studio
If you are in Oslo, you can drop by the studio with a hard drive.