A good mix prep is important to make sure that Jonas can spend as much time as possible doing his magic, and less time examining and organising your material.

In this Mix Prep Guide you will learn how to prepare your Pro Tools session or audio stems before sending them off for mixing.

What should I deliver?

Pro Tools session or exported audio files.

Option 1 – 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 be presented with 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 be presented with some general guidelines, as well as some tips specifically for exported audio files.

Continue to: How to prep my files?

How to prep my files?

A complete guide.

General guidelines

No matter how you plan to deliver your project – as a Pro Tools session or exported audio files – check out the following prep tips.

Click on the links to expand:

So you have spent weeks producing a song and honestly you feel a little numb. You have recorded more stuff than you actually need and you struggle to decide which parts to keep. This is common and it happens to everyone.

Now, it is tempting to leave those decisions to the mixing engineer.

Don’t do that.

If needed, take a few days off. Revisit the song later. It will help to hear the arrangement with fresh ears.

Of course, it is OK to leave a few select decisions to the mixer if you agree on it beforehand, and 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.

As part of his workflow, Jonas will always make sure that audio clip levels peak about -12 dBFS. Tracks that are very transient and dynamic, like drums, can peak higher, but never above -6 dBFS.

If you want to help Jonas save valuable mixing time, take a look at your levels before sending the files off. Make sure no levels are too far off the target.

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.

Trim your audio clips | Pro Tools screenshot | Mix Prep Guide | Mixed by Jonas Kroon – Music Mixer, Mixing Engineer, Mix Engineer | #mixedbykroon

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 for 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, and the mixer will be happy.

Complete all neccessary time and pitch correction | Pro Tools screenshot | Mix Prep Guide | Mixed by Jonas Kroon – Music Mixer, Mixing Engineer, Mix Engineer | #mixedbykroon

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 Pro Tools, use the Save Copy In function to create a duplicate of your session. This will be your mix prep copy. Duplicating your session ensures that you keep an untouched backup of your project before starting mix preparations. It also prevents any broken file links when the session is opened on another computer.

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.

Create a duplicate of your session | Pro Tools screenshot | Mix Prep Guide | Mixed by Jonas Kroon – Music Mixer, Mixing Engineer, Mix Engineer | #mixedbykroon

The Save Copy In dialogue in Pro Tools.

If your music was recorded to a click track, make sure that the correct tempo is set in Pro Tools and that the audio corresponds to the grid.

Verify tempo and grid | Pro Tools screenshot | Mix Prep Guide | Mixed by Jonas Kroon – Music Mixer, Mixing Engineer, Mix Engineer | #mixedbykroon

The tempo and grid settings 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’.

Clear unused clips | Pro Tools screenshot | Mix Prep Guide | Mixed by Jonas Kroon – Music Mixer, Mixing Engineer, Mix Engineer | #mixedbykroon

The Clear Unused Clips dialogue in Pro Tools.

Use song markers to visualise the structure of the music. Give the markers names like INTRO, VERSE 1, PRE, CHORUS, BRIDGE, SOLO, etc. Use capital letters.

Include song markers | Pro Tools screenshot | Mix Prep Guide | Mixed by Jonas Kroon – Music Mixer, Mixing Engineer, Mix Engineer | #mixedbykroon

Song markers 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.

Sort out your track order | Pro Tools screenshot | Mix Prep Guide | Mixed by Jonas Kroon – Music Mixer, Mixing Engineer, Mix Engineer | #mixedbykroon

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».

Use track labels and comments | Pro Tools screenshot | Mix Prep Guide | Mixed by Jonas Kroon – Music Mixer, Mixing Engineer, Mix Engineer | #mixedbykroon

Track labels and comments in Pro Tools.

Make your session easy to navigate by coloring all drum tracks the same, all bass tracks the same, all guitar tracks the same, and so on. If you have several groups of guitars, synths or vocals consider giving them slightly different colors.

Color-code your tracks | Pro Tools screenshot | Mix Prep Guide | Mixed by Jonas Kroon – Music Mixer, Mixing Engineer, Mix Engineer | #mixedbykroon

Color-coded tracks in Pro Tools.

When prepping a session for mix there is no definite right or wrong regarding plug-ins. Some people prefer to wipe all plug-ins that were used during recording and leave the mixer with a clean slate. Most producers, however, use plug-ins to set the mood of the song and shape the sound of their production. In that case it doesn’t really make sense to remove all plug-ins, only to have the mixer try to re-create the effects. Under those circumstances it is better to keep the plug-ins active on your tracks, or print them.

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.

Keep, or print, important plug-ins | Pro Tools screenshot | Mix Prep Guide | Mixed by Jonas Kroon – Music Mixer, Mixing Engineer, Mix Engineer | #mixedbykroon

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

You can use any file transfer or file sharing service that you like, including WeTransfer, YouSendIt, Dropbox, Google Drive, and others. Address your transfer to jonas@jonaskroon.com.

3. Drop by the studio

If you are in Oslo, you can drop by the studio with a hard drive.

Happy mix prepping!

And don’t hesitate to contact Jonas with any questions you might have about preparing your files.