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How To Hire And Send Tracks To A Pro Mixing Engineer

mixing reference tracks Feb 19, 2021

You’ve saved up some cash and want to hire a mix engineer for your next project. You’ve always wanted to hire a professional mix engineer but feel a bit daunted about what to send to them and how the whole process works.

 

In this video, as well as recapping on some of the more obvious things, I go over some of the more forgotten considerations that will help you have more confidence when making first contact with an engineer.

 

Exporting your tracks from your DAW to send to a professional mixing engineer is fairly straightforward in of itself, but what other things do you need to send and what do you need to ask yourself about the different mixes you might need?

 

Every mixing engineer has their own requirements about the files you send them for mixing, things like naming, bit depth and sample rate and which service you use to send them.

 

This video will help both you and your mix engineer get the best possible result from your tracks without all the back and forth over email and avoid any misunderstandings along the way.

 

Video Transcription

 

Congratulations, you've made the decision to have your song mixed by a professional mixing engineer. So what preparations do you need to make?

In this video, I'm going to go through six steps that will ensure your mix is not only completed as quickly as possible, but also that it meets or better yet exceeds your expectations.

Hi, I'm Sara Carter from simply mixing .com, where each week I bring you simple, practical advice to help you get better at mixing, if you like what you see in this video, make sure to give it a thumbs up. It really makes a huge difference and all the relevant links are in the description below, including the timestamps. If you just want to jump to the section that interests you the most. OK, let's get started.

Now, this video isn't a tutorial about exporting your files from your DAW, although I will be covering that a little bit, but this video will highlight some of the more forgotten about preparation steps to ensure an easy and stress free mixing project for both you and your mixer.

Step one: Communicate your expectations and desires

Have a detailed conversation with your engineer about what you want and what is and isn't included in their mixing service.

Get clear on what's expected from you in terms of providing files, session information and payment. Also ask what final deliverables are included as standard and if there are any extra costs for additional mixes or revisions. If you've any priorities such as turnaround time, particular processing or effects that you want using, then communicate that.

Think about the bit depth and sample rate you're going to need to upload to your distributor and ask for that to be provided as one of the deliverables. Will you need a DDP image if you're having an EP or album mixed and want to sell physical CDs? Is this included in the fee or is it an extra cost? Does your mixer even include mastering in the price, or will you have to have it mastered elsewhere?

After the conversation, ask for an emailed summary from them, of all the things you've discussed so you can refer back to it, if there are any issues that crop up further down the line, common deliverables include mastered mix or pre master mix, an instrumental, vocal up, that's where the vocal is slightly louder, vocal down, that's where the vocals are slightly quieter, acapella, which are the vocals only and stems, which are the stereo mixes of the instrument groups.

Let your mixing engineer know what you want at the start of the project so the session can be built to make that happen.

Asking for this at the end of the mixing process can be time consuming to produce and will likely result in additional charges.

Step two, ask if your engineer has any specific requirements before you send the files

Hopefully, your engineer has a document that details their specific requirements for preparing and exporting your tracks, the sort of thing you'll get asked for is to name the tracks logically, to add sequential numbers to the track names.

So, 01 kick 02 snare 03 hi-hat.

Bypass all the plugins except for the ones that make up the sound that you have carefully crafted and want to keep in the mix.

Remove all automation and make sure all the edits have fades to prevent audible clicks and pops then to consolidate or export all the tracks from the same starting point.

And then some might ask you to provide the DI tracks for the guitars and the bass in case they want to reamp anything later.

Naming your tracks in a specific way will likely be on most engineers preparation sheet. Keeping the names short and logical are helpful, but adding a track number can help when you're mixing engineer is importing your tracks as they'll show up in numerical order in their session, likely mirroring your session setup.

Rather than numbers, I ask that track names are prepended with the first letter of the instrument group they belong to:

So D for drums, G for guitars and V for vocals.

This gives me more speed and flexibility when arranging my session in Pro tools. Not everyone has the drums at the top of the session, for example. And if you do, and you've numbered them one to 12, then that means extra time for the mix engineer renaming and reordering the track into their particular way of working.

Keeping your naming convention the same song to song really helps when you're getting more than one song.

Mixing engineers like to create templates from the first song mixed to use on subsequent mixes to save time by not having to build each session from scratch.

Step three, complete all editing, tuning and finalise the arrangement.

Editing and tuning are not part of the mixing process, some engineers will do it for an extra fee or have it listed as part of the package but don't assume it's a normal part of the mixing service. You'll just end up getting a mix that sounds great, but the vocals are still out of time. Do all your vocal comps and provide only the comped track for use in the mix. Don't send all the vocal takes and ask your mix engineer to choose the best one.

No. Don't. This is your or your producer's decision to make, not the mix engineers.

Step four, session consolidation

All DAW's have their own way of exporting files so that they all start from the same spot and are one continuous audio file.

The important thing here is that all the files start from the same spot so they can line up and will all be in sync with each other.

When imported into your mixing engineer session, you might want to bounce a group of tracks down into two, particularly if track count is contributing to the price of the mixing session.

Double check you're sending all the multitrack files. On occasion, I'll get mixing feedback where a particular element is missing from a mix only to find out I haven't actually been sent the track. Sometimes, I'll be listening to the rough mix and I can't find the part that I'm hearing.

So just double check that you're sending everything that needs to be in the mix.

And lastly, put all the files inside one folder named with the artist name, song title and BPM. Zip or compress the file before uploading.

Ziping the files helps protect them from corruption so it's best practise to do this every time you send any audio files over the Internet.

Step five, provide a rough mix and a reference track

This really helps your mix engineer understand the relative track levels and placement you have in mind for the mix.

It doesn't have to be perfect, just do your best. Alternatively, write a list of all the instrumentation in order of importance and volume. For example, number one lead vocals, number two, electric guitars, number three, bass. Four, drums and five, backing vocals.

Whilst the rough mix provides level and placement information, a commercial reference track gives a mix engineer guidance on the sonic profile and energy you're hoping for in your overall mix.

Do you want your mix to sound bright and open or rich and full? A reference helps the mixer hear what you want from the finished mix.

Do you like a particular vocal effect you've heard recently and you'd like something similar in the breakdown section? Then send in a reference.

Sending a reference can be far more informative than trying to describe in words what it is you're after from a special effect.

Step six, provide some recording session details.

This isn't imperative, but I think it's a nice touch, especially as you're likely to be working remotely with your mixer. Provide a list of microphones, cabs, guitar model and positioning and what you were trying to achieve sound-wise if this is something that's particularly important to you. Provide a list of the band members names and what they play, it's just nice to know!

And it also makes for a more personal experience. Explain where the drum overheads and room mics were placed. Or better still, send in a photo.

Provide info about any unusual techniques that the tracking engineer may have used and why.

Summary

It's pretty straightforward to prepare your track for mixing. There aren't a lot of steps involved, but if any are missing and it can cause problems and wasted time to-ing and fro-ing on email. Always ask what the mixing engineer needs from you and how they'd like it to be sent and get clear on the payment terms and on an agreed deadline.

Even if you don't have a hard deadline as such, it's good to agree on one any anyway, to prevent the revision process from stretching out the completion date. Understand what deliverables you need and let your mixing engineer know at the very start of the project so they can prepare their session appropriately.

So that's a complete look at working with a mix engineer. But what about using a mastering engineer? Then check the link in the description for my guide: how to prepare your mix for mastering, where you learn how to get the best sounding results and how to save money in the process. So check that out and I'll see you in the next video.

 *Repurposed from my original blog post on https://www.musicmixpro.co.uk/

 

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