Preparing Your Files for the Mixer!!!

Kenny's Tip of the Day - Preparing Your Files for the Mixer!!!

If you’re having a professional mix your production, one of the most important things you can do is to prepare your tracks for the mix. As a Mixer, nothing takes me more “off course” or gets me more frustrated than trying to figure out the work (or the mess) that’s put in front of me.

As I’ve mentioned many times before, the most important thing you can do as a mixer is to mix quickly. You’ll get a better mix as you’ll be judging what you’re hearing with a very fresh perspective. And mixing quickly is very difficult if you’re wasting time and energy figuring out what the producer or engineer was thinking about when they were making their record. Or worse, tracking down problems you don’t yet understand.

Eliminate all of this for your mixer. Make their job as easy as possible. They will create a better mix.

I remember years ago, the A&R guy for the record I just produced, telling me he was in the studio with the mixer (one of the top mixing engineers of all time) mixing my track and that this person said, when he had just put up the faders: “This sounds like a record”.

That is the goal. If it sounds right with just the faders brought up, imagine how good it’s going to sound when one of these guys performs their magic on each and every one of your tracks.

So let’s see how this can be achieved.

First. Unless the Mixer specifically asks for the DAW file, don’t send it to him. It contains more information than he will ever need. You don’t want him wasting time trying to figure why you did or didn’t automate the bass track. Or why you created 4 different parallel busses for the drums. Eliminate all of that. Send him consolidated WAV files. In other words, one file per track (Mono and Stereo) that all start at the same point. Usually bar one.

He can then drop it into his DAW and get going very quickly. Without any other parameters to concern himself with. It’s like mixing from tape. What you hear, is what you get. Nothing to look at. Just listen.

Label each one of these files as clearly as possible. This doesn’t mean as descriptive as possible. This means clear and concise. If your vocal track was actually “Take 15” that was recorded with a U47 thru an LA3a and a Pultec EQ, the mixer doesn’t need to know any of this. He needs to know that this is the lead vocal. Name it “Lead Vocal”.

Do the same with each one of your tracks. Kick, Snare, Snare bottom, Overheads & Room is all the mixer is going to need to know. Name those tracks accordingly.

If the panning is essential to the production, put that in the name as well. It’s much quicker to realize that “Ac Gut L” and “Ac Gut R” are probably doubled acoustic guitars and should be panned as opposed to “Ac Gut 1” and Ac Gut 2”. If you’re not sure where you want a track panned, don’t bother mentioning it. The mixer will figure it out. But if it’s important to you that it be in a specific place, put it in the track’s file name.

If there is anything that the mixer should know about any of these tracks, put it in a text document labeled “Please Read This First”. Hopefully, he will read this first. Put the file in with the audio files so it can’t be missed.

Next, print any effects that are important. You don’t need to print EQ or Compression on the lead vocal but if you created a really deep Flange or Phaser that you spent 3 hours on, print that to another track. Mention in the notes that you want the mixer to use that effect instead of the lead vocal during the bridge (for example). He then has the ability to re-create the effect you made (as he has the dry vocal) or he can just use your effect if it’s working for him.

If the drum reverb is absolutely crucial, print that buss to it’s own track. So the mixer can hear what you were hearing and decide if it’s worth keeping. If the EQ or Compression that you created is something you really do love, print that to it’s own track (in addition to a dry version) and give the mixer the option of using that instead of the un-compressed or non-EQed version. Label it as such.

I once produced a track where the panning delays were essential to the groove of the song. I didn’t want to print delay on all the dry direct tracks so I just printed the “FX Return” to another track and labeled it panning delays. This way the mixer could just use it or create his or her own. But it was all there to be heard. Without relying on the mixer to recreate it.

Do not expect the mixer to tune or re-adjust the timing of your performances. If you want something like this, tell them in advance so that they know what they’re dealing with BEFORE they mix the song.

Do not expect them to re-amp your guitar sounds. If you have sounds that you like, print them. If you don’t like those sounds, tell the mixer before he mixes the song. This is a production decision and should be made BEFORE mixing. Many mixers might be willing to work with you on this but don’t just send them a DI guitar and expect them to PRODUCE your record.

It’s not a bad idea to include a DI Guitar track if you want them to have the opportunity and you do have one available. It’s certainly not required. And as a mixer, I would prefer that you got the sounds you like and I just mixed them. But if something just isn’t working, I don’t have an issue with changing the sound in the middle of the mix using your DI track and an amp sim. Make sure you label the DI tracks so the mixer clearly knows what track it is associated with.

Print all of your MIDI instruments. You can send a separate MIDI file but don’t expect the mixer to have any of your plugins or virtual instruments or to replace your piano instrument with a “better” one without discussing it first. Again, this is a production decision. Not a mixing one.

Always include a rough mix. Personally, I like to approach the song before hearing the rough, but I will always listen at some point to know what you were hearing. If you thought “Synth 1” should be featured, I need to know that from your rough mix. Also, mention what you like and don’t like about the rough mix. The mixer doesn’t want to spend hours chasing your guitar sound if you didn’t really like it. Mentioning other songs or mixes as references doesn’t hurt either. But definitely not required.

In the folder with all of your files, name it like this “Song Name - 130BPM - 24bit - 44.1kHz”. This tells the mixer the bit rate, recording frequency and the song tempo.

Some DAWs will automatically convert to different bit rates and recording frequencies so this allows the mixer to be aware of what you used and to avoid any unnecessary conversion. The song tempo is very helpful for lining things up in their DAW. Especially if they’re going to create song markers and use delays based on the tempo of the song.

Remember that communication with your mixer is very important. Whether it be direct or by using the text file that you include. But keep it short. Your mixer doesn’t want to read a novel before mixing your song. Just mention the most important things that he or she needs to know.

Happy Mix Prep!!

You can learn more by watching my videos at www.groove3.com

I hope this message finds you well. Kenny Gioia