Mixing & Mastering Pt. II – How to Prepare and Send Your Audio Tracks
Published on May 14th, 2020 – 5 minute read
Now that you’ve finished recording, here are some things you’ll want to make sure you’ve covered before sending your files to get mixed. The following is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT if you want to save time and energy. Sending audio files correctly to your mixing engineer the first time can save up to hours of your time.
1. Preparing Your Audio Files Before Sending
So, what is “the right way”? Let’s start with individual tracks. There are various recommendations for how loud each track (vocals, drums, guitar, bass, beat, etc.) should be, but you won’t go wrong if they’re all -10db at most. That means that the loudness of each individual track will never exceed -10db. Each individual track should also start and end at the same time. This means that if your song is 4 minutes long, each individual track should be 4 minutes long even if the audio is only heard in the middle of the song. You can make sure that you’ve done this correctly by opening a new session in your DAW (digital audio workstation) and importing each track. If done properly, you’ll see that each individual track is the same length.
Before exporting, you’ll also want to make sure that each individual track doesn’t have any effects on it unless it’s for creative purposes. Specifically, you’ll want to make sure that you don’t have any EQ, reverb or compression effects on each track.
2. How to export individual tracks
Next, you’ll want to export each individual track. This can vary according to which DAW that you’re using, but generally can be found by clicking “File” in the menu and “Export”. Most DAWs can export individual tracks as separate audio files, so if you can’t find an option to do so, it’s worth doing a quick search online to see if there’s a way to do it. When you’re exporting, you’ll want to make sure to export it with these settings: 24bit (bit-rate), 44100Hz (or 44.1kHz) in WAV or AIFF. Make sure it’s NOT IN MP3.
3. Sending your files to a studio
Not that you’ve exported your individual tracks, you’re almost finished! If you have a rough mix of what you’d like the song to sound like after being mixed (this version can include EQ, reverb and compression effects), export the session as one file. It’s also good to include a reference song to show the mixing engineer what kind of sound and style that you’d like your song to sound like, and will help point them in the right direction.
So to wrap it all up, you should now have: all of your individual tracks as separate audio files (24bit, 441000Hz and in WAV file format), an (optional) rough mix and a reference track. Now you’re all ready to send your files to your mixing engineer. The first thing that you’ll probably notice is that the folder is large, which can make sending the files an issue. Each studio may have a preferred medium for accepting the files so it’s worth it to ask directly, but common methods include using WeTransfer, GoogleDrive and Dropbox.
Congratulations! If this is your first time preparing your tracks to send to a studio, this may seem like a lot of information, but now that you know how to do it, it should be a lot easier next time around!
4. What to Expect
Now that you’ve sent off your files to the studio, you can sit back and relax while they work on it. While each studio and engineer may have a slightly different workflow, they generally include a couple revisions to make sure that the mix that you receive is what you’re looking for. That means that even if it doesn’t sound exactly how you want it to sound after the first round of mixing, you can give your feedback of what parts you like or don’t like about their work. If there’s something that you’d like changed, it’s useful to listen closely to what they’ve done and write up some notes.
For example, maybe you don’t like what they did between 0:30 and 1:05. It’s useful to then ask yourself, what don’t you like about it? The clearer and more concise that you can describe and communicate what you don’t like about it, the easier it will be for the studio to get it right the second time around. If you don’t know the technical jargon but know what you want it to sound like, and can show it by referencing another song (or a part in it), this will go a long way.
If this was your first time going through this process, we hope that this guide has helped clarify what you can do to speed up the process and remove some of the anxiety about not knowing what the process is like as well as presenting you with an idea of what you can expect.