How To Prepare a Song For Mixing
If you want to your music to sound world class, you should have it mixed by a professional mixing engineer. He or she can bring a lot to your song both musically and sonically. Sonically because they have trained ears, lots of experience and good plug-ins. Musically because they can help with arranging and “producing” as much as is possible at the mixing stage. They may also be able to offer you pro-quality virtual instruments which could make a huge difference to the production value of your recordings.
Export Every Track
To prepare your song for mixing, you have to export each individual track of your song as audio. That way the engineer can work with the tone and level of each instrument to get the best overall sound. The easiest way to do this to export an OMF. When you export an OMF, the audio in your project and information about it’s placement, tempo, etc. is saved in a neat little package that can be opened by any professional audio production software. The audio will be stripped of all effects that have been added after recording, so export audio tracks of instruments with effects you want to keep before exporting the OMF. Keep in mind that your mixing engineer should have an extensive set of high -end plug-ins, so it is best for you to keep only the effects that are most vital to your sound. You will also have to mix down your virtual instrument (MIDI) tracks to audio files before exporting the OMF.
If creating an OMF isn’t an option for you, you will have to solo and export each of your tracks one-by-one. Make sure that every track has the same starting point (preferably on a bar) so that it’s easy for the mixing engineer to line them up. Now turn off any effects you have on the master bus (stereo out) then solo and export an audio file for every one of the tracks in your song, including virtual instrument and loop tracks. Remember to keep only the most fundamental effects (if any) turned on when you export. Or simply tell the engineer if you want specific effects like, for example, vibrato on the rhythm guitar.
Mono or Stereo?
Many instrument (guitar, bass) and voice tracks are mono, so don’t waste space by exporting stereo files of those tracks. Stereo instruments (strings, drum kits, pads) and group tracks should be exported to stereo files, but keep in mind that you may also want to export individual drum tracks (snare, bass drum, hi-hat) separately as mono files so the engineer has more options. Put all of the exported audio together in a folder and name the folder using the song title and tempo (for example, “My Baby’s Booty – 100bpm”).
Keep The MIDI Option
If you have used MIDI in your song, export a MIDI file and include it in the folder too. Make sure the MIDI tracks have descriptive names (piano, bass etc.) before you export so that the engineer doesn’t have to guess which instruments go with which MIDI tracks. You should also include a full mix down of your song in the folder (if you have done extensive mixing yourself) so the engineer gets a good idea of how you want the song to sound.
That should do it. If you have given the mixing engineer plenty of options by minimizing the use of effects and including all separates, he should be able to achieve the sound you’re looking for. And once he has, have your fresh new mix mastered before taking it to radio or having copies made.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about mixing or any other aspect of music production.