How to prepare your mixing session

Francis

Francis

Composer ⎜ Sound Engineer ⎜ Sound Designer

Hi, everyone do you know your mixing session must be prepared!

As I recently had this question, I thought it would be good to start the first article of the blog with the topic that concerns you all: «How to prepare your mixing session? ».

“How do I prepare a track for audio mixing? ».

Audio Mixing
Audio Mixing in Logic Pro X

For those of you who don’t know the term audio mixing follow this link

This morning, I received a message asking me: «If I send you my Ableton session live, could you mix it? ».

Indeed it would be easier to send me your session that I could work with Ableton Live. However, it would require a tune-up on the plug-ins you are using, the version of the software you are using, and ultimately we would waste time on compatibility issues to be able to share a file for mixing session.

To be simple, we need to be able to share tracks universally and the only way is to export tracks.

The general idea will be to export your separately recorded tracks, then synchronize everything in an uncompressed audio format, for example a WAV or AIFF file. I do not recommend sending compressed MP3 files for mixing session because it will influence the quality of the mix. 

Here are the 8 steps to follow to prepare your song to be mixed:

1- Your audio editing:

check your cuts and fades.

  • Use the zoom of your software to check the end of each file in each audio region.
  • The cut must be done correctly and you must not hear a digital click so that I don’t have to edit the audio when mixing.

2- Finish your job:

Check you have not forgotten anything

  • Both in terms of midi and audio editing
  • Activating plugins, removing those that do not perform any processing (plugins in bypass mode)
  • Of the arrangement of your composition of its structure, because afterwards you won’t be able to ask me to make the modifications.
  • The activation of the automation on certain effects or synths.

3- Naming Properly:

  • Name each track well, so if you need to discuss a track during mixing, you don’t have to explain that “It’s the Audio_1_24/03 track of the guitar that… » !!!

4- Before exporting:

  • Check that your tracks are not saturated, that there is no clip on the audio file
  • Watch your clip indicator in the mixing console (the red led above the vu-meter).
  • Check that you have a correct waveform, i.e. a volume that is neither too low nor too high.
  • The ideal is to have headroom to be able to do the mix.

5- Synchronize your audio tracks:

It’s one of the most important parts!!!!

  • If your song starts with an eight-bar introduction, the guitar goes back to the beginning of the next eight bars
    • The guitar must contain eight bars of empty space
  • Ditto for the other tracks of the same song

Why check the synchro because the software on the market does it?

  • In the mixing software, I block the tempo and the signature (ex: 120 BPM and 4/4)
  • Then I import your audio tracks into the software to mix them.
  • I check the placement of the tracks at the first bar of the mixing session.
  • The important thing is to know at which measure you start and stop.
  • Leave a margin of two bars before and two bars after to make sure everything is exported correctly.
  • If you do it manually, I recommend that you take care to always start your exports at the same place.

6- When exporting:

  • Concerning the audio export format, I recommend the Wave format, in 44.1 khz, 24 bits.
  • Make a stereo export (Bounce) of your own mix as you hear it.
  • In the jargon, we call this a rough mix: it’s your version of the track before the mix.
  • This allows the sound engineer to see how you, as an artist, hear your music.
  • It serves as a reference and allows comparisons to be made with the final mix.

7- Note:

It is important to put a text or PDF file in the folder that will contain your audio tracks.

In this document, note the following:

  • The tempo (BPM).
  • The tone of the song.
  • Your indications concerning the mix or what you expect to work with, such as effects, your instructions, commercial references.
  • All of this will help me to better understand your instructions

8- Session format:

  • All exported files.
  • The text or PDF file of information must be gathered in a folder that you will compress to zip format.
  • This allows audio files to be sent over the Internet.
  • Backup in case of need.

Questions and Answers

Frequently asked questions about exporting for a mix:

How to do with my drum track:

should I export my drum track as separate elements or do I make a stereo file of the drum? »

So be it:

  • For the Drums
  • Guitars recorded with multiple pickups
  • Stacking of synth sounds (a technique called layering).

If you group your tracks into a stereo file, it is because you are used to making your own artistic selections and it is your choice. On the other hand, you give me less freedom to do the mixing work on your track.

As far as I’m concerned, I’m going to work with your subject.

Personally, in today’s music I prefer to have the most separate elements possible

Specifically for the drums concerning the bass drum and the snare drum, as well as for the guitars and vocals.

An example: recently I received a Lead voice file to mix. The client sent it to me with the choirs in it. Result: it is impossible to process the lead voice without affecting the choirs.

Another different example, which is 100% assumed by the composer. It is when you send me a recorded sample from a vinyl or live recording that you want to remix. It’s not embarrassing, it’s part of the sound material of your composition.

« Do I have to leave or remove my effects such as equalization, compression etc. before exporting my tracks? »

 It is true that with all the possibilities we have in terms of effects and sound processing possibilities, it would be a shame to deprive ourselves of these tools during the composition stage.

In addition, we want our music to sound pleasantly before the mixing stage, simply to please us and to make others listen to it. From my point of view, I consider that effects and plug-ins, whether digital or analog, are part of the arrangement or composition stage of your music.

Your Flavor

The easiest way is to leave them, with a little flat: If, for example, you have put a reverb on your voice, it is because you like the way it sounds. You like the audio rendering that is done with this reverb and maybe you would like to keep it in the final version. The same is true for choruses, equalization, compression…

In this case, the easiest way is to make two exports: the first without effect, the second with. Don’t forget to specify it on the track and in the notes file that you will attach to your export!

From my point of view, I consider that effects and plug-ins, whether digital or analog, are part of the arrangement or composition stage of your music. The easiest way is to leave them, with a little flat:

If, for example, you have put a reverb on your voice, it’s because you like the way it sounds. You like the audio rendering that is done with this reverb and maybe you would like to keep it in the final version. The same is true for choruses, equalization, compression… In this case, the easiest way is to make two exports: the first without effect, the second with. Don’t forget to specify it on the track and in the notes file that you will attach to your export!

« My reverbs and delays are on auxiliaries, should I export them? »

Yes, making sure that the plug-in has the Wet setting at 100% and specifying it on the audio file (example Lead_vox_Reverb_WET) and in the notes file.

« During the realization of my music production, I put a Master bus plug-in. Do I have to remove my Master bus plug-in before exporting? »


If you have put a Master bus plug-in or several plug-ins to make a Master bus, it means you know what you are doing. However, you will have to ensure that your export does not become digitally saturated. Preferably, leave some margin at the decibel level, think that there will be mixing and maybe then mastering….

The final word

Now that you know how to prepare your mock-up for mixing session, you can choose between Standard Mixing and Pro Mixing