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FAQ - Mixing

1.  What is Mixing?  Mixing is preparing a multi-track recording for Mastering. To do this, the Mixing Engineer uses a process to turn good sounding recorded tracks into the best sounding song possible and to prepare a single stereo track for the Mastering Engineer.  The key steps in this process include:  Balancing the volume levels of all the instruments relative to each other throughout the song; Panning instruments left, center, or right to create a feeling of presence, width, and motion; Equalizing certain frequencies of individual (and groups of) instruments or vocals to ensure their treble or bass aspects work best together in the mix and do not mask or block each other; using Compression to level the dynamic range of a track to present a more clear and even performance, or to creatively change the feel of an instrument or voice for effect; applying Reverb, Delay, and other effects (e.g., chorus, filters, flangers, distortion, or automation) to enhance the sound of a song and hold the listener’s interest from the song’s beginning to end. Alternative Mixes may be produced as requested and appropriate for the genre, such as Vocals Up, TV Mix, Vocals-Only Mix, etc.

2.  Why does my recording need Mixing?  You may have the absolute best raw recording ever made, but in order for it to have the professional sounding finish of radio-ready songs, it needs to be mixed and mastered.  These are some (not all) of the key questions that mixing attempts to answer in order to ensure your mix is the best that it can be:  Does it have contrast?  Does it build? Are sound elements like instruments and vocals in different areas of the stereo field?  Does it have a lead that carries the focus of the song?  Is it noisy?  Is it clear? Does it have punch?  Does it sound too far away?  Can you hear every word and note?  Does it have dullness?  Is it uninteresting or boring?  Does it groove?

3.  How do I prepare my recordings for Mixing? Decide which tracks you want to have edited, name them clearly so I know what instrument or part it relates to, bypass any effects or processing plug-ins you may have on the track, make sure the track volume is not “in the red” or causing distortion, and then render or bounce down the tracks to clean, 24-bit WAV files to send me for work.  The files can be mono or stereo, as you prefer.  Please make sure to make a copy of your entire project folder as a backup.  Pretty much every Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) program has a process for consolidating your tracks, or collecting them in a single audio file folder.  Please ensure that all your tracks start from the same point of the song so they’ll line up when I import them into my software session.  Please let me know the name of your song, what key it’s in, and the tempo (beats per minute).  If you want me to clean up your edits, let me know – otherwise I’ll expect the tracks are already edited and ready to mix.  If they’re not, I’ll be letting you know and potentially returning them for edit if they have timing problems, studio noises, multiple takes of the same track, pitch/tune problems, etc.

4.  What Are Stems and why would I need them?  Stems are mixed groups of tracks, usually based around the major pieces of your mix, such as Drums, Percussion, Bass, Guitars, Lead Vocals, Backup Vocals, Strings & Pads, Synths, Brass, etc. A drum stem would be a stereo sub mix of all of the drum tracks as they’ve been treated during the mixing process.  Stems can be used in various ways, but the most common are in Mixing, Mastering and Alternative Mixes.  Some bands or musicians will create submix stems in order to reduce the tracks that need to be sent to the mix engineer and potentially save a little money.  Mixing and mastering engineers will sometimes use stems to create alternative mixes for louder or softer vocals, instrumentals, vocals-only, backing tracks (TV Mix), or for other requirements.  Let me know if you need a stem set or alternate mix and I can make them for you.

5.  How do I send my music for Mixing?  One of two ways:  First (and preferred), if you’re hiring me through Soundbetter.com, you’ll sign in to their site (using Facebook or your email to start your account) and we’ll have a Workroom area there where you can upload your tracks; or alternatively if you’re hiring me through using the Job Request Form on the “Get Started” page of this website, then once I receive your Job Request, send you a quote and receive your payment, then I’ll send you a MediaFire.com link where you can upload your tracks to me.

a.  Note:  As you may know, most internet service providers have two service speeds, one for downloading (which is relatively fast) and one for uploading (which is relatively slow).  Uploading uncompressed audio files directly from your computer can take one or two minutes per file, so be prepared.  Alternatively, you can speed things along by bundling your files in a “.zip” package, which does not affect the quality of your audio.

  b.  To create a .zip file in Mac OS:

      i.    Press "Command" and click each of files to select which files to zip.

      ii.   Press "Control" and click on the selected files. Choose "Create Archive" or "Compress Files".

      iii.  This creates a new file, called Archive.zip. This is the compressed file.

      iv.  Rename the Archive.zip file and upload it to me.

  c.  To create a .zip file in Windows:

      i.    Locate your files.

      ii.   Ctrl-click on each file to select all of them.

      iii.  Right-click and choose Send To > Compressed (Zipped) folder.

       iv.  Rename the .zip file and upload it to me.

6.  How long will it take for Mixing? I usually quote three working days Turnaround Time on Mixing, but it depends on the scope of the work. An EP of four songs might take ten days, or an album of 12 songs could take four weeks. I’ll be able to give you a good estimate once I get a look at the work, and I’ll always keep you informed as to my progress and how things are going.

7.  What Mixing products will I get back from you? You'll receive a ready-to-master 24-bit WAV file for the final mix of each song and any alternative mixes you care to purchase.

8.  How will I get my final products?  It’s pretty much the reverse process of uploading – back to you through the Workroom on Soundbetter.com, or I’ll send you a MediaFire.com link if we’re working direct. Fortunately, downloading is much faster than uploading, and you'll have fewer files.

9.  What are Alternate Mixes?  Alternative mixes are often prepared do keep from having to re-mix a song because a different version is requested at a later time.  Here are some typical examples:

  • Vocals Up or Vocals Down – Louder or softer vocals/lead

  • Contemporary Hits Radio Mix - Softer guitars

  • Album-oriented Radio Mix - More guitars & drums

  • Adult Contemporary Mix – Less guitars, More keys & pads

  • TV Mix - No lead vocal, Back-Up Vocals included

  • Vocals-Only - a cappella

  • Instrumental – No vocals

  • Stems Mix – Track Groupings (Drums, Guitars, Vocals, etc.)

  • Other Formats - MP3, FLAC, OGG