How to prepare multitrack files for your mixing engineer

Let's say that you've finished your song, and you're ready to take it to the next level. It means it's mixing time. For this, you need to work with a mixing engineer. So, it's time to prepare and export your multitrack files.

I know that it's a tedious process. Still, if you complete the steps that I will tell you in this article, it will make both the musicians’ and mixing engineers’ lives easier.

Have a conversation with your mixing engineer

It's the first step because it's also the most important thing while working collaboratively in a creative business. You have to the people you are working with their preferences before you do anything. Here are a couple of things to ask them:

What is preferred: unprocessed or processed files?

It's doubtful because mixing engineers have their own demands. Some of them prefer unprocessed files while some prefer processed. In an ideal situation, I think it would be best to keep intentional things that make a sound as it is and remove the others like EQ’s and compressors as you use for just to make it sound pleasant. Let's say you use a snare sample in your song, and you wanted to make it unique with tools like modulation effects, distortion effects, and so on.

This is what I mean with intentional. You can keep those things on the snare sample because there is no point to send your mixing engineer a totally different thing then what you want. But also I think it's meaningless to put compressors and EQs on every channel and send him those multitrack. This could change in some situations so it would be best to keep communicating with your mixing engineer about how he prefers.

Wet or Dry?

Another personal matter for audio engineers is the wet and dry multitrack. I think it's best to keep special effects on a different file. For example, if you have delay automation on your vocal and want to keep it how it is right now, it is best to export it on a different channel just like the delay itself. But don't keep a reverb on your tracks. If you insist on using the reverb that you want, export it on a different channel.

Do you need pitch and time correction?

Mixing is entirely a different subject than editing. Ask your mixing engineer if they can do editing for you. Most of the time, it will cost you more money. You would want to consider doing it yourself or letting them do it for you.

Make a copy of your project

Before you start doing anything, you have to be sure that you have a copy of your project. Therefore, you should save your files in a different location with the audio files.

Export a rough mix

Giving them a rough mix makes everything flexible because there isn't any other way to show your vision. Bounce a mix that you like its balance and write notes about it if needed. You can write some reference tracks at this point if you have specific sounds in your mind. Otherwise, you can write it down why you include that reference tracks. Do you like the kick sound, or do you like the vocal effects?

Delete unused tracks

Okay, now we can start doing boring work. Delete any unused or muted tracks in your project if you have. You don’t want to upload five empty tracks because it will cost you more time afterward. Your mixing engineer will ask you about them, and you will check your project, again and again, to make sure they are really empty files.

Clean up your tracks

Make sure you don't have any unwanted noises like pops and clicks because they will be even more audible after the mixing process. Check every track quickly and make fades before and after a clip. Also, make some crossfades between connected clips.

Name your tracks logically

It's so annoying to try to deal with multitrack that have names like Audio-1, Audio-2. Give them some actual names like Kick In, Snare Bottom, and so on. We as mixing engineers like to group tracks to be more organized and find them quickly, so it will be better to name them as groups. You can name your drum tracks like Drums Kick, Drums Hihat, Guitars Rhythm L, Synths Soft Pad, etc. 

Be sure not to clip your tracks

Digital clipping is the worse thing that you can have in a DAW. It's so annoying and easy to hear in a song. Besides, nobody would want to work with a file that has clipping on it, so they will ask you to check it and send it back to him again. Be sure your tracks don't clip the red area.

Keep mono files as mono

There is no point in sending a mono signal as stereo. You can think about mono as one microphone. That means if you record your guitars with two separate microphones, each is a mono file. 

Examples of mono files:

  • Snare mics

  • Tom mics

  • Electric guitar mics

  • Bass di channel

  • Vocal mics

Examples of stereo files:

  • Stereo synths

  • Overhead mics together

Now it's time to export your files

There are many DAWs these days, and every one of them has a different way to export the multitrack out. Maybe one day I can write a guide for each one, but you can find many articles and video tutorials about how to export them. Still, here are a couple of blog posts that I've found for you: 

Load your multitrack files into an empty project

We all know shit happens all the time. Maybe something went wrong in the exporting moment. You can even send your mixing engineer 60 tracks of empty audio files. To make sure that you're sending the right multitrack files, import them in a new empty project and check if everything is fine.

Name your folder with useful information

It's best to name your folder name as Band Name_Song Name_BPM_Key. That will give your mixing engineer the information that can be needed afterward.

Send your files as a downloadable link

I can't tell how many times I dealt with a Google Drive link that I have no permission to download it. It may seem harmless because it's easy to give permission to anyone, but it would cost you and your mixing engineer a day if you live in different time zones.

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