In this article, I'll show you how to prepare your stems for mixing.
Surprisingly, many clients don't know what mixing is. I will address that first.
Mixing is individual tracks (vocals, bass, guitar, etc.) mixed together to make a complete song (single stereo interleaved file). Mastering involves working with a complete song (single stereo interleaved file).
Here are a few tips on how to prepare your stems for mixing:
1. We do not work with pro tools or cubase sx session files, only .wav or .aiff files.
2. You have to export each channel as a .wav file or .aiff, 44.1 or 48kHz and preferably 24bit, starting at the beginning of the song all the way to the end.
3. Do not go over 0 level and clip any of your tracks.
Your stereo tracks should look something like this.
NOT like this, over level and DISTORTED.
4. When recording vocals, use minimal compression, and bass roll off (Hi pass @ 100hz). We don't want them smashed or super bright.
5. Vocal control is probably more important than compression. If the vocalist mumbles through the verses and then screams +10db louder in the choruses, with their mouth 1/2 inch from the mic, no compressor can fix that.
6. If your vocal tracks are all over the map from a volume level standpoint, they need to be smoothed out. Do a visual of the vocal tracks, highlight the offending areas, and then gain (or cut) as necessary. Compression will also help.
7. Should you export your tracks with effects? If you have a favorite guitar distortion effect, a unique flange or chorus you really like that you KNOW you must have in the song, export the track with the effect on it. These effects don't take up that much space in the mix. If it's a huge reverb or delay, leave that to us. Once you put these space eating effects in, we're stuck with them and it limits what we can do.
8. EQing and hi-low pass filtering tracks are fine, but not to extremes. If you were to high pass filter your vocals @500hz, they'll all be too bright and useless. Also, you eliminate the bass so it can't be boosted if needed.
9. Stereo tracks, like synths, should be uploaded as stereo interleaved files, not L & R mono files. We can split them if needed. Note: If we split the track, it still counts as one track when it comes to pricing.
10. Listen closely to every track for noise. If there's a hiss, something could be boosted too high.
11. If any tracks are too noisy and you can't eliminate it, noise gate the track. Make sure to add a little extra release time so you don't cut off the audio tails.
12. You do not need to fade out each track. We will fade the entire song at the end.
13. Limit your instrumentation with space in mind. If your song has five guitars and three synths, all playing different melodies at the same time, its not going to work. It may be correct melodically, but it will sound like a train-wreck when all playing together, leaving no room for the vocals either. This is why no one ever does this!
14. Most important, make sure when your tracks are exported and start at 0:00, they're all in sync. If even one track is early or late, its a time consuming process moving it up and back.