It has come to my attention recently that a lot of people don’t understand the basic requirements for sending their producer / engineer files and information to mix tracks.
If someone is going to dedicate their time (Especially for free in the lower tiers of the music industry) to mix your tracks, then you should spend the amount of time required to learn the basics of your own DAW software and some basic etiquette. An unhappy sound engineer may cause delays in processing or even worse, you may be told that no mixing will be happening at all.
Because if you can’t be bothered why should they?
Download The Beat Yourself.
Don't send YouTube links or Sound Cloud Links etc and tell the engineer they can download it from there themselves.
A great site for getting beats can be found here. This way you can copy the YouTube, SoundCloud, or pretty much any address from your browser straight into this website and it will convert it to MP3, or WAV (or any other file type you desire) and let you download the file
Keep in mind that not all beats are free and if you do this from YouTube etc that these will be likely to have beat tags on them. Doing this from YouTube is a copyright infringement and if you can afford to pay to lease or purchase a beat, or if you know someone who can make you a free one, this will be a better option.
A lot of producers won’t mind if you are using their beats for non-profit music, but this is a whole different area of music that can be discussed later
If a copy of the beat is not available for download from Sound Cloud or the like then you yourself may need to contact that producer and ask for a downloadable copy.
Multiple Recording Takes
If you have recorded multiple takes of a verse or a hook etc. You need to select the best one to send. It is not up to the engineer to pick out small differences between 4 versions of the same verse that you are sending. Remember it is your track and the end result for the engineer is to get it as close as possible to the sound you are going for, so send what you think sounds best.
If your track has 3 hooks and you recorded it 3 times, pick the best version you did and copy it into the other 2 places in correct timing. This means that the hook will sound consistent through the entire track and make it easier to mix. This is your track and if you require different versions of the hook for various reasons then please let the engineer know which version is at which part of the track. This will be discussed in the labeling of files section.
Learn How To Use Your DAW Software to Line Up Your Vocals
There is nothing worse than importing someone’s vocals to mix and they are not lined up with the beat.
Telling your engineer in writing or taking a screen shot or photo of your DAW with where you have the vocals lined up is unacceptable
If you tell them for example that your vocals start at 1.00min into the beat but in reality it is 59 secs, this will make a huge difference to the overall sound of the track
Learn how to use your DAW software to either add silence to the start of your vocals so they all line up, or learn how to export with the correct timing in place so when your engineer imports them to mix, they can simply import them and get started straight away
Do Not Add Effects To Your Vocals
This is a pretty simple request. Leave the effects alone and send a raw recording to the producer.
They can always add effects but they will not be able to mix them away; No matter how hard they try.
Even simple things like bass boosting or splicing out your breath sounds is not acceptable as this will affect how the vocals are EQ’d etc. and you may not get the best sounding mix possible. So just leave it alone
Always ensure that when you export your vocals there is no beat or other noise in the background. All vocal files need to be as clean of an acapella take as you can record
Backing Vocals / Stacks / Dubs etc.
Backing Vocals, Layers or Stacked Vocals – learn when and how you should be using them and record them into a separate track and send them as a separate file for mixing
Quite often these are used to add depth and emphasis to a mix on rhyming words or to add delay effects to fill space in the mix, harmonies to hooks and all sorts of fun stuff. If you want them in your mix you need to work out where and how you want them used
There is a couple of methods for getting backing vocals including recording them as close as possible to the original, recording them in different pitch / tone to create another layer or copying the vocals as a direct copy
If you want this do not just say you want this in your track. You need to provide these as a separate file to the main vocals. This may mean learning how to copy and export them yourself, or recording them as a separate track. It should not be up to the engineer to decide which vocals should and shouldn’t be stacked or layered
Always Provide a Reference Track
- This is the engineers way of checking that they have the timing correct of the mix they have done. This is also your chance to do a basic mix of what you want, with stacked vocals in place to give the sound engineer a better idea of what is desired. it also allows them to send some suggestions back to you, if they decide to.
Upload your files to a Media Sharing Service
Jumpshare is the industry standard but there are others available
- Get yourself an account on Jump share (It is free) and start uploading files
- The best thing to do is create yourself a folder on your PC and export all your vocal tracks, beat and reference track to this location
- Open Jump share, select all of the files at once and drag them onto the Jump share screen
- This will create a folder with all the files in one place. Once it has finished uploading copy the link to the folder and provide this to your engineer
- This will save a heap of time for everyone and keep the engineer happy as they can download all necessary files in one click
Labeling Your Tracks
When you upload your files to your media sharing website of choice it is imperative that you name your tracks with easy references as to what they are.
- Verse 1, Verse 2, Hook, Verse 1 Stacks, Verse 2 Stacks and so on and so forth
- If you have another artist featuring on your track then put the artists name on each track as well. Eg. John Smith – Verse 1 (Main Vocals)
- This means there will be no confusion as to what track is to go where in the mix
The music industry has a lot of people around the place to help you pick up the basics and a lot of people willing to help but there is no real short cuts.
Things take time to learn and to master. To put it in perspective a good engineer could spend at least 5 hours on one track to get the mix correct. While it seems like it may take you hours and hours to learn the things above they are critical to keeping your engineer wasting mixing time sorting out the basics.
If someone is going to do it for you for free then you need to understand these things out of common courtesy. If you are paying someone by the hour for mixing services then why would you want to waste money on such basic things.
You sort out the basics and let the engineers take care of the stuff that they know how to do best.