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Sending Your Music to Another Engineer 101 December 13, 2009

Posted by ConnorSmith in : Digital Audio Workstations, Studio Setup , trackback

The availability and low cost of DAW-based recording sessions allows nearly everyone to record their own music right in their living room. While you can just mix and release your music yourself, its often really beneficial to send your session file out to a more experienced mixing (and/or) mastering engineer. In this article, I’d like to discuss some ways to prepare your session file for that engineer. I mix a lot of projects via “distance” like this, and getting a session organized and ready can really help to speed up the nitty-gritty, leaving much more time for the artistic and creative decisions.

While this article is aimed at artists and music producers who are passing files to an engineer, these techniques will also make over-the-internet collaborations much easier. AND – these are things that will help a lot even if you are seeing the project through until the end. ?Good session organization is applicable in any recording situation, analog or digital.

(sorry – I have some pictures ready for this article, but the uploader is being uncooperative…)

First things first – before you get started, make sure you have a way to get that Pro Tools, Logic, Cubase (etc.) session over to your engineer. Personally, I really like YouSendIt.com. For a small fee per month, you can send tons and tons of data at a high speed. There are other delivery services out there too, many of which are very good. ?Other options include FTP transfers, or even snail mail. Just make sure you open a line of communication with the person to whom you are giving the project, and find a solution that works for both of you.

OK – now for setting up that DAW file:

1. Label! Label! Label!

A session that has everything labeled makes for a happy engineer. If someone who doesn’t know your song opens up your project and sees a project full of ?”AUDIO 1, AUDIO 2, AUDIO 3…”

…chances are they are going to have to spend precious time figuring out what’s what. But, if you label your tracks (and include notes if possible) your mix engineer will have more time to spend sculpting the musical message. In reality, you shouldn’t have to spend time naming things, because you should be naming your tracks before you record onto them 🙂 DAWs will assign names to audio regions based on the track name. It’s much more meaningful to have audio files called “Kick1” and “SnareT1” as opposed to a folder full of “Audio File 1”.

Markers and other notes in the timeline can help too. For example, if your guitarist really wanted a short, 1-bar solo to stick out, leaving a note/marker that says as much will prevent having to have the engineer tweak and rebounce later.

2. Mixed? Unmixed?

This is something you will want to discuss with the person to whom you are sending the mix. Sometimes, engineers will want to see a rough mix, to get an idea of a general direction. Other times, they would like to see a blank canvas of possibility. Unless you specifically know that the studio will have third-party plug-ins, its usually best to get this type of rough mix going with more generic (“stock”) plug-ins.

In almost all cases, don’t send your mix with any automation moves. Get your rough mix going without automation (as this should be true for any rough mix). The only time this wouldn’t apply is if there is a specific special effect that needs automation, or if the mix engineer asked you for an automation move. Don’t just automate and then turn your tracks off of “read” – this will cause a problem. When the mix engineer goes into automation, “read” mode will put the faders where their previous automation was written (which could wreck a mix). Also, don’t print (destructively apply) any effects unless the mix engineer specifically asked you to (or, if you do, be sure to also include a dry track, and leave a note about it).

3. Documentation

This is minor, but I like to see an email (or a note on the file transfer, etc.) that shows me some info about the session I am getting. Things like sample rate, bit depth, Pro Tools verison, audio file format, etc. are all important to have.

4. General Recording Practices

This is really a subject for another article, as it pertains to all recordings, but the absolute worst thing to send a mix engineer is a session full of audio files that are clipping. When recording, be sure that you have sufficient headroom, and are not even close to clipping.

Any questions, comments, or suggestions? Leave them in the comments here.


The Studio Files


1. sizzle - July 22, 2010

when you say clipping are you referring to each individual track or the output of all the tracks playing at once? I bounce my files to audio files in logic but when I play everything in logic the output says it’s clipping. Need your advice, thanks!

2. Steve - October 12, 2010

No clipping on individual tracks and consequently on the master stereo track. Keep your loudest track at -3 db

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