A Guide to Preparing Your Tracks for Mixing

A Guide to Preparing Your Tracks for Mixing

June 13, 2023


Throughout my journey as a musician, I've discovered the immense value of having my music mixed by professionals. Not only did it teach me valuable lessons about the art of mixing, but it also provided me with insights into my own mix aesthetics. Collaborating with mix engineers forced me to delve deep into my musical intentions and aesthetics. It's easy to simply send your tracks and hope for the best, but engaging in this process can be an enlightening experience that helps you understand your musical preferences on a whole new level.

Now, let's shift gears and talk about the practical side. As a mix engineer myself, I'd like to share a few simple steps to help you prepare for the mixdown process.

Before mixing

Before diving into the mixing process, ask yourself these questions…

What is the intended context of this track?

Understanding where your music will be heard helps the mix engineer tailor the mix to suit the environment. Whether it's intimate clubs, large festival sound systems, consumer earbuds, or radio, each setting requires specific adjustments to optimize the listening experience.

What feeling(s) should my track instill in the listener?

Clearly defining the emotions you want your music to evoke helps the mix engineer shape the sonic elements accordingly. Whether it's ecstasy, relaxation, anticipation, love, moodiness, discomfort, hope, or any other emotion, identifying these sensations guides the mixing decisions.

What element(s) from your track will contribute most to this feeling?

Pinpointing the key components that drive the desired emotions helps prioritize the mix engineer's focus. Whether it's the lyrics, chord progression, build-ups, contrasts, bassline, or other elements, identifying these elements ensures they receive the necessary attention during the mixing process.

To effectively begin the mixing process, provide the following:

Checklist: What to send

The current version of the track exported as a WAV file: This allows the mix engineer to understand your creative intent and hear your stylistic mix choices.
Each individual stem of the track: Separating the elements of your track into stems enables precise control during mixing.
All stems combined in a single folder, with the track's BPM included in the folder's name: This organization ensures a smooth workflow and easy access to the necessary files.

How to export your stems

  1. Remove plug-ins: Disable any equalizers, compressors, limiters, reverbs, or other mixing plug-ins on all channels, including the master channel. Keep only those plug-ins that serve as intentional stylistic choices. If you're unsure about a specific plug-in, deactivate it and communicate your intention to the mix engineer.
  2. Name your stems: Properly naming your stems provides clarity and organization. Avoid using filename prefixes and opt for descriptive names that represent each stem accurately.
  3. Export in Wave format: Export your stems as 24-bit WAV files. This format ensures high-quality audio and allows for flexibility during the mixing process.
  4. Sample rate: Set the sample rate to 44.1 kHz, which is the standard for audio production. Consistency in sample rate prevents any compatibility issues.

maybe it is obvious but it can't heard to mention… Leave some headspace in your stems. Don’t crank up the volumes into the red zones!

By following these guidelines, you contribute to a smooth and efficient mixing process, allowing the mix engineer to focus on achieving the best possible sonic results.

In conclusion

I want to encourage all (aspiring) musicians and producers to take the plunge and mix their music themselves. It's a valuable learning experience that can help you understand the intricacies of your own sound. However, I also want to emphasize the importance of collaboration and seeking the expertise of others. Always be a student.

Personally, I have gained invaluable insights by entrusting my music to others for mixing. Switching roles from fly on the wall to questioner. It has opened up new horizons and taken my projects to the next level. It's essential to consider the questions I mentioned earlier about the intended context and emotions of your music. As the creator, only you hold the key to unlocking these answers.

A talented mix engineer can work wonders in enhancing these emotions, ensuring that your music and message shine through exactly as you intended. So whether you choose to mix your own music or collaborate with others, always keep in mind the power of a well-crafted mix in conveying your artistic vision. Embrace the journey, explore new possibilities, and let the music speak for itself.


Mixing 101: Balancing, Placing, and Spaciousness
A Guide to Preparing Your Tracks for Mixing
June 13, 2023