Are you about to finish up the mix for your song?
Here are 10 tips from your mastering engineer:
1. Make sure that you love the mix and are happy with the balance and sound of ALL the elements.
2. Remove limiters / plugins that you have on the master fader that are there for just for the sake of loudness.
- The mastering engineer can easily increase loudness after doing any other processing, and it will most likely sound better. If you mixed through some plugins on the masterbuss (i.e. compressors, tape and/or console emulations) then leave those on if they're a part of the sound.
3. Make sure that the mix doesn't reach 0dBFS peak levels. ERGO: DON'T CLIP!
- If your mixing software allows it, then save the rendered mix bounce as 32-bit floating point, no matter what the bit-depth of the mix session was. Most if not all modern mixing software / DAW and plugins work at a bit depth higher than 24 bit, i.e. 32 bit float or higher. If you save to fixed bit depths (i.e. 16 bit or 24 bit) then use the appropriate dither as the last plugin on the masterbuss output (meaning 24 bit dither for a 24 bit file). Better yet (as stated before), just save in 32 bit floating point!
4. Save the rendered mix bounce at the SAME sample rate as the mix session.
5. Listen VERY carefully to the start and finish of all the songs and listen for random noises and potential glitches and remove anything you do not want to be there.
6. Make sure to leave some space before and after the mix bounce so nothing gets cut off prematurely.
- Leave few seconds of sound before and after the song, so any audible noise floor (hiss/buzz/hum/room tone) can be used by the mastering engineer to do some noise reduction (if needed). If you fade out a sound/noise too quickly it often prevents the option of transparent noise reduction. It takes only a few seconds for the mastering engineer to trim the files but leaving the few seconds of "silence" with the noise floor, in the beginning and end of the files, gives the option to deal better with potential noise problems.
7. Listen very carefully to ALL the vocal tracks of the mix in solo to check them for any clicks, thumps and/or any other sounds that could be lurking in there.
- Very often it's the vocal tracks that are the source of most unwanted noises, clicks and thuds in a track. Those problems are not always easily audible pre-mastering in the context of a full mix, but can easily come into focus and be more transparent after mastering. That said, the mastering engineer can (or should be able) to remove small clicks and even thuds, but this is BEST dealt with in the mix.
Check carefully for bad edits or crossfades and any other clicks or glitches you may have not noticed while you were focusing on the overall sound.
8. Name the bounced rendered MIX files with names that are easy to comprehend.
- I.e. "Song Name [mix 5]", and if you're giving the mastering engineer more than 1 version to consider or work on then make sure the difference between the mixes are written in the file name, i.e. "Song Name [mix 5, vocal up]" or "Song Name [mix 5, no mix bus processing].
9. Most importantly: Listen to the final rendered mix bounce! Really!
- Make sure that the DAW (mixing software) or any of the plugins did NOT create some random glitch when you exported the mix. This happens and catching it before you send it to mastering will save you valuable time.
10. If you have any questions or doubts, talk to your mastering engineer.
Send him a e-mail/message or call (if possible) and ask him directly. We are here to help and the better your MIX is the better the MASTER will be. :)
PS. I know I said 10 .. but here's one more (of course we go to 11...!)
11. Make sure you have all the information that the mastering engineer might need and you want him to use for the master(s).
- I'm talking about all the song titles, artist name, album name, ISRC codes and even artwork and/or any other information that can be embedded in the metadata of the files. If you have specific requests regarding the gaps between the tracks and/or how the fades should be, then it would be smart to send a short audio sample to the ME along with a description.
Good luck and have fun!