Mixing FAQ


Please read through these questions and contact me if you have any others. This will save time and allow me to focus on mixing your music.

Many of the items below are common sense that may not apply to you (or may be handled easily by your DAW), but it may help to browse the list anyway...

How does mixing at Third Wave Audio work?

I try to keep the mixing service as simple and flexible as possible:

You e-mail or call to discuss your project. You can send a rough mix by e-mail or a file transfer service such as Dropbox. I'll get back to you with my thoughts, and if we both feel that I am right for you, you can send your project tracks.

Once I review the tracks, I'll contact you to settle any issues, make sure we're on the same page, then I'll mix. I'll contact you with any questions or thoughts as I work, and send you a high-quality mp3 of the initial mix.

We discuss any changes you might want, and I'll do revisions and send you mp3s until you're totally happy with the mix. I'll send the lossless WAV file(s) once payment is received.

How do I order a mix?

Easy: Send an e-mail with your info, such as:

  • Your band name and project name
  • Where you will distribute your music (CD, web, etc.)
  • A rough mix of your song(s)
  • The sound you're after, with reference tracks from other artists
  • How quickly you need your mix
  • A link to your project tracks
  • Other special instructions
  • Your contact information

How long does a mix take?

Songs can take 1 or 2 days to mix, depending on the song's complexity and length.

If possible, I like to live with a song a little, to develop ideas and experiment. I assume you took the time to record carefully; it doesn't make sense to rush at the mix stage.

What audio formats does Third Wave accept for mixing?

You can send Pro Tools, Cubase & OMF project files or consolidated WAV or BWF audio track files. Please make sure all edits and crossfades are smooth, then consolidate each track's regions into one continuous piece before you export/bounce/render to audio files. All files must have the same start point (e.g., 0:00 or Bar1/Beat 1.)

***Export at the original recording bit depth and sample rate (e.g., 24-bit, 44.1K); do not convert these when you export.

Please render all virtual instrument tracks as audio: I can't accept virtual instrument tracks.

Read on for tips on checking and sending your tracks for mixing...

Should I leave plugins, EQ, effects and automation enabled when exporting for mix?

Usually, no; you should disable or remove all inserts, EQ, effects and automation before you export.

Everything is relative in mixing, and even though the compressed, EQ'ed versions may sound better now, those sounds probably won't fit in a new mix. Allowing me to choose high-quality dynamics processing, EQ and effects will give me the most flexibility, and give you the best mix.

See "How do I remove playback processing from my tracks?"

If your processing is an essential part of the sound (such as a guitar amp plugin, a radical EQ or a special chorus effect), you can include two versions: your effected version and a dry version with no processing, named "-dry" or similar. This gives me the option of recreating your sound if that works best.

How do I clean up my tracks before export?

Sending me clean tracks will keep file sizes, confusion and mix time to a minimum:

  1. Combine any multiple takes into final composite ("comped") performances.
  2. Make sure all edits are smooth with no parts chopped off and no distracting ticks. Try changing the location of your crossfades or increasing their duration by a few milliseconds to fix these problems.
  3. Delete all unused tracks, takes, parts, clips, soundbites or regions.
  4. Remove or Trim out all unwanted sounds such as amp noise, chair squeaks, mouth noises, etc.
  5. Make sure that each track contains only one type of instrument or voice. (No tambourine/guitar solo combos please.)

How do I find and fix tracks that clip?

You should keep instrument track peak levels under "0" as a rule, but most modern DAWs can handle a few overages with no problem.

However: tracks being exported for mix must leave the DAW with no overages. The highest peak must be under "0," preferably by a few dB.

To find any overages:

  1. Set all track and master faders to "0"
  2. Set your track meters to monitor peak level, post-fader, and hold peaks forever (infinite)
  3. Remove or disable all processing (such as inserts, EQ, effects and automation) on all faders, including master outputs
  4. Play your song from start to finish
  5. If any track meter shows a maximum peak over "0" after playing through the tune, lower that fader enough to keep that track's peak 1dB to 3dB below "0."

Some DAWs have an Export option to Normalize your tracks. DO NOT USE THIS. This will bring all tracks up or down so that they all peak at zero, but it causes more problems than it solves.

How should I name my track files?

Most DAWs will use the session track names when exporting to audio files, so rename your tracks before exporting if necessary.

Give each track a short descriptive name, showing the instrument and section, if appropriate. ("Kick.aif", OH.L.aif", OH.R.aif", "Solo_gtr.aif", "Bridge_Synth.aif", "Lead_Voc.aif", etc.)

Please replace or remove info such as names and take numbers like "jimmy5." Tracks that work together as a section or a pair should indicate this (e.g. "alto-sect.wav", tenor-sect.wav", "bari-sect.wav", or "AcGtr.wav", "AcGtr-dbl.wav" etc.)

Any other info such as player's names, mic types and mix notes can go in a text file with the archived  audio you send.

How do I remove playback processing from my tracks?

Some DAWs have options to disable processing and automation on export, but you should confirm after using this function by importing the exported audio files into a new empty project file and playing them.

Even if you have to select and delete all automation and processing before export, this should only take a minute or two, since most DAWs have a way to global or batch disable.

Either way, be sure to do the following for all tracks, including groups and masters:

  1. Remove all inserts
  2. Disable all EQ
  3. Turn off all effects sends
  4. Delete all automation from all tracks

How do I export my tracks for mixing at Third Wave?

Export (a.k.a. bounce, render, consolidate or merge) all audio and virtual instrument tracks to individual, continuous WAV, AIF or BWF files that all start at the exact same time. I do not accept MIDI and virtual instrument tracks.

Most DAWs can consolidate and export multiple tracks properly as a batch. See your documentation or search online ("<DAW> export multiple tracks audio" without the quotes) for tutorials.

The following are generic steps to prepare and export a song to audio files for mixing. I recommend saving appropriately named versions of your session as you remove your processing, such as "-clean", "-renamed", "-nofx" and "-nomoves".

  1. Clean up your tracks if necessary. (See "How do I clean up my tracks before export?")
  2. Check for clipping. (See "How do I find and fix tracks that clip?")
  3. Name each track with a short, descriptive name. (See "How should I name my track files?")
  4. Remove all processing such as inserts, EQ, sends and automation. (See "How do I remove playback processing from my tracks?")
  5. Set left & right locators to surround each track's audio including a bar of buffer before & after. Make sure that all tracks start at the exact same point (usually 0:00 or Bar 1, Beat 1), so that they all line up when I import them for mix.
  6. If necessary, consolidate each track's smaller regions, events or clips into one continuous audio track.
  7. Export all tracks to individual WAV, AIF or BWF audio files at 24-bit and the original sample rate of the tracks (e.g. 44.1k.) Do not change your sample rate. Enable "Offline" if available, and set "Dithering" and "Normalization" to "None." See your DAW's documentation for help with other Export/Bounce/Render settings.
  8. Stereo tracks should export to interleaved stereo, not 2 mono tracks. Mono tracks should export to mono. If your DAW converts mono tracks to 2 files, please delete these split mono exports and re-export just the mono tracks with "Mono Downmix" (or similar) selected.
  9. Archive all audio and info files in a ZIP or RAR file, and name this archive file with the song title ("title.zip".)

Please verify the export and archive by extracting the exported audio files from the archive, importing them into a new empty project and playing them. (Some DAWs can automatically import to a new project as part of the export function.)

How can I exchange files with Third Wave Audio?

You can send files by...

  • Online services such as Dropbox. Just e-mail me the link.
  • FTP (File Transfer Protocol) Server. Just ask for private login info to use the Third Wave server at no charge.

DVDs, CDs, flash drives and other materials can be sent to Third Wave Audio via...

  • Fedex, UPS, DHL, USPS.

What are your mix rates?

Mix rate is a flat fee per song (payable by credit card or PayPal), which varies slightly with the details of your project. I do bring decades of experience when I mix, but I also know that money can be tight, so I'll try to work with you if you're on a budget.

Any of my clients will tell you that I'll spend the time and energy it takes to make your music the best it can be.

There are no extra charges for hours mixing, song length, number of tracks, song revisions, tuning fixes, different formats, etc...

...HOWEVER, if a review of your tracks shows that they need a lot of clean up, I may ask that you do this and re-send, or I'll add a small fee for this additional work.

A PROFESSIONAL MIX INCLUDES:

  • minor tuning & timing fixes
  • a 44.1K final mix, mastering included
  • a high quality MP3 version
  • all mix revisions
  • instrumental and a cappella versions, if requested
  • all files delivered electronically

What are your payment terms for music mixing?

For new clients, I require 50% payment before beginning a mix, and the balance before I deliver the lossless format. Payment is by credit card or PayPal.

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See also: the Mix Overview and Mix Examples.

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