Preparing for the mix can be as critical as the mix itself, since it allows for a more comfortable and efficient mixing session that minimizes mistakes and hassles. This prep occurs before the first fader is raised but sets the stage for an easier and mistake-free mix by having the files properly labeled and all the assignments, effects, and routing preset beforehand.
The process of prepping your mix has evolved over the years. Once upon a time it consisted of labeling the console, setting up the outboard gear, and biasing the tape machine. Today it’s more about labeling the files and arranging the session layout inside your DAW, as well as fixing some overlooked faults. This excerpt from the 4th edition of the Mixing Engineer’s Handbook provides a checklist that covers the 14 things needed to get the track ready for mixing.
1. Make a session file copy – Name it something that indicates it’s a mix.
2. Label your tracks – Rename any vaguely titled tracks so there’s no question as to what it is.
3. Tweak the track timing – Align the timing as needed.
4. Check the fades – Make sure nothing critical is cut off too soon.
5. Eliminate noises – This includes trimming noisy track heads and tails, fixing distortion, eliminating glitches, deleting extra MIDI notes, and crossfading noisy edits as necessary.
6. Comp any tracks that need it – This should have been done before the mix, but it’s easier to comp a track than to automate multiple tracks.
7. Tune tracks that need it – Vocals or instruments that stick out as being out-of-tune.
8. Consolidate your tracks – Consolidate the edits to avoid accidentally deleting or moving a clip.
9. Arrange your tracks – This includes deleting empty tracks, deactivating and hiding unused tracks, reordering tracks as necessary, and color coding tracks.
10. Insert section markers (memory locations) – A big time-saver and essential to an efficient mix.
11. Create groups and subgroups – If not using a mixing template, create groups and subgroups as necessary.
12. Create effects channels – If not using a template, create effects channels and insert frequently-used effects as a starting point.
13. Assign channels – Assign channels to groups and sends to effects channels.
14. Insert channel and mix buss processors – If not using a template, insert frequently-used EQs, compressors and limiters on the appropriate channels.
Following this checklist will have you ready for the process of mixing and should help eliminate losing focus because of interruptions during the mix.
You can read more from The Mixing Engineer’s Handbook and my other books on the excerpt section of bobbyowsinski.com.