How Do I Prepare My Mix for Mastering?

How Do I Prepare My Mix for Mastering?

When preparing the final mix of your song for mastering it’s important to understand the file types and mix characteristics your mastering engineer will want to receive. Mastering requires meticulous attention to detail and a curated selection of equipment and software that allows the mastering engineer to hear any flaws. It is important to get the mix export right so they can focus on improving your overall sound instead of only fixing things that you could have fixed yourself. In this article, I will guide you through how to prepare a mix for mastering like a pro by providing practical tips that will help you achieve optimal results when it comes to audio quality. We'll discuss everything from understanding levels and frequencies on tracks to choosing the best online platform for mastering services. Read on as we cover the vital aspects that will transform your mixes into amazing productions ready for distribution and airplay globally!


Understanding the Basics of Mixing

You should have a clear idea of what you want the final mix to sound like before you even begin. This involves understanding how each instrument or vocal should be balanced in the mix and having an overall understanding of how different frequencies interact with one another. Another important part of mixing is utilizing plugins like compression to control dynamics, EQing each individual track for clarity, and applying reverb or delay effects for spatial depth. Each element in your mix needs its own space within the stereo field so that everything sounds distinct rather than crowded together. A well-balanced mix will help the mastering engineer make creative decisions without being hindered by technical issues

Have you downloaded my FREE Music Production Guides?  Home Studio Setup, Magic Compression, Magic EQ and more!  


Tips for Cleaning Up Your Mix

Double-check that there are no clipping sounds or distortion present in any of the individual recordings before exporting them into one final stereo mixdown version; this can harmfully affect the resulting health of your track even after mastering. Listen to your track in different environments such as headphones, speakers or cars. This will help you identify any potential issues with the sound such as a lack of bass or excessive reverb.


Preparing Your Files for Export

You need to export your tracks in high-quality formats like AIFF or WAV files with a 24-bit depth and a sample rate of at least 44.1kHz or 48kHz. These export settings will retain most of the original sound quality when converted into various audio file formats used for playback. If your session is already 24-bit, 44.1kHz keep it that quality when you export. 

Dither is not necessary unless you are changing bit depth eg. 24-bit to 16-bit. Since you should be keeping your bit depth the same high quality as the original project session, you should not need to use dither at all. Leave dither turned “off” when exporting your files for mastering.


⭐️ Try my FREE Ableton Live course. Learn Ableton Live in 90-minutes for FREE ⭐️   


Analyzing Your Exported Mix Audio Files

The mastering engineer can’t really do anything with exported files that are too compressed with no headroom left. Import your exported files back onto your DAW project (or into a new project) and look at the waveforms. If they look overcompressed AKA “sausage” waveforms, they will need to be re-exported with more dynamic range. Try turning down the input to some of the plugins on your master fader or the ratio on your master compressor limiter. If this doesn’t work, create a Save As.. and start bringing down all of the channel levels by -5 or -10 dB. This is a painful process but might be necessary if your mix is a sausage file.


Choosing the Right Mastering Engineer

It can be challenging to find someone who fits your style and preferences, but research and communication are key. Research online for engineers with experience in your genre and take note of their work. Once you have a list, reach out to them and ask about their process, turnaround time, rates, and if they offer revisions. Clear communication is very important throughout the entire process as it allows for effective collaboration between you and the engineer.

Download my FREE guide: 10 Characteristics of a Sound Wave to learn more about how to measure sound


Communicating Your Vision to the Mastering Engineer

A clear and concise understanding of what you want to achieve with your track will go a long way in ensuring that the final product meets your expectations. One effective approach is to provide one or two reference tracks that capture the sound or style you are aiming for. This can help guide discussions about how best to master your mix without losing sight of its original intent. It's also important to be open-minded during any feedback sessions since this will enable you to adjust some elements as needed while keeping true to your creative direction.


Online Automated Mastering Services

Online mastering services have revolutionized the way musicians, producers, and artists approach the final polishing of their tracks. These services offer convenience, speed, and often an affordable alternative to traditional studio-based mastering. From optimizing your mix's tonal balance and dynamic range to providing consistent loudness levels across tracks, they can provide a streamlined process that caters to the unique sonic characteristics of your music. Most platforms allow you to adjust the automated master output with overall level and tonal adjustments but that's it. You can't ask for any revisions like with a traditional mastering engineer.  LANDR, eMastered, and CloudBounce are some popular choices.

In conclusion, mastering is the last step in the music production process and can help your mix sound great in every listening environment. If the mix isn’t great, it’s very difficult to make the master sound great. Spend some time getting the mix where it needs to be before sending your high quality audio files to the mastering engineer.

Also read: 

Mix Prep: How to Prepare Your Songs For Mixing in a DAW

5 Essential Mixing Tips for Music Producers

What is LUFS in DAW Mixing?

Futch - Music Production Coach and Ableton Certified Trainer

Check out my live online music production program: Music Production Ninja...

Music Production #MAGIC

Get your FREE download of my 50 magic moves that will make your songs, recordings and mixes sound better instantly.

Give me the #MAGIC