24th May 2008
Tips & Techniques:Mixing - Submitting your Material to be Mixed
From James Meeker:
Okay, this is the real deal. In my experience some of this you're not going to want to hear or believe. I'm going to be dispelling some myths and misconceptions here, so bear with me....
First off the quality of the mix is going to depend on what went on before it got mixed. Obviously the audio quality of the recording for the beat and the vocals are going to be a major factor. Bad or weak sounds aren't going to "magically" be made heavy hitting and great. Sloppy performances, off time overdubs and bad delivery aren't going to end up amazing.
Needless to say, at no time should your beat or vocals have ever been a MP3 and upsampled to 24/44.1 or whatever. Rapping over an MP3 is a sure fire way to get garbage in the end, and I see guys do it ALL THE TIME!
Also, make sure that the beat isn't clipping all over the place. If you kick is redlining (clipping) in the audio file that's something else the engineer has to mess with. Leave plenty of headroom in the tracks! Make sure things sound right from the start. Don't write a track around a weak snare if you think that the mix is going to somehow save the day--it's NOT! Get a new snare in there with some power and spunk. Garbage in, garbage out applies at every step of the game.
Another thing is editing. Make sure all the edits are FINISHED before mixing. All extraneous noise between vocal lines is chopped out, you've used VocAlign already, things are lined up and ready to ROCK. If not, this is something more the mixing engineer is going to have to mess with... which takes time away from the real work, or adds to the end studio time.
Secondly, you need to provide the mixer with the individual tracks, NOT a mixdown of the beat. Individual tracks means the kick is one audio file, the snare is another, and so on--give the mixer all of the elements broken up (but in sync when lined up in a DAW).
Do not expect a great mix unless you have both quality and the individual tracks for the engineer. If you cannot provide those things, then forget about it for now--work with producers/beat writers that will give you the individual tracks in a .wav format (24 bit/44.1 or greater) or any other professional standard.
Okay, let's recap what you have to provide:
1.) Audio quality on the beat and vocal recordings.
2.) Individual tracks (not all stereo either) for the elements.
3.) No MP3's!
Okay, now that you've done your job this is what you should expect from a professional mixer.
First listen to some tracks they've done. Check out who they've worked with in the past. Expect to pay more money for people that are actually good. Ballpark figure around 50-75 an hour or so, although most people give discounts for buying blocks of time. The guys that are cheaper are usually not worth it. You get what you pay for.
The other thing to remember is a PERSON is going to mix this. Don't be as focused on where you're going to get the mix, in other words, the studio. If you "shop a studio" without securing WHO is going to be doing the work you could end up at a great studio that's worked with all these big names and have your track mixed by a novice engineer that had nothing to do with those big artists. This happens all the time so focus on the who the engineer is going to be, talk to them--they are the one that ultimately is going to make the track sound good or not so good.
Don't get hung up on the tools either. ProTools, Cubase, Sonar... whatever... these are just tools. It's the man behind the tools that is going to make the difference. Find the right guy and let them worry about the platform, the tools and so forth. That's what they get paid for.
Like I've been saying--it's all about the engineer's skill and taste. That's what mixes a record.
Make sure to bring plenty of reference CD's--albums that are similar to the sound you are going for. This gives the mix engineer an idea of where to take you track. You can also use these as a guide to how good your track is shaping up as he's working.
As far as the time factor goes if you want to do it right you're going to tackle one song a day. Expect 5-8 hours of work PER TRACK for the mix. You want the best right? This is about the minimum time to get something really hopping. An experienced engineer working on a hip hop track should be able to easily manage a song a day. Anybody that is going to take weeks of time is definitely someone without much experience and is still "messin' around" with audio. Find a pro that eats, sleeps and breaths audio... they'll knock your project out in no time!
When everything is mixed have the whole bundle of songs mastered. Do it on a different day when everyone is fresh.
The reason most dudes sound local is because they got a MP3 beat off the internet, spit some stuff they made up five minutes beforehand into the mic and keep the first or second take, throw some random adlibs up behind it and give someone less than an hour to mix and master it. That's the local sound. What I'm suggesting is that you just do the opposite of the local dudes... and you'll be amazed... you'll sound a lot more national just by following this advice.
Good luck, probably not what you wanna hear but I hope this helps.
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