In part 1, of this series on things you should do before sending your mix to a mastering engineer, Neil Pickles from Reveal Sound talked about 5 things that can be useful in checking your mixes to make sure that they are good enough to send for mastering. In part 2 Neil is going to discuss 5 final things to do that will make for a smooth mastering process with no last minute screw ups and enable you to get the best results and therefore value for your mastering money. Over to you Neil...
6 - Check
Double check all bounced tracks are OK before delivering to the Mastering Engineer. Seems obvious right? You would be surprised how easy it is to forget to unmute that percussion you just muted to check something or to do a faster than real time bounce on your DAW software and not realise something went wrong and you’ve got digital distortions. It’s that simple a mistake to make and could be costly.
7 - Compression
If you’ve used a mix bus compressor consider sending a version without it as well as one with. This really is about your level of experience. A lot of experienced Mix Engineers have a buss compressor on the mix bus from the start and mix into it, it becomes part of the sound Andy Wallace, Cenzo Townsend, CLA, being prime examples and of course they would just deliver the finished mix with it included as it’s an integral part of their sound. Less experienced mixers though should beware, they often add a buss compressor plug-in as an afterthought or have it working far too hard, the Mastering Engineer may also simply have better quality compressors that may sound better, so play it safe, if in doubt send with and without versions. It may well be “with” is best and you’ve nailed it, but better safe than sorry.
8 - Less Excitement
Also be wary of “Warmerizers/Exciters” if you have used a soft saturation type plug in on your mix bus such as PSP Vintage Warmer, Sonnox Inflator, Slate VTM etc, just double check that you haven’t overdone them. A lot of these effectively soft limit your tracks and whilst not as obvious as hard Peak Limiters can cause similar issues at Mastering. A B with and without and make sure you have made the right choice. If in doubt back off the settings a little. I use these plug-ins myself and they are awesome in getting some of that virtual analogue warmth, but I tend to always be very careful when deploying them on mix busses. If still in doubt bounce one mix with and one without.
9 - No Limits
If you have used a Peak Limiter on your mix buss please remove it and re-bounce making sure that now the Limiter has been removed there is no digital clipping. If the track has been smashed by a limiter there is very little dynamic range left and this makes it very hard to bring out sounds with the Mastering EQ or add further Mastering dynamic processing. Limiting should always be the last stage of Mastering before dithering down to 16bit.
10 - Sample Rates
Export the finished mixes at whatever sample rate and bit depth your “parent” session was i.e. if your session is 24 bit 44.1Khz send your mix file at that, if it was done at 32bit 96Khzbounce the mix in that format. Too often people are careless at this point and send 16 bit versions or may have unintentionally done an unnecessary sample rate conversion process that can affect the quality. Any Mastering Engineer can easily convert all files to the destination format at the highest quality so just don’t worry or think you need to do it yourself.
A Final note. If you’re on a label but you’re sending the files to the Mastering Engineer make sure you get your ISRC codes from the label too and send them to the Mastering Engineer along with 100% accurate final song names, artist name and, project title. If you want to add sequential numbers as the first part of each of the song name e.g. 01 before what will be track 1, 02, 03, etc would be super awesome!
ISRCs are usually only for large scale commercial releases and are supplied by your record label you can read about those here.