In this article, we are going to see how to prepare your mix to be mastered.
Delivering your mix to a mastering engineer can be stressful especially if you have never done it before.
There are a few tips and guidelines I would like to share with you to optimize the export and avoid common mistakes.
Make sure you're 100% happy with the mix
Remove any limiter from the master (if you have applied any)
Export in high quality: .wav or .aiff at the original sample rate and at least at 24-bit (higher bit depth if you can)
Make sure to leave some silence before the song starts and after the song finishes
Provide all the metadata, artwork, and information requested by the mastering engineer
Name your files appropriately
MAKE SURE YOU ARE 100% HAPPY WITH THE MIX
Remember the key to a great master is a great mix. Your goal is to make the mix sound as good as it can possibly be.
The mastering engineer will take the mix from there adding the final polish, depth, punch, and clarity.
They will look after the final loudness according to the distribution medium and will prepare suitable files for distribution.
OPTIMISE THE PROJECT
1 Remove any limiter from the master bus.
Limiters drastically chop any transient from the song and this can reduce the number of options the mastering engineer has to manipulate the sound.
2 Leave some headroom
Someone recommends peaking at -3 dBFS, some others at -6 or -10 dBFS.
The truth is that if you are mixing at least at 24bit (and all the DAWs today do), just make sure you don't hit the 0dBFS (digital distortion) on the master buss.
The mastering engineer will be able to gain stage the song according to the mastering chain.
3 Leave one bar of silence at the beginning of the track
It is good practice to leave at least one bar of silence before the song starts.
Some processing (some analog modeled plugin or if you bounce on tape) introduces noise.
The mastering engineer can analyze this low-level noise and optimize the master accordingly.
4 Make sure all reverbs and delay tails fully ring out by the end of the song
It is also good practice to leave some silence at the end of the song making sure that all the reverbs and delay tails fully ring out.
1 File Type
WAV and AIFF are the recommended file formats as they are lossless.
Interleaved (this simply means that the bounce/export will be in stereo).
3 Bit Depth
24-bit (or 32-bit/64-bit float). 16 Bit can be mastered but is not ideal.
4 Sample Rate
Use the same sample rate of the mixing project (44.1, 48, 88.2, 96 kHz). Don't upsample or downsample.
In most of DAWs, you can apply the dithering when exporting.
Set the dither to OFF as at this stage you don't need to apply any dither.
The mastering engineer will look after this if needed.
If your DAW has the normalization option, leave it to OFF and don't apply any normalization.
At Master Your Track we accept the following file formats
Sample rate: 44.1 KHz - 48 KHz - 88.2 KHz - 96 KHz
Bit depth: 16 bit - 24 bit - 32 bit - 64 bit
File type: WAV - AIFF
LABELLING AND METADATA
Make sure each file is named appropriately. A file's name should include:
- order of the song (essential for sequencing when mastering)
- song title
01 Manuel Scara ft Francy - Your Dream (Album Version Mix1)
02 Manuel Scara - Lullabies (Album Version Mix3)
03 Manuel Scara - Julia I love you (Album Version Mix1)
and so on.
This will make all the communication very easy in case of reviews and if some change is needed.
It is usually good practice to provide a text document that includes at least track numbers, titles, artist names, album titles, and artwork. But if applicable you can also include the record label, publisher, ISRC codes, UPC/EAN, and all the ID3 metadata relevant to your project.
All or part of this information (depending on the final file format) can be embedded in the final file/delivery.
PREPARE YOUR MIX FOR MASTERING -FINAL CHECK
Before submitting files to the mastering engineer re-import all of them in a new project and make sure all the mixes sound as intended.
Bear in mind that your mastering engineer is going to work on what you provide.
If you are not sure about something or you want your mastering engineer to look after some aspect of your album/ep/song, tell them before the session.
Remember that any mastering engineer is first of all a person who loves music at least as much as you do.