So you've recorded your audio, and now it's sitting on your computer. Here are the three steps you should take to prep your files.
Photo by Edgar Morgan
Mixing: This refers to applying EQ, compression, effects, and that sort of thing to your tracks to create a single stereo audio file to be delivered for you to use. Think of this as applying different style options to words in a sentence– like bold, underlining, or changing the word color. It does NOT rearrange any of the words in the sentence.
Editing: This refers to cutting and rearranging the audio file to add. remove, or rearrange segments. Using our analogy of a sentence from above, this would mean cutting, copying, and rearranging words in the sentence. This is best done BEFORE any mixing. You can either do it yourself, or let your engineer know that you'll need this service in addition to mixing.
- If your audio files are perfectly composed, and don't need any rearranging, cuts, or additions, move on to Step 2 (Hooray!)
- If your audio files need editing, you have two options. Either you can make the edits yourself, or you can make detailed instructions and ask your mix engineer to do it (probably for an additional cost).
Your audio needs editing, and you CAN do it yourself.
This is my favorite as an engineer because a) it shows you care enough to learn a pretty simple and powerful new skill and b) I don't have to try to interpret or guess about what should go where.
Here are some quick tips for editing like a pro:
Use fades to stop pops and clicks caused by clip edges
Copy and paste "dead air" to replace gaps and keep consistency
Crossfade any clips that touch each other for an unnoticeable transition
In this photo, you can see the original audio clip on top and my edited version below.
I copied and pasted "dead air" to fill a gap that was left by removing some shuffling noise (the waveform looks empty, but you can hear the room tone). I also used fades to prevents clicks and pop, and to make sure the audio of the clips changes gradually instead of instantly, think of a light dimmer versus a light switch.
Once you've finished making your edits you'll want to jump ahead to Step 2: Exporting. Read on for how to help your engineer make edits for you!
Your audio needs editing and you CAN'T do it yourself and need your engineer to help.
It's hard to know what's going on in someone else's head if they don't have the tools to communicate. Imagine being asked to sing a song you've never heard, you're told all the words, but you weren't told the notes. The best you got was, "this word is kind of higher, and this next one is lower but not that low." That's basically what it's like to edit someone else's work. The best thing you can do is to make LOG NOTES. This is a detailed list of what you want done, how you want it done, and as much information as possible to help the editor locate the exact segments to move and where to move them. This is best done as a spreadsheet, I highly recommend Google Sheets.
chorus / 1:30 - 1:55 /starts before "some words"/ ends after "some different words"/ move to 1:00 after "even more words"
Now that you've finished making your log notes, let's move on to exporting your audio files!
Whether you recorded your audio flawlessly, or decided to do some pre-mix editing, you are starting from the same place: your audio is ready to be exported out of your software as audio files for mixing. (Already did this? Skip to the next section for tips on Sending Files)
You'll want to make sure your audio files meet these TWO criteria. • Your audio tracks are exported as individual separate files we call STEMS
• Your audio tracks are high quality "lossless" file formats
Exporting stems, sometimes called rendering or mixing down depending on the software, simply makes several nice, neat little audio files out of each individual track you've recorded. Since every program is different, ask your engineer for help, or do a quick google search "how to export stems from [your program]". It's usually as easy as just clicking a few buttons and selecting the tracks you want to export.
Exporting Lossless files is like exporting a high quality 4k video. You want to make sure you are preserving the quality of your project every step of the way and giving your engineer all the data they need to work with. The standard file type to use is WAVE. Other high quality, lossless file types include AIFF and FLAC, but keep it simple and stick to WAVE.
That's all there is to it! This step is simple, but so important to get right. If you send all your audio smooshed down into a single file, your engineer won't be able to fix a problem in the guitar without affecting the vocals, and so on. Separation is KEY.
After that, just remember to avoid saving your audio as anything other than a WAVE file. If you choose MP3, your computer will throw away tons of audio data that will degrade the sound quality.
3. Sending Files
Now, this is next part is even easier than the last one. Let's package up those files you just made and send them!
On your computer, select all your audio files that you want to send, then right click to select "compress" or "zip". This term changes depending on your operating system, but they do the same thing.
Zipping your files packages them all into one nice little bundle. This will not only make it SUPER easy for your mix engineer to manage your files, it will also make sure they all arrive intact and undisturbed. It's like putting a bunch of stuff into a box before shipping it, it will all arrive together, unopened, and be easy to take into the house!
Be sure to include your log notes in the ZIP file! Bonus points if you made a google sheet of log notes and shared it. This lets your editor make notes and track their progress! Next, name your zip file something clear like "[your name_album name]" Finally, send that beautiful zip file over google drive, or drop box, or however you and your engineer have decided to share files.
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I'm always happy to help!