Ever been in a mixing session and you couldn’t find something? Have you ever been mixing when you heard some noise you wanted to get rid of but couldn’t find the track it was on? Well I think this happens to everyone at some point. The problem is that it actually slows down your workflow. This is why its very important to prepare your session before you begin mixing. Now you can group gain staging into this category but I normally gain stage first and then prepare the session afterwords.
Go through each track and determine if there is any unnecessary audio that could potentially add noise to the music. I will usually trim out anything that I dont need and then use the fade in/ fade out functions to insure that I don’t get any clicks and pops. If there are any breaths in-between vocal takes, you can use your discretion to take them out or turn them down. If you decide delete the breaths, please speak with with producer or singer/songwriter first, because they may not want them taken out.
Don’t you love getting (or creating) songs with more than 100 tracks? Of course I’m joking. Its no wonder most people get their material sent out for mixing because it can become pretty overwhelming. Well there are ways to help simplify things and make the session much more manageable. One way is to eliminate any unnecessary tracks. So if the artist has 3 verses, or 2 verses and a bridge, and each part is similar in tone then why would you put them in separate tracks? If they are in separate tracks just move them all into the same track so that you process them together. You now just eliminated 2 track by condensing 3 into 1. Good Job! Now you can do the same thing with Harmonies, Guitars and even deleting blank tracks if there are any.
Some DAWs like Sonar have the ability to group selected tracks into folders. Not to get confused with regular grouping. The cool thing about the track folders is that they give the user the ability to collapse the folder in the track view. That means I can be working on the drums and have the vocals and the instruments collapsed so only the drums are displayed. Nice!!! Another helpful thing about the track folders is that if the client wants an accapella or instrumental, I can just solo the the specified group and export it. Check to see if your DAW has this capability and us it if you can.
In most cases, it’s not uncommon to get vocal tracks where in one section of the vocals are very quite and in another its very loud. Yes Im talking the SAME vocal take. What I like to do is go through these tracks and then determine where I can either turn down the volume or bump it up. In this case you can use your eyes to try an catch the volume difference but to be honest you really need to use your ears for the final decision. Lastly dont get too anal about this, as long as it is in the ball park. If need be you can always adjust the level later if its not fitting right.
YouTube Video Source: Preparing a Session for Mixing PART 1