Ready to Master

And so the Mercy Train project has come to a close. Almost. With the final mixes signed off, I have to get the project ready for mastering.

Mixing is an intermediate step in the recording process. A mix represents the fully effected and blended set of audio tracks that constitutes the presentation of a recorded song.

Mastering takes the final mix and prepares the songs for commercial duplication and playback.

To get the songs ready for mastering I follow a number of steps.

I go through all the Pro Tools session files to make sure that they are properly closed off. You can read the guidelines that I follow at the Recording Academy website here.

I produce one set of 24-bit/96KHz 2-track mixes properly documented and packaged for the mastering engineer. Depending on the project, I will generally produce mixing stems rather than alternate full-track mixes (e.g., Vocal Up/Vocal Down, Bass Up/Bass Down). If additional mixes are required, such as TV mixes, performance track mixes, radio mixes, then I prepare those as well.

The mix stems are fully effected and they allow some additional flexibility in mastering if it becomes necessary to adjust levels (e.g., decrease the Bass Guitar, increase the Lead Vocal). The stems are 24-bit 2-track fully effected stereo audio files and I usually produce them as follows:

  • Lead Vocal
  • BG Vocals
  • Keyboards
  • Guitars
  • Bass
  • Drums
  • Other (Percussion, Loops)

I produce a backup image of the final session files and all of the mixes and mix stems. I also produce backups on DVD. I generally estimate about 2 – 3 hours per song so roughly 20 – 30 hours to prepare a project for mastering.

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