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Mixing Tips

Requirements before submitting your files

3fmusic.com-10Note: the followings are some elementary and basic principles that each of them could be very vast and need hundreds of pages to explain. So here we do not intent to teach mixing skills but pointing out the least criteria which should be met by your music. However in case of facing problem, our engineers will inform you so that you can take appropriate measures in order to fix the problem and throughout this journey our engineers will accompanying you sincerely.

 

Generally a decent mix should meet some of the least standard in order to stay in the competition race among other production. The followings are some outlines of these standards:


- Cleanliness: all tracks should be devoid of any sort of noise, click, pop, hiss or any anomalous artifacts. In the final mix down, nothing else except the main sound are acceptable.
- Clarity: the audio must be heard clearly. The recorded audio should not need an intense use of EQ. A mushy mix is as bad as a mix that is too rich in high frequencies. All instruments/voices must be heard clearly. All recorded material should sound naturally.
- Separation: every track must clearly display separation. No bleeding (audio spillage from one channel to another) must exist. No mess of shared frequencies and no clashes of frequencies must exist. Each channel must sound distinct and separate from the other tracks. The final mix must display good separation in the sound components used.
- Level: no track must exhibit too much quietness or too much loudness, as this will be difficult to dynamically treat. All tracks must be set to nominal values and with a good S/N (signal to noise) ratio. The final mix must display a good level that does not tire the listener. Any boosts in certain frequency ranges will tire the listener and will be problematic on certain playing mediums.
- Balance: there should be a good balance of frequency content in the mix so as not to tire the listener or to cause problems when playing the mix through other mediums (club monitors, car hi-fi etc.). The final mix must not have any bias towards either side of the stereo field and must be sensibly spread with attention to frequency management.
- Genre: the mix should be mixed with the genre in mind. This is absolutely crucial if the mix is to be successful in its marketplace. The final mix should appeal to the genre it is aimed at.
- Environment test: the mix must sound acceptable in all environments, primarily car hi-fi systems, home systems, studio and club systems. Whereas mastering will cover these areas in terms of presentation and the final product, it is essential that the mix fulfill the criteria listed above, so that anyone who needs to listen to the mix can do so in any environment. The final mix should not be bias in any particular frequency range so as not to restrict the listener to a given environment.

 

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The followings are some points which should be borne in mind before submitting a mix to a mastering center:

Dynamics: if Level Meters are displaying small movements, it suggests that we can just hear small dynamic changes and this is warning of over-compression in tracks or entire mix. Your music should normally show dynamics. Generally avoid compressing and limiting the whole mix, as it is impossible to recover lost dynamics. If you like a special sort of compressed sound, send us a compressed mix as hearing reference and an uncompressed one for mastering. It is always better to leave any mix compression to the mastering stage, since mastering engineers have better tools for compression. However if under some circumstances you would like to compress your own mix, please do this after finishing your mix since compression on the master output before finishing the mix may influence your mixing decisions and deceive your audio perception.
Also before compression the whole mix let your auditory systems relax for a day or two then compress your mix and compare the compressed one with uncompressed one. If you are satisfied with your compression, compare the result with a standard released music in the same style. All things mentioned above should be applied to the Limiters as well.
Frequency and Spectral contents: any use of EQ on stereo sources would have to be approached with caution, since too much may bring about undesirable amounts of phase distortion and disturb imaging and depth. Generally speaking it is easier for the mastering engineer to make the mix brighter than to add bass. It is therefore better to have your mix sounding dull rather than being too bright, yet containing the appropriate amount of bass in the spectral content.
Listen carefully to the Bass Drum and Bass Guitar or generally Bass instruments. Do they occupy their own space completely?
The Mid-Frequencies should be heard clear and with great definition?
The High-Frequencies should be heard clean and clear
Each instrument should be placed in its appropriate location across the stereo panorama and the frequency overlapping should be minimum.


Panning: Try to combat masking until you can separate one instrument from another, and all instruments are defined to our satisfaction e.g. by panning them differently. As the vocals are the most important part of a song make sure they are easily and clearly audible.
Trims and Fades: leave any fades at the beginning or end of each track for the mastering engineer as it makes later changes difficult .He or she can do more musical fades by specialized tools once the order of the tracks is determined. If you have specific ideas about how the songs should be faded, you can always provide us with a reference mix. He can also use any noises at the beginning or end of the track for noise reduction. Make sure to have the full reverb tail at the end of the track, and as a general guideline, leave 2 seconds of silence before and after the audio of each track to make sure that no material is missed.


Levels: Do not mix very close to 0 dBFS .In fact your mix should not be on the verge of clipping. Because this leaves us small dynamic headroom in which by no means we cannot do anything. You should end up with a mix version that has its peak at -6 to -3 dBFS. Also avoid normalizing your tracks, since normalization is a downgrading process in which the SNR remains the same, but either distortion or dither noise are introduced.
Phase: recorded material can suffer from various phase issues .Phase problems can have subtle to profound effect on sounds, and it is therefore important to deal with them at the beginning of the mixing process. Check for phase coherence when mixing, to ensure mono compatibility. To do this, listen to your mix in mono and check if any instrument gets lost. This is important when the material is intended for radio or TV, as these are often still heard in mono.It is worth knowing that as part of mono coherence checks, sometimes phase-inverting one channel of a stereo track improves its sound when the mix is folded to mono.


Listen carefully and attentively: Insert a very precise EQ on the master bus and then listen to mix at loud levels. Set a Low-pass filter (LPF) to cut-off frequency of 1000 Hz and let just frequencies lower than the cut-off frequency pass and do this again with cut-off frequency of 400 Hz. Do you hear any clipping? If it is the case, take a look at tracks which occupy low mid range frequencies!
Listen to mix at loud levels again. Are the monitoring system clipping? Do you hear any sort of artifacts from them? If yes, first of all check low frequencies and low mid frequencies.
It is a known fact that headphones can reveal noises, clicks or other types of problems that would not be as noticeable when the mix is played through speakers. Listen to your mix with several headphones if it is possible. Do you hear any type of click sounds or annoying sound?
Block your ears from listening a little by your hands, close y our eyes and then carefully listen and focus on the sound of the voices and other instrument and then answer to these questions:


3fmusic.com-13•How loud instruments are in relation to one another?


• How instruments are panned?


• How do the different instruments laid-out on the frequency spectrum?


• How far are instruments with relation to one another?


•How defined instruments are?



Your mix should present all of focal points and any sort of contrast very precisely. Listen to your mix in different places (Car Stereo, Bedroom, Kitchen, at the room opening, headphone, at quiet levels, Specific points in the room).
After you are satisfied with you mix, let another person (preferably someone who has a pair of critical trained ears) listen to your mix and ask for his/her comments about your mix.

Note: Before sending us your mix for mastering please read this section:
Tracks which are required for listening reference: if you would like, you can send us some mixes that you like them .This, as a listening reference, will help us to know exactly which type of sound you are looking for. It is Preferly much better to make sure the style of these music is same as your music. Furthermore, if your mix edit are among Album version, Radio edit, club and LP version or Vocals-up/vocals-down etc, please inform our engineers.


File format: a stereo WAV or AIFF files in 24 bit depth are recommended. However 16 bit files might be acceptable but 24 bit depth files are far better. All sample rates equal to 44.1 KHz or higher are acceptable and it is always better to leave any bit or sample rate conversions to the mastering stage, since mastering engineers have better tools for such conversions. So it is strongly recommended not performing any sample-rate or biting depth conversions. These are likely to degrade the quality of the audio, and have no advantage from mastering point of view – our mastering engineers will convert the mixes to analog before processing, and will use high-quality converters to capture the analog signal back to the appropriate digital format. Audio file formats like MP3, MP4A, WMA, by no means, are not good enough for mastering purposes as they are not of a sufficiently high quality.
Track information: Before submitting your music, please provide us with all relevant track information. This might include the song order, the song titles and the album name. If you have ISRC or UPC codes, please inform us, as they will be encoded into the final master.
Delivery: If you need a final CD masters which can be used at a CD pressing plant, we can provide two different types - DDP and Red Book Audio CD. The former can be uploaded, whereas the latter would be sent by post.

We are with you throughout this journey
3F Music