Friday, January 12, 2018


by Mark King for

UPDATE: Jan 15, 2024
Before you expend a lot of energy preparing your tracks for professional mixing you should speak with the person who will be doing the mixing and confirm if they have any guidelines for how they would like things organized. The following is a general guideline and contains suggestions for organizing tracks and transporting them safely. 

You can use whatever odd naming conventions you want when you're in the creative mode at home but when you bring your tracks to the studio for mixing you need to prepare them correctly or else you'll end up wasting a lot of studio time. 

Overall, what we're going to describe is basically exporting audio tracks from your DAW so they will import into the mixing-engineer's DAW system with the minimum amount of error and house-keeping.

First we'll talk about how to number and label the tracks so they make sense to the mix engineer, then we'll get into a little more about the exporting process. We'll also look at keeping a LOG for the song and including it as a text file along with the tracks. 

The audio files for each song should be contained inside a single folder. If the song is part of an album then the song folder name should be numbered according to the order it will appear on the album. 

The folder name should start with the song number, this will be two digits, for numbers less than 10 the first number should be a zero. 

Follow the song number with the song title. 

Follow the song title with the tempo of the song in bpm (beats per minute)

Follow the bpm with the date, two digits for the month, two digits for the day and two digits for the year. 

Here is an example folder title: 01 Da Island 96bpm 011418

Inside each song folder the mix engineer should find the individual audio files for your tracks.

You could have more drum tracks or less, this is just a typical layout based on the way I usually record drums. I don't normally record a separate hi hat track but can include one on request. It would be included in the drum numbering section after the snare drum tracks and its label would be Hh.

FOLDER NAME: 01 Da Island 96bpm 011418

01 Kk.wav
02 SnT.wav
03 SnB.wav
04 Lo.wav
05 Mid.wav
06 Hi.wav
07 L Ovhd.wav
08 R Ovhd.wav
09 L Ride.wav
10 R Ride.wav
11 Bass.wav
12 Bass dry.wav
13 K1.wav
14 K1 dry.wav
15 Gtr1.wav
16 Gtr1 dry.wav
17 Gtr2.wav
18 Gtr2 dry.wav
19 Gtr3.wav
20 Gtr3 dry.wav
21 V1.wav
22 V2.wav
23 V3.wav
24 V4.wav

Da Island Log.txt 

All of the above track information along with the text file of the LOG can be inside this one folder so everything is together and organized for this song. 

When this group of audio tracks is dragged into a fresh Logic Pro X session, all the tracks populate correctly with the audio files, in correct order with their correct names, no house-keeping or cleanup is required. Try it at home, make a folder of audio tracks and drag them into a freshly created Logic Pro X session, watch them all go to their correct places. Numbering the tracks is the key to controlling the order when they are imported. 

Track one: Start with 01 (that is zero followed by a one)

Track two: 02

Track three: 03

...and so on. This simple step will get your tracks to come into the mixing system in logical and correct order.

Use compact abbreviations. Instead of Vocal, or lead vocal or VOX, just use a capital V. If there are multiple vocals then follow the V with a number.

Instead of "Modern Piano one", just put K (for keyboard) followed by a number which signifies which keyboard track it is. In the text file you include with your tracks you can expound on which numbered track is which and its purpose.

DRUM LABELING (Proworkshop preferred drum labels)
Bass or kick drum = 01 Kk
Snare drum top mic = 02 SnT
Snare drum bottom mic =03 SnB
Low tom = 04 Lo
Mid tom = 05 Mid
High tom = 06 Hi
Left Overhead = 07 L Ovhd
Right Overhead = 08 R Ovhd
Left Ride = 09 L Ride
Right Ride = 10 R Ride

HUGELY IMPORTANT: Be sure to note in your LOG whether the drums are recorded from audience or drummer point of view. This can be a source of confusion when it comes to combining the overhead microphones with the left to right blend of the tom-tom microphones.

At we always record and mix from the audience point of view, as if the listener is someone in the audience, watching the drummer perform on stage (unless you tell us the tracks are captured some other way). 

You may depend on some internal note keeping in your DAW but that does not translate across platforms.

If you plan on working with a studio to mix your tracks keep a written LOG with notes that detail in minimum words what the various tracks have on them, for example, what keyboards K1, K2, and K3 are. Simple entries are fine, K1 = grand piano, K2 = Prophet 6, K3 = string pad......and so on.

You can also LOG what the various vocal tracks are.
V1 = lead vocal
V2= harmony
V3= harmony

You can always expand the description in your log, this will help the engineer understand what they've got to work with.

Do your experimenting at home. We embrace creativity and experimenting but when you bring your files to be mixed we need the good stuff that is to be included in the track with simple naming and the Log if we need to refer to what you intended for each of the tracks. 

Use a simple text program for LOG notes then it's easy to include this file in the folder with the audio files for this song and it will be readable across multiple computer operating systems.

Just use a simple text program for your LOG (or an index card and a pencil).

Don't use a commercial office product like Microsoft Word or Excel which we don't have on the DAW in the studio. Simple text is all that is needed.

The Log for a song becomes the translation table when you export your tracks for mixing. Use your Log to export correctly named files for the mixing studio.

Write down the tempo of the song in your LOG. Often times the tempo will export right along with the audio files but sometimes it does not work. Don't depend on the tempo to export, write it down.

Don't "round" tempo up or down: if the tempo is 92.13 bpm write that down and be sure to let the engineer know. 

If the kick drum is on track 01 for one song, be sure it's also on 01 on the next song.
If the snare drum top mic is on track 02, be sure it's on 02 on all the songs.

If you comp edit vocal tracks or any track be sure all your crossfades and edits are click free and correct BEFORE YOU EXPORT COMPLETE TRACKS.

If you're recording electric stringed instruments (like bass guitar, electric guitar or electric acoustic) use a direct box between the instrument and the amp you're using, record the dry direct output of the instrument through the direct box onto a track by itself, be sure the level is low enough so that the track never clips. It needs to be on a track by itself not part of a stereo or dual track.

You can record through an amplifier or plug-in or whatever you want on another track but have that dry track there so the mix engineer can re-amplify the track if necessary, it's your safety net.

All the tracks should start at 00:00 at the left edge of the arrange window and progress to the end of the song or until they have no more part in it. This stage is critical and allows the mix engineer to get everything in perfect alignment. Do this even if a track has "dead air" for a whole verse or most of a song. It will make your audio files larger but accuracy is paramount and this step is key to timing accuracy. It is a simple matter for the mix engineer to truncate away excessive silent audio areas.

In LOGIC PRO X you set up the yellow selection bar at the top of the screen, starting at the left edge and dragging the yellow bar to the right to define how much of the track you want to export.

I often have tracks in my song that won't be used in the final mix but I'm not ready to trash them yet. This is why I export my tracks one by one. The process takes very little time and it gives you the chance to clean up your track naming on a track by track basis as you prepare them for mixing. Be sure you have the correct track selected that you want to export.

COMMAND-E will open a dialogue box, you can pick the place you're going to export to and all your subsequent exports in this session will also follow this path. This makes it an easy and straight-forward task to create consolidated tracks, in a properly named folder.

Another advantage of exporting this way is that you won't end up with mono tracks suddenly becoming twice their original size as they're converted to stereo tracks. You can still export stereo tracks as stereo so nothing is lost.

I recently timed myself doing the export process one track at a time and correctly naming the resulting files, I completed 12 exports and correctly named the files in less than two minutes

I was able to export all 33 tracks with correct naming in less than five minutes and create an archive that would import into virtually any DAW correctly. 

Ask your engineer if they have specific recommendations for "sample rate" and "bit depth".

Don't waste hard drive space or DAW horsepower for your mix engineer, keep stereo tracks stereo and mono tracks mono.

Personally I recommend that stereo tracks be done as two individual mono tracks so the pan from left to right can be determined at mix down time more conveniently and more creatively.

The individual track files for each song go into a folder with that song name and tempo in the title as shown at the beginning of this article.

Each song has its own folder of tracks, when you open the folder all your track names should be there  in order starting with 01 at the top. 

You might have recorded drums in our studio two months ago but you've got versions on your machine that may have the start point edited or are somehow different than the masters we have on file (if we still have them at all).

Don't make us go looking for the drums and wasting time trying to conform and edit them to work! Just export new tracks from your session (using the naming convention previously described), they're guaranteed to start at the right time and be compatible with all the other tracks you're providing for mixing.

Memory sticks have a way of accumulating files on them and if you don't keep a LOG then they can really be a time waster investigating what's on them.
4" x 6" storage bag, 3" x 5" index card, keeps things together
Here's how I keep them straight. I use 4" x 6" zip lock plastic bags to hold 3" x 5" index cards, the zip lock bag provides a way of keeping multiple cards together, dry and clean. You can also slip a memory stick or two into the 4" x 6" bag that is related to what is on the index cards contained therein. It's a great way of keeping things simple, obvious and together for specific memory sticks or specific songs.

On logs for memory sticks it's a good idea to note the format of the stick on the log, for example, our Tascam stereo mastering recorder will only record on memory sticks formatted using the Tascam recorder. It actually formats as a form of FAT 32 but the recorder does not like FAT 32 formatted on Apple or Windows computers. This is why I label my memory sticks individually, set them up with an index card Log so I know if they're regular memory use or Tascam music playback memory or something else.

The #1 most important thing: talk with the mixing person (voice, email, carrier pigeon...). You can read a magazine ad or a web page but before you send them your files talk to them. You can save a lot of time and money if you're organized.

Some mixing people are so new to the trade that they have not figured out their own system of track organization yet. Feel free to point them to this page to explain the guidelines. Everybody involved will be happy if there is organization and documentation.

There are many folks out there offering mixing services, that is "their" creative thing. They may have expensive equipment or experience you don't have. Try one song before you dump your album some place to be mixed. 

Or, you can try on your own. Learn to mix and make your tracks sound good. Learn what makes them sound good and what makes them sound bad. Find a way to play your tracks for others and see what they think of your mixes. Along the way you'll make a lot of mixes that don't sound that great, don't quit. Keep trying. Do it over and over. Do it until it sounds good and you're getting good feedback. 

Thanks for reading High on Technology. Good Music To You!
©2024 by Mark King. It's not ok to copy or quote without written permission