Dec 10, 2015

How to send Pro Tools sessions for mixing

This article is aimed for people sending Pro Tools sessions for mixing. If you are sending wav-files, look at the article How to send your music files for mixing.
If you follow these steps you will be sure to have a happy mixing engineer making your music sound awesome.

Gain staging in Pro Tools

1. Gain staging

We often get tracks sent to us way to hot. As a rule of thumb you should aim for audio peaks at about -10dB. Transient heavy instruments (snare, tambourine, cowbell) might peak a bit higher, like -6dB.
Any louder than that and we have to start with gaining down the tracks before start mixing.

Learn more about Gain staging from Graham at the Recording Revolution:

2. Labeling your tracks

Labeling your tracks
All files should be named so it makes sense. A track called "Audio_05-03" does not make sense. There is no way for us to tell what the track contains. Label your track starting with a track number, followed by what instrument is represented on the track (and not the name of the person playing it).

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3. Editing is not mixing

Fading audio clips
If you have not payed extra for editing, all tracks should already been edited. Meaning everything is in the right place and have cross fades to all audio clips where needed.

4. Plugins

Stock plugins
When you are recording your track you sometimes want to through on some plugins to make it sound more like the way you want the end result to sound. That's fine. I would recommend to use only stock plugins for this. That way you are sure that your mixing engineer has the same plugins. If you are using any other than standard stock plugins make sure to check with your mixing engineer if he or she has that particular plugin.

5. Color coding

Color coding in Pro Tools
It's always nice to have tracks color coded. Every mixer has it's own system for this, and there is no way for you to know how any particular mixing engineer wants it. 
So just choose one color for drums, one for bass, one for guitars ... and so on.
My personal system is (obviously)
  • Drums - Green
  • Bass - Red
  • Guitars - Blue
  • Keys - Purple
  • Strings - Orange
  • Horns - Brown
  • Vocals - Pink

6. Markers

Make sure you have your markers in place. That make things much faster for the mixing engineer. 
We usually want markers in this system:
  1. Intro
  2. Verse
  3. Chorus
  4. Vers2
  5. Chorus2
  6. Bridge
  7. Chorus3
Obviously your song is not necessarily build just like this, but you get the idea.

7. Select unused

Select unused
Before sending your session you want to clean things up. When you record your song there are many snippets of sound that are not used. Those files are of no use when mixing and just takes up space witch makes the file bigger and slower to send.
So make sure to delete anything that's not actually in the track.
In the clips menu, go to "Select", then "Unused". Now every clip that's not used in the session is selected. Click "Delete" and make sure to delete the files, not just clear them.
Now this will result in the files not used are actually deleted and gone forever. If you want to keep these files you should start with saving a copy of the session first, so that you only delete the files in the copy folder.

8. Reference music

If you have any particular song you think would be great as a reference track, include it in the session.


Always record a dry guitar/bass track. That way we have the option to re-amp if needed.
Always record your music in at least 48kHz 24bit wav.
Include the click track as a midi track.

Any questions? 
I'll be happy to clear things up. Contact me at or facebook.