Mixing Checklist, part 1

Updated: Jun 18

Introduction


In this series of articles I will describe step-by-step my process to achieve an amazing result with your mixes. This can be used for music, podcast, sound design or any audio you might be working on. It was designed around Logic Pro X but it is DAW agnostic so you can use it with Pro Tools, Cubase and so on.


Preparation


- Set your project sample rate to 48kHz or 96kHz (if your computer can handle it, always go with the highest sample rate)

- Set your buffer to 1024

- Make sure all MIDI parts are bounced in place to audio files, then delete the original MIDI tracks. You can save the MIDI parts on a project and then 'save as' a new project to start mixing. That way you can keep the original MIDI parts if you ever have to change the arrangements.

- 'Comp' all audio parts, selecting which parts will make it into the mix. You don't want to have multiple audio options for each part when mixing, as the focus will be on the mix. On Logic Pro X I comp with flatten and merge.

- Use fades (audio fades, not the track volume faders) on each audio track to ensure the audio is clear of pops, string noise and so on. If there are any major issues here you will have to edit the audio using Izotope RX or equivalent, or by hiring someone to edit your audio.

- If you are using FLEX on Logic Pro X ( to correct time issues, pitch issues or both) you will have to bounce in place the audio tracks that have FLEX as well, as FLEX is resource consuming and will get in the way of your mix.

- Turn off low latency mode if that was still on


Gain Staging


Often overlooked, this step aims to achieve equivalent loudness in each track before you mix, with enough headroom for the processes that will follow. The general rule of thumb is to get each track roughly close to -18 dB using a VU meter.

This also ensures that plugins based on analogue gear (like a model of a compressor for example) will be at their sweet spot.

- Add a VU meter to each track (Waves makes a good and cheap one). Set the VU headroom to -18 dB.

- Add a gain plugin as the first element on each track. Be mindful of whether the track is mono or stereo and pick the appropriate version of the gain plugin.

- Set faders to 0 dB.

- Solo each track, and loop its loudest section. Adjust the gain until the peaks hit close to 0 on the VU meter (which means you still have 18 dB headroom). Because VU meters are slow average based meters they won't detect fast peaks. So good idea to check your peak meter on the track channel strip to make sure it doesn't exceed -6 dBFS (ideally -10 dBFS).

- Do this for each track individually. Once this step is done, don't touch the gain plugins again during the mix.


Static Mix


The goal here is to achieve the best mix result possible before any enhancements (EQ, compression, etc) or space (reverb, etc) are added.

So for this stage, only volume faders and pan controls are to be used.

- Balance in height order. The instrument that takes the lead or the centre stage on the song will be at 0dB on the faders, and others will be equal or lower.

- Pan according to taste. It's typical for bass, vocals, kick and snare to be at the centre, but this varies with style of the song, musical era, and who is behind the faders :-)

- The only rule here is to achieve a mix that you love without the enhancements and space effects that will follow. So a 'rough mix' that has the correct levels and pan.

- Use volume automation and pan automation where needed. For example, in many songs the vocals are on the centre stage (louder) when they are in, but then during the solo the main guitar takes that role. So it is typical to have volume automation to increase that guitar volume during the solo.

In the next part of this article series we will publish checklists for enhancement, stereo and space, and listening which will conclude the mix.


Use a template from my store to speed up your mixing process with Logic Pro X:






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