Basic Clean Up

  • 1
    At first, please check your tracks for any unwanted noise, clicks, pops and other stuff that's not part of the final production.
  • 2
    Cut out everything that needs to go, trim the beginnings and endings, so that there's just the useful information and no unwanted noise.
  • 3
    Make fades or crossfades in the beginnings, endings, and where files overlap, to prevent clicks. Never fade into the actual audio! Zoom in and double check to make sure the very beginning of the waveform is intact.

Check And Adjust The Gain

Now that you have every track and every part as a WAV file, please check the gain on all the WAV files. Make sure the faders are at zero ("0") and you have at least -6dB headroom on each individual track. That means no individual channel meter should show more than -6dB peak with faders at zero. To adjust that, use the "clip gain" function in your DAW, or insert a simple "gain" or "trim" plugin to adjust it. 

If you are using plugins that are an essential part of the sound, leave them on and adjust the output of the last plugin in the chain, so that you have enough headroom.

"Headroom" means space between the actual peaks of the signal and 0dBFS (clipping happens if the signal goes over 0dBFS. This has to be avoided, unless it's a conscious creative decision)

This headroom check is crucial for the next steps! So don't skip it, please!

Consolidate Takes And Tracks

  • 1
    Drag all the individual events that have the same sound and belong to the same microphone onto one track, unless they overlap or unless they are different layers that are meant to be on top of each other. So there should be no single instrument that's split up into different tracks, just because it was a different take for each part. Only leave overlapping parts on individual tracks.
  • 2
    Make crossfades between the different events you have now on each track to prevent clicks. Make sure the crossfades are as short as possible and don't accidentally remove anything.
  • 3
    Consolidate the events to one single WAV file per track.

Check And Adjust Starting Point For Export

Check how you've set the starting point for your export. That's a little different in every DAW. Just make sure when you hit export, that every single track is exported from the same starting point. If the actual part on that track only comes in at the end of the song, export it still right from the beginning, so that it aligns with all the others, when imported into a new session. 

The starting point should be at beat 1 of a bar, so that it's also aligned to the click, when imported into a new session. 

It doesn't matter how many bars of space you leave before the actual song starts.

Check If Mono Or Stereo

Check if all your tracks are really stereo or in fact mono. Many people export stereo files, although it's actually all mono. A single microphone, for example is mono. A guitar DI is mono. Real stereo tracks are very rare. The only things that are really stereo in your songs, are probably MIDI instruments, like Synths. 

All of the microphones you recorded are mono, except for when you recorded a pair of microphones onto one stereo track on purpose.

Stereo means, that left and right are not the same. So every track that comes straight out of the middle, when you listen in solo, is mono, because left & right are identical. Every track that clearly has different information coming from left & right, is stereo.

Once you've identified what's mono and what's stereo, adjust the export settings accordingly, or convert the tracks in your DAW before exporting. So that you end up with all mono files, except for when it's a real stereo track. Oftentimes people use stereo tracks for everything, even for the mono stuff. That results in unnecessarily large files and requires higher processing power.

If you skipped the gain adjustment and don't have enough headroom, you can get clipping and distortion here, because converting to mono increases the level.

Label Tracks

Label all your tracks in a way that makes sense to any stranger. Don't use the names of the players or anything like that. The microphones used are also not important. 

What's important is the source that's on that track. Also, it helps a lot to put numbers in front of everything, so that it automatically has a logical order, when imported. 

A good example for names and order would be the following:

01 Kick in
02 Kick out
03 Snare top
04 Snare bottom
05 Tom 1
06 Tom 2
07 Tom 3
08 HiHat
09 Ride
10 Overhead L
11 Overhead R
12 Room L
13 Room R
14 Bass DI
15 Bass Amp
16 Rhythm GTR 1 DI
17 Rhythm GTR 1 Mic 1
18 Rhythm GTR 1 Mic 2
19 Rhythm GTR 2 DI
20 Rhythm GTR 2 Mic 1
21 Rhythm GTR 2 Mic 2
22 Synth 1 (Bass)
23 Synth 2 (Lead)
24 Synth 3 (Pad)
25 Lead Vocals 1
26 Lead Vocals 2
27 Vocal Doubles 1 L
28 Vocal Doubles 1 R
29 Vocal Doubles 2 L
30 Vocal Doubles 2 R
31 Harmony Vocals 1
32 Harmony Vocals 2
33 Back Vocals 1
34 Back Vocals 2
35 Back Vocals 3
36 Back Vocals 4
37 Gang Vocals 1
38 Gang Vocals 2
39 SFX 1
40 SFX 2

Use this as a template and insert what's missing, or remove what's not used in your case.

Create And Label Folders

Create folders on your computer with the following structure and labelling:

Band name -> Project name -> Song name

Create one folder per song inside the "project name" folder.

Export Tracks

Export all your tracks of each song into the folder labeled after that song. Mono as mono, stereo as stereo. Check for clipping and make sure all unwanted effects are off and all faders and pans are at "0". Also, check the starting point again. It has to be exactly the same for all tracks.

Create Info Sheet

Create an info sheet for the whole record and one for each track. It should have the following data on it:

  • 1
    Song title
  • 2
    Tempo (in bpm)
  • 3
    Time signature (4/4, 3/4, 6/8, etc). If there are tempo changes within a song, make sure to export the tempo map, as well. To do that, export a simple MIDI file with one note at the starting point and one at the end of the song. Importing that into a new session, will automatically import the tempo and time signature information, including all tempo changes between the two notes.
  • 4
    Lyrics
  • 5
    Any additional info about your vision, possible reference tracks, things you like or don't like in your raw recordings, things you want me to emphasize, things you want me to hide, special effects I should add, any certain vibe that has to be created, etc.
  • 6
    The info sheet for the whole record should contain everything you want me to know about the record, that we haven't already been talking about when we started the project. There should also be the song order and any meta data like ISRC codes or EAN/UPC codes, or anything like that.
  • 7
    Include sheets in your folders

Check Folders, ZIP, And Label Them

Double check all your folders. Test your files and see if they align perfectly, don't clip and contain the right audio. To do that it's best to open an empty session and just import everything by dragging it to the same beat 1 of a bar. Import MIDI first! The tempo map should be there and everything should be aligned perfectly throughout the whole song when you do that. Hit play and listen. 

If all is good, zip the whole band folder and label the ZIP file (band name). If that file gets too large, zip the individual song folders, instead. Send the project info sheet separately in this case.

Upload / Transfer

Send the ZIP file via Dropbox, WeTransfer or anything like that. Please don't add me to a Dropbox folder, but instead send the link to the ZIP file, so I can just download it. 

You're done! Thanks! :)

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