Stereo & Dolby ATMOS
MIXING & MASTERING
What can I expect when I hire you to mix?
I mix as your advocate, and I'm here to ensure you sound the best you can. Just like a director hires an editor to put their film together to tell a story, I mix with a focus on bringing out what is emotionally possible in your music. When you hire me to mix, you hire me based on my taste, filter, and perspective of how I hear the music. I operate with the agenda of creating the most emotional impact to the listener I can. I strive to bring out clarity, power & strength in your songs (or vulnerability if that's what is needed). I'm here to help you sound competitive and make something that will last and stand the test of time.
Can we send you our rough mix and have you use that as a guide?
Absolutely! I prefer that method. The rough mix is something I refer to for general direction as well as an inventory of parts.
We need a mixer that we can tell what we want and have them push buttons for us. Can you do that?
No. I'm not your guy for that approach. That's not how I work.
We love our demos; can you replicate those?
No. If you love your demos, you might consider having those mastered and releasing those. That's not how I work.
We mixed ourselves and want someone to "finish" our mixes. Can you do that?
No. That's not how I work.
Can I attend the initial mix session?
Can I watch you mix so I can learn how?
I do my best work for you when I can work alone and without interruption. That said, meeting in person for mix revisions is sometimes best. More on that below.
What can I expect from the revision process?
I do most of my revisions online over video these days. Sometimes I request that you attend a mix revision session in person if possible. Some revisions are just best done with you sitting next to me and helping explain concepts or details. The process typically goes as follows.
Once I send a "Version 1" of a mix, and you have had a chance to sit with it for a few days, you might want to change some things. We can then book a short revision session over Zoom where we see each other; I share my Pro Tools screen and send you a dedicated audio feed from the Pro Tools session for you to hear the mix in real-time at a higher quality than Zoom allows.
The goals of the revision process are to adjust broad stoke ideas in the mix, such as hearing the lead vocal louder or with more or less reverb. (Some people hate reverb!) Or to highlight parts that need highlighting. Ideally, we are there to improve the song and not satisfy egos or calm insecurities.
What if we disagree on a mixing decision?
I will ultimately defer to you in a disagreement where you feel strongly about something. That said, I will tell you what I think and be honest as a listener and fan of your music. What I bring to the table is a fresh perspective unbiased by band member relationships or any other drama that may exist. My agenda is to make your song feel the best it can. Nothing more, nothing less.
How do I prep the session and files for mixing?
I'll guide you through the process once we begin. I mix in Pro Tools and Logic and will help you prepare your files for mixing in one of those DAWs.
What’s included in the price?
Delivery of Final and Instrumental Mixes
Revisions, if needed.
After two revisions of a song, I charge hourly.
What about mix stems, alternative version edits, or “clean” mixes?
Creating stems (i.e., sub-mixes of drums, guitars, vocals, etc.) are billed at an hourly rate. The same goes for alternate mixes, such as clean mixes, version edits, etc.
What’s the difference between Stems and Tracks?
Tracks are the individual multitrack files in the DAW session or on a tape reel. These elements include Snare Top, Kick Drum, Hat, Guitar Lead, Vocal, etc.
Stems are stereo-mixed groups of instruments (drums, guitars, bass, or vocals and effects groups) that would add up to the stereo-mix when played together.
Do you include vocal tuning or detailed audio editing?
Detailed vocal tuning (outside of just adding Auto-Tune on a track) and any major editing (editing drums, cleaning up noise on tracks, etc.) are billed hourly. A flat fee can also be added to each song when mixing.
Do you charge hourly or by song?
I charge by the song. I consider the track count, song length, complexity of the project, and expectations and customize a price that makes sense for your project. I do charge hourly for additional tasks, such as stem creation or detailed vocal tuning.
Dolby ATMOS Music Mixing
What the heck is Dolby ATMOS?
Dolby ATMOS is an immersive audio format where the music can engulf you in sound and emotion, much like music and sound in real life, or can be made surreal in an amazing way.
Unlike previous “surround” formats, Dolby ATMOS is scalable. Ok, what does that mean? With older formats like 5.1, you need many speakers to play all the sounds in a surround music mix. If you were missing the rear speakers, you might completely miss hearing the cello and violas panned to the rear speakers. With ATMOS, streaming companies have added Dolby licenses to each device that can play the format, like iPhones, Android phones, Apple TV, Firestick HD, an ATMOS-capable soundbar, Homepod, and many others. With ATMOS, the algorithm checks your device's speaker configuration. Is it connected to headphones? 2 speakers, and a subwoofer? 7 speakers around you, 4 above, and 1 subwoofer (7.1.4) or more? Then, the device will play back a version of the ATMOS mix formatted to sound best on your device's speaker or headphones configuration. That is the “scalable” part. The most amazing versions are often multi-speaker systems, but headphone versions can be great and give a more immersive experience than a stereo mix. Much like stereo mixes, the immersive mix experience can rely heavily on the skill of the mixing engineer and the care taken to ensure your music translates both to the format and different devices.
What services play music in Dolby ATMOS?
Apple Music offers Spatial Audio (their version of delivering ATMOS mixes) to their 60 million plus listeners! Depending on your subscription, Tidal also plays ATMOS mixes, as does Amazon music. Other services offer it, and more are coming online all the time to offer this exploding new format. We love listening and mixing in ATMOS!
How will I be able to check mixes if I don’t have an ATMOS-capable speaker setup at my house?
If you live close to the San Francisco Bay Area that's easy. I'll have you come to my spot to hear a mix in person. It's the best way to experience ATMOS.
If you live close to Los Angeles or Nashville, I can make arrangements with Dolby ATMOS playback studios in those cities for you to listen to speakers for the ultimate experience.
If you live outside the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, or Nashville and don’t have a Dolby-approved studio near you, I will send you files to approve over headphones. You can hear the mixes the way most headphone users will hear them, and give me your thoughts on anything you would like to alter. I'll guide you through the process, so you know how the different formats, like headphones versus speakers, should compare. I will create mixes that work best both for the rapidly-growing speaker technology market (soundbars, home theaters, all-in-ones like Homepods and Sonos units, and some computers) AND in headphones. I want your music to translate well to as many experiences as possible.
If I get an ATMOS mix, do I still have to have a stereo mix done?
To have an ATMOS mix on a streaming site such as Apple Music, you need to have an accompanying stereo mix of your music.
Do I need to pay for an ATMOS AND Stereo mix?
It is common practice to have a stereo mix done separately from an ATMOS mix. However, I know some people are paying for an ATMOS mix and creating a 2.0 “Downmix” to be used as the stereo mix. I'm open to discussing an ATMOS-to-stereo mixing option or a potential 2.0-downmix possibility with you, but I currently do the two mixes separately.
I already have a stereo mix. Can I hire you to do the ATMOS mix only?
Yes! I can walk you through the steps to getting the files I need.
What kind of file do I receive from an ATMOS mix?
You will receive what is called an ADM WAV file. The file appears to be a familiar WAV file but is much larger. It contains the ATMOS multi-channel audio with extra metadata for proper playback on speaker systems and headphones. You should make sure you choose a digital music distributor, such as Distrokid, Tunecore, or Avid Play, that also supports ATMOS mix distribution. If you are on a Major Label, this is not a factor.
Do I need to have my ATMOS mix mastered?
I master my Dolby ATMOS mixes of your music. This is included in the price when you hire me for an ATMOS mix.
Why do I need mastering if you mix it also?
Usually, the initial mix is created to be balanced and deliver emotional impact from the instruments and vocals. Then that mix is mastered in context with an overall perspective to meet certain audio and file specifications for release using the best final “polish.”
What files do you need from me?
High-resolution wav files (96kHz, 48kHz, 44.1kHz, at 24 or 32 Bit) are preferred. If you have a limiter on the stereo buss of the mix to make it loud, I would prefer to have a version of the mix with it and one without it. If I'm mastering one song that is part of a collection already released, it is helpful to have the other song masters as well.
What files will I receive?
You will receive mastered stereo WAV files at the resolution you sent me, ready to upload to your digital distributor, such as DistroKid, CD Baby, etc.
You will receive a DDP file to send to your CD pressing plant if pressing CDs.
Will you include ISRC codes?
If you are pressing CDs, I ask the clients to acquire them before contacting me. You can do that at http://usisrc.org/
If doing Digital Distribution, most services provide them when uploading.
Can I attend the mix or mastering sessions if I am in the area?
While I enjoy having people in the studio, I do my best work independently, based on your notes.
Why don’t you print the prices?
Each project is different. The price will differ depending on track count, length, and the number of songs. I don’t just mix and master your music; I enter into a relationship with your project where communication and your vision are top priorities. I will follow up on my quote with a call or text to start that journey together.
What are your payment terms?
I kindly ask for 50% of the payment before the project starts and 50% before the delivery of final mixes or masters. For you to reference the mix of your song, I will send you streaming links until full payment is completed. I accept Paypal, Venmo, credit cards, etc. Payment service processing fees are extra.
Can I hire you to record?
Yes, you can! I've done it for over 28 years. I am happy to travel to you or record here in the Bay Area, where I have relationships with most studios.
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