If you are recording in Pro Tools and are sending your music to me for mixing, here are things you can to do prepare the tracks properly before you send them. This will save me time and save you money.

Essential Things To Do

1. Create Memory Location markers of each song's arrangement. You can make these "on the fly" by hitting ENTER as the music plays. After this, reposition the markers as accurately as possible, perhaps using grid mode to move the markers to exact locations. Name them in a clear manner: "Intro, V1a, V1b, Ch1, Transition 1, Bridge, Solo, Outro, Last Chord, Fade starts" or any understandable shorthand.

2. Indicate the average tempo(s) in beats per minute (bpm) if you know it. Make sure any tempo map is in the conductor track if appropriate. Write down any click tempo in a Comments window as well. The same goes for the key or keys of the music. If there are places where it modulates, you can make a Memory Location for these as well.

3. Do a "Save As" and name the session as "[song title] MIX."

4. Use Make Inactive for tracks that are not to be used in the mix. This will make them look grayed out.

5. All essential (i.e. special-effect) plug-ins should be printed to another track, or bounced to disk and imported. Your mixer may not have the same plug-in or the same version of that plug-in. It's okay to leave clearly labeled unprocessed versions of the above processed track.

6. Make sure all the audio files are there on the project drive you are sending. Sometimes files get recorded on the internal drive or other drives accidentally. You can look in the Regions window for this: set it to show full path, and look at the drive name for all the regions. This way you can avoid having to send files at the last minute by FTP or possibly postponing the mix. If volume automation has been used to fade-in or fade-out of regions, replace it with created audio fade-ins and fade-outs. Leave any automation you want used (e.g. BG vocal blends, panning) and label it clearly in the Comments windows. Mark nonessential automation in the session as "Automation may be deleted" in the comments window.

7. Use Mute Regions to mute audio tracks, instead of muting with automation; if you have already used mute automation, redo the mutes using Mute Region instead. To do this, first cut a new region for the section to be muted, then select it and use Command-M to make it gray out. You can check this on all the tracks by selecting All and then switching the track display to show the Mutes "rubber bands."

8. If you are making DVD-Rs with your files, let the verification process complete after the burn. Make sure you have all the files backed up, hopefully in two different places at least, before taking or sending them to mixing.

9. Rename all the tracks in capital letters and with simple names. For example, "bss421LA2A.09" should be changed to BASS or BASS MIC.

10. Clearly indicate the "pick" lead vocal track (if there is one). Indicate how each remaining vocal track is used in the arrangement, as vocal doubles, outtakes, harmonies, background parts, etc.

1. If you have logged enough screen time so that it's easy for you, then clean all edits and punches, getting rid of unwanted noise before and after the desired instrument begins. With the Auto Region Fade In/Out Length (TDM only) set to "O ms," make sure there are no clicks and pops or chopped-off breaths; use crossfades as necessary.

2. If there is a cool noise that you want to keep but one that a mixer might think extraneous (perhaps a mic stand falling over at the end of a track or a dog barking off-mic), mark this clearly with a marker and also in the comments window of that track.

3. Then use Duplicate Playlist to create a playlist copy of the cleaned-up tracks. Then consolidate the regions on the duplicate playlist track into solid audio starting from the beginning of the session - but do this only when you are completely finished editing them and have cleaned up all the edit points so there are no clicks or pops. (If you start all the consolidated regions at exactly the same time, even if that leaves lots of dead space at the start, then the files can be mixed in other software platforms more easily. Use a locate point to make sure the start is sample-accurate for all the files, or just start them all at 00:00:00.)

4. Label Aux Inputs with direction (to/from) and the name of the outboard gear or plug-in used. (One quick way to do this is by clicking once on the name of the input, then "right-click" to bring up the Rename option.

5. Keep Aux Input returns of submixed tracks (e.g. BG Vocals or Drums) adjacent to their source tracks.

6. Generally keep Effects Returns (Aux Inputs) and the Mix Bus (Master Fader) at one end of the mixer display, preferably to the right and bottom, or optionally to the left and top of the session.

7. Keep a recent rough mix, labeled with song title and date, on a pair of tracks at the top or bottom of the session. You can write a comment that says what you like (and don't like) about the rough mix.

8. Color-code the tracks in some way that makes sense to you: perhaps make all drum tracks purple, all electric guitar tracks yellow, the master fader red, etc.

In writing this, I've referenced the RIAA Standard Practices Guidelines, long and short forms (available at grammy.com or at producersandengineers.com). These are admirably thorough. Thanks to Don Dixon, Brent Lambert, Chris Wimberly and Mitch Easter as well. www.chrisstamey.com