Production Advice: Preparing Your Tracks For Mixing

We have been professionally mixing and mastering our clients’ music for over ten years. We can turn your flat and muddy tracks into professional sounding productions within a very short time ready to be played in the club or uploaded to streaming services.

A stem mixdown is the process of bouncing all the channels in your song to individual audio files, which are then combined into a single ‘premaster’ file, ready to be mastered.

Below we have some guidelines to follow when exporting stems for each instrument, vocal and other channels in your project. These instructions are universal and should be easy to replicate on pretty much any DAW such as Ableton, Cubase, Bitwig, Logic, ProTools, FL Studio etc.

Please read through this guide before you bounce your tracks to stems in order for the Mixdown and Master to be carried out by us.


  • Levels – Ensure there is no “red-lining” or “clipping” occurring at any point during the track. The best way to check this is to play the track from start to finish and keep your eye on the volume levels of each channel and the master. If anything is going into the red then this needs to be brought down in volume.
  • Headroom – Bring the levels of all channels down equally so that there is enough “headroom” in the track to avoid any clipping, apart from the Master Volume which should always be set at 0, but never going into the red.
  • Naming – Make sure each channel/track is labelled correctly, so the engineer can easily identify what the track is. (Kick, Bass, Percussion, Lead, Low Pad, Hi Pad, Atmos, FX, Hats etc…)
  • Effects – RETAIN all creative effects you have used on each channel. This includes Delay, Reverb, Chorus, Saturation etc. If for whatever reason we require you to remove an effect on a certain sound we will be in touch to arrange this.
  • Dynamics and Panning – RETAIN all panning you have put into your track. With regards to compression and EQ, this is your choice. If you are experienced with compressors and equalization, and these effects integral to your sound, you can leave it on. If in doubt, bypass any compression.

Bus/Return Channels – If you have “Bussed” or “Sent” your channels to an effect ‘Bus’ (Logic), Aux (ProTools) or ‘Return’ (Ableton), then these will need to be bounced also.

Master Channel – The master volume fader be set at 0db. Like with the individual channels this should never “red-line” at any point of the track. There should be no processors or audio effects on the master channel whatsoever (e.g. Compressors, EQ etc). If you are using ‘master effects’ for filtering e.g. to create tension in a drop/breakdown, leave them on. It wont effect the individual stems, but it will be printed onto the master bounce that we can use for reference and means we can effectively replicate the effect.

Which Stems To Bounce...

Where possible we recommend GROUPING certain sounds together to prevent there being over 30 stems in your track.  


You may have already done this in some areas such as percussion, where you have used a virtual drum rack/machine in your DAW to host multiple percussive elements.

This is fine, however we recommend at least having the KICK DRUM separated out from any drum groupings you may have.

As an example, we recommend something along the lines of this;

  • Kick
  • Bass
  • Mid percussion (claps, snares)
  • Hi percussion (hats, rides)
  • Other percussion
  • Lead Synth
  • Guitars
  • Stab / Chord
  • Strings
  • Pads
  • FX
  • Atmos
  • Busses / Return effects


Once you have the prepared the project you can export (also referred to as bounce, render or print) the stems. Depending on your DAW this may vary in terms of method, but essentially you need to export the individual channels into their own .Wav or .Aiff file.

  • Format – .Wav or .Aiff
  • Sample Rate – 44100
  • Bit Depth – 24 

Save the stems into a new folder named “[Track Name] Stem name”.

Once this is complete you will want to compress the folder and send via wetransfer or to info@znlmastering.com

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