A guide to mixing music - Part 134Getting started Alternative mixes - Part 2
Last week we started discussing the importance of exporting alternative mixes starting with the basic ones you need, namely Vocal Up, Vocal Down, Instrumental, and A Capella. Today I will take it even further my suggesting other alternative mixes that might come in handy in different situations.
To infinity and beyond!
Let's start with the Playback version. This version is often confused with the Instrumental one, but there is one huge difference: while both the Playback and Instrumental versions don't feature the main vocals, the Playback export does include the backing vocals. What is this mix good for? Well, as the name implies, it can be very useful for semi-live situations on the radio, TV, for a podcast, a festival, etc. I know this is not something everybody does on a regular basis, but you never know when you might need it and, in my opinion, you shouldn't neglect it. So, if by any chance you get such a proposal – something I wouldn't wish for my worst enemies – you would be very happy for having taken the necessary precautions. Trust me.
Another alternative mix you might want to consider is the one I call "For all audiences." The goal here is to leave out any parts that may be considered "shocking" or "explicit" to certain listeners... and, especially, broadcasters. Granted, this is very specific and doesn't apply to all genres, plus the media outlets where you will probably be promoting your music are likely not too concerned about this issue. But, again, you never know and it's better to be prepared in advance. This version is a bit more tedious than the other ones because it entails a good dose of editing, though. There are several options to mask the problematic parts: from the classic use of beeps to replace the expletives, the removal of any explicit language or even the reversing of the unpleasant words.
Finally, I also recommend you to export your mix in the form of stems, in other words a file for each instrument group: drums, bass, synths, guitars, vocals, backing vocals, etc. – with and without effects. Why, you ask? There are several good reasons for that.
First off, the stems can be really useful when your tracks are going to be remixed by another engineer or another artist. An option that can be very interesting because it allows you to make your work known to other audiences different to yours.
Besides, you must be aware that the computer music world is a paradigm in terms of planned obsolescence. This means that, sooner or later, a day will come when your mix sessions will stop working due to a change of computer, or an update of your operating system, DAW or even some plug-ins. So it's better to be safe than sorry and these stems will allow you to limit the damages when the D day comes. You obviously won't be able to change any plug-in or automation settings, but something is better than nothing, right? And once again I remind that none of this will work unless you have taken the necessary precautions to make sure that the beginning and end points of all exports are exactly the same.
And that's it for today. And for this series of articles... Not really. I still have a couple of things to say. Like what, you ask? Keep tuned and you'll find out next week...