Illustration: Michael Haddad
Exporting (also called bouncing) is the final step in getting music out of your DAW and into people’s ears.
How you set up this part of the process can make all the difference. Do you want to just get a quick draft over to your friends for feedback, or are you totally finished with a mix and looking to get it mastered by a professional engineer? Or, perhaps you’ve already mastered the track yourself, and you’re looking to export your final song so you can upload it to streaming services. These are all important considerations to make when exporting / bouncing a project to your hard drive as its own rendered audio file (or files).
In this article, let’s learn how to export our music in a way that best serves our unique needs by diving into some of the most common settings you’ll find in your DAW.
How to set up your tracks for exporting
The first step to bouncing is choosing exactly what to render to audio. It’s important to make sure that your exported track is starting and ending at the right times. Otherwise, you might find that parts of your song are missing, or end up with a bunch of silence at the end.
For example, in Ableton Live, you can control the start and end of your track either directly in the export options or by using the loop markers in your Arrangement View to select only the part of the session you actually want to render. When exporting just a single stereo file, all you need to do is select your Master Track as the source.
However, most DAWs will also have an option to render multiple tracks from your project as separate audio files. This is very useful if someone wants to remix your track, since they’ll have way more control over each individual element if they’re isolated. Some mastering engineers may also request that you export your song as separate stems rather than a single file.
The best settings for bouncing audio
While the exact workflow may vary, all DAWs share a number of common settings for bouncing audio. Below, we take a look at each and explore the implications they’ll have on your final export.
1. Audio resolution
Two of the most important factors affecting the quality of your digital audio are sample rate and bit depth, so you generally don’t want to set these any lower than the audio you’ve been working with in your project if you’re getting a track mastered or sending it out for distribution. Sample rate determines the range of sound frequencies stored in an audio file, and you can’t really go wrong with the industry standard of 44.1 kHz. Meanwhile, bit depth determines the dynamic range of your audio, so you’ll want to go with a higher value that matches the audio you’ve been working with (like 16, 24, or 32-bit).
When audio leaves your DAW, you’ll pretty much always need to apply something called dithering which helps clean up any errors during the rendering process. Check out our guide on dithering for more on how it works and why it’s used. There are situations in which you may not need to apply dithering when getting a track ready for mastering, but definitely check with your engineer first!
Normalization basically brings up the level of your track so that it’s as loud as possible. You can keep this parameter checked if you’re completely done with your track or want to send it out for feedback, but avoid normalizing if you want to get it mastered. Engineers prefer files with lower gain levels because it gives them more ‘headroom’ to apply effects and processing without hitting the limit at which digital audio starts clipping and distorting.
4. File type
Here, you’ll choose which file type your track will be rendered to. Uncompressed formats like .wav and AIFF are pretty interchangeable and are absolutely vital for mastering or bringing your music into another DAW because they keep the audio as high-quality as possible. That said, compressed formats like mp3 will work in a pinch if you just want to quickly send a song to your friends.
So there you have it! While the above parameters are by no means the only settings you’ll find on a DAW export screen, keeping them in mind will ensure that your bounces deliver in various contexts. Do you have any additional questions on exporting music, or tips of your own that you’d like to share? Start a conversation with us and the larger music creator community via the Splice Discord.
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May 25, 2023