Bouncing Tracks to Audio

Have you ever felt that a piece you’re working on sounds a bit muddy or congested?
There could be a lot of reasons for this; still, converting your tracks into audio is a
particularly great area to begin. Moreover, it is an acutely accurate way to get utter
control over your individual tracks. Let’s get right into it.

The first thing I will do in this process is create a new midi track and throw a sampler
onto it.

Now, unless you want a specific effect on, for instance, what I’ve used for this example:
KICK 2, you probably wouldn’t use this method. Of course you could, especially if you
were to use a drum rack.

Instead, I prefer to put one-shot (kicks, snares, percs, etc) samples directly into my
arrangement. These methods of taking midi and bouncing them to audio are favorable to
those that tend to take the most space in your mix.

This would include your lead synth, for example. You can accomplish a lot if you know
when to put effects on which tracks. I will speak more on all of this later on. For all
intents and purposes, and to keep things simple and easy to see, let’s use a simple sine
wave
.

figure 1

I’ve searched through my library and found a decent enough kick to use for this example.

(Remember to normalize your sample)

figure 2Moving further, I’ve placed out a sequence four bars long with a 4-on-the-floor style beat.

The next step will be deciding which method we will use to bounce our short midi clip to
a short audio clip. Yes, it matters.

There are two distinct ways of going about this and I will go over both of them, why they
matter, how they’re different, and when to use each.

First Method

The typical quick and easy way to convert your track from a midi track to an audio one
is to freeze it. To do this, the first thing you need to do is right click on the desired track
and go down to duplicate.

figure 3

Or, you can learn the hotkey. Learning the hotkeys should certainly be in the back of your
head if you’re new to Ableton, generally if you’re new to music creation as well.

Knowing the hotkeys will allow your workflow to – well, flow. Below, are the hotkeys for
duplicating anything within your live session that you are selected on. This could include
a track in either views, midi clips, samples, effects, etc.

windows macintosh

figure 4Once you have duplicated your track, on
said duplicated track (2 KICK 2, see
figure 4) right click and select “Freeze
Track.” There is no hotkey for this. Once
the track is frozen (Let it go), the entire
track will turn a different color,
depending on the skin you have set, that
will overlay everything. While a track is
frozen you cannot edit any of its contents. You may still move the midi clips around your arrangement, yet you may not edit the clips. This is helpful at times that you want to keep a track from having its parameters accidentally messed with.

Furthermore, and more importantly, freezing a track will help save some of your CPU and limit latency. When tracks begin to become complicated, this may come in hand.

You’ve frozen the duplication of the original track, from this point you want to once more
right click on the duplicated track, in this case 2 KICK 2, and select “Flatten.”

figure 5

After the track has been flattened, it will no longer be a midi track and it becomes an
audio track. The midi clip itself transfers into straight audio.

Freeze

I use this method quite frequently in the process of developing my own tracks. For
instance, earlier I spoke about the fact that I tend to drag samples like this directly into
my arrangement.

I do this more often than not, however there are times that I may want to first put my
kick, for example, into a midi track. Why?

Well, if you were to use an instrument rack and layer your sample you could freeze and
flatten the track to have one, adhesive, sound. Or if you wanted to put effects on the
sample prior to becoming an audio track, you may do that as well. More on that later.

Second Method

In the second method we will be recording the original track (KICK 2) with another,
resampling, track. This is the most time consuming of the two, and unless it is absolutely
necessary, it isn’t a practical option.

First, create a new audio track, make sure you can see the inputs and outputs: View – >
In/Out. Of the Audio track, select the input type, then resampling.

resampling

The track shall now be primed to be resampled. From here, activate the track to record
by selecting the grey square with the black circle in the center.  black dot It should turn red.
red dot

 

Solo the track that you wish to record. Although, this may incorporate several tracks if
you require it.

figure 7

If the tracks you want to record are soloed and ready to go, click the record button at the
top. It is normally a black circle associated with the Play and Stop buttons.

While recording the circle becomes red.

recording red

length

Record the length that you desire and pause the clip. Once you’ve recorded in your audio
you may move the audio clip around to anywhere you want. I like to have a blank
resampling track ready to go for whenever I need to record something.

You can use the input type menu to additionally record any sound within your session.
Including the master track, other specific tracks, buses, and even return tracks.

Why They Matter

Bouncing your tracks out to audio is a good practice to maintain. You gain access to
complete control over the sound waves that you may manipulate in any way you can
imagine.

Using fades will help clean out your mix. As will cutting off long tails that may stagger
behind.

Typically these will be reverb tails, although if you were dealing with bass, this would
also include the release of the sine wave. To repeat, having the audio from a midi track
allows for controlling the waveform and cleaning it up.

How They’re Different

You may be wondering how these two methods are even different from one another.

It may not seem like it, but they are actually quite diverse. You can use each method to
your advantage, and this where it is up to be creative with it.

Depending on where you place effects and when, you can achieve exceedingly various
sounds. Specifically, you could bounce an empty track with no effects to audio using the
first method, reverse the audio track, bring in a reverb effect, and reverse the audio track
once more.

In effect, you will end up with a nice “preverb” to your sample. This is just one example
of the possibilities. There are far too many tricks with this to go over here.

Maybe we’ll delve deeper another day. I will add though that it is best to do primarily
most of your mixing after you transfer the track to audio. At least until you begin to
master your track. This is really personal preference though.

When To Use Each

As previously mentioned, this is your time to shine. Putting your own tastes on the output
of the sound. The quick and easy way would be method one.

In contrast if you come up with an interesting way record the audio you would use
method two. Remember the flow of audio. It is that of a river. The first thing that will
trigger is the audio itself.

Next, it will trickle through each of the effects in the order they’re presented in the device
view. After this, the sound may go through any return tracks if you have it directed to
them.

And lastly, the sound will output through the master track. At every level the sound may
be affected. Knowing this is essential to understanding the different angles achievable
using one of these two methods.

To illustrate, using method one you could have effects on the track you plan to freeze.
Using method two, you may place effects on the resampling track that will play live with
the recording.

Think about the way that each of these methods work and the result they leave. It may not
be inherently obvious, but try playing around with each of the two methods I’ve outlined
in this passage.

There is a lot that can be done with something as simple as this. And even if you do
nothing else, it is a wonderful way to control and clean each specific sound within your
mix.

About The Author:

Steven Holsey is an electronic music producer and writer for BassGorilla.com. Follow
him on SoundCloud here https://soundcloud.com/holsey