Bounce Song Stems in Ableton – What You Need To Know

There is a video I made on how to bounce stems in Ableton Live at the bottom of this post 

Why would you want to bounce song stems

  1. To share your song project with other people
  2. To transfer your song into a different DAW
  3. To save CPU usage and ram so that your computer is faster – or run your project on a laptop rather then in the studio
  4. To clean up a cluttered and confusing song projects
  5. To have a good back up

Why do you want to make stems?   Depending on your answer, you may want to use different methods of creating stems.

For example, I want to bounce song stems to make a less cluttered project I could mix on my laptop.  Because of this,  I want to keep all the tracks sounding exactly the same.  I am not going to remove automation, or turn off effects, or normalize the tracks.

If you are sending the project to a mix engineer you may want to delete all of the automation and effects.  It just depends on what you are trying to do

I rendered all the tracks to stems, but when I put them in a new project it doesn’t sound the same

Yep, this is the exact problem I had and why I have made this tutorial.   I had a complicated project I wanted to bounce to stems to make editing easier, but when I imported the stems into a new Ableton project it sounded a lot different then my original mix.  Here is why:

  1. I had a lot of group tracks.  If you don’t mute the sub group tracks in your new project you will hear all of them.
  2. I had effects and automation on the master chain

I will delve more into this later in the post, but first lets go through some basics.

Save yourself a new project to make stems with

This way you don’t screw up your old mix if you end up fiddling with stuff.

All rendered tracks are done post fader

This means Ableton will render what you hear after all effects, pan, volume, and midi instruments on the track.   In other words, it will take the render at the end of the chain, the very end of the track.

Remember it renders Solos, Mutes and Automation

Don’t forget to activate your tracks, make sure their respective track button is green and turn off any soloed tracks.

Ableton Renders Solos, Mutes and Automation
Ableton Renders Solos, Mutes and Automation

Make sure you push the “back to arrangement button”

For the sake of this tutorial, we don’t want to render session clips.  I am just referring to rendering tracks on the arrangement view.  Because of this, we want to make sure our session clips are not playing in the background or they will get rendered too.  Just make sure the orange “back to arrangement button” has been clicked and is no longer showing.  This means your session clips will not play or be rendered.

Ableton Switch Back to Arrangement Button
Ableton Switch Back to Arrangement Button


Musician's Friend Stupid Deal of the Day

 

A good method of naming tracks before exporting multiple stems

When you export multiple stems using the “All Individual Tracks” export method, it is a good idea to number, sub number and label return tracks.  This way when you import them into a new project you know what tracks are sub groups and returns.    Usually we all have our tracks named already, but the problem I had, is that I didn’t know which were sub group tracks.  I have come up with this way of naming the tracks-

  • Regular Track =  1-0, 2-0, 3-0 and so on
  • Main Group Track = 1-0, 2-0, 3-0 and so on
  • Sub Group Track =  If the main group track was “3-0” then the sub group tracks would start at “3-1” and keep going “3-2”, “3-3”, “3-4” etc.
  • Return Track = A, B, C and so on followed by the name of the track.  For example “A Reverb”, “B Delay” etc.
  • Master = You cant rename the master.  If you don’t have more then 12 return tracks it will end up as the last track.  If you have more than 12 return tracks,  you will just have to pluck it out your tracks and drag it to the first or last track.

When you drag these tracks into a new project they will be organized by the track number.  The sub group tracks will be organized after the main group tracks and will be easy to identify. It will also be easy to see the return tracks.

Organized Way To Render Ableton Stems
Organized Way To Render Ableton Stems

The 4 different ways to bounce tracks in Ableton

  1.  Master
  2. All Individual Tracks
  3. Selected Tracks Only
  4. Particular Single Tracks from The Drop Down Menu
Exporting Ableton Stems - The 4 Methods
Exporting Ableton Stems – The 4 Methods

What these different render options do. . . and their limitations

  • Master
    • Simple –  once stereo or mono file of your master mix buss
  • All Individual Tracks
    • Each individual track as its own stem
    • Each main group track mix as a single stem
    • All of the sub group tracks as individual single stem
    • All of the return tracks as individual single stem
    • The master buss track as a single individual stem
  • Selected Tracks Only  (Watch out, it has some limitations – See Below)
    • You can select multiple tracks by holding the control key and selecting multiple tracks.  The ones selected and highlighted will be bounced down to individual stems.   Unfortunately, you will be unable to select from these different sections at the same time – main tracks, sub group tracks, aux track, master buss track.  You can only render from one of those four different sections at a time.  I describe more on this below.
      • multiple main tracks at once – you will not be able to include aux tracks, sub group, or the master track.  If you were to select tracks inside a group track, then close the group track and select other tracks, Ableton would only stem out the main mixed group track, not the sub group tracks.  This is because of Ableton’s selection method.  If you hold down control and select a few tracks inside a group track, you have to close the group to select tracks outside the group.  This causes the mixed main group track to be selected.  Hence only the main group track mix will be stemmed out – not the individual sub group tracks that you selected inside the main group track.
      • multiple sub group tracks inside a one particular group track .  You can stem out individual tracks inside a group track using this method, but you can only stem multiple sub group tracks in one particular group per render.
      • multiple return tracks at once.  You can select multiple return tracks per render, but you will not be able to include any other tracks.  You will have stem other tracks in a separate render.
      • mater track – you can only do a master track by itself and not include any other tracks
  • Particular Single Tracks Listed – Easy, choose one track from the drop down list to stem out.

Select the amount of time to render.

You can do this by clicking and dragging in the project to select and highlight an area.   You can also position your loop bar to where you want to render then click it so it highlights the time.  After you enter the render menu, you can adjust the selected render time.

Quick Terminology   Render = Bounce = Print 

(for the most part, but if you want to get technical, bounce is usually refereed to rendering a mix of multiple tracks and printing tracks is used a lot when talking about rendering MIDI tracks into audio tracks.)

Go here to render and bounce song stems

File / Export Audio-Video / Rendered Track – “Select from the drop down Menu”

How to Export Ableton Stems
How to Export Ableton Stems

You can re-adjust the selection time of what is rendered here if needed

Just a note, if you adjust the time in the render menu, the render length is how many bars the render is, it is not the bar number the render ends at.

Ableton Render Lenght not End Bar
Ableton Render Lenght not End Bar

Render as Loop

If you select this option, it will add any trailing effects such as reverb or delay from the end of the render to the beginning of the tracks.  You would use this if you are going to use the rendered tracks as loops and you would want the beginning and end to be seamless.

For the best sounding Rendered Audio Tracks, try to have sample rate the same across the board

In a general, you want all of the files in the project to be the same sample rate, and you want it to match the sample rate selected in the audio preferences setting.  If the audio tracks are a different sample rate than the playback sample rate, there will be some signal degradation when listening or rendering.  So it is best to have everything at the same sample rate.

If you have tracks that you need to change the sample rate for to match the project, you would want to make sure the play back is set the same as the track sample rate then render that those tracks out.  Then re import them with the new sample rate so that everything matches.

If you change the sample rate when rendering, it could introduce some signal degradation.  Although it may not be apparent or audible, and Ableton’s sample rate converter is of very high quality, it is best to try to keep everything at the same sample rate (rendering, playback, recording, and individual audio tracks.)

 

Bit Depth and Dithering

All of Ableton’s internal processing is at 32 bit, so making any change (volume, adding effects, adding vsts etc.)  to an audio track that is 16 or 24 bit will make the resulting audio 32 bits.   Dithering is used to help soften down-sampling the bit depth.  Since dithering should never be used more than once on an audio file, It is best to render everything at 32 bit and to not down-sample the bit depth at all.  This way the only dithering the audio files may get is from a mastering engineer.

Rendering a audio file to the same or higher bit depth as the original audio file does not create any signal degradation.  But remember, changing the sample rate higher or lower does.

Create an Analysis File?

Yes, if you are going to re-import this into an Ableton project.  This file will help speed up the audio waveform display when imported into new a project.  I find it best to do this in the batch render rather then waiting for it to reanalyze the files later.  It analysis file also has clip settings.

If your not going to use these stems in Ableton again, you don’t need select this option.

Normalize? probably not

This option basically amplifies audio file to the highest volume that can be obtained so that its peak is at the maximum.  Since I am trying to reproduce the mix the way I have it, I don’t want any changes in volume.  I am not going to select this option.

Normalizing does cause some signal degradation since it is a volume change.  Not sure if you are going to hear it but I wanted to let you know.

Naming your rendered remix stems

When you choose to bounce song stems, you can choose where to save them in and what to name them.  Naming can combine the corresponding audio track name and more.  See below.

  • If you are exporting MULTIPLE stems viva the “All Individual Tracks” or “Selected Tracks” method.
    • If you add a name when you are in the save as menu, it will export the stems with the file name added then the corresponding Ableton  track on each particular stem.
    • If you don’t add a name but just add the file extension (.wav or .aif) it will export the stems with only the name of the corresponding Ableton  track on each particular stem.
  • If you are exporting a single stem
    • If you add a name when you are in the save as menu, it will export the stems as the file name you added and IT WILL NOT add the corresponding Ableton track name aferwords.
    • If you don’t add a name but just add the file extension (.wav or .aif) it will export the stems with only the name of the corresponding Ableton track on each particular stem.

Import the new stems into a new Ableton project

  • If you are trying to keep automation or markers from your original project, save your stem project as a new project.
  • Once the project is saved as a new project, delete all the tracks except one. (Ableton requires you to have one track in the project.)
  • Go to your folder Ableton rendered your new stems to
  • Click the sort file button so its sorts your stems alphabetically.
  • Select all of your stems.  (you can select .asd files also, that way you don’t have to sort them out)
  • Drag them into the new project holding the “control key” so that it drops them in vertically.
  • Delete the one audio track you Ableton made you leave in before we imported the stems
  • Mute or delete the subgroup tracks if they were routed to your main group track in the original project. Also mute your Master track stem so that the project sounds the same as the original.

 If you have any other tips or ideas please leave them in the comments below!