Should I Export MIDI Drums To Audio Tracks Before Mixing?


Audio and Midi files in a DAW

When you’re feeling inspired and the creative juices are flowing, it may seem easier to just focus on the music and leave everything else to fate before mixing. However, there are two main problems that may make you want to think twice and take the time to bounce your MIDI drums to audio before you mix. Don’t worry, this shouldn’t cramp your style and you’ll thank us later!

The first problem you may encounter is maxing out your CPU and having to deal with the glitchy, lagging consequences, especially for producers just starting out or those of you with gear limitations.

Secondly, if you are using VST’s with the analog function on, or simply a VST with variations in the timbre, your MIDI notes may have variations with each playback.

Should I export MIDI drums to audio tracks before mixing?

Yes, you should. Converting your MIDI to audio before mixing will help your DAW run smoothly, freeing up the CPU, and also keep things more manageable for when you start mixing. It can prevent unexpected changes in your track and you don’t have to worry about losing the plugin settings or sharing with others that may not have your software.

Keep reading to find out why you should always convert to audio before mixing, what the best way to do it is, and all the necessary steps you need to do it correctly. 

Why You Should Always Convert MIDI to Audio Before Mixing

Every computer’s CPU can only handle so many tasks at once. Music production software at base level takes a fair chunk of that CPU as it is, now throw in MIDI tracks with VST’s attached, gain levels, and whatever effects you decide to add, and your CPU is in the red.

When your computer’s CPU is running on fumes your DAW and any other functions you expect your computer to handle may start lagging and glitching out to no avail. However, go back and bounce all your MIDI tracks down to audio and watch your computer do a sigh of relief.

A glitching PC is obvious and can really get in the way of a productive session, but leaving your MIDI tracks as they are can also prove pretty annoying when each time you add an effect the track sounds wildly different due to the variations of each playback. Bouncing your MIDI track to audio will solidify your take and give you something consistent to work with. You can then add any effects you like and trust that it will sound how you envision it to.

On top of that, if you ever want to share files, or collaborate with another producer, you don’t have to worry whether or not they have the right VST’s. Bouncing your MIDI drums to audio acts exactly like a real-time recording, the track stays how it is and you can just focus on mixing it to perfection. 

Overall, the best part about bouncing your MIDI drums to audio is that it is easy, only takes a second, and makes the mixing process smooth sailing. 

1. Bounce each MIDI drum track to audio once satisfied.

After you have achieved a MIDI drum take that you are happy with, finish up with any pitching and automation, and make sure you are happy with your chosen VST. Once satisfied, bounce the MIDI drum track to audio. Do this with each MIDI track you create before moving on to the mixing stage.

Many producers freeze tracks instead of bouncing, and although this does allow you to go back and make changes if needed, it can cramp up your workspace, and in some DAW’s takes longer too.

When bouncing to audio, always make sure you are bouncing to the correct sample rate, and always bounce to either WAV or AIFF to keep the quality. Don’t bounce to MP3 as the quality is cut significantly.

2. Bounce a copy of the MIDI drums both dry and wet.

While you bounce your MIDI drums to audio, consider bouncing a copy of the dry version, and one of the wet version. The dry version will be the MIDI drums without any pre-effects or automation, and the wet version will have all these already applied.

Simply switch off any effects and bounce the track to audio, then switch the effects back on and do the same. You can keep these for backup, or to ensure that the tracks can be shared and translated properly across different DAWs and technology.

3. Free up CPU by deleting the MIDI files.

Once you are confident with your bounced audio file, you can delete the original MIDI file to help free up your CPU. If you aren’t too sure about the track yet and think you may want to go back and make changes, you can temporarily freeze your MIDI track until you are happy.

When in doubt, you can always duplicate your project and work on the new version. Doing this can give you peace of mind in case all else fails and allows you to go back and salvage parts of your MIDI tracks you may have regretted bouncing later on.

The bottom line is, you want to make sure your CPU is well in the green to give you the space to mix and add effects to your heart’s content.

4. Save your track as a new version and start mixing!

Now that your MIDI drum track is bounced to audio, you have copies of the dry and wet versions, and your CPU is looking good, save your track as a new version before starting the mixing process. 

5. Start mixing the new version.

Finally, you are ready to start mixing! Mix on the new version to give you the leeway to go back to your old version and retrieve files if you aren’t happy with elements of your final mix. You don’t have to do this, but it is a good failsafe. Better safe than sorry! 

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I convert MIDI to audio?

There are two main ways to convert MIDI to audio. The first method requires you to record the MIDI track into an audio track, and the second method involves bouncing the track to audio, which can be quicker but requires a bit more know-how.

Method 1:

Recording your MIDI track to an audio track is simple, here are the steps:

  • Make sure your MIDI track is complete and you are happy with it.
  • Create a new blank audio track underneath your MIDI track.
  • Route the output of your MIDI track to the input of the new audio track.
  • Enable record on the audio track and make sure you play your session from the beginning of the MIDI track.
  • Voila! You should have an audio track of your MIDI!

Method 2:

It may seem complicated at first, but bouncing your track to audio is a faster, more efficient way to convert MIDI to audio. The method may differ for some DAW’s but here’s how to bounce MIDI to audio in Ableton: 

  • Make sure that the MIDI track is complete and you are happy with it.
  • Create a new blank audio track underneath the MIDI if there isn’t one already.
  • Freeze your MIDI track – Open up the drop-down of the track and select “Freeze.”
  • Select the frozen MIDI track and drag it down to the audio track.
  • There you have it! Simple, right?

What does it mean to bounce tracks?

The term “bounce” originates from a time when multiple audio tracks would be bounced onto tape in order to combine them. Today, bouncing tracks refers to either converting a MIDI track to audio or combining multiple tracks into one audio track, to create an entirely new track that can be moved around and mixed easier than if the tracks were still separate. 

How do you bounce MIDI to audio in Pro Tools?

Bouncing MIDI to audio in different DAW’s may differ, here is the simplest way to bounce MIDI to audio using Pro Tools: 

  • Make sure your MIDI track is complete and you are happy with it.
  • Simply select the MIDI track and drag it down to an empty audio track.
  • The golden rule here is if the MIDI is in mono, drag it to a mono audio track, and the same goes for stereo MIDI.
  • That’s all! Done and dusted!

What is the difference between bouncing and exporting?

The difference between bouncing a track and exporting a track is that when you bounce a track, you are creating a new audio track inside of your DAW, whereas when you export a track, you are creating a file of the track outside of your DAW and onto your PC.

What is printing audio in Pro Tools?

Printing audio in Pro Tools refers to the action of combining multiple audio tracks into one new audio track within Pro Tools or converting a MIDI track to audio. This is much like bouncing, only a longer method.

Conclusion

Hopefully by now, the question of “Should I export MIDI drums to audio tracks before mixing?” is answered and you can give your computer’s CPU a break! There are so many great reasons to export to audio before mixing, and now that you know how to do it in the simplest way possible, you can save yourself time and effort while keeping your focus on making those groovy beats!

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