Logic Pro X: How to Prepare Stems for Mixing
Sending your song to us online for mixing and mastering, is easy. It’s actually easier than exporting stems, but it’s important to make sure your files are sent correctly. Thankfully, Logic Pro X has everything you need to prepare your song for mixing!
A stem is a single element of the song exported as a single file. Multiple tracks that you’re rendering at one time can be put together to recreate the song.
Should you mix your own music? It’s hard to see the big picture when you’ve spent a lot of time on the same project. There are a lot of reasons why it’s important to send your song to a good mixing and mastering engineer at Studio 411:
- Fast Turnaround
- Professionally Treated Monitoring Environments
- Skilled Professionals
- Flat and Affordable Rates – No Need to Book Studio Time
If you’d like to learn more about how to mix music yourself, here’s a great book I’d like to recommend. It’ll explain what different tools actually do to the sound and will help you make better mixing decisions. Check out the preview here: The Art of Mixing: A Visual Guide to Recording, Engineering, and Production
Now let’s get started with your exports!
Save as: New Alternative
Logic’s new “Alternatives” feature allows you to save a version of the track inside the same project. It’s similar to the “Save As” feature but it’s important to save a new “Alternative” before you begin and call it “Stem Prep.” This way you can do any of the steps below without worrying that you’ve damaged the original project. From Logic’s File menu select Alternatives, then New Alternative.
Bypass Plugins and Effects
Bypass any plugins on the tracks that will not be used in mixing. Usually, it’s everything except plugins that are an integral part of the overall sound. It is not plugins that make the sound “better”, rather plugins that shape the sound. For example: if you have an audio recording of your closet door closing, and you processed it to make it sound like a kick drum. Make sure you keep as much of that sound. This is your decision and you’ll need to go track by track. As a general rule bypass everything because your mix engineer will likely be able to recreate what you did on it. If you feel your engineer will not be able to re-create that sound you may need to export a “wet” and “dry” version (with and without effects).
Delete Muted and Unused Tracks
From Logic’s Track menu select Delete Unused Tracks. Muted tracks are included, so unless you want them included in the stems package, delete them too. If not, make sure to un-mute your tracks! They will likely get exported as an empty audio file.
Merge Your Tracks
If you have tracks that need to be merged: ex. Door Close/Kick Sample. Those stacked sounds that are never meant to be played apart from one another, need to be merged. The fewer tracks your mixer needs to go through, the faster he/she will be able to return your song, and the less you will be paying for the final product! Select all the regions you’ll be merging. Control-click one of the selected regions and from the menu select Bounce in Place (from the Bounce and Join menu). You’ll be given the option of whether or not to include any effects on the tracks. Once the newly merged track is created, delete the originals and all the content on them. You saved your song as a new Alternative so you will be able to return to the original if you made a mistake.
You might have added volume, panning, or modulation automation on your track as you were creating it. This is generally not wanted by the mixing engineer. To remove this: First, select the track, press A to toggle the automation view, then select the automation you want to remove from the list. Once it’s visible, from the Mix: Delete Automation menu, select Delete Visible Automation on Selected Track. You have the option to remove automation/panning across all tracks when exporting, but from my experience, it’s not normally all or nothing. In most genres automation is a creative effect and can be a part of the “sound” itself. Make sure to keep everything that’s important.
Including Busses for Export
There are very few instances this may be an option, but you may have a “sub-group/sub-mix” of your gang vocals or 20 rhythm guitar tracks. Instead of sending all of them to your mixer, you’ll need to export them as a single audio file. First, open the mixer and find the Aux/Bus tracks you want to include. Control-click each of them and select Create Track. This will add the track to the Arrange Window/Work Space.
Close the Mixer window and select the newly created Aux/Bus track in the Arrange window. Switch now to the Pencil tool, and create an empty region on bar one. Stretch that region all the way out to the end of the song. When you go to Export All Tracks in the final step of this article the busses will now be part of that export!
Rename the Tracks
IMPORTANT! Before exporting anything, give each one of your tracks a meaningful name. This will help the mixer quickly organize them before starting. There’s nothing worse than “Audio 1, 2, 3″ or “obscure preset name” when receiving a batch of stems. To avoid that, double-click the track’s existing names to rename them. Whatever you write here will be saved to the track’s filename when you export.
Export All Tracks (Including Multi-Out Instruments)
Navigate to Logic’s File menu, go to “Export”, and select All Track’s as Audio Files. A finder window appears allowing you to save all the tracks from your song. Create a folder where you will save these files and call it “[Song Name] Stems.” This is where you’ll save them.
If you have them Multi-Output Software Instruments, follow these steps:
From the Multi-Output Software Instrument menu, select One File Per Channel Strip. This selection works best, but some of the other options in this menu might work better for your workflow. Let’s say that you’re not entirely sure if some of the tracks were clipping. From the Normalize menu, I’ll choose Overload Protection. This great feature will lower the volume of any tracks that are over zero decibels and don’t touch the tracks that are below it.
Choose WAV as the Save Format, 24-bit or 32-bit float for the Bit Depth, and press Save. As mentioned above, you also have the option to bypass/include effects, and volume/pan automation. It’s all up to you as to what you actually want to include and not include, so the steps above show how to remove these on single tracks.
After the stems are saved, zip them and use our mixing site’s file upload system. On Mac right-click on the folder where you exported the stems before (“[Song Name] Stems”) and click compress.
Once complete, follow this link to our upload form and follow the instructions.