The other day I sent one of my newest albums to an exclusive library and they requested the full tracks, stems, and cutdowns (15 second edit, 30 second edit, 60 second edit). These kinds of edits are quite common and it is useful to have a method for creating them. Although it can take a bit of time, the process is fairly simple. Here is the process I use to create cutdowns.
Bounce your full tracks with a small amount of silence at the beginning of the track (attach to the grid 1 beat or 1/2 a beat before the music starts). Attaching to the grid gives you a point of reference so you can line up the track to the 1st beat. At this point you should also write down the BPMs of each track.
Master the tracks
Open up a new session in your DAW for the new edits. Set the tempo to the BPM of the first track and line up the beginning of the track with beat 1 of the "2nd measure".
Drag the first track marker to where the audio file starts. Drag the 2nd marker to a point in the song where it is approximately 60 seconds (I do the edits from biggest to smallest: 60, 30, 15).
Create a 60 second edit by cutting the audio (snapping to grid) to create a cohesive track with a beginning, middle and end. I typically do the A section > B section > A section (bumper or stinger). Depending on how many parts the track has, you may need to use a different formula.
When cutting sections, sometimes there are late/early hits. In these cases you should un-snap from the grid and drag the crossfade to a point where the audio sounds seamless (most likely an earlier point).
When the cohesive track is created, bounce the new track so that it is between 0:59 and 1:01. If you are more than 1 second off, you may need to shorten or lengthen the track so that it fits.
Now create a 30 second edit. Drag the 2nd marker to a point in the song at approximately 30 seconds. My formula for this is generally A section (half) > B section (half) > Stinger. The process will be the same, make sure the length of the track is between 0:29 and 0:31.
Lastly we create a 15 second edit. For this my go-to would be a full A section ending with a stinger. You can try the first A section spliced with the last, the full last A, first A with the last few notes, etc. Get as close to 15 seconds as possible.
Now that 1 track is done, save the session, mute the track, change the tempo to the BPM of track 2, import the 2nd file and repeat the process.
A few things to note:
Some tracks will be harder than others depending on tempo, length of the sections, etc. Get creative to solve these problems, and always listen to the entire track to make sure it is cohesive.
Always listen to each cut point to make sure it is seamless
Make sure to leave enough room at the end of the track for the sounds to fade (cymbal hits, reverb decay, etc.).
Have fun with it! I actually enjoy making these edits, it gives you an idea of what a commercial would sound like using your track.
Cutdowns are often required for libraries, and will vastly increase your chances of landing a commercial/advertisement. Creating cutdowns doesn't need to be hard, don't give yourself too much work by creating the edits based off the entire original session. Work smarter, not harder!
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