• Randy McGravey

Production Music: A Guide to Alternate Edits

If you are just starting out as a production music composer, you'll want to familiarize yourself with alternate edits. Aside from the full track that you create, you should learn to create shorter versions of the track, less intrusive versions, instrumental version, stems, etc. Below is a list of the different edits you can make, and an explanation of what they are and how to create them.


Full Length Edits

When creating these, don't change the starting point of the song, merely mute certain instruments. Often times when adding music to video, the engineer will line up multiple edits and transition between them depending on what happens in the scene.


Full track - Simply put, it is the entire track that you created, full length, with nothing muted.

Instrumental - The full track with no vocals (mute the vocals)

Underscore/Narrative Version - This is the full length track, but with the lead/melody instrument(s) muted.

Bed - This is an even more basic full length track. Lead/melody instruments will be muted as well as other heavy percussion/drums, etc. Use your best judgement for beds, it can even be just rhythm guitars, drones and shaker for example.

Drum and Bass (DnB) - Mute everything except the bass and drums (and most likely percussion).


Cutdowns

In my opinion, cutdowns are best created by using the entire mastered track, as opposed to dealing with every individual instrument. Most libraries and whatnot will want the tracks to be within 1 second of the desired time frame (example, a 30 second edit should be between 29 and 31 seconds).


List of cutdowns

  • 60 second edit

  • 30 second edit

  • 15 second edit

  • Bumper/Bump (These are usually 10-15ish seconds, and sound like a complete musical idea. Often times it will deal with the final phrase of the track.)

  • Stinger/Sting (Usually stingers are 5-8 seconds, and the same idea as a bumper.)

To create cutdowns, line up the mastered track to the original tempo in your DAW. Cut the track in certain spots to create a cohesive track for the desired length of time. A common formula that I use it: A section > B section > Bumper (or stinger). Depending on the tempo and length of phrases, some cutdowns will be easier than others. Get creative if you have to! Make sure your cuts are clean (you may want to move the cut spot slightly off axis with the grid to account for cymbal hits, early/late instruments, etc.).


Loops

Loops are a common edit for RF (royalty free) and other non-exclusive sites. To make a loop, simply drag the start and end points so that they create a seamless loop. Snapping to the grid is a very good idea for loops. You can loop just the A section, just the B, both sections, or even the entire track. Once again, make sure the cuts are clean. Test the loop before bouncing it to make sure it really is seamless.


Stems

Stems are essentially the individual tracks of a song. Always keep the starting and ending point the same for each stem. There are variations that some libraries will prefer. Some libraries will want every single track exported individually, whereas others will want them grouped into categories. For example they may want:

  • Rhythm guitars as 1 stem

  • Drums as 1 stem

  • Backing vocal bus

  • Percussion as 1 stem

  • All keyboards as 1 stem

  • Sound FX as 1 stem

When bouncing stems, you should not mute the effects (reverb, compression etc.). Stems are basically a tool for engineers so that they can line up every instrument and create a new "mix" if needed. I would recommend only giving stems to a library that you trust. Clients on RF sites may use the stems to make their own songs/tracks without giving you credit.


Conclusion

As you can see there are a lot of possible edits. The main reason is to give options to the client. When submitting to a non-exclusive or RF site, the more edits the better! You will be more likely to sell your music if the client can find the right type of track for their project. For exclusive libraries, they will usually tell you what edits they want. Many exclusive libraries will want stems too. If you plan to put your track on non-exclusive sites, get into the habit of creating all the edits before putting the music on the site. If you have exclusive music, hold off on making edits until they tell you what they need. Best of luck in your licensing journey!


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