R R ANGING
With all the raw materials of a song, composition, or other digital audio
project in place, the next step is to assemble those materials into a ﬁnished
form. Part of the appeal of digital audio software is the ﬂexibility with
which you can creatively manipulate a project’s structure. Traditional com-
posers like Beethoven littered their studios with sketches and scraps of
notation on paper. Even a couple of decades ago, arranging with analog reel-
to-reel tape involved cutting the tape apart with a razor blade. Digital audio
software, in contrast, offers nearly endless “what-if ” scenarios. Far from
being limited to the structure you created when you recorded your tracks,
you have a great deal of compositional control in rearranging materials,
from making minor adjustments to radically recomposing your music.
Arranging music can mean adjusting a wide range of different elements,
including bass lines and harmonies, chord voicings, and instrumentations.
All of these are vital to music, but they’re well beyond the scope of this
book. What we’ll examine here is how you’ll assemble audio and MIDI ele-
ments into your ﬁnished music, arranging them on the timeline of a project
in your digital audio software.
Mix Project Files
A digital audio mix project is a collection of audio ﬁles and/or MIDI data.
These chunks of sound and notes could include a range of different kinds
of content, like looped MIDI patterns and looped audio (as in Chapter 5),
recorded vocals, spoken word, instruments, and ﬁeld recordings (Chapter 6),
or MIDI-recorded phrases and soft synth lines (Chapters 8 and 9). The
mix project ﬁle, or simply “the project,” brings all of these pieces together
and organizes them into a ﬁnished piece of music.
When you make a new multitrack file in your DAW, whether you’re
starting a new “session” in Pro Tools or creating a new “set” file in Live,
you’re creating a project file. It’s the file that will hold (or refer to) audio
files and note data, your arrangement, mix information, and other edits.
You’ll notice that the size of this file is relatively small, often less than a
megabyte. That’s because recorded audio data, whether you recorded it
directly into your project or imported it from another source, is stored in
separate files. (MIDI data is stored in the project file, but, as we’ve seen,
it’s very compact.)